SOME EARLY SPRINGFIELD LETTERS
Israel Sanderson , Springfield, Illinois, Letter to John Sanderson, West Townsend, Vermont, dated May 25, 1845Transcribed by Curtis Mann
We received your much welcomed letter of the 14th of April, and had long looked for something in the shape of a letter from you before. We had at times thought you had entirely forgotten us, or, like our Father, was numbered with the dead. Yet we knew not why. It did not seen that either you or your family had ever existed, before we received your letter, as you never had written to us (we your nephews and niece) and if you have, we never have received the first line, only as our deceased father had told us in years long gone by, so that you could not have expected us to have written to you before, when we did not exactly know where to direct our letters to you, as you might have been in some far distant land.
Many a time would we have written to you, but we had not the most remote hope of ver hearing from you, our feelings of friendship as relations were not, only in a very small degree warmed up.
You wrote in those few lines to our mother that if some one of the family would write after the receipt of your letter that “you would esteem it a favor” I shall not in the least, nor do I believe anyone of the family would consider it so, but will think it a duty and a pleasure, after your having conferred the favor we have long hoped to see. Cousin John also said “he deemed it not an intrusion to write to us” – Far from it, we could not think it so and hope he will from time to time continue to do so.
We are all in pretty good health and making our way through the world to the best advantage yet to a great many disadvantages, as we are poor folks. My sister and brothers, John, Roff and David are yet at home. I went to the Printing Business in the commencement of 1839 and served 5 years. Worked Journey work part of the time since but am not able to work at it steady, being too unhealthy a business and I having too weak a constitution to stand it. I expect to go to some other business as soon as I can make it convenient. Traveling I have not doubt but would do me much good as I went 5 or 600 miles last spring and fattened up considerable. I would make you a visit but it is too expensive. I would like to see you very much. Cyrus is learning the chair making and painting and weighs as much if not more than I do, although I am far the oldest.
Mother has again married. She married the 16th of November 1850 to a Mr. Jared B Fox, a millwright by trade and has by him two children, both boys, name Jared and James.
It may perhaps be interesting to you to know something about our country in this vicinity, as it cannot be surpassed as a farming country, I believe in the United States for the richness of its soil; yet we have too much land too level, consequently too wet. On our high rolling land, we never lose a crop no difference what the weather is during the growing season, whether it be wet or dry if the seasons for the last 15 years are any example, for we have had a variety of them. I know of land that has been under cultivation for 15 or 20 years and have never been manured and bring very near as good crops now, if not as good as they did the first year they were cultivated. I have heard men from the New England states say that we can raise near twice the produce to the acre that you New Englanders can, with your labor put on our soil. You will perhaps think our country is not quite so good if you see, or have not already seen the letters of Solon Robinson published in the Albany Agriculturalist (I think) but a little while back, for he has missed it considerably in most everything about our part of the country and I should certainly think he came through in the night and allowed some way to bore him very bad. Our city contains about 4,000 inhabitants and is scattered over a large prairie to a considerable extent and is a pretty smart business place in business times it being I suppose you know the seat of government.
There is 2 Presbyterian Churches, 1 Methodist Episcopal, 1 Baptist, 1 Episcopalian, 1 Catholic, 1 Campbellite and have service from most every other denomination now and then. There is about 20 dry goods stores, 2 hardware and iron stores, and 1 iron foundry. Groceries in proportion with all kinds of workshops necessary for the country. 3 steam flouring and 1 saw mill. We have what I suppose you would call in looking at our town, a good many good buildings and a great many bad ones, yet for a new county like ours, I think it will do pretty well, provided the weather was not so changeable. We have had a very mild winter indeed so much that one might have ploughed half the time and I do believe it has not been frozen more than 6 inches at any one time and that not mor than two or three times. We have had neither rain or snow more than a half dozen times this winter which I think did not wet the ground more than 2 or 3 inches at the most. Some of our farmers commenced ploughing about the 1st of February. We had had rain the present month 3 or 4 times and frost about the same number, which I am afraid, has killed a great deal of corn yet it may sprout again. I advise no one to come to Illinois but were I to farm for my livelihood. I would as soon take her as any State in the Union. Our market is none the best for farmers yet all seem to dispose of their surplus produce. The best parting of farming is raising hogs and raising wheat, according to my notion, for corn is so easily raised that one man can attend to from 35 to 40 acres. Hoeing is never done here, except in gardens, with one exception, and that is in covering corn when you plant it and that could, and is dispensed with by a great many, it being ploughed in. There is but very little, if any sand, in any of our prairie farms, and to find a stone, would be the next thing to an impossibility. Ours is a great wheat country. I have notices in some of the Eastern papers that our wheat was the best in their markets. We have a great many Yankees out here whole or nearly whole settlements of them. Business is dull and times are pressing; but I think they are rather better than they were some time back. I will trouble you with any more of my scribblings at present, and should you see in these unconnected sentences any thing exceptionable in the least pass them by without reflection as I wrote under a very embarrassed state of mind. I sent those papers you received and have sent others I expect were directed wrong. We all send all our love and hope you or cousin John will write soon, as we would like to hear from you as often as you can make it convenient.
I remain your affectionate nephew,