Submitted by Joyce Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Below is a letter which Hiram Heysinger wrote to his wife back in Pennsylvania. Hiram Heysinger (b. 4 Jan 1831) was a jeweler and silversmith, born and reared in Franklin County, PA. He had been, in the mid 1850s, a Postmaster in Fayetteville, PA and by the 1860's had moved to Carlisle and opened a jewelry business there. It appears, from the tone of the letter, he was looking about for possible changes. Incidentally, he never left Pennsylvania, but remained in Carlisle until he retired, then went back to Fayetteville, where he died 12 Feb. 1907, his wife Mollie having preceded him on 19 Mar 1895. He refers to stopping in Chicago on the way back east. He didn't like Chicago either. The original of this letter is in the possession of Sue Heysinger-Bean, the 2x great granddaughter of Hiram and Mollie Heysinger.
Omaha, Nov. 12, 1867 Tuesday
So you see here I am., and pretty tired too as I did not get any sleep last night again on acct. of they having no sleeping car on and as usual for men they put me in the smoking car with all the other party of the male _______. Can't travel fine or comfortable without a woman in this country nohow.
Weather is splendid here, it is real indian summer and in fact the sun is hot. After night cool. I am stopping at the Cozzens Hotel, the best here at $4.00 per day too. I left DeMoine on Monday morning. Suppose you got my letter from there by this time. Stayed 40 miles to Boone and then took cars at 8 pm, last one for here where I arrived this morning at 8. Had a good long ride too and the same prairie country, except at times bluffs or hills more or less, in fact this far western country looks the queerest to one not used to it as to be indescribable. All the time the same black loose ground, no stones and few trees. Grass and cabins all the time except the cabins sometimes get scarce and more far apart. Seen prairies on fire and passing through one fire some only the red glare in distance hundred miles off from looks.
By morning have come to the muddy Missouri River. Banks all mud and stream only in the center at least a mile from each side of banks. It is a queer looking river too but for me to describe to you is very hard to do. I do wish you could be along as then you could learn all but traveling is pretty hard work when it is followed up pretty strong - at least when you can't get sleeping any but I am feeling pretty well now here.
It is 1 o'clock and I have just been to dinner. Had chicken but no fancy soups and french dishes of different kinds as usual in a 1st class house, pumpkin pie, but none such as Merchants Hotel in Phila. They appear to do pretty good business here. Well I was only in part of the town so far. It is the most decent looking place I have been in yet since I came west but has the same western appearances as all towns have here. They are building some fine brick-block stores here now but the place has 12 watchmakers in. But I think I can make a living here too if I came, really it is hard to decide here as things are not as brisk as they had expected them to be. Rents are very high and as far as I have talked a good many are talking of leaving as they do in all this country. No one appears satisfied or fixed to stay for anytime and to look right is what I am here for.
I only do wish you were here to see also. As for comfort there is not so much here as in east, but folks live. There is a great deal of inflation here and blowing or fast talk - but for many reasons I don't think the place will ever be what in the east folks think it will be, nor do they think so here. As most say they think Omaha is nearly played out. They have removed the capital _______ the bridge over the river. Will kill the town they say entirely and they say - up at Sioux City is a better point now than here as they will take the trade of the upper Missouri River before it reaches here as they are now building a new rail road there past which we came about 20 miles east of here.
And again all ___for Cheyenne as that is the place. So you see there is no certainty of any place here to be a sure thing no how. Others say if I was back in Chicago or New York in business again I would never have come out here. But this is only to show you the talking. Others like this country very much and tho they say things can't say that Omaha will be a good point. They would not live east.
Now I am not taking all I hear but I have been pricing the living articles. With rents and the prices they get for work and all that is like me have come to see whether there is any speculation for them. Folks about ____warm clothing wanted here. I am sweating now and it is summer here too hot. This they say will not last as the _____goes farther west.
Now so far I have compared _____. Rents are for houses to live in 30 to 60 per month (all goes by the month here) and for store rooms from 25 to 100 per month. ___, potatoes, apples, corn, sugar is not much higher than east. Once work is here about the same.
I am pretty certain I could make a living here but would it pay for to move only for the surety of change as I do think I could do as well in Phila in time and have all the advantages of a large city and good markets with all the comforts that are not and never will be in this country.
____ put on the airs and ____ but you don't get the solid part, not by any means - but of this I will more fully ____ as I see around. One thing against this country is that there is no country backing to keep it up - that is no farming country. All is wild and eastern folks say here by me "I am going to hurry through here and get back to civilization again" and it will be a very long time till the country to be settled. As that can be fully ascertained only by traveling through it by different ways as I have done.
Now I am going to make arrangements with some one here for to act for me so I can come if things are better after carefully considering after I get back. For houses are not so scarce here by no means as we had thought or store rooms either but so far I do think I can do better provided you do not want to live to fast or well at first in the city east. But you can know best for yourself after I have given you a full description of all after I come back. You know the fine markets and chances to get cheap articles of comfort there and here I will note all. As to my business I think it would be as well there as here at least from the great fact of this country having nothing but very rough people to back it. I mean the country around or back of this. Some say Council Bluffs across the river is a better point than this but no one knows where it is or is going to be best here. If only you were along I would give much. For a farming country for a poor man this is the country that is certain. Stores here are fixed as fine as Conlyn's anyhow and have good stocks too. Much better than I have expected or in short as good and fine as in the east.
I will write you again on tomorrow and I suppose you have sent a letter to me here. You need not send any more here after you get this as I will not stay here so long. So if you mail this week you can send to Chicago for me. I will look there and stay over a day.
Will say more tomorrow to you. H. H.
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