Traveling Amishman’s impressions of Southampton in 1908

I have just finished listening to audiobook of the third edition of ‘A History of the Amish’ by Steven M. Nolt.

I have learned a lot. And not just about Old Order (conservative) and Change-minded (progressive) Amish folk, mennonites etc..  but it has cast light for me on important aspects of North American and European history/politics/christianity in general.

In the final third of the book a travelling Amishman called Jonathan Fisher was briefly mentioned.   I will copy out those two pages of the book. Followed by a few pages of Jonathan Fishers observations of Southampton from his book published in 1911, which I found via Internet Archive …


From ‘A History of the Amish’..

‘Jonathan Fisher: Traveling Amish man

Jonathan B. Fisher of Bareville, Pennsylvania, was adventurous. As a farmer, cheesemaker, and farmers’ market merchant, Fisher led a typical Old Order life. But Jonathan Fisher also harboured a deep desire to explore the world, and as a young man he visited many places in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Fisher also took several longer trips and wrote two books about his adventures. In 1908, he sailed for Europe to learn about European methods of cheese production. He visited England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands; rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower; and went on an Alpine-mountain climbing expedition. Returning home, he published A Trip to Europe and Facts Gleaned on the Way, a 346-page book detailing his excursion. The cover promised that the contents were “interesting reading matter for both young and old; teachers or pupils; country or city folks.”

In 1934, Fisher set off again, this time on an around-the-world tour during which he hoped “to take a peep into foreign lands, to note the customs of their natives, the beauty of their sceneries; [and] also, to glean about facts one may learn on the way.” By the time he left on this second voyage, Fisher was married, but according to contemporary newspaper accounts his wife Sarah [Farmwald] Fisher “elected to stay at home.”

Fisher sailed from New York City to Cuba, then through the Panama Canal and north to Portland, Oregon. From there he headed for Japan, then China, Singapore, and Indonesia. After visiting Sri Lanka and India, he traveled through the Suez Canal and stopped in Egypt. Fisher remained in the Holy Lands for six months of touring biblical sites. Eventually he turned home, but not before visiting Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and England. In each place the ship docked, Fisher observed local customs, asked questions, and wrote in his diary.

Fisher kept two thick autograph books while on this world tour and gathered signatures and short sayings from people around the globe, each in their native languages and scripts. Fisher chronicled this second journey in Around the World by Water and Facts Gleaned on the Way. He described local history and architecture, as well as his impressions of other places and cultures. For example, the tea produced in Indonesia was superb, he thought, and the traveler in Japan was safer than in many parts of the United States.

Even at the age of 74, Fisher could not be kept at home. In 1952, he went to Europe again, this time under the auspices of the relief organization Church World Service. Fisher oversaw a shipload of livestock the group was sending to the Continent. While in Europe, Fisher attended the Mennonite World Conference gathering held that year in Basel, Switzerland. He was the only member of the Amish church to attend.

Jonathan and Sarah had three daughters and a foster son. Though interested about learning about other people, he also shared his own convictions and “carried religious pamphlets, which he gave to everyone he met.” While on his global trip, he visited the U.S. Navy base in San Diego and engaged officers in a discussion of peace and conscientious objection to war.

A remarkable figure, Jonathan Fisher enjoyed people and learning about other cultures. Sharing his experiences through his books, he widened the worlds of many Amish readers, as well.’






Observations, Narratives and General Notes of Travel as

Viewed and Given by a Primitive Pennsylvania Farmer.

Also a Collection of Numerous Interesting Facts Relative to the Places

and Countries Visited





Much of This Matter Pertains to Life Throughout the

Remote Parts of Europe, Usually not Accounted by Travelers.

1911. ‘

(This is a very good book.. the copy on the internet does not shows the pictures, etc..  I intend to get hold of a secondhand copy of it!)



    After being eight days on board ship, we step from American soil to English soil. Passengers wait their turn on the pier for the inspection of their baggage by the custom house officials. Having passed this by many an objectionable feature, you receive a pass and are then at liberty to go where you choose.

