American History and Genealogy Project

Preface of Complete Descriptive and Statistical Gazetteer of the United States of America

The present is eminently a proper time in which to prepare a Gazetteer of the United States. The progress of the country in population, in agriculture, in commerce, in manufactures, and in education, has recently been ascertained with great labor and expense by the census, and it is important that this, and other continually accumulating information, should be widely diffused. All former gazetteers are rendered obsolete by the census, which has but recently become available, and by the rapid changes which the country is undergoing, particularly in its newer portions.

The progress of the United States is unexampled in the history of the world. A little more than two hundred years since, the country was an unbroken forest, inhabited by a sparse population of savages, who camped on its streams or roamed through its woods, to obtain a precarious subsistence from fishing and the chase. No plough had furrowed the soil, no flocks and herds of domestic animals spread over its hills or grazed in its valleys, no fields of grain covered its fertile plains; no roads connected distant parts of the country, no bridges spanned its rivers, no mills plied on its waterfalls. Its large rivers rolled in mighty volume to the ocean, but they bore on their surface nothing but the clumsy raft and the frail canoe of the Indian. But what a change has two centuries wrought! The little bands of Jamestown and of Plymouth have become a mighty nation, whose commerce whitens every ocean and penetrates every sea, whose name is known and respected to the ends of the earth, and whose institutions and improvements attract the attention of the civilized world. Great have been the toil and privation and hardship which were necessary to fell this immensity of forest, to change the wilderness into cultivated fields, to rear villages and cities, and to overspread the country with its various and noble works of improvement. But the pioneers of civilization were a body of men who shrunk not from labor and suffering that they might perpetuate their principles, and rear a country which should constitute a noble legacy to their posterity.

The following work is designed to exhibit the present condition of the United States; its progress in agriculture, in commerce, in manufactures, and in general improvement. To do this, the best sources of information have been resorted to. The materials of American geography have been accumulating for a long course of years, by the labor and "research of many gifted minds; and he who should at-tempt to construct a gazetteer independently of the labors of his predecessors, would be chargeable with great folly. It would be a long and ostentatious catalogue to present the names of the authors who have been consulted in the preparation of the following work. It is sufficient to say that the best works on American geography have been consulted, and such use has been made of them as is consistent with the rights of others; while much new and valuable information has been derived from a written correspondence, continued for several years, with intelligent gentlemen in various parts of the country, for whose communications a respectful acknowledgment is tendered.

Hundreds of new counties, towns, and post-offices, are described in this work, which are not to be found in any preceding gazetteer. All the existing post-offices in the United States, at the date of this publication, will be here found, with their bearing and distance from the capital of the state in which they are located, and their distance from Washington. To effect this, the new post-office book was obligingly furnished by the Hon. Charles A. Wickliffe, Postmaster-General, as the sheets were issued from the press, which is greatly more complete and correct than the similar work previously in existence. Distances have been more correctly ascertained, and the whole brought down to the present time. The greatest source, however, from which this gazetteer has been enriched, is the recent census of the United States, and its very minute and valuable statistics: and an acknowledgment is due to the Hon. Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, for generously transmitting the volume of the statistics, before it could have been otherwise obtained. The above work, in its present form, published by Congress, is voluminous and inconvenient to consult for general purposes, though exceedingly valuable as a public document; and had the following work done nothing more than furnish an abstract of this, in a form suitable for general reference and use, it would have accomplished an important object.

That great labor has been encountered in the preparation of this work will be evident to all persons acquainted with such undertakings. It is not constructed upon the basis of any former work. Every article has been prepared expressly for this gazetteer; and it will be found to have all the originality which can be reasonably expected. That in a work involving such an immense number of particulars no mistakes have occurred, it would be presumptuous to affirm; though the utmost pains have been taken to avoid them. The United States census may have some errors; it is, however, the nearest approximation to the truth, in regard to the whole country, which can be obtained for ten years to come.

The authors commit their work to the public, in the confident expectation that the great amount of labor employed in compiling it will not have been spent in vain.

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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