Barber Papers: “Come up here!” Winter of 1855

August 22, 2015

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


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