By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from 1854.

Charlotte Wis. Jan 21st 1855

Dear Parents

You may not like the looks of this small paper but the fact is I have no other, my last sheet of large paper was used for my last letter to you and if I had been aware that I was not going to have any other I would have mentioned it so as in some measure to have modified the shock it must occasion.  This is [onerely?] preface as I have not yet been to the office for your letter this week being somewhat distant having no time except today when it is tremendous cold and blustering.

Albe Burge Whiting was a friend from Johnson, Vermont, and later in life became a prominent settler of Topeka, Kansas.

I have three letters ready to mail one to Grandfather one to Uncle Cyrus and one to Albe Whiting.  I have written but very few letters this winter except to you, for in fact you have monopolized most of my time for writing.  The weather has continued just the same – mild, open, and clear untill today when we have a hard northwind.  Prairie fires were running last night in Iowa in many directions and some in this state.

There is not a particle of snow – the brooks are icebound and the ground is frozen and cracked up like it never cracks in Vermont. X X X

Well I have been to the PO and found no letter – shall expect two by next mail.  It is snowing some today (Jan 25th).

My health continues as good as could be expected under like circumstances.  At the two last places where have the unvarying diet is fried pork and hot biscuits and nothing else to speak of.

Had Johnny Cake yesterday noon, made with all the bran in.  It was about the best thing I have seen in the West.  I went to a party a few nights ago.  It was a miserable trashy affair, nothing but a great barbecue for supper, early, and then dancing untill daylight.

All the rough characters in the country were there.  I went at a late hour and retired at about half past 9 oclock, satisfied that I shall not want to attend another such very soon.  At Lancaster, the parties are about right, but out here they are a pretty good index of the newness of the country.

It is now impossible to get this to the P.O. unless I go myself and as it blows and snows a perfect old fashioned snow storm I think I shant go but will keep this for another time  X X  Sat. 27th

Am boarding with a Vermonter two miles from the school house.  He is a real Vermonter named Howard one of the best and smartest men on the prairie.  He has a good farm which he wants to sell.  If any body wants to buy a farm out this way just tell them of this.  It will be advertised in the Herald soon.  It is a good farm and contains 260 acres, tillable land and firewood enough for two families, the best and most extensive start of fruit in the country.  250 apple trees 20 green gauge plums and innumerable gooseberries [redberries?] currants strawberries and some grapes.  The house & barn are new and well built but small. He asks only $2000, is doing well here but wants to leave for other business.

I wish Albe Whiting would see this place; less than half would have to be paid down – good title given.

[Gov.?] Dewy has bought out Cassville or part of it.  Prairie La Porte is changed to Guttenburg.  Do you know where Sullivan Pierce stopped.  He was in company with Hyde coming out but they got separated.  Have just been out to the chicken trap found five all alive any fluttering.  We killed those and retired and they [lineanes?] have just turned to the [fiels?] again. [scribble]  Sunday Three more chickens caught.  Went to meeting with Howards folks in a sleigh or rather on a sled – no meeting pretty cold – snow scarcely sufficient for sleighing.  If I get a chance I shall try to send some to Lancaster.

I have three more weeks to keep school.  4 more places to board.  I like Howards and his folks best of any people on the prairie.  They are pious and attend to family worship regularly.


Have just been to the Post office and got two letters one from you and one from Augustus – He writes nothing except a few business items.

In haste

Yours affectionately


Johnson, January 27th 1855

Dear Son

Yours of the 11th arrived night before last and contrary to my usual custom I have deferred answering over two mails, but it [will hi?] forwarded now some days sooner than it would have gone by trail, for Ames Dodge will take it along to Galena and by him I shall forward those vests that I bought in the fall for you & Augustus on the very [day?] that I recd your letter saying that Augustus was to be in Lancaster in a few days.  Though he has not come & probably will not for some time, [Still,?] you may [be?] your Choice out of the two and send the other to him in the spring if there any going up to the Lake.  There are as many who prefer the one as the other, and though I intended to give Aug his choice [????] the danger of his being [wronged?] by your having it [for ?in to ????] he did not take one & you the other.  The vests are something nice, only that the style is new and there will not probably be many among the “[Badgers?].” Amos is here after [his monday?] due him [??] estate from Dr [M????] & gets between 700 & 800 & takes west with him.  He hails from [Boise?] City, [90?] miles from Dubuque, but he says that he should prefer the Northern front of Ill. or the southern part of West Iowa.  Were you or Augs at Lancaster I should try to have him go up there, but he would not go [southwest?].  I know of nothing very new or strange that has happened of late.  There is a funeral in [Locon?] to day, of Daniel Mills who lived beyond the Main.  You have seen the poor man I suppose.  A very hard working & honest man was he.

