Barber Papers: “Augustus” 1854

August 7, 2015

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


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