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Stories of New Jersey
The Story Of A Girl And A Hogshead
A Story of the Swedish Settlers. (Period, prior to 1655.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

SETTLERS came to New Jersey in various ways. Their voyages were generally very long, and it often happened that they did not settle at the place for which they had started, for there were many circumstances which might induce them to change their mind after they reached this country.

But there was one settler, and a very valuable one too, who came to New Jersey in an entirely original and novel fashion. She was a girl only sixteen years old, and a Swede. There is no reason to suppose that she wanted to come to America; but circumstances made it necessary that she should get out of Sweden, and this country was a very good place to come to. It is said that this girl, whose surname we do not know, but who was called Elizabeth, was a connection of the Swedish royal family; and, as there was greattrouble at the time between different factions in the land, it happened that it was dangerous for Elizabeth to remain in Sweden, and it was very difficult to get her away. It is quite certain that she was a person of importance, because it was considered absolutely necessary to keep the authorities from knowing that she was about to sail for foreign lands.

There are people at the present day who, when they first go on board an ocean steamer, are very much surprised and disgusted at the small size of the stateroom they will have to occupy during the voyage; but if they could have seen the accommodations with which Elizabeth was obliged to content herself, they would not look with such contempt upon a room in which three persons can sleep, leaving space to move about.

The people who had Elizabeth's passage in charge conceived the idea that the safest way to get her on board the vessel, which was waiting at the dock, would be to ship her as freight. So she was put into a large hogshead, and securely fastened up, and then carried on board. She must have been a girl of a good deal of pluck, for the vessel was not to sail for several days, and she must remain in the hogshead all that time, as the officials of the port might come on board at any moment and discover her, if she should get out of her hiding place. I have no doubt that she was supplied with three or four meals a day through the bunghole.

Not only was Elizabeth's precious self thus duly consigned to America as if she had been ordinary merchandise, but a great many of her valuable possessions, jewels, clothes, etc., were also shipped to accompany her. In the course of time, and it must have been a dreary time to this poor girl, the ship moved out of the dock, and started on its voyage across the North Sea, and then over the Atlantic to the new country. Not until the vessel was well out of sight of land, and free from danger of being over- hauled by a vessel of the Swedish navy, did Elizabeth come out of her barrel and breathe the fresh sea air.

At that time, early in the seventeenth century, a good many vessels crossed the Atlantic, and most of them must have made safe and successful voyages; but it so happened that ship in which Elizabeth sailed was a fortunate craft. When she react the far-stretching Jersey coast, dangerous even now to mariners who know well, this vessel was overtaken by storm and soon became a hopeless wreck.

It might have been a very good thing if Elizabeth had concluded to end her voyage as she began it. If she had put her valuables into her hogshead, and then had jumped in herself and had asked some of the sailors to fasten her up, there is no doubt that she would have floated ashore, if she had known how to keep the open bunghole uppermost – which no doubt she did, – and would have saved all her possessions. If one must float through stormy waves and great breakers, there is no safer way to do it than in a hogshead, as has been proved by the man who in that way navigated the fierce rapids at Niagara. But Elizabeth did not go back to her hogshead. She took her chances with the rest of the people on board, and with them was cast on the shore of New Jersey.

This shore was absolutely wild and bare, and what became of the others who reached it, we do not know; but Elizabeth eventually wandered off by herself, alone and lost in a strange land. If the people who had been so much concerned about her connection with the Swedish throne had been able to see her then, they would have been perfectly satisfied that she would give them no further trouble. How she lived during her days of wandering and solitude is not told; but when we remember that New Jersey is noted for its berries and for its clams, and that it was probably summer time when she was cast ashore (for mariners would generally calculate to arrive at the settlement in good weather), we may give a very good guess at Elizabeth's diet.

It was not very long before she found that there was another wanderer in this desolate and lonely place. She met with a white hunter named Garrison; and very much surprised must he have been when his eyes first fell upon her, – almost as much surprised, perhaps, as if he had come upon a stranded hogshead, with a human voice calling through the bunghole to be let out.

When a possible heiress of a royal crown meets with a solitary hunter, probably poor and of no family to speak of, her reception of him depends very much upon surrounding circumstances. In this case, those circumstances induced Elizabeth to look upon Garrison with more favor than she had ever looked upon a king or noble, for there is no doubt that she would have perished on that wild and uninhabited coast if she had not met with him.

Of course, the hunter gladly undertook to guide this Swedish girl to a settlement ; and the two started off on their long tramp. It is not at all surprising that they soon began to like each other, that it was not long before they fell in love, and that in course of time they were duly married. If she had ever thought of a marriage with a high-born Swede, Elizabeth gave up all such notions when she entered her hogshead, and left all her proud hopes behind her.

This young couple – one of royal Swedish blood, the other a hardy hunter of the New World – settled near Bridgeton, and there they flourished and prospered. Elizabeth lived to be ninety-five years old. She had ten children, and in 1860 it was computed that her descendants numbered at least a thousand. That any of these considered themselves better than their neighbors, because it was possible that they might have a drop or two of royal blood in their veins, is not likely ; for but few American families would care to base their claims of social superiority upon such a very diluted foundation as this. But they would have good reason to trace with pride their descent from the plucky girl who started for America in a hogshead, and who was able to land alone and unassisted on the Jersey coast in a storm, and to take care of herself after she got ashore.

"Historical Collections." Barber and Howe.

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