On arriving outside the docks, I boarded what they term a buss. This is a conveyance somewhat similar to our American stage coaches, but smaller in size , having a double deck, and a winding stairway leading from the rear to the upper deck. A twopence is the fare into the heart of the city, about a mile distant from the docks. Another comical feature of conveyance are the “trams,” as the Englishmen call them. These are their trolley cars, which are built much in the same order as the busses, having also a double deck, with a winding stairway.

We now drive through the streets of the modern city, but very different from our American cities. The principle streets are wide, but many of the other streets have a quaint appearance, being very narrow and winding, with sidewalks only a few feet wide. The houses, too, are very odd, being low, having a very steep roof and covered with a sort sort of red brick or tile. I was shown into a room of one of these quaint, yet picturesque houses, by a courteous occupant. The room was small, the one side being oval shaped, with a hearth on the side of it. The housewife was busily engaged and had a big fire in the hearth. They informed me that many of the houses are hundreds of years old. They are all built of stone, even the modern houses are built either of brick or stone. I did not find one frame dwelling in all my ramble about the city.

In taking a stroll about the city, I was hailed by two of my fellow passengers of the Adriatic in a cab. They had hired a cabman, a jovial “son of Britain,” for a shilling per hour, and were taking in the sights of this curious old English town, and having invited me into the cab, I of course accepted the kind invitation without further parley. We were driving past the old wall. This is a portion of the wall which in ancient times surrounded the city, and was built in King John’s time, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and is yet in good state of preservation. The portion remaining is about one-half mile in length and about forty feet in height.

At one place along the wall on the outside, two heavy barred gates or doors are to be seen. The key to these doors can be procured from the guide living at an elevation above the wall. In the opening of the doors there is a big cave, containing numerous relics of ancient warfare, and weapons used by different knights in the earlier centuries.

We now leave the old wall and its many adventures. The route now took us out to the suburbs and through the “commons;” this being a magnificent forest with occasional tracts of land, covered with a green sod. I inquired of an aged lady as to the area of these commons, she replied, “there are three acres more than the days in a year, sir.”

On the way we passed several little inns, at which the Britain looked longingly. One of my acquaintances now informed him to stop at the next one, saying he could see he was getting “dry” by the looks of his ears, whereupon he wistfully smacked his lips and urged his horse on with occasional lashes with the short, knotted lash he continuously held in his hand. On arriving at the next inn, we found ourselves at a little place called Basset, just beyond the forest. In ordering his drink he called for a “5 penny a stout” this being a big cup of beer. The English, especially in the rural districts, and the business men, talk in a sort of slang and ofttimes you can not “catch” on to their meaning. It was with some difficulty I caught on to their “slang” in handling money.

The route was now extended through the forest again. On the way we passed the old Cowherd Inn, which generations ago was frequented by men of bad character and could the old building speak, many a murderous tale could it relate, which occurred within its walls.

I had to get my American money changed into English money. The money in general circulation is as follows:  The half-penny=1c, American money; the penny=2c; sixpence (silver)=12c; shilling (silver)=24 1/2 c;  two shilling (silver)= 49c; ten shillings or half-sovereign (gold) =$2.43; (£) pound or sovereign (gold)=$4.85.   Notes are also issued by the Bank of England for 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 (3) pounds. The guinea (21 shillings) is not in circulation any more. Sovereigns and half-sovereigns coined previous to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837) are now withdrawn from circulation, and should be avoided.

The half-penny is call “haypenny.” Two pennies are termed “doupens.” Whenever a purchase is made of several pennies more than a silver or gold coin, the pennies go by the “doupens” and “haypennies.” For instance you buy an article worth a half-sovereign, one shilling, eight pennies and one half-penny; the Britain folks will term it eleven shillings, four “doupens” and a “haypenny,” and this in such a fast, brogue sort of style that a Yankee can hardly keep trace of what is said. These old-style English people have what Americans would think, many peculiar ways. For instance, all their fruit, and nearly all the vegetables are sold by the pound. Apples, pears and plums sell from two to four “doupens,” grapes, 6 to 8d. Potatoes, 3 shilling per hundred lbs., etc.