It is a general time of health in Johnson, I know not of one sick person now except Rob’ Hill who is evidently on his [last?] legs, though around the streets every day.  The poor devil had a [time?] in the fore part of Dec. and has been rapidly going down with the consumption ever since.  He can have one source of consolation beyond what most men are blessed with, that there will be no excess of grief at his death, and another, that nobody or even the world will ever be able to discover the road that [his?] departure will occasion, & still another, that for his dearest & best friends & companions whose comforts & happiness are undoubted, his strongest & most earnest desire, there will be a greater abundance and at a greatly [demenostred?] price of the blessed creature that has so long stood between [???] & all [witch?] cares. Yesterday Dr C. & I removed two loads of corn fodder and eight loads of hay which with two loads, drawn [before?] makes all the hay I have left, [ample sufficient as?] I think to carry me through with [???] & the old cow.  I have some more [slulh?] to [draw?] & two or three loads of wood dry wood in the shed [&?] the [??????] & farming tools, sleigh, waggon, &c to it [??] home yet.  Mr Clark from [Miss.?] has moved into the old house & Phelps is going in with him to occupy the part that Dr C did when he was there with us.  [Phil??? is?] about buying out [???????] takes a [fusin?] in Wolcott.  Sam [Wilson?] has sold or will soon & Bill Smith buys out the Widow Wilson, & [esrnard?] has bought the [Feelting?] farm [in Herling?].  [Gotn?] will probably have the [Muikler?] farm & let Patrk have the Bixley house.

Capt Sam has elected one of the directors of the Bank of Waterbury and keeps a deposit of their money as well as a deposit of [Irusburgh?] money & he is in fact a bank discounting to people like any bank would, & if he keeps it up it will greatly curtail the business of the new bank at Hydepark that will probably go into operation about May 1st.  The Hydepark bank stock went off [any?] heavily.  Not a dollar take below here & only 46 shares taken here & 26 of them to trade away for other Bank Stocks.  The Hydepark folks have sworn vengence against the lower part of the County declaring that no County officer shall come below their [?????].  Let them squirt their dye stuff, it will make them feel better.  It is getting to be pretty hard times for almost everything here.  Money is scarce & hard to be got.  Still prices for everything but [???] & pork are exorbitantly high, wool [no sale?], Pork $[650?] for the [best?] & less in proportion to weight.  But corn is $1.25, oats 50¢ Flour $11.00 Beef $5. per [????], & 6 per hind.  Butter 20 to 22′ [Churned?] 11 ¢ Hay $15.00 and none to be had at that so that is feared that some poor men will have to kill their cows or see them starve.  Wood is from 1.50 to 1.75, Tallow from 14¢ &c &c.  If about 1/2 the folks in Johnson were well settled in Grant County I think it would be much better for them and for those who choose to remain on these bleak hills.  I should have mentioned Potatoes which are scarce at 50 ¢.  Now all who are not producers had better go where they can get the necessaries of life cheaper & wages as good that would be my advice to all, and which I will convince them I am sincere in one of these days.

Your Mother is anxious that you should work with your Uncle Cyrus the ensuing season and learn the builders trade so that you can build a house on our place or one for yourself if you should ever feel the need of one.  You have over estimated to us what you thought [??] doing another year, whether to try again to study Medicine, Law, or go to Lake Superior, or teach school, or work around Lancaster.  There are many inducements to either course.  Ponder the subject well and take the advice of your friends especially of Augustus about going where he is, perhaps he would want you there with him to explore the country for copper.  And when you have selected some good place to pursue, why then you may inform us.  I intended to [fell????] this [page?] out, but have not time to do it to night, perhaps I may do it in the morning.

So for the present [????] you will [Go & Barber?] I wish you would enquire what timber land can be had for near Lancaster, especially in that grove that was [G??] Dewey’s & do it in a way to not have any one think that your motive is any thing but idle curiosity.  I regret that I did not buy 40 or 80 acres of it before he sold it.  I am going to Cambridge to day or to morrow and perhaps may pick up some news, that will be interesting to you.  If so you may rely on having it forwarded to you soon.  You enquired who were Benton’s assistant.  Helen Whiteny [tah?] & the small fry Rebeccah [Merriam?] & [Diana?] have [classes?].  I think you will be satisfied with the length of this and can afford to give me one half as long at least.  I hope you will continue to write every week and I will endeavour to do the same by you.

G. A. B.

Iron River Falls, LaPointe Co.
Feb. 10th 1855

Dear Brother Allen


Survey detail of Iron River Falls, LaPointe County, Wisconsin.  A review of this location and survey (T50N R9W) is featured in our series prologue; Stuntz Surveys Superior City 1852-54.

Your [welcome line?] was duly received and at last I find an occasion to write you a word in answer.  I am very sorry to learn of your poor health but presume you will improve this winter if you as careful as circumstances will allow, which is generally careful enough.  I don’t know how to advise in regard to your future operations but I tell you as I have before told our parents that I wish both yourself and I to obtain a thorough education.  Your poor health is at present an obstacle to the pursuit of that object and I do not know that you are resolved on it provided your health was good.  I have said so much in my letters about the good efforts of the kind of life I have adopted on the health of consumption or dystrophic men that you will be expecting me to recommend it for you without knowing much about your ailments so I think [is?] almost useless to say to you.

