Letters from the frontier, 1850
(Click to see the original letter: Page 1; Page 2.)
Mr. Daniel Notestone1 South Perry
Hocking County Ohio
Sullivan Post office
Moultry (sic) County Illinois
South Perry Hocking County
Sullivan Moultrie County Ill. Sept. 21st 1850
Dear Brothers and Sisters
I take the earliest opportunity of informing you all how and where we are. We arrived at Fathers2 (sic) on Sunday 15th just about one oclock P.M. being 11 ½ days from uncle J. Ator's3 . We had had first rate roads and good weather too with the exception of two showers one the fore part and one the latter part of our journy (sic). We all arrived here in good health but Sussanna (sic) She took a bad cold and was verry (sic) much troubled with toothache the last two days travel. She says you must tell Mary Ann4 that she had never seen as good roads before as she found nearly all the way out. We found good health generally prevailing here. J. Bragg's5 youngest son (E.H.) was considerably indisposed when we arrived but is now much better. We have not been to see any of our connections yet but expect to go to Welton's to day (sic) and to Hasting's6 to morrow (sic). W.E. & H. Welton7 are not verry (sic) well at this time, or five days ago at least we have not heard since. I saw Charles White8 last Monday he and family were all well his wife has a child about three weeks old but if I enquired (sic) the sex I have forgotten it9. I cannot give you any just description of this country you must come and see it for your self before you will know much about it but I will tell you a little about it. The prairies are disagreeably large, lonesome, and grassy. The grass is now about knee high interspersed with an other (sic) kind of spear grass about waist high and a great variety of weeds. The first grass mentioned is the prevailing kind and constitutes the principal range for stock but there is not stock enough to keep the range good, that is I think it could be better if pastured more close. I think this is the best corn country I have ever seen but in other respects I shall say nothing about it untill (sic) I have become more acquainted with the different advantages and disadvantages. Susanna is far from being satisfied but I feel disposed to try the country awhile before I descide (sic) against it for I think if we have our health here as well as we had there we can do much better here than there. I must write a little about business. I want you to ask Richard Julien for 44 cents10 balance due me for last winter's school, if collected keep it subject to my order also Joseph Hemphill is behind (unreadable) I for got (sic) my Iron wedge and old saw & a Single tree11 (sic) etc. I want you to try to get them, and all other things you find belonging to me and keep them for further orders. Let me know if you find them or not. I also forgot to pay Isaac North and Henry Campbell for brickband rings12 one pair each, these and other little dribs I shall here after order to be to be (sic) paid when it will suit but as I have nothing here to make immediate payment with I want them to waite (sic) a while. I must close by requesting you to write as soon as you get this. Let us know how you all do and tell us all you think we would like to know. Come and see us and the Country as soon as you can and as Mary (?) as can.
Ezekiel & Susanna Hull
(On next page)
I hope to write more full at some future day and in less hast (sic).
1 Daniel and Barbara Notestone were listed in the 1850 Hocking census with, among other children, son Daniel. These two letters were addressed to the parents, rather than Daniel Jr., as the second gives both of their names on the outside. Daniel Sr. was born about 1803 and Barbara about 1804.
2 Platt (1787 - 1868) and Susannah Sollars (1792 - 1878) Hull were Ezekiel's parents. Like Ezekiel and Susannah, they are buried in Pea Cemetery, Moultrie County, Illinois.
3 Jacob Ator (15 Mar 1782 - 23 Jul 1857), husband of Susanna Sollars' sister Nancy (12 Sep 1789 - 2 Feb 1856). The Ators lived in Deer Creek Township, Pickaway Co, OH, about 375 miles from Moultrie County. This would have represented a very great distance to travel in the 11 ½ days mentioned here, in an age when 15 to 20 miles per day by wagon was typical. This justifies Susannah's claim, several sentences later, about the quality of the roads.
4 Mary Ann has not yet been identified ???.
5 James and Sarah Bragg born, respectively, about 1822 and 1827 in Ohio. 'E.H.' was Elihu H., born in Ohio about 1847. Their youngest son Ezekiel was born about 1849 in Illinois.
6 Barnett Magee and Elizabeth Hull Hasting (listed as 'Hasty' in the 1850 Moultrie Co. Illinois census). Elizabeth Hull was Ezekiel's sister.
7 Probably Elihu (1813 - 1885) and Harriet (1817 - 1897) Welton, born in Ohio. Children listed in the 1850 census were Uri, 14 and Nancy H., 12, both born in Ohio. Elihu and Harriet are buried in Keller Cemetery, Moultrie County, Illinois.
8 Charles and Rebecca White were listed in the 1850 census as born, respectively, about 1821 and 1822 in Ohio. Daughter Mary J.(?) was three years old in the 1850 census, and her birth in Illinois indicates that the Whites had already been here for several years.
9 Probably Albert F., listed as nine years old in the 1860 census.
10 Estimating what this represents in present-day value is difficult to determine, in that there are many ways to compare historic values. A few methods and values are:
I suspect that the truest value is somewhere near the lower numbers.
- $12.05 using the Consumer Price Index
- $18.72, based on the price of gold
- $86.22 using the prevailing unskilled wage
- $183.21, based on the nominal GDP per capita
11 Or, singletree, a crossbar behind a draft horse. The ends of the singletree are attached to horse's collar by means of the traces. The singletree can be attached directly to the vehicle to be pulled, or to a doubletree which connects two horses and their individual singletrees to the vehicle.
12 Not yet understood.
(Click to see the original letter: Page 1; Page 2.)
