Sarah Kimble was born in Boston, and about 1689 married Mr. Knight, an agent and shipmaster. It’s commonly thought that her husband was considerably older than she was, and that she must have taken charge of a bit of her husband’s business, because she possessed substantial business skills. It was to settle the estate of her cousin that she undertook the journey from Boston to New York, a distance of some two hundred miles, in October 1704 alone, on horseback. Her journal of this trip, published first in 1825, is a series of stories about her experiences while traveling.
For a woman to travel alone, even today, is a risky proposition. While the dangers of the road in 1704 may not have been as dramatic as high-speed crashes or road-rage violence, there were certainly numerous ways in which a woman could come to harm. The roads were treacherous; bridges were sometimes unavailable at river crossings, and the threat of being robbed by highwaymen ever-present.
To say that Sarah was alone on her journey is only partly true. She joined with other travelers and went along with them much of the way. Her journal is a colorful account, interspersed with writings of poetry, describing the people she met along the way. Her first guide was the son of an innkeeper; she frequently traveled along with “the post,” the person who carried mail from town to town, and at one point traveled with a physician, who found himself cornered by the innkeeper’s wife, telling him all about her medical problems.
"But our Hostes, being a pretty full mouth’d old creature, entertain’d our fellow travailer, the french Dofter with Inumirable complaints of her bodily infirmities; and whisperd to him so lou’d, that all the House had as full a hearing as hee: which was very divirting to the company, (of which there was a great many,) as one might see by their sneering. But poor weary I slipt out to enter my mind in my Jornal, and left my Great Landly with her Talkative Guests to themselves."
Sarah’s writing style is entertaining even by today’s standards. She describes the people she meets graphically, without a nod to delicacy. She expresses her fears of river crossings and dark swamps, her disgust with inadequate food and lodgings, her relief when reaching a comfortable place to stay.
She wrote poetry to entertain herself along the way. On the second evening, finding herself kept awake by carousers in the inn, she wrote a poem in “my old way of composing my Resentments.”
I ask thy Aid, O Potent Rum!
To Charm these wrangling Topers Dum.
Thou hast their Giddy Brains possest—
The man confounded with the Beast—
And I, poor I, can get no rest.
Intoxicate them with thy fumes:
O still their Tongues till morning comes!
Sarah not only left a record of American Colonial life, but she provides us with entertainment as well. It’s interesting that her journal was not published until 1825, almost a hundred years after her death. With her not inconsiderable financial resources and business knowledge, she probably could have published the book herself during her own lifetime. But the journal waited a century to be brought to public attention.
Sarah is an outstanding example of an independent woman for any age. She persevered on her journey in spite of the obstacles and her fears, because she had a job to do, and without conveniences and comforts that we modern softies take for granted--such as hotel rooms with hair dryers and cars with air-conditioners. If you are thinking of starting your own business and are afraid of the risks,or if you simply lack motivation to go to your job, perhaps Sarah's determination will inspire you.