Come up here!  I am confident that our season spent in surveying, voyaging, or exploring in this region or any healthy country would do your whole system, constitution, mind & body more good than all the medicines in the universe.

If I could see you I think we might arrange to spend next summer in the woods together.  I have seen some experience in frontier-life and the tendency always is (with feeble persons) to giving good health and greatly increasing bodily vigor.

What the changes will be for making a raise in this country next season I can hardly tell you now but I expect they will be pretty good.

I hope you will see Mr. Stuntz when he is in Lancaster this winter, and for I think you would come up with him.  I may see you in your schoolhouse before spring, as several things make me wish to visit Lancaster this winter.  I don’t know the place where you are teaching, but I wish you all the success you can wish with all my heart.  As for your toothache, I wish you as speedy deliverance from it as you would experience if I had a good hold on the offending tooth and hope you will consider the applicability of the “Wellerism” about the [“boy as svollered a fardin”?]

Residents of Lancaster mistook Allen for Augustus when he arrived there in our previous selection of Barber Papers.

So you don’t like Lancaster? – well, I do!  i.e. I like it pretty well generally, and some of the folks in it particularly; and if I supposed my appearance there would excite half the curiosity my supposed advent did last fall I would surely hazard the experiment of confronting those terrific batteries of eyes, for those batteries are not “masked” though I apprehend some of them are case-mated.  I received a letter from Father last evening, saying all were well &c.

I wrote to you about the farm, but as you are not in L. you will not find it convenient to attend to it, so you can just let it be if you should not finish your school and return to L. before I return go down or write again.  If you should have done anything about it before this reaches you all right or otherwise – all right.  I am [well?] and well provided with work so I stand [it?] pretty well although our quarters here are not just as one would like them.  I could write better if the idea had [yet?] not taken possession of my mind that I shall see you in mere weeks, so you will excuse imperfections and believe me.

Your affectionate brother

Augustus H. Barber

P.S. I admit that I may err in advising you to undertake the labors of a trip to this region, and that some other vocation in sight be more advantageous in all respects; and I do not wish you to adopt my course simply on the strength of my recommendation.  Think about it, and in your ruminations keep this idea before your mind – “Health is the vital principle of bliss.  And exercise of health.”


Patch Grove Wis. Feb. 18, /55

Dear Parents

I have nothing to do this evening to amuse myself unless it is to write a letter.

Closed my school last night and have got this far from the scene of my labors although it may seem that I am not much nearer Lancaster.  It is no nearer but there is a stage from here there tomorrow morning.

Had a good chance to ride to L. Saturday morning but only sent my trunk.  Got my pay last night in gold.  Sold my clock at cost for the gold, and stayed over night at [Basfords?].


The [????] is There several of meanest roughest imps here I have yet seen in the [state?].  I guess I will wait untill I get to L. before I finish this so as to report my luck in getting home.

X X X X Lancaster Feb 20th
Got here yesterday all safe.  Found the good people all well.  Uncle Thode went off in the morning so I did not see him.  Augustus has written something about the produce of the farm.  There is considerable corn which [????] pigs have been living on lately.  There are several who want to rent the place and one man wants the house without the land.  He is one of the Shoemaker tribe, and I dont want him within ten miles of it.  Wheeler who lives on the [place?] now and wants to rent it has a good [team?] and promises to do well with it.


What was Augustus doing on Lake Superior last winter?

I mean to get my hair cut today for the first time after leaving Vermont.  It has got pretty long and looks “first rate.”  There are 40 rabbits to the square rod around here – At least there are so many tracks.  From what I can learn I should think Augustus was doing about as much this winter as he did last winter.  There are no liquor shops open in town they say and nothing, read and spell better than could be expected of him.  Have not time to write another sheet.


I will try to get some larger paper before I write to you again

1855, [Feb.] 16

Lancaster Wis. 16th 1855

Dear Father & Mother

Knowing myself to much indebted to you for the promptness and length of your letters it is my intent to reciprocate as far as lies in my poor abilities by writing as often and fully as possible.  My health still appears to be good and we have all been pretty well except Myron who alarmed us very much night before last by having a fit.  He had been sick all day occasionally eating too many new doughnuts and other things.  The fit commenced about six o’clock P.M. and lasted 10 or 12 minutes and was stupid until 10, and will occasionaly [??????ahing?] untill next morning.

It appears that Uncle Alexander Hamilton Barber has been busy doing business with Augustus in the copper country of Douglas County, Wisconsin.

He was sick all day yesterday but got up this morning smarter than ever and continues well.  Uncle Ham. has got back from the north.  All the land he went after particularly he found entered but he says he got [????t] of first rate land.

