Barber Papers: “I shall not go without Jo” Spring of 1855

September 4, 2015

By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Winter of 1855.

Lancaster  March 23rd, 1855

Dear Father,

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.

It is not long since I wrote to you but I thought I would write just a word though it may not do any good.  Uncle Allen says you would do better to send land [????] than money.  So many will be drawing land under this new bounty land law, that you can probably get them cheap.

Pine lands may be better in the eastern part of the state [?? ???????] but not worth half as much as in the western part.  Lumber that sells in Oshkosh for 8 or 10 dollars brings 18 to 23 or 4 dollars here or any where along the river.  Do you know anything about the culture of [osiers?] for willow baskets.

I saw an advertisement in the Tribune which says they will yield 100 to 150 dollars proffit per acre.  This would be a good place to raise them I should think.  Willow baskets are used here more than any other for all purposes.  This I suppose is because there are so many [foreigners?] here who understand making them.

This is a beautiful warm day and the snow is going off in torrents.

Brothers William and Joseph Alcorn, of Ireland, were listed as residents of Lancaster, Grant County, during the 1855 Census of Wisconsin.

Was it not [fl??ging?] smart that Thode Burr could not come out with Uncle Thode.  His folks were swift to have him come but as the time approached had to give it up.  Grand Mother has just come in, walked up.  We are pretty well all but Aunt [Lib?], who was sick yesterday but better today.  Have not seen anything of Cad yet.  Jo. Alcorn has taken Dr. Woods farm.

Love to all

J. Allen Barber 2nd

This letter appears to be written by Allen in the name of his Cousin Allen 2nd.

This letter appears to be written by Allen, using the name of his Cousin Allen 2nd.

Johnson April 1st, 1855

Dear Son

Allen’s brother Augustus worked for George Riley Stuntz with land surveys and copper speculation in Douglas and LaPointe Counties by Lake Superior.

I do think you hurt yourself writing so often and so much as you do to us.  Once in two weeks is a short time to you I suppose to intervene between the times of writing home, but it seems very long to me to wait for news from my absent children.  The last letter from Augustus was dated Jan 17th but he is where he cannot write and at a distance of 30 miles from any P.O. as Mr. Stuntz has probably told you.  But you are where you could write oftener and more if you would, and as we cannot hear from Augustus do let us here from you.  Yet if you do not want to hear from home but seldom, just set the pattern and I will write as often as you do, and relieve you from the trouble of writing, or reading my letters any oftener than you choose.  Everything is going on at the usual snail pace about here.


There was a great dance in the Town Hall Friday 23rd at the Public at the [close?] of the [dancing?] school.  Somewhere from 60 to 70 couples in attendance, and what was strangest of all, some of those little lambs in the flock who have recently passed from death unto life, instead of giving living evidence of their having been with Jesus, showed their preference for gayer company & went to see the show.

It was but two days before the holy commission and Mr. Caldwell and [men?] somehow or other concluded not to show their faces there before their august teachers and the mangled remains of their adorable savior so soon after patronizing the company of Jake Dodge, Henry Daniels, Frank Atwell, [Morse’s & Patrk’s?] boys [Jo Read?] and [Almy Ferrier?].  Oh the folly of Sinners.

I thought it would look just as well for old cripples who were just ready to emigrate to the kingdom come to stay away and let the young, the wealthy, proud & gay have their [partihase?] & recreation to themselves and not betray our weakness by going to gaze at them and thereby evince to them & to the world our regrets that we are no longer fit associates for [Jo. Reads?] &c. But some folks act curiously at times like there was a partial insanity in their case.

I felt very well at home & so did Am as we did when Ossian & Dodge was here & Mum went.  It is getting to be mad times.  Give my love to Mother and to my other Friends if I have any.  I have written about twice as much now as you write and have not got half through but time forbids more at present.

G. A. Barber

[ca. 1855] Apr.

Lancaster Apr.