Sullivan Moultrie County Illinois Nov. 11th
Verry (sic) Dear Brother and Sister1 . I take my pen in had to inform you that we, through the blessing of God, are all well at this time hoping these few lines may find you and yours together with our relations and friends enjoying the same inestimable blessing. Your letter came to hand on the 5th Inst. And gave us much satisfaction to hear that you were all well. I will now tell you that we are liveing (sic) in Father's2 kitchen it stands about a rod from his dwelling house3. I and my family and Father and Sarah Bragg went over into Piat (sic) County on the Sangamon river to a yearly meeting on Friday before the second Sunday before in last month; the distance is about 20 or 25 miles4
foreif you were to travel across the prairie from here to the place of the meeting you would think that miles were long and streached (sic) too, for after leaving a placed called the seven mile grove there is nothing to attract the attention of the traveler but grass until (sic) he becomes tired out and out again wishing for something to look at to relieve that dull monotony for there is not a track nor any object for him to stear (sic) his course by he has to go like a sailor without compass, by guess.
We went to see your Mother, (yesterday week,) at William Whites5 and found them [all] well William lives on Samuel McCune's land in the same yard with him6. William owns 60 acres of land but no improvements on it except a heaved (? - smudged) log house just raised not covered. Samuel McC and wife were not at home. I know but little about his or William's circumstances but from appearances they have not [much] conveniencies (sic) about them. S. McCune's land is not quite level, but it rolls the rong (sic) way to be verry (sic) dry I think. William's land I like a little better. Your Mother was verry (sic) glad to see us. She wanted me when I wrote to you to brag of the Country well look out here it comes it s a good place to raise corn etc. but is next to impossible for a poor man to get timber to fence with I am through with braging (sic) till after I try farming awhile.
I and Susannah were at Sullivan to meeting and last Saturday and took an excellent dinner with Charles White and then he and his family came home with us and staid (sic) all (smudged) till next day they have had five children three [is] dead and two living. Charles works at the carpenter and joiner business he makes a great deal of money and they take the good of it. He told me that John White7 was doing well and making money fast but was too stingy to take the good of it, if he is stingy he is not like Charles for there is not any of it about him., I have I believe answered your questions as far as am able to at present.
As I have hinted a little about meetings in the former part of my letter I will know (sic) tell you something more about them. The meeting on Sangamon was attended by two preachers to wit. Elders Martin White and ___8 Carpenter. Elder M. White done all the preaching as the other lived in the bounds of the church we could find no flaw in their preaching but it did not seem altogether as satisfactory as the preaching in Ohio used to be. The theme was not as much on doctrinal subjects as is usual there. Though they are predestinarians or Old School Baptists. The other meeting was appointed for the purpose of Constituting a Church in Sullivan the (hole in paper) was so far accomplished that they expect to become fully organized on Saturday before the second Lord's Day in next month. There were two preachers at the meting (sic) in town Saturday and Sunday. Susanna (sic) wishes you to tell her brethren and sisters the reason why she did not call for a letter when she left there which was that she could not find it in her heart to ask a dismission from them the thought of leaving them was of itself a severe trial and now she is here she does not wish a letter until she becomes more acquainted with the faith and order of the Baptists of this Country hoping her brethren and Sisters will remember her in their (unreadable) prayers although she is far from them in body yet in spirit she is with them.
I must come to a close for want of room. Please give [our] best whishes (sic) to all inquiring friends and remember us your Brother and Sister till death
Ezekiel and Susanna Hull
Daniel and Barbara Notestone
(Below the fold)
I have not entered any land yet in consequence of the Land office being Closed I think of entering when the office shall be opened again if I am able. There is good prairie vacant yet but no good timber here but farther south I understand there is abundance of good timber to be entered9. We have had plenty to live on since we have been here. Corn and pork is verry (sic) cheap here. Store goods are verry (sic) high. Write frequently and let us know all that you think we would like to know
1 The salutation here differs from that in the first letter ('Dear Cousin'). Of the four parties, three surnames are known (Hull, Berry, Notestone), and as this letter will later show, Barbara Notestone's maiden name may have been White. Therefore, 'cousin' seems a more likely blood relationship, and 'Brother and Sister', particularly in view of the references to religion with which this letter opens and later continues, may represent their relationship in the community of believers.
2 Platt (1787 - 1868) and Susannah Sollars (1792 - 1878) Hull. Like Ezekiel and Susannah, they are buried in Pea Cemetery.
3 Kitchens were frequently separated from the main house in order to prevent fires from destroying an entire residence.
4 This would put the site of the meeting somewhere between present-day Cisco and Monticello.
5 Willliam and Mary White born, respectively, about 1829 and 1830 in Ohio. William was the younger brother of Charles White, mentioned in the first letter. (??? Ezekiel's sister Nancy married a John White on 7 Sep 1831 - thus, William is probably related in this way.) (Possibly the William W. White and Mary Catherine Miller married in neighboring Fairfield Co. on 29 Oct 1857.) The 1850 census lists son James, born about 1849 in Illinois, and his mother, Mary Ann White, born about 1786 in Pennsylvania (his father, John White, had died in 1848, and is buried in Camfield Cemetery, Moultrie County, llinois). It is likely that Mary Ann is the mother mentioned here; thus 'your mother' may be addressed to Barbara Notestone.
6 Samuel and Nancy McCune born, respectively, about 1817 and 1827 in Ohio. The 1850 census lists them consecutively with William and Mary White, confirming their adjacent residences described here. Son William H., born in Illinois about 1848 was their only child.
7 Not listed in the 1850 Moultrie census. He may have lived in an adjoining county, or Charles' description of John's success may reflect news from Ohio.
8 The underline is from the original, apparently indicating that the given name was unknown.
9 This reflects the belief of early settlers that the soil of timber land was superior to that of grasslands by virtue of the size of the plants that grew there.