Uncle Allen wants me to enter some [land?] which I think I shall do when I hear of some good [??????].  I suppose I could find land north 2 or three dollars per. acre.

I could easily sell out at any time for 20 or 30 per cent, more than cost.  Ben. C. Eastman has returned.  He has some timber land for which he asks about 7 dollars per acre, which I suppose is about as well as well you can do.  I have some thoughts of applying for a school in [Morrisson8?] district.

The school has got to bad for any female to teach and want a man.  That is just the kind of school I would like to try for the sake of variety.  They pay $12. per mo to female teachers.

The Black River of Douglas County, Wisconsin, includes Big Manitou Falls and Twin Little Manitou Falls.
Eight sections is equal to eight square miles; or 5,120 acres.

Uncle ham has entered 8 sections on black river, he thinks in 5 years will be worth more than all the other lands he owns.

G. R. Stuntz is in town. We have good sleighing now and have had since Sunday [Sat. 11th?]. More Snow- about a foot of new snow and about 3* below freezing cold.


Rec’d your letter
of March 6th today.  Uncle Allen had got it as he does [most?] of any mail matter.  The [???] cannot see the 2nd it appears.  The good people here are considerably incensed by their disappointment in not seeing Grandfathers out here this spring.  I know of no reason for his not coming out with uncle Thode as far as Sandusky where they would want him to stay untill into summer.  I think he will yet be allowed to visit this western paradise and meet his children, grandchildren, and other friends.  I did not make so good a bargain as you wished in regards to the farm but I think it was as good as could be made.


Sunday 18th.  Have not been to meeting today.

“The Native American Party, renamed in 1855 as American Party, and commonly named Know Nothing movement.”

Last night I went up to Rowdens beyond Uncle Jays to see about that school.  I guess they dont want any more school this spring.  It is rather surprising that the Know Nothings have got such power in [Cambridge?].

I had heard of their strength and [power?] by way of [??] [Heath?] in a letter to Augustus which fell into the hands of Uncle Ham.  There are none of them here.

I hope [Wyman?] and Charles Stanly will come out here.  This is not a very good place for [??????] but they would go to Lake Superior or St Croix river and [get good wages?].  If they get here soon perhaps they could work with Stuntz.

[Incomplete copy of letter]

Home March 1st 1855

Friend Allen,

Several letters were exchanged between friends Joel Allen Barber and Albe Burge Whiting from Johnson, Vermont.  
A biography of Albe Burge Whiting is available from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed by students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, November, 1997.

It is some time since I rec’d your last and I should have replied earlier but for several weighty reasons. Even now my eyes promise to close and carry the spirit to dream land instead of the western world, but though the flesh is willing the will is not ready to resign itself to the arms of the [dreary?] old night god, till it talks awhile with you.

My [“???”] says I last wrote you (Dec 1st) well, if tis so I ought to have a few to say to this now, but my heart is as barren as no matter what.  Could I be blessed with your company tonight we might lay awake and talk till the roosters crowed; and then not say it all, but now I really do not think of anything worthwhile to write.

As I have written west from once to twice a week all winter, to three or more people.  I have to repeat the news that way till they become as stale as – new crackers.


Tis a time of general health here, if we except the small pox, which is in to help the Frenchmen this hard season.  Where are you going this summer?  what to do?  I may go west in April – may not till fall – or never.  I wish to go this spring but wish to study a term or two first, still may go soon.  Please write very soon, and I may see you before May if I know where to find you.  Time hastens – and with a hope for your welfare and prayers for your happiness I am the same old friend.


A J Barber

Lancaster March 2nd, 1855

Dear Father,

Yours of Jan. 18th was duly received and I hasten to reply.

I have written to Augustus [lately?] all I could think of especially about his getting kissed by a squaw.  The next time you write to him you can ask him about the particulars.

I am glad Cad. is going to leave Johnson.

Detail of copper exploration Big Manitou Falls from T47N R14W survey which Augustus worked on.

Detail of an abandoned copper exploration of the American Fur Company at Black River Falls (Big Manitou Falls) from the T47N R14W survey in Douglas County, which Augustus worked on with Stuntz in 1852.

If I could do anything to help him to useful and profitable employment God knows I would be glad to do it.  Uncle [Ham?] started yesterday for Black river falls after pine lands.  [He?] expects to be out in the woods some and perhaps camp out, will be gone from here about twenty days.  [Tody?] has been writing [where?],  he says it is a [“tow”-(cow)?]

[written in margin] he talks most everything [/margin]


I cannot express my gratitude for the amount of reading matter I have read from home lately in letter form.

[Jake Moorn?] is very slim has been sick some time.  I must close to write Am and others

Good Bye


P.S.  I have lent Cyrus $50.  He has bought two cows and wants to buy more

Aunt [Lila?] has been sick over a week with strange and alarming symptoms.  Constant headache splitting [leload?] and the exact appearance of being [Calivated?] but she is now better.