Dear Mother,

Having rec’d several lines from you and Amherst without sending any full equivalent I will now try to write a few words though they may not be very interesting.  Today is a beautiful Sunday.

It is now about two o’clock.  I have not been to meeting.  Shall probably go this evening.

You see my prejudice in favor of evening meetings is not altogether overcome.

I am dressed up in my new vest and boots, clean shirt, thin brown coat and brown hat &c.  This morning Uncle Allen drove up with his carriage with his children, [and?] Ham. and three other children.  I took Thody and got in (Myron was at meeting) and had a delightful ride on the prairie.  Such beautiful spring weather I never saw before.  Every day seems unequated.  The earth has got green in spite and there are some flowers out.  They look just like yellow daisies only they grow as low and humble as violets.

Night before last I got a letter from Augustus at Galena.  They are having colera considerable and a number have died on the river or been put ashore in consequence of colera.  You may not see anything of it in the papers as they try to keep it mum but John [Henry?] who was down there says it is so.  No wonder for he says the mercury stood at 90* one day that he was there.  Every boat up the river has 6 or 800 passengers.

Augustus appears to be in fine spirits.  He is swift to have me come up that way.

The ground here is warm and dry as any ever need to be, gardens are being made and crops are being put in with all delight.

Uncle Jay and Cyrus will have splendid gardens in a short time.  In fact, Uncle Jays garden now is the finest I know of about here, he has enlarged it this spring.

Aunt Fanny has considerable of a start in her garden because the place was made by a fellow who took great pains to have everything that he could get growing.

I am quite anxious to go up the river and see the elephants and would like not a little to see Augustus.  Uncle Thode is farming and sleeps in his house and that is all I have got to say about him at present.  Father requires me to write so much to him that I can hardly find any thing more to write to any one else.  Little Thody is not very well – has a bad cold.  My love to all.  We expect Uncle Ham here every day.

Your affectionate Son


Lancaster May 2nd 1855

Dear Father

Perhaps I have neglected writing to you too long but as I have been rather busy of late and have written to mother not long since I hope to be [?????]


“William Alcorn was very well known in the community, operating a general store, member of the Masonic Lodge, and a skilled carpenter. He came from Ireland to New York City in 1833. He left New York in 1845 and settled in Grant County, where he married Miram Lockhardt of Indiana in 1849, and she bore ten children with eight surviving. There is some puzzlement in this family concerning Joseph. John Alcorn, Sr., found in the 1855 census, died on 20 October 1861, at Lancaster. His estate papers contain a letter by his son William, in this letter he states that he is the only heir of John Alcorn, Sr., that his brother John had died earlier, whose estate papers state that he died on 9 December 1855, and left a widow, Antoninette. She remarried on 26 June 1859, at Beetown to Joseph Sykes. How Joseph Alcorn fits into this family is puzzling.
Joseph Alcorn appears to have been with Augustus and Stuntz at Lake Superior previously.

Day before yesterday I made Jo. Alcorns folks a visit.  They appear to feel pretty well.  The girls were all at home.

I took dinner there and looked over the farm some.  Jo is building stone wall on the farm for Dr. Wood.  I begin to think we have about all the herbs here that grow in Vermont.  [Spikenard?], bloodroot, coltsfoot, leeks, wild onions, wild summer savoury, balm, and a great many more grow in abundance.

Uncle Allen has spoken to me about studying law but nothing deffinite has been proposed on either side.  Two fellows start from here today to go to Lake Superior.  They have to walk over 200 miles so I suppose they would not wish to carry any extra burden and Jo says he thinks Augustus would not care anything about that vest up there.  I am really anxious to go up there but I guess I shall not this summer.


Must close rather abruptly for want of time.  Have been looking some days for a letter from you.

Love to all


All is well but Aunt Fanny who is most [used?] up with a severe cold

Lancaster May 14th /55

Dear Father

It seems to me I have not written to you for about a week and as there is just 25 minutes between [illegible words] a few words. I have nothing of special interest to write but dont want to keep you waiting for a letter.  For some time we have been wishing for a little rain for which we would be very thankful although a great deal is needed.  We now have a prospect for a good shower.


