Barber Papers: “Poor McEwen” Spring of 1857

January 29, 2016

By Amorin Mello

Selected letters of the Joel Allen Barber Papers 

… continued from Winter of 1857.


 Cambridge Sunday April 12th 1857

Dear Son

It is some weeks since I have written a word to you, for the reason, that after I learned that you had gone to Superior & might be coming down to Lancaster, all my letters to you might fail of ever reaching you, so I have held on till I should learn something further from you.  We have recd several letters from you, since your arrival at Superior, for which we were thankful, & I trust that when you got back again to La Pointe our old friend Esq Bell had a lot of my letters for you that would take a long time to read, i.e. if you should have patience enough to read them all through I wrote you last on the 8th of March & next day letters from you, one dated at La Pointe & one for Amherst dated at Fargo’s.  Since that time nothing any important has occurred within the circle of your acquaintance.  Every thing has jogged on in the old beaten track.  We are all three well, & it is a remarkably healthy time all around us.  There have been but 3 or 4 deaths in town since I came home.  Deacon Reynolds aged 90 Lyman Seeley’s wife & Walter Wheeler [???s] wife & a boy of D.R. Evan’s.  In Johnson no deaths that I can think of except old Mrs Hunt who died last week.  The marriages in this town have been very few & none that you will know any thing about except Susan Harvey who was married last week.  In Johnson very few, Calvin Whiting has lately married the widow W. (Albe‘s Mother).

Albe Whiting was a hometown friend and reoccuring character in the Barber Papers.

This has been a remarkable sugar season thus far, but we are probably through or nearly so for this year.  Dow has made about 1150 lbs & has a lot more to sugar off.  Amherst has tapped 15 trees where Mr Harvey who used to make sugar in our woods and has made about 250 lbs of the kindest sugar ever made in Vt as he used tin milkpans to catch his sap & boil in the great caldron kettle & every thing is done up scientifically.  It would amuse you to see how the “Hops” put into it, as he goes into the woods at 7 a.m. gathers his work, over 3 or 4 times boils it down & draws it down on the handsled in the largest wine keg, at night, often after dark, & half the way in deep mud, sometimes breaking his draw ropes & nearly blistering his hands by drawing on the rope.  Amherst has got to be a great swarthy half breed 5 feet 5 ½ inches high in his stockings & weighs 140 lbs as well & free from every ail as one could wish & if you do not see him soon you will never be able to handle him again.

We had a great flood last week as high as I have ever seen it, save a very few times tearing the banks terribly, carrying off fences, bridges, & doing all sorts of mischief generally.  Our meadow will part with a slice from the trees just below the house to the large trees on our bank [????] the creeping rock about ½ a rod wide.  You will be surprised to see how the meadow is going off, the more it wears, the faster it goes next time & it will not be long before it will go all off entirely.  If it were like all other meadows, that gained in some other place as fast as it last elsewhere it would be more tolerable.  But we shall have to grin & bear it, awhile, till we all make up our minds to let somebody else have it & try what they can do to save it.  Another great objection to our meadow is its liability to have the soil carried off & great holes washed out, if plowed, & there is 1/3 or nearly of the meadow in this state & for want of plowing it does not produce more than 1/3 of what it should do.

Dow is still on the place, though he & wife are bad enough I do not see as I can do better. Jonathan Nichols has got back with his family to Cambridge, Irving sold out in Al. but on?? is homesick to get back again.

You will get a letter from me with a copy of a notice from the Land Office at Mineral Point, & probably you will get a copy of the law as passed by Congress, before this reaches you, or I can cut it out and send it in this letter so that you can see it for yourself which I think the best way & you can also see Oscar’s [???], & as you have lately written to your Uncle Allen I suppose he will give you all needful advise on the subject.

On further reflection I will not send you the Law, you will get it in William’s Paper of March 21st if it now goes to La Pointe as his father said he should direct it [???] Nov 20th thenI think will be no trouble in your case, as you will see that all entries under that act

“where the purchaser has made affidavit & paid the purchase money as required by [?d] [a?] & the instructions issued & in force & in the hands of the Regent at the time of making said entry, are hereby legalised & [???] shall issue to the parties respectively, Excepting those entries under said act, which the Commissioner of the Gen. Land Office may ascertain to have been fraudulently, or evasively made.” 