I want to write a letter to Am. about his [cars?] and some other things but guess I will wait till some other time

J. Allen Barber

Aunt Fanny thought sending a line in this but concludes not to.  She says she has a right wait a while as you did.

A Masonic lodge has been started here lately so you will not miss the privelege of meeting your Morgan killing brethren at Cadys falls when you come out here.

Aunt Fanny wants you to send her some [Russian] turnip seed.  Soon as possible.  If you could send some two or three years old it would be better and perhaps purer blooded.

I once had a [pear?] spruce seeds which I wish I had here They [more?] in a [papa?] and [labely?].  And I would not care if I had some spruce [germ?]

To be continued in the Spring of 1855

By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from the prologue (1852-54).


Augustus Hamilton Barber
brother of Joel Allen Barber
and Amherst Willoughby Barber;
nephew of Joel Allen Barber;
cousin of Joel Allen Barber, 2nd;
son of Giles Addison Barber;
grandson of Joel Barber, Jr;
great-great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Barber.

Primarily letters exchanged by Barber, a surveyor in northern Wisconsin and later a soldier in the 25th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and his parents in Vermont from 1854 to 1865. Written from Superior, Ashland, and La Pointe, Barber’s letters refer to economic conditions and pioneer life, to Indian affairs, and to Catholic and Protestant missions. Also included are Civil War letters by Barber; letters from his father, G. A. Barber, while in Montpelier participating in sessions of the Vermont House of Representatives; and miscellaneous items including a Revolutionary War pension statement and genealogical data on the Green family; two letters, Sept. 4 and 27, 1870, written by Joseph C. Cover, U.S. consul at Fayal in the Azores; and a printed memorial address by Col. Clement A. Lounsberry.


Joel Allen Barber (1834-post 1909) was the son of Giles A. Barber (1803-1879) of Cambridge and Johnson, Vermont, and the nephew of Joel Allen Barber (1809-1881), Wisconsin legislator and Congressman. The senior J. Allen Barber came from Vermont and settled in Lancaster, Wisconsin, in 1837. He was followed by his father, by his brother T. M. Barber, who became a Lancaster merchant, and by numerous other relatives in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

The Barber brothers, Augustus and Allen, received expert legal advice and political updates from Uncle Joel Allen Barber (Senior) regarding their affairs while on Lake Superior.

Giles A. Barber had three sons who reached manhood: Augustus (1831-1856), Joel Allen, and Amherst Willoughby (1841-1920). Joel Allen came to Wisconsin in 1854. After a term as a school teacher in the Blake’s Prairie area of Grant County and several months in Lancaster engaged in varied occupations suggested by his uncles, he went to the Lake Superior region in June, 1855, to join his brother Augustus, who was engaged in copper and land speculation and in a surveying business. Augustus was killed in an accident in the spring of 1856 but Joel Allen remained in northwestern Wisconsin as a surveyor until 1861. During the Civil War, he served from 1862 to 1865 in Co. C of the 25th Wisconsin Infantry and was first lieutenant of his unit at the time of his discharge.

Scope and Content Note:

Portrait of Uncle Joel Allen Barber from page 199 of the Proceedings of the State Bar Association of Wisconsin, Volume 1900. A memoir of Uncle Joel is found on page 198.

An undated portrait of Uncle Joel Allen Barber is on page 199 of the Proceedings of the State Bar Association of Wisconsin, Volume 1900

A memoir of Uncle Joel is on page 198.

The collection consists primarily of letters exchanged by Joel Allen Barber and his parents from 1854 to 1865. The letters by Allen–as he was known in his family, to distinguish him from his uncle–were written from Superior, Ashland, and La Pointe and contain many references to economic conditions and pioneer life in northern Wisconsin in the 1850’s, to Indian affairs, and to Catholic and Protestant missions. In letters from Vermont, his parents commented on these matters as well as related news of eastern business and politics. G. A. Barber served several terms as judge in Lamoille County, and represented the town of Cambridge in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1858 and 1859. The collection includes numerous letters which he wrote from Montpelier during the sessions. He had also visited Allen in the fall of 1856, and his letter of November 3, 1856, was written during a rough voyage down Lake Superior and Lake Michigan in the famed steamboat “Lady Elgin.”

