NEW DIGGINGS ON THE FEVER 1824-1864
by
Margaret S. Carter

The book can still be purchased from:
Southwest Graphics, Box 96, Darlington, WI  53530  
   1-608-776-4042

An Old Journal  
Pages 41 - 47

(Page 41)

While the settlers waited for the Land Office to open and for their claims to be validated, they went about the affairs of everyday living.  They must cut and haul timber, improving their cabins, build fences, stables, cribs, spring houses.  They must plow and cultivate, tend their garden patches and cornfields, care for horses and cattle, cut hay, exchange services and commodities with their neighbors, provide themselves with clothing, home furnishings, tools and supplies, make occasional trips to mill, smelter, blacksmith shor or store, -- in short, do and "make do" as in any frontier community.  Those who chose not to do these things were free to throw up a temporary shelter and dig on reserved lands or "squat" on the land of speculators or absentee landlords.

William Field's records reveal some of the activities that kept him, as well as his wife Sara busy during 1834 and '35.  Since what happened in their neighborhood was no doubt happening in other neighborhoods throughout the diggings, we can get an idea of what was taking place generally by turning to Field's journal.  Sara Field seems scarcely to have settled herself in the double log cabin before she was called upon to feed various and sundry neighbors who "sat in to bord", sometimes for days and weeks and occasionally for months, at her table.  Of the Williams family, who apparently lived somewhere at the foot of the Ridge between Fields and the Branch, James, Jesse and William all boarded at various times with the Fields.  Samuel Hathaway, who later went to Illinois, 1 also "sat in" during 1835-36; so too did Benjamin Crossman and "hands".

It would seem that they were well supplied with "kraut", "venson" and "venson hames", since Field sold the surplus of these foodstuffs to his neighbor Amos Brown and others, getting $6 to $8 a barrel for the "kraut"; $1.25 for a venison ham.  In the fall of 1834, Field's friend Samuel Danley came up from Sangamon County, bringing with him a cow and 682 pounds of pork.  Field paid Danley $13 for the cow; $3.50 per hundred pounds for the pork.  Corn from the field furnished hominy and meals for the table.  Those who "sat in" paid from $2.30 to $3 a week, for the privilege.

Field exchanged labor and farm products with his neighbors

(Page 42)

and lent money to several of them from time to time.  He sold them  "deerscins" and "buckscins".  He recorded "plowen a garding" for "Ab" Townsend, who had come into the White Oak-Shullsburg area from the east.  He bought beef and tallow from Townsend; loaned him money at 10% "intrust".  He kept extensive accounts of transactions with the Williamses, showing exchange of work, money, mineral and supplies, the latter varying from "buckscins" and guns to "pantiloons for Garat" at the time of a death in the Williams family.

Field's transactions also illustrate the working relationships and understandings that existed among neighbors in regard to land and "diggings".  Field recorded selling lead in various

(rest of this page is a picture)   Field's Journal - 1833

(Page 43 - Picture)  Accounts at Vipon-Campbell Store- 1852-3

(Page 44 - 2 Pictures)    Itemized Bill dated November 1, 1836  William Field - J. Hazell  and Receipt for lead rent issued to W. Field - 1845     (both pictures are fuzzy)

(Page 45)

amounts in 1834-5, either to smelters or to those who apparently "pooled" their mineral for custom smelting.  Ore at this time was bringing $20 to $21.50 a thousand pounds, an increase of $16 to $17 a thousand over what it had brought during the hard times of the preceding years.  Before the time of the first land sales, Field sold a "mineral lot" to Benjamin Crossman for $105.  The price would suggest that this was a 40 acre lot, but where it was located there is no way of knowing, since no further record of the transaction was likely to have been kept and Crossman did not enter land in the neighborhood.