The carts chiefly used by the country folks to haul their produce to town  are low and clumsy, drawn by a little donkey. If heavily laden the countryman or ofttimes a woman, walks all the way to town. The poorer class have little push carts and drag or push these to town to dispose of their crops of vegetables grown on their little tracts of land, tilled by hand.

I noticed, what I took to be a more flourishing farmer, having a motor wagon, resembling a traction engine, minus the boiler; instead of having a boiler it had a wide body, extending forward of the cab, and was stacked up with baskets. Here one does not see the square boxes =, so much used by our farmers; instead they have a “carton,” or high, narrow basket, which holds one hundred pounds of potatoes. These are also used for their other vegetables.

Cycling seems to be all the rage, without any exception of age or sex. Young damsels, with their hair hanging lose over their backs, are very frequently seen, driving on the much crowded streets.


     Southampton is a name which every Englishman is familiar from childhood, on account of its historical and commercial records. When we stop to consider, we Americans are also familiar with the name Southampton, from our early schooldays. I presume you all recollect the historical event, which we learned in history, of the embarkation of the Pilgrim fathers from Southampton. It causes an inspiring feeling, standing and facing the very same waters from which those early settlers commenced their perilous voyage on the “Mayflower” in 1620, nearly 300 years ago.

In ancient days, when the massive walls yet surrounded the city, it had seven outlets or gates, with a fortified tower extending above each gate. One of these gates, the Bargate, through which one of the city’s chief streets passes, yet remains.      (See Page 18) [Alas. page 18 is blank, overwise I would have inserted the illustration here]

When Winchester was England’s capital the Normans used Southampton as their port of communication with the continent, thereby forming the birthplace of the vast trade with foreign lands. On the same street, which is crossed by the bargate, is also an ancient building, called the audit-house, and yet serves the purpose of a Town Hall. A valuable collection of ancient charters, regalia, etc., is kept here. Conspicuous among these is an old warrant of Edward, the Black Prince, dated 1339. One of the committee rooms contains a good painting of the “Mayflower.” Near the audit-house stands the well-preserved Tudor house, with overhanging stories and quaint gables, and is said to be about five hundred years old. Henry VIII used  this house during his visit to Southampton. Another old relic is the tapering spire of St. Michael’s Church, in the immediate neighbourhood. The tower of this ancient building dates from early Norman times.

One of the proudest days in Southampton’s history was June 26, 1897. On that memorable date the great naval review in honor of the late Queen’s diamond jubilee was held, just off Spithead.

On that occasion tens of thousands of enthusiastic Englishmen, who came via London and elsewhere, were conveyed from the docks in specially appointed vessels to the different rocks, small islands, and all points of vantage from whence the maneuvers could clearly be seen. The entire extent of these quays, or docks, comprises, if reckoned by acres, a vastness of forty-four and one-half acres. The last extension was built in 1890, 3,460 square feet being then added.

The first quay was constructed at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and was in constant use until 1877, when a reconstruction, alteration and extension was made. Visitors to the docks are astonished by the numerous mechanical contrivances in use at this busy port. A look around certainly affords pleasure and instruction to the ordinary landsman, of whom I consider myself one.

The coaling of American liners is in itself an astonishing feature. As I have already referred, 300 tons a day are consumed by many of these floating palaces. The docks for the “colliers” (immense coal barges); on the banks of the Itchen, presents a very busy and interesting spectacle, as the big coal scoops alternately go up and down, unloading the coal form the colliers into the ship, rising about thirty feet alongside the vessel. The command given by the man who manages the rope to the one who handles the throttle reminds me of the whoop of an Indian.

Space will not permit me to mention all the great ship lines whose vessels may be seen at Southampton, but I will say that there are vessels here from nearly all parts of the world.

The city now has a population of over 100,000 inhabitants. The visitors will find the whole district marked with numerous historical events of many generations ago.

We will now say adieu to the quaint, old-fashioned city and take a trip to the pleasant, and delightful Isle of Jersey. ‘




Frank Broadhurst.


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