Johnson Apr. 15th 1854

Dear Brother Augustus

Allen is writing to Brother Augustus from their family home in Johnson, Lamoille County, Vermont.
Where was Augustus living in Wisconsin at this time?
Augustus first surveyed at the Head of Lake Superior with George Riley Stuntz‘s Exterior Field Notes:
T47N R14W, T47N R15W, T48N R14W, T48N R15W, T49N R14W & T49N R15W (June 1852)
… and Interior Field Notes:
T47N R14W (June 1852);
T49N R13W (May-June 1853);
& T47N R13W (June-July 1853).
Augustus had also surveyed in the Eau Claire region with John G. Clark‘s Interior Field Notes:
T26N R5W (Aug. 1853);
T26N R6W (Aug. 1853);
T27N R5W (Sept. 1853)
T27N R6W (Sept. 1853);
T28N R5W (Sept. 1853)
T26N R4W (Sept.-Oct. 1853);
T27N R4W (Oct. 1853);
T28N R4W (Oct. 1853).
What was Augustus working on during 1854?  Was he involved with Superior City schemes?  Was he involved with the Treaty of La Pointe?  Was he surveying the exterior boundaries of Chippewa reservations?  Or was he in Grant County?

I wrote to you partly to kill time and partly to let you know what a ridiculous fix I am in.  [Jo/Sen?] [M.?] Knight had to go to Boston and Homer Bell is sick – so the best he could do except to shut up the store was to leave me with it.  I came in yesterday, then he left for Boston so I don’t know everything about the store yet.  And what is worse [now if?] the goods are marked except a few staples which were marked specially for this occasion.

There is considerable [hade hike?] at least so it seems to me.  Tobaccco is called for more than have as often as any other article.

[That don’t?] agree with me.  Homer may get out so as to be here some of the time to advise me but it is doubtful as the weather which has been very fine of late has changed and threatened to be bad.  I was greatly elated a few days ago by the prospect of going west as father thinks of sending me with the [chop roots?] but he has found another way to get them along by [Hayland?] Wilcox to Madison I believe.

Have you seen anything of John Cook out your way?

He and [Aunt?] F Whiting started for the west she stopped at [Eckhart?] Indiana and he went along and did not know but he should go to Lancaster.

Emily Whiting has been sick.  She returned from Mount [Holfotre??] Seminary [??????] time ago where there was so much sickness that it had to be broken up.  [Sarah Dougherty?] has also been sick from the effects of a hard cold.

We had [a maple?] sugar party at [Azioson fast?] day.  I have no more time to write.

Father will write soon

Give my love &c


Sandusky Sept. 16th 1854

Dear Parents

Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio, was devastated by multiple cholera outbreaks during 1849-54.

As you will be looking for a letter I will try to not disappoint you.

I arrived here yesterday (Saturday) at noon in good health and spirits.

You may wish to know something of my journey so I will briefly notice it.  We came very slowly to Albany where a valve got out of order which detained us a while, but we finaly got to R. R. where we were so lucky as to find a train waiting for us.

We made rather poor time on this road about half way but after passing a train we came out fast enough.  Got to Ogdensburgh about 8 P.M.  Waited about 2 hours for the boat and then took the “Ontario.”

Next morning we were at Kingston.

      Buffalo Daily Courier
Wednesday, August 23, 1854
“We are desired to say that the new steamboat CLIFTON, just built by the Messrs. MacLem, at Chippewa, C.W., will leave this port, this afternoon, at two o’clock, upon a pleasure and experimental trip.”
~ Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Reached Oswego about the middle of the afternoon.  Next morning (Friday) reached Queenston at the mouth of the river and took the cars for Chippeway, this is a new road just opened and much the best way to get along.  Stopped at the falls two or three hours.  At Chippeway took the steamer Clifton for Buffalo.

Tramped round as much as I could wish to in Buffalo and went to bed on the Mississippi which left at 10 oclock P.M.  This was a grand boat, ever way superior to the Oregon.  Had some toothache Friday night and one side of my face is badly swelled yet.  Aunt Em. is away from home for a few days.

I like the children very well.  Have not received any letter from Ind.  We have no very rough weather on the lakes yet there was enough wind to make the boat roll and pitch some most of the time.  I was a little seasick Friday morning but could not throw up anything.

The weather is fine peaches are plenty.  Mr. Messer sends his respects.  I should like to hear from home but know not where I shall be.

I shall write again soon.

My love to all.

From your affectionate Son


Lancaster Oct. 13th 1854

Dear Parents

Uncle Theodore Melvin Barber.

Perhaps I should have written before but I have been prevented partly by ill health.

I did not start from Sandusky untill the 5th of this month.  I was quite unwell several days before leaving Ohio.  Reached Galena the second night after leaving Ohio.  The cars run to [illegible] around 10 miles from Galena.  Stopped at the City Hotel.  Found Uncle Thode without difficulty.  He is [busy?] as ever.

Stayed at Galena over Sunday and took the stage at midnight for Plattville and then finished my journey on foot.

Aunt Frances Fairchild Barber.
Uncle Joel Allen Barber.

Found people nearly all well here.  Aunty Fanny has been quite sick but is getting well now.  Frank Hyde has got here, bought a place in the village, opened a shop &c.

I am [spopping?] now at Uncle Allen’s now.

You will please excuse my being short as I am not well enough to write very easily.

My love to all the family and respects to some others.