But Field's most interesting transaction was with the Williamses and Samuel Hathaway, since it reveals one of the methods used for "working around" the existing rules and regulations.  Field's earliest and only entry of land (except for an eighty in White Oak Springs) was the north half of the northeast quarter of Section 25, consisting of 80 acres.  This was entered Aug. 18, 1835.  Since he entered only 80 acres at this time in Section 25, it is evident that he had been obliged to divide the quarter section with his partner or others.  (His friend McMullen and B. Robinson entered the other two forties.)  Why did he enter the north half of the quarter section it he intended within a month to sell it to the Williamses and if he already was living in the south half?  The answer seems obvious.  Because he knew the north half to be valuable and was reasonably sure that he would be able to secure the south half.  It developed, of course, that the north half WAS valuable.  It has produced such mines as the Little Joe, the Monroe, the Longhorn, the North Monroe.  The south half also was valuable.  It contains Fields Upper Run on New Diggings Ridge.  The acquistion of these valuable pieces of mineral land could hardly have been possible without clever manipulation and a certain amount of influence.  

Field, as has been said, traveled to the land office at Mineral Point on August 18, 1834, produced the necessary witnesses to testify concerning occcupation, improvement and non-mineral content of the land he had entered, paid the required $1.25 and acre, and eventually received his parchment pre-emption certificate.2  (With the possession of the certificate, Field was in a position to claim "legal" possession at a later date.)

Less than a month after he had transacted this business at the land office, he turned over the "80" to the Williamses and Samuel Hathaway.  He recorded the transaction in his journal as follows:

(Page 46)

1835    John Williams
 
Sep    James Williams
             Jesse Williams
             Samuel W. Hathaway

Doo aree to pay unto Wm. Field one hundred Dollars for the eight akers of land named in the Bond not included in the notes this Oct the 20

In 1836, Field recorded that he "setteled off" during the year with John Williams, having received at various times from the Williamses and Hathaway thirty thousand pounds of mineral valued at $1500, the receipt of which he acknowledged and wrote,

"Setteled of with John Williams in full for the amount of mineral ground", but he added, "the amount that was Due me was fifteen hundred dollars for the mineral ground and one hundred dollars for 80 akers of land whar the (y) now reside.  balance Due me is one hundred Dollars $100."

(The $100 was later paid.  Since the Williamses did not enter any part of the land they were living on, it seems fair to assume that this "deal " must have bveen arranged before the mineral ground was entered.)

The fact that Field was willing to part with the mineral ground, even for $1600, and that he also parted with the mineral lot to Crossman, suggests not only that he knew the land he was to obtain from McMullen contained mineral, but also that his real interest lay in farming and in making the necessary improvements on the additional acres he was about to acquire, rather than in mining as an occupation.  That he did some of both types of work during 1835 and '36 is shown by the record.  Apparently his farming was done on the forty that was entered in McMullen's name in 1836 or on the adjoining 80 acres in the next quarter section which Field and Wm. Huling were to enter in "36, - all of which land field was shortly to call his own.

But the point to be made here is that negotiations of one sort or another such as those Field was carrying on were being carried on generally throughout the mining region.  Those who had come with the intention of remaining were"securing their homes" and planning for the future in accordance with their means, their inclination and their respective spheres of influence.  Many, of course, were operating on a larger scale than Field.  At Gratiot's Grove, Henry Gratiot had turned over his smelting business to his brother so that he might devote all his  

(Page 47)

 time "to farming and land transfers";3 in Mineral Point, Moses Strong was buying up land in quantities for eastern speculators, 4 in Winslow, Illinois, south of Gratiot, William Russell was busy buying and selling for a group of New England capitalist; 5  in Galena, the Corwith brothers and others were entering and buying up land as speculative ventures.  "Mining agreements "were being drawn up; agents of land speculators who had been able to acquire mineral lands in spite of regulations were leasing lots to "squatters". usually exacting a promise of "rent" at the rate of 5% of all the lead raised.

The mines were in a hubbub of speculative frenzy by 1836, when in July, President Jackson issued the Specie Circular, which declared that land in the public domain could no longer be purchased with land scrip or paper money.  This brought the era of "speculation, extravagance and folly", as Henry Dodge called it, to a sudden halt.  Complaints concerning the illegal sale of land known to contain mineral led to an investigation of the land office at Mineral Point and to the eventual expulsion, -- many felt, unfairly, -- of John Sheldon as Register.  

The Territory and the First Census  Pages 48 - 49

  "New Diggings on the Fever 1824 - 1864"       Lafayette County Homepage

County Coordinator  Dori Leekley

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