~ 15th Uncle Vest Phelps and all his family have arrived in town today I understand.  I am most tired to death, have been planting corn all day with Cyrus and I have about a days work more to do alone to finish it and fix the apple trees.  I have a wet cloth on my neck to cure a sunburn.  Whatever the effort may be ultimately, it saves me a great deal of pain at present.  I am thinking quite [strong?] nowadays of pottering off up to the lake.

Jo is here yet and would go with me.  I should want no better companion.

There is no serious obstacle that I know of to hinder.  While I wish to go for many reasons.

So far as I know I have had excellent success in grafting although I have not done a great deal only about 600.  I cant tell exactly about the wheat there was not much of it all a great deal of that was wasted.  I have never said a word to Shoemaker and dont want to.  He is a foolish howling Methodist and nothing else.  I sold 5 bushels of

[Incomplete copy of letter]

MOTHER Dear Mother


Lancaster Wis. May 20th 1855

Dear Mother

Last night I was much gratified by the reception of another Salvo of letters all in one envelope from home.

It is pleasing to thus find myself kindly remembered at home but letters written in the spirit of one I received from father last Tuesday are not quite so agreeable and allow me to say I think they are rather tend to defeat their object.  The accounts of the season in Vermont seem rather dismal.

Can it be possible that no leaves were visible on the 13th of May.  Here fruit trees were going out of blossom.  A fortnight Three weeks ago today (April 26th) the poplar trees appeared to be in full foliage but the leaves were not fully grown wild plum trees were white and crabapple trees were blossoming.

Lilacs are now out of blossom.  Gooseberries plums currants and cherries are about as [as peas?] – plums rather larger apples are as large as beans.

I ate rhubarb pie at Uncle Jays May 3rd made of new plants.  it is somewhat doubtful about my going up to the lake this summer.  Jo dont wish to go untill after harvest or about the last of August but I guess I could get him started now if I [???] really anxious about it.

It is principally on account of my health that I prefer going up there to reading law at present.  Today is a beautiful [??????] I have not been to any meeting this forenoon but guess I shall go to the choir meeting this afternoon.

Aunt L is not very well yet.  Yesterday I cut out a lot of willows that grew around the best spring on the east side of the farm.

It is a noble spring and might easily be made to run to go building spot on the South end of the farm on the road near the S.E. corner Cyrus thinks of selling his place in town and building on his farm but Aunt Fanny is strongly opposed to it.  Going to Lake Superior is not so much of an undertaking as when Augustus first went.  I should have to foot it about 200 miles.  A great many people are going through every few days but probably I shall not go without Jo as he understands all the minutia of providing necessary articles and food, coaching, camping out &c &c.  Well I must close this and write a few words to Father.

Receive with this the Love of

Your affectionate Son

J Allen Barber

Lancaster May 20th 1855

Dear Father

It was my good luck to receive a letter last Tuesday and another on Saturday so I must write again soon or get behind in my correspondence.  Uncle Allen says I can find plenty of land though not very near town but the country is filling up so fast that it will all be worth the [??] government price.  He says he will go out with me in a day or two [a?] land hunting as he has some plots only a few days old and wants more land.  I should not be able to enter more than 80 acres at present but if I dont go to the lake you can send me more money and I will try to make the best disposal of it (21st) Old Ben’s auction goes off today.

There is undoubtedly money to be made in village property here but not near so much as on wild land.  Well Old Bens auction has come off and proved to be a kind of mock auction – all but one bargain was struck to off to his bidder, Jim [?evens?].

I got Jo to promise to day to go to the lake in two weeks but he will alter his mind before night I am afraid.  There is a terrible amount of sickness on the Mississippi and Missouri boats.  The boats are all overloaded often carrying over 600.

This is a very warm day.  We had a little rain this morning but not enough to do any good.  Other places not 11 miles from here have plenty of rain.

It is common here to have thunder here whenever it rains.  If it rains 3 days the thunder cracks around all the time night and day.  Then look out for cholera.  There are a lot of old telegraph posts standing between here and [Potosi?] and more than half of those that stand in open country are split down by lightning.  Jo is fiddling here while I write he remains firm in his resolution to go to the lake in two weeks.

If I go I intend to come back next fall if nothing prevents still as far as health and comfort are concerned I had rather winter there than here if I could have as good accommodations.

I am glad to hear that some of the old faces once so familiar have again visited Johnson although I was not there see them.  It really does me good to see their names written.  How we are scattered.  Albe reminds me of fast day two years ago.

He and John Cook & Charlie and I ate sugar on the catnip farm and had a good time.  Now each breathes the air of a different state.  It would give me great pleasure to attend the commencement at Burlington this summer.  Probably at no other place in the world should I ever meet so old friends.  Where is Homer [Wetherly?] now?  I had a letter from when he was in Glover and would answer it sometime if I knew where to direct.  Aunt Fanny wants me to tell you she is all well and anunt Lucy says when her pen gets started it will with a vengence!  They think I write home so often there is no use of any ones writing any more.  It may be a disappointment to you to have no more land entered but I shall not have time to receive any money from Vermont if I go up country this summer.  What land there is now in market about here is of course of poorer quality and some and I think I had rather enter land north of Wisconsin where there is plenty and lumber cheaper timber plentier.

Ahalf section” is 320 acres; or 1/2 of a square mile.

However I dont know what I shall do.  I want to enter a half section all that I can enter under the graduation [act?] and it must all be adjoining or adjoining land I now own.

If I find any land very tempting perhaps I had better borrow the money of Uncle [?????] and you could remit the amount to him.

The interest would not be much for a [month?] or two – at any rate it appears that I have got to act as I think best.  A Mrs. [?tig?] opened a lot of bonnets and other goods for sale this morning and the streets are full of women all crazy for a new bonnet.  I hope it will have a good effect on the weather as we need rain badly.

Today I had a talk with Shoemaker.  He raised 9 bushels of wheat and says he will give up your share if I will sign a receipt in full of all demands.  He suffered considerable waste and ought to smart for it.  But I suppose he lost money by taking the farm, of about 50 bushels of oats his share after paying for threshing and other helping was only 6 bushels.  I can have things well enough this summer.  The corn I planted among the hops and appletrees I shall let Cyrus have to remunerate him for the trouble I have made him.  I have not done near enough here to pay my board as he has been so situated I could not very well.  There are two or three other boys here that want to go up to the lake and perhaps will go with us.  If you dont get this in season to answer before the 4th of June direct to Superior.  I think this with Mothers and Ams will do for one letter.  Shall probably write again before I leave and look for about two more letters from you.

Your affectionate Son

J. Allen Barber

Johnson June 17th 1855

Dear Sons

I expect you are now together and I will address this to you both thereby saving some scribbling paper, postage &c which is no small consideration with some folks, and I must acknowledge is to me a convenience I went to St Albans last Monday to see my father previous to his departure from this country perhaps forever, though I did not then know how so soon he was going but on arriving there found that he had fixed on the Wednesday following for leaving.  I accordingly remained till that time & then accompanied him as far as [Run??’s] Point & there parted with him.  Thode Burr goes to Sandusky with him, & from thence I expect your Uncle Ham will escort him to Lancaster.

Father felt very much affected at parting with your Uncle B’s folks and they as much so as though they were consigning him to the grave.  Returning from St Albans I came to D Fairchild’s and stayed over night & made one more visit on my way through [Georgia?] & arrived at Johnson Thursday night in safety, but I [presumed?] not many hours before Father & Thode reached Sandusky.  I found that Am. had recd a letter from Augustus & one from [me?] requesting a deposition to establish your his age.  I have made it and also one for Allen thinking that he might want to make a preemption claim in that region, and if he would be deferred from making such claim on account of owning land, would it not be best for him to convey his title to his lands in Wisconsin to me or some other person to be held for him whenever he might wish to resume the ownership again.  Augustus will best know how that business can be managed.  I have a draft that I shall forward by mail tomorrow morning to J. Allen B. Esq. for the sum of $80.00.  I think Allen’s purchase a very good one.

The Barber Family followed national slavery issues.  The American Civil War did not begin until 1861.

You will see by the Tribune that Messrs Bell & Hale are [listed?] to the U.S. Senate by the Legislature of N.H. & probably will [eybise thereat?] & further that the National [R.N.?] Convention are having hot times on the subject of slavery, & that the whole pro slavery concern will be blown sky high, as all attempts to silence freedom of discussion should be now and forevermore Amen.


Giles Addison Barber, father of Augustus and Allen, was enrolled into the Vermont Constitutional Convention in 1850 as a delegate for Charlotte, Lamoille County.

I am now thinking of going to Burlington on the 27th to attend a State Convention [the call?] for which you will see in the [Freeman?].  It is now almost 3 years since I have been there to step my feet on the ground & for that as well as a wish to participate in the doings of the convention I shall like to be there very well.

Portrait of Cadwallader Colden Washburn; U.S. Representative from Washburn between 1855-61. ~

Portrait of U.S. Representative Cadwallader Colden Washburn (Wisconsin); in office between 1855-61.

Portrait of U.S. Representative Alvah Sabin; in office between 1853-57. ~

Portrait of U.S. Representative Alvah Sabin (Vermont); in office between 1853-57.

This morning I recd a [Pub. Doc.?] from Hon. A Sabin ‘sectry of the [Amaroo?] [pant ???] by [Lieut?] [Gibbon?] with an atlas, also another [Corernoned?] at the presentation of the [swant?] of Gen Jackson, [??? Brainiere? into?] me a Biggon’s battery of the [Amaroo?] just the same thing last winter so that I now have two & if you do not receive one from Mr Sabin I will give you one of mine when you come.  I think you will continue to require favors from Mr S. while you [remain?] at the Lake & that Mr C.C. Washburn will not neglect you.  If Allen has arrived at the lake how does he like it & how does he propose to spend the summer?  He is so great a [mineral agent?] and so patient an explorer I shall look for great exploits by him, & certainly I hope you will both be fortunate in discoveries, and that you may realize ample remuneration for all your privations and toils.

The Barber Family’s speculation in Lake Superior copper was supported by federal legislators from Vermont and Wisconsin.

I hope to hear soon of Allen’s safe arrival and hope you will both write often and I will try to do likewise.

Accept my best wishes for your welfare and happiness.

G.A. Barber

A.W.B & J.A. Barber

[fragment, c. 1855, June]

thought but to not enter it without knowing that it was worth something.  I have not seen it but Uncle Allen says it is first rate.

I am glad to hear that Am is no worse off but cannot conceive why he should continue at school this summer.  The letter r in the map represents a high sand rock like a monument about 12 feet high standing on the point of a bluff.  It is biggest at the top and looks very picturesque.  That 40 would be a first-rate meadow just as it is and would produce 2 ½ or 3 tons of hay every year, plenty of water could be had on it by digging a few feet.

But what is of some consequence is the land is the very richest quality much better than prairie land will average and it is not more than two miles from a first rate gristmill.

I hope you will come out here and see my great purchase before many years and enter as much more some where.  The land in [Richland?] in a short time will come down to .75 ¢ per acre.

I wish the old farm could be sold so that you could all come out here.  I should feel a great deal better and I know you all would like your new home.  Jo is more than half undecided about going to the lake but I guess he will go.

He thinks now he can’t go so soon as Wednesday.  Perhaps I cannot but I want to.  Hoping to hear from you once more before I leave I remain

Your affectionate Son


To be continued in the Summer of 1855

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