Hoping to hear from Vermont often I remain

Your affectionate Son


Lancaster Oct. 19th 1854

Dear Father & Mother

Cholera was not yet defined as a disease. Another cholera outbreak, also during Spetember of 1854, inspired Dr. John Snow’s Ghost Map

Although I have written once since I arrived here I think I have reason to write again as I was not very communicative before.  I mentioned being unwell as a reason for not writing more but did not mention the cause or nature of my ill health.  At Sandusky I was attacked with diarrhea, occasioned I think by eating part of a diseased potatoe – this continued in spite of me four days and after a cessation of one day continued untill untill after I had been here some time.  My flesh and strength failed very much, my appetite entirely.

At Galena I found I had lost ten pounds.

I am now improving under Dr. Woods medicine which though very ineffectual has done me well enough, unless the low state of my blood should superinduce fever and ague.

I acknowledge the justice of your remarks upon the paper I used, but that was the best I happened to have then.  And I may as well notice the receipt of a very welcome letter from you this afternoon dated Oct. 8th.

Brother Amherst Willoughby Barber. 

I was very sorry to hear of Amherst’s sickness and somewhat surprised as I did not fancy that peculiarity of his breathing could be anything serious.  If he is any yellower then I am, he would pass for a good Chinaman.

I believe I briefly mentioned my journey from Sandusky here.  To Detroit I went by night.  Fare including berth $2.00.  Took breakfast at the Rail Road Exchange – a rather humble and cheap house but they are very obliging.

Went to the National Hotel to find Mr. Smith but he had gone to Rock Island to stay.

Had a fine view of the city from the cupola of the National.  Was much pleased with Michigan and looked round so much that at night I could not turn my eyes without pain.  There was an unequated rush of travel when I came through.  Such passenger trains I never saw before.  It took four cars for the baggage, express, and mail business.

Was obliged to stay over night at Chicago as the trains do not connect by a minute or two.  At Rockford I inquired for Mr. Huntington but he lived on the other side of the river at some distance so I did not see him.

The R.R. will be finished to Galena in two or three weeks.

I have seen a great many people from Vermont in my travels.  One fellow I saw at Plattville was lately from Morristown.  He lived near [Jenery?]’s and his name was Dodge.

One fat speculator from White river inquired about Doane.  I saw him in Michigan.

Uncle Joel Allen Barber was married to Aunt Elizabeth.
Aunt Sarah was married to Uncle Theodore Melvin Barber.
Uncle Cyrus Larkin Sherman was married to Aunt Frances Fairchild Barber.

When I first arrived in town I made my way directly to Uncle Allen’s office where I found him and Uncle Cyrus & Frank Hyde.

Uncle Cyrus me very quick.  Aunt Sa’h and Grandmother thought Augustus had returned after a severe sickness.

I felt and no doubt looked some as David Copperfield did when he got to his Aunts.

I have been very kindly received and cared for by all my relations wherever I have been.  I am staying now at Aunt Fanny’s.  Helped Cyrus pick corn this forenoon it rains nice this P.M.  As to the country, the lay of the land &c. I hardly know what to say.

Just before the Alcorn’s came from Pennsylvania, two Alcorn brothers settled in Grant County (neighboring county to the south). They are William and Joseph Alcorn, of Ireland.
~ History of George Alcorn

I can fully endorse the sentiments of others who have praised the west but I think there are more beautiful places in the vicinity of Freeport and Warren than the country around Lancaster.  Jo. Alcorn and his family arrived here a few days since.

He wants to carry on your land next year.  Shoemaker does not want it as he is going to carpentry next year.

There is also another Shoemaker coming from Ill. who wants it.

Augustus had secured a land claim in Grant County by “improving” the acreage with crops.

The appletrees Augustus set out are most all doing well – the hops are rather scarce.

Think the [People?] of Lancaster are very kind, good hearted people but I have not got acquainted much yet.

Uncle Alexander Hamilton Barber was married to Aunt Emeline.

Grandmother is perfectly captivated with Aunt Em, since being there, she thinks there is no place like Uncle Ham’s house – well it is a modest home.

But it grows dark and I must wind up.  Please let Am write some in the next.

My love to all


P.S. I saw Mr Dewing a few days ago

He is swift to have me come out to this place to fish and shoot ducks &c.


Superior Nov. 7th 1854

Brother Allen

I received your letter of the 18th ult. today, and was glad to hear from you in a place so much to my fancy as Lancaster.  Of course you are charmed with the western country, though you don’t say so in your letter, and though other places may offer more immediate chances for entering some lucrative employment [now?] seem more calculated to make a quiet and pleasant home than L. and its beautiful environment.  I feel quite flattered by your account of the bustle among the fair ones occasioned by my supposed return, and am quite inclined to [create?] a genuine ‘furor’ by appearing in “Persona Profile” among them some of these days, and prevent the recurrence of their mistake by staying there.