Giles Addison Barber first visit to his son Joel Allen Barber on Lake Superior was during the Summer and Fall of 1856.

This is all the law governing your case & I think there will be no difficulty whatever about it.  Your entry was made in good faith & you went to the Lake to earn something with which to improve your land & have forfeited nothing there.  I was thinking that if you came to Lancaster I would go there & take you with me to the Lake via the Sault when I go up there in May or June.  However if you do come I know it as soon as you get there, & if you do not I shall expect to find you at or around La Pointe in health & in good spirits I hope, & probably glad to see one from below, but not gladder than we should be to see you here.

Joel Allen Barber began surveying the Apostle Islands during the Winter of 1855 with his brother Augustus.

I am surprised to learn that you are going to survey islands so late in the season.  Nothing that I can now say will avail any thing else I would caution against trusting too long to the treacherous covering over the dark blue waters.  I hope you will have good success and get through without any fatal accidents to your self or to any one of your party.  I shall feel great anxiety on your account, till I hear from you again, but shall try to comfort myself with the assurance you gave us in a late letter that you were careful to avoid all danger as much as possible, not only on your own account but on that “of your parents & dear brother.”  I cannot expect to get answer to this before it is time to go up to the Lake, but that need not deter you from writing, if you do not come below, & if you do come to Lancaster you may expect to see your Mother there forthwith & possibly Amherst & myself.  I do not yet know what I shall do with Amherst this season whether continue him at school put him in a store or to some trade.  He would like to be a printer well enough, & it is not a bad business.  Whether it would be best to have him go through college is matter of uncertainty with me.  There are half as many spoiled by going to college as there benefitted by it.  But I do want you to close up all your business around that Lake & come to your Uncle’s Office to study Law.  Thode Burr thinks of it & his Uncle wants to have him.  I wish you to take the matter into consideration.  May God preserve your life & health and prosper you in all lawful undertakings

I remain your Affectionate father

Giles A. Barber

Amherst has shot 3 muskrats to day, prices better now from 15 to 25 ¢.

The death of Albert McEwen was mentioned in the Superior Chronicle and Benjamin Armstrong’s memoir.

I am very sorry for the fate of poor McEwen.  I fear he is dead & that his fate will never be known.  I think he was abandoned by his guides & perished alone.

Mr Young is still alive I suppose, have heard lately that he was worse.

U.S. Representative Augustus Young, U.S. President James Buchanan Jr, the Kansas question, and the Southern Confederacy were featured during the Winter of 1857.

You will see that Buchanan is the worst patron of Border Ruffians & the meanest tool of slave holders that has yet cursed the nation, appointing the worst fire eaters and none else to office in Kansas, & doing all the dirty work of the south crushing out freedom & establishing slavery all over the [?????] if possible.


Superior Chronicle

April 14th, 1857

SUPPOSED MURDER.

superior-chronicle-april-14-1857-murder-on-grand-footpath detail

“Supposed Murder” was a newspaper article published in the Superior Chronicle issue of April 14th, 1857.

March 19th, 1857, Barber Papers:
I am much alarmed for the safety of Friend McEwen & think the prospect of his being alive is very small.  The case deserves a rigid investigation to ascertain whether he was murdered by his guides, or was deserted by them & left to perish in the wilderness.  The weather was favorable about that time & for some days after.  I think he left La Pointe Oct. 14th the day I got back from Montreal River.  ‘Poor Mc’”.

Considerable anxiety is felt by the people of La Pointe county in regard to the whereabouts of Mr. Albert McEwen, a citizen of that county, who started overland for St. Paul sometime during the months of October or November of last year; and of whom nothing has since been heard. Strong suspicions that he was murdered are entertained by his friends. The circumstances, as near as we can learn them, are as follows:

History of Northern Wisconsin
by Western Historical Co., 1881
Ironton, which was settled at the time of the iron excitement, was situated on the south shore of the lake, one-half mile west of the Montreal River. The village was platted in 1856-7, by McEwan [Albert McEwen], Herbert, Mandlebaum, and others. Warehouses and docks were built, and the place thrived for about four years, when it was abandoned.”

Mr. McEwen, a gentleman from Detroit connected with the Indian Agency, and several persons from La Pointe county, with half-breed packers, started together last fall to go across the country, and traveled in company until reaching the head waters of the St. Croix. Here McEwen and the gentleman from Detroit procured canoes