Barber Papers: “Let ‘Em Rip” Spring of 1856

October 24, 2015

By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Winter of 1856.


Johnson April 5th 1856

Dear Son

I grow more & more uneasy every day about your lands.  If you get The Grant Co. Herald up there you will see what has got to be done before May 11th.  The Herald of March 22nd is out again with two articles in relation to the prefecture of Lands entered under Graduative prices & in one of them says that all lands [forpect?] to Government will be advertised for sale to the highest bidder & if not sold, will be then in the Market at $1.25 per acre.  That purchasers under the Graduation Law cannot pay 75 ¢ more per acre & hold nor even can they go now and pay $1.25 to save it, but it must go into the market & sold at a land sale if anybody will buy it.  My first efforts will be on reaching Lancaster to see that a dwelling is made on your land & something done by way if improvement & it will be absolutely necessary that you should come there yourself as I view the case.

Barber's sketch of his Left Hand Point land claim from the Winter of 1856.

Barber’s sketch of his Left Hand Point land claim from the Winter of 1856.

If you still have that Pointe of Land in your grip & can leave it for a short time, come & come at any rate if you can possibly without too great a sacrifice, for I cannot bear to have you lose so much money for nothing.  Can you not leave your Point after making some moves in the matter without having it squatted on by some one else?  Or can you not get some person you can trust to stay on it for you after erecting a cabin on it?  You will of course know more about it than I do & must act accordingly.  Nothing of great importance transpiring here abouts.  Day before yesterday [Vst.?] Pillsbury & Luther Carpenter were hauled up for damages done to Ben Atwell’s Barn on the mountain by cutting down the timbers to the scaffold destroying 1 good horse rake & some hand rakes & 25 buckets & other damages.  They had to pay Atwell cost & all $19.12 & on a state prosecution $10 fine each & 3.50 cost each making $46.12 as the price [????] for their sport.

It has got to be warm & snow is [going?], not much sugar made yet. I have got a new tenant on the farm Stephen [Dow?] from York side.  Hen. Griswold has become sole owner & occupant of all [red drops?].  Do not go and hang yourself on that [???].  Old Fuller yesterday bought out Bixby’s farm (the [Fod?] [Lathrop?] [place?]).  [Belden?] of Eden has [ba?] the Bixby place in the village.  Mr. G.W. Hill is nearly gone with consumption.  Sir Transit [????]

Augustus was in a little trouble.”

I [recd?] a letter 2 days ago from [Aug?] dated [Mar?] 4. Written when he was evidently (or as Dr. [Ferhas?] says evidentially) afflicted with the blues.  He wanted I should procure some hundreds of Dollars for him to invest in lands & I shall try to get it if possible.

If I can get $1,000. for him, yourself, & myself to invest jointly I will do it.

The [avails?] of the old farm well laid out for lands at the west would soon double while the farm would be gradually going off with the action of the water on the bank & yielding not so much as 4 percent interest on its value.

But Mum will hear to nothing but laying out hundreds of Dollars to fix it up.  Well she may have her way about that & that only.  I am not for having her jurisdiction extended over all the west while [surveying?] the [distance?] of the world here in Vermont.

Remember your lands.  Remember.  Shall I meet you at Lancaster about 25th of the present month?  All well.

Yours in heart

G. A. Barber.


Johnson April 13th /56

My Dear Allen

GRADUATION ACT OF 4th AUGUST, 1854.
This law cheapens, with certain limitations, the price of public lands which have been in market for specified periods to the actual settlers, who are required, before making the entry, to file their affidavits that the purchase is made for actual settlement and cultivation.
United States Congressional serial set, Volume 1117, page 482.

Having had the satisfaction of reading some letters from you of late I now sit down to thank you for them – tho without one thought that I can convey to you an adequate expression of my gratitude for your [??? favors stifl less?] for the continued assurance of your good health and favorable prospects.  I am glad to learn that you have had encouragement to persevere in the prosecution of your “claims and now imagine you doing your utmost to make yourself a house – temporary though it may be – which will some day repay you for all the trouble you have had about it: and I hope much more.  Do you intend to build an “Octagon Concrete” house?  Or is there no material and no foundation for such a [build.?] Suppose you will have to clear it off and drain it before you will decide on that point.  I imagine you will have some [allushectors?] to destroy before you will get peaceable possession.  I suppose if you succeed in holding that you will have to give up the land you bought in “Little Grant” as whatever title you could have to that, would seem to be acquired by “preemption and actual settlement” – the reduced price alone depressing on those conditions.  Well, no matter if your present “grab” is worth half as much as your exited fancy has you to believe.  I know that the letter you have rec’d from home will have a tendency to unsettle your mind and perhaps to send you “packing” to Lancaster, but from such advice come to you too late to be of any use.  Indeed, what written advice or sympathy does not when it takes two months to get an answer to a letter?

I, too, have been in something of a “quandary” about a place to stay in while all my family are absent, seeking their fortunes or spending them.  Father wished to have me remain in this old house and continue to keep boarders.

I could not agree to that, as I knew how much work there was in it, and how little strength there was in me.  Besides, other reasons pertaining to the house and its capacities made me unwilling to stay here.  I could see no better way for me than have our goods moved back to the farm and to make it my home there.  This did not suit the convenience of the Meads because they could not afford to be troubled to sleep above stairs or to remove any of their things to give me a room. [So?], [their?] minds and interests being previously about equally balanced between staying and going.  That turned the scale, and they [prached?] up and were off before we had any warning, scarcely.

But, as good luck would have it, a stranger came with good recommendation and I have the assurance that the woman will be a very agreeable person to reside with – this.  I have not yet seen her, but feel hopeful.

They have no children.

“In the spring of 1856 he [Albe Whiting] set out, traveling by railroad as far as St. Louis, and there took a boat which took him to Westport Landing, now Kansas City. He had secured some preliminary training as a civil engineer, and it was his purpose to find employment in that line. After a week at Westport Landing, he, with his partner and a passenger, started West with a team of seven yoke of oxen drawing a covered wagon filled to the bows with supplies. This little party started for Fort Riley, and after about three weeks arrived in the Republican Valley some fifteen miles from the fort and just beyond the outposts of civilization. Mr. Whiting had a partner, B. E. Fullington, an honest, God-fearing, upright man, and their plan was to engage in farming – raising corn for the Government post at Fort Riley.”
~ A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, Volume 3, page 1313-14.

Presume I shall be lonely, but mean to have work enough to occupy my hands while there and leisure to spend with my friends there at home as well as to visit them at theirs.  I shall expect Aug. at home next summer – read a long letter from him to Albe – who, by the way has stared for Kansas – in which he says he shall come to Vermont next summer.  Oh!  Shant I be glad to see him?  [If?] you could come with him.  Shall not be so certain of his coming as to be very much disappointed if he does not, as it is my lot to bear his appointments.  I am sorry to have Am. go away with his father to such a distance, but I believe he will be much better off to be there than he would to be left with me, as in my care, as he has become selfwilled and independent of my authority to an eminent degree.  Hope he will not go to the lake as I do not think he would be of any use there, he is so unused to labor or hardship.

He has not been entirely free from a cough since he had the whooping cough last spring until within three weeks – it seems to have left him free.

My health is quite good tho I cannot endure severe exercise.  [?] have best one boarder and no fired girl.

Have a few things to send to you and Aug. – meant to have [???] but my girl [???] away [on?] a visit for a week and as been gone nearly [forever?] – so I could not get [time?] to [grew?] and hurt much for you as I should.

Your Affectionate

Mother

J. A. Barber


Johnson April 13th 1856

Dear Son.

Yours of March [16th?] is rec’d together with one from Augustus by same mail, dated March 11th and you may be assured that it affords me joy to hear of your bright prospects, good health & spirits, courage & perseverance I hope you may finally achieve the object you have in view, and have the satisfaction of distancing all competition for the golden prize.  But from what I have been writing to you for some weeks about your land in the town of Little Grant.  I shall expect to find you at Lancaster when I get there or at any rate before the 10th of May, if it is necessary that you should be there & commence a residence on your land prior to that time.  I have written to your Uncle about the Matter the 2nd time and am looking anxiously for his answer every mail.  I cannot see the justice or propriety of your being obliged to make a residence on the law at that particular time when it is taken into consideration that you were only just of age, had exhausted all your means in making the purchase & was forced to seek some employments to raise the necessary means for building and making improvements on your land, & farther than all that, being so young, & unprovided with any means of housekeeping or living. & worst of all, nobody to prepare & get you “bread & milk” when you should happen to feel longer than usual.

Instructions received by the General Land Offices regarding graduation entries of land.

I cannot believe that your land will be forfeit in default of making proof of residence at the time appointed, but it will not be prudent to run any risks about it, if possible to prevent it.  I have not yet fixed upon any day for my setting out for Wis, but hope to be ready soon.  Perhaps it is all nonsense to take Amherst out there this season.  But Augustus & you have said so much about having him go there that your mother (even son) thought best to have him go, & I of course was not unwilling to have it so, but of late you & Aug. do not seem so much in favor of having him up at the Lake, I suppose because you will not know what to do with him, & I should be loth to have him there in burden to you when it costs so much for subsistence if he could do nothing to earn it – But he is nearly in [reading?] [now?] & I rather feel as tough I would choose to have him with me than leave him to the whims and [caprice?] of any woman whatever there would be too many wonderful projects “work on a farm” “Learn a trade” “go into a [store?]” “fit for college” “rest a while certainly two or three years from his studies.” and all the other 1001 notions of a nervous person, who has now within the last ½ hour been complaining of his going off, not from any other consideration but that he were not going when he would not earn anything, or not enough to pay his way.  If I work on my little place he can help me & he can do work for others or find some employment or he can go to school to H. B. Woods.  I shall feel better if he goes, than if he stays.  I have been reading a very long letter today from Augustus to Albe, but Albe is gone to Kansas & left directions that any letters from you or Aug’ to him should be shown to us & then forwarded to him.  Everett got home last week, with improved health though not sound yet.  He met Allen in Ohio & spent 2 days with him.  A. was in good spirit.  Minister is so unwell as to give up preaching.  Woodruff is failing & will live but a short time.  Nothing of consequence to write.  Had sugar at the old place & at Columb’s Friday (Fat Friday).

Yours in haste

Giles W. Barber


Cambridge May 30th 1856

My very dear son Allen

Gravestone at Hillside Cemetery in Lancaster, Grant County, Wisconsin:

“IN MEMORY OF
AUGUSTUS H. BARBER
of Cambridge, Vt.
U.S. Deputy Surveyor
who was drowned in
Montreal River.
Apr. 22. A.D. 1856
Aged 24 yrs. & 8 ms.”
~ FindAGrave.com

One week ago today your letters bearing bearing the heart-crushing intelligence of the sudden Death of our beloved Son and your dear brother were received by me.  Oh, may God save – preserve the others to release to me, and may he support us all to endure our great afflictions.  Greatly as I suffer under the stroke, my heart bleeds for the absent ones on whom the blow has fallen with equal severity.  Augustus was dearly and worthily beloved by us all.  Can it be time we shall never again see his face – never receive the dear letters full of bright hopes and cheering anticipations.  Oh, he was too much beloved by all who knew him.  Why could he not have been spared to bless his family and the world in which he could do good.

My friends [???] tell one that no death has caused such universal sorrow in this vicinity as his.  Many of my friends have called to sympathize with me and to learn the particulars of the sad accident.

Superior Falls at the mouth of the Montreal River, as featured in the stereograph

Superior Falls at the mouth of the Montreal River, as featured in the stereograph “View on Montreal River” by Whitney & Zimmerman from St. Paul, circa 1870.
~ Wikimedia Commons

Mr. Dougherty with [Sen.?] Robinson came down on Tuesday to see me.  Aunt Martha and Mrs. Chadwick came Wednesday – M. stayed till this Friday morning.

Mr. D. took your letter of the 13 May home with him intending to address his congregation on this mournful subject on next Sabbath, I cannot bear to be present.

I did not get your first letter – addressed to Johnson dated April 28th mailed May 10th until the 23 – the one dated May 13th mailed 14th about two hours afterwards – or in about 10 days from date.  I would not write to any one till today – but supposed you had written to your father at Lancaster when you wrote to me last. (13th) If you did not I fear he had started for the lake before the dreadful tidings reached him.  Can it be that each one of our severed family has had to bear the grief alone – separated from all the others.  How much I know you must have suffered!  By your suspense before you could reach the spot where he was lost – and then, during the shocking scenes which followed.  I suppose I can imagine but little what your feelings were or what mine would have been had I been present.  I am so thankful that you were not with him and that I still have a dear-[kind?] son in this dark and gloomy world – May we all meet again, feeling this chastening affliction to be from the hands of a merciful God.  May we be drawn together as a family by a [closer?] tie – even by the bonds of our common affliction.

I hope you will remember to write me as often as possible as I shall feel more concern now for the absent ones than ever before.  Am anxiously waiting a letter from “father” that I may know where to direct to him.  I want very much to have Amherst come home and stay with me this summer.  He would be a great comfort to me if he could be contented to stay here, and would feel that he aught to try to make his mother less miserable.  In doing that he would find his reward in being more happy in time to come.

I must close this and prepare to sent it to the office if there is a chance today, shall write soon again.  No doubt you have got the letter I wrote to your dear, departed brother, since I came here.  If so there is nothing of importance to write now.

Your affectionate Mother


[Incomplete copy of letter]

[ante May, 1856]

This is the last letter available from Augustus to his family before his death on April 22nd, 1856. 

A week in Lancaster or Johnson would be worth more to me than an interest in –––.  But a copper mine first of all if at all and then for a good time generally.

Augustus had at least three locations: a farm near Lancaster; the townsite of Ironton at Saxon Harbor; and a copper claim located at or near Amnicon River Falls State Park. 

I have some chances for a location that some would gladly embrace, but I mean to have a right on so I let them drive their trains without making a move or showing that I care a fig for the whole country.

There is a conspiracy, or combination of old preemptors here who have no right to make claims.  Their object is to secure each member a claim on the North shore, and to drive off and keep off by knives and pistols any who may wish to make legal preemptions on the lands they choose to appropriate to themselves.

Was Augustus murdered?

There may be some fighting up here this season and there is certain to be considerable laming before the business is settled.  Let ‘em rip.

I can send half a dozen to Jehanum in about as many seconds, but don’t want to do it & will avoid trouble if possible but butcher knife companies must not meddle with any claim when I have made one.

“The 1830 Treaty of Prairie du Chien set aside 320,000 acres of potentially valuable land west of Lake Pepin for ‘half-breed’ members of the Dakota nation. The move set off a series of events that would enrich a number of early Minnesotans, none of Indian heritage.”
[…]
Henry Rice, a Minnesota territorial delegate to the US Senate, hadn’t forgotten the Half-Breed Tract. In July 1854, he convinced the Senate to offer the mixed-race claimants a deal. Each could get up to 640 acres of unsurveyed federal lands by giving up their claim to the Half-Breed Tract. Those eligible would receive ‘exchanging scrip,’ certificates that could be used to buy land.”
~ Minnesota Historical Society

Allen, what think you of the [expedring?] of making yourself a location on the famed Half-breed Tract which is to be surveyed and brought into market immediate?

It lies west of Lake Pepin and is as fair a tract of farming land as lies out of doors besides being regarded as very rich in lead.

You never saw such an [Elganim?] as a portion on the Lake appears to be.

I do want to go down and get you out to see more of the North West – not that I wish you to come up here against your inclination, but I want to travel with you, to see what we have not seen and talk over old times together while we rub up each other’s ideas about the things of the present and the future.

If you want a farm in the west and don’t like Sp. just consult Uncle Allen about the “modus operandi of securing a farm by preemption and then take a look at the country I have mentioned, as there will be great snatching.

My love to Grandmother, Uncles, Aunts and cousins and my respect to the ladies if they inquire – not without.

Augustus H. Barber


To be continued in the Summer of 1856

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