But grateful and precious as are the joys of friendship and free social converse, they are only flowers beautifying the margins of the nigged path to wealth and honor, and he who presents their delights to enthrall his senses or entice him aside, is sure to stumble.

If I strive for wealth it is to enjoy it; if I fail to acquire it I hope to make none wretched by my inefficiency or misfortunes.

Augustus was expected by his family to return to Lancaster after Stuntz’s survey was finished in 1853, but opted to stay on Lake Superior during 1854.
What were Augustus’ “doins” during 1854?

Perhaps you would like a little information in regard to my operations –: well Stuntz’ survey is finished and I have some writing to do for him, which will occupy me several days; as for subsequent “doins” you will be dully appraised.

I presume you will stay in L. this Winter, and I almost envy you the pleasure of mixing in the young society of the village – perhaps you will teach the village school.  You will remember enough of my letters to look out for the deviltry of the boys about town, but lest you wrong the innocent I will say that with two or three exceptions they are fair and candid.

In 1850 a number of Lancaster boys went to California. Among them were Johnson McKenzie and James Barnett. They made the overland trip together and remained together in their search of three years for fortune in that land of adventure. Their experiences together had the effect to endear them to each other with a fondness like that of brothers–an attachment that has never been interrupted. In the second year T. M. Barber joined in California. In the latter part of 1852 Mr. McKenzie returned to his farm in Grant county, and in October 1856, was joined in marriage with Miss S. J Halferty, daughter of Edward Halferty, who was an extensive farmer on adjoining lands.
Lancaster Teller
, April 30, 1891

You cannot and need not avoid the lately returned Californians, but a little prudent circumspection will not be any injury them and may keep you clear of some petty embarrassments: Some good luck and some good guessing kept me clear of sundry little “contrived plans” of their hatching, and I warn you, perhaps needlessly, but candidly.

Am glad Aunt Lucy has selected and called her little girl after one she knows to be among the best of good girls: she declared she would never call her Eleanor because I wished her to; but I [mistanded?] all the time that she rather meant to, finally.  I think this will do at present, for I intend writing soon.

My love to all

Your affct Brother


I went to election today and voted for the republican candidate for Congress – Mr. Washburn.  All [Lokiss?] here

Johnson, November, 26th 1854

Dear Brother

It is not obvious which brother this letter was for: Augustus; or Allen?

As it is vacation with me now, I thought I could write a short note to you, not knowing but it might be acceptable.  We have all sorts of weather here now, for today it has shone, rained, snowed, & hailed [illegible words] & rained [toreously?] [Jo?]  I attended the funeral of Charles Daniels & walked up to his folk’s house with father through the mud and it was about [shortest?] one I ever attended.  He died of consumption.  Merrill Pillsbury died last Tuesday & was buried Thursday. I don’t know but Father has written you about it before [illegible] I believe he also died of consumpt.  We had a great time here Tuesday night.  There was a grand [feast?] in the [Town Hall?], and we had pig & almonds & raisins & apples &c. to the [casts-offs?]  Would you not have given a quarter as I did to have been here to [both]?  Every body there enjoyed themselves greatly.  It was a new-fashioned dance in more respects than one for invitations were sent to all the people in the [village?] to attend and many of did so [illegible] in a manner very amusing to the swing generation.  The 7th [?] of the United States Magazine came last week & also the last of the Phrenological Journal with a little paper index to the [illegible].  Do you wish to subscribe to it another year?  Do you wish the volume bounds? We have prescribed [a large number nicely?] so that it might be bound.  But it is time for the mail to go out.  I must close.

Brother Amherst Willoughby Barber. 



Detail of copper exploration Big Manitou Falls from T47N R14W survey which Augustus worked on.

Detail of an abandoned copper exploration at Big Manitou Falls from T47N R14W. Augustus worked on the Exterior and Interior Surveys here during June of 1852.  

[ca. 1854]


The “draft” was a preemption land claim, possibly in Superior City or on the copper ranges near the head of Lake Superior.
What WAS Augustus doing?

When the draft comes in if you will send it down you will much oblige me.

What are you doing.  Would you not do well to make some improvements about the place such as getting or making rails to hew in the pasture.  Setting out trees lining for an orchard or any way to make it like a home.  I hope you will find something to do for idleness will beget mischief any way you can fix it.  My leaving off business so long nearly deprived me of business facultys, at least it is like leaving one again.  I feel it very much as Mr. Felt left me the very day I became [introduced?] in the business.  Any employment is better than to remain idle.  If God will forgive me for wasting so much time will try and do better in future.  Any honest business faithfully followed is doing vast good business [betting?] our own condition and enabling us to become much more useful.

Excuse me for making these suggestions for experience has prompted me so to do.

Will you be kind Augustus as to write frequently to me.  Again I say forgive my plainess of speech.

Love to all

Uncle Theodore Melvin Barber. 


Truly your Friend & Uncle

T M Barber

To be continued in the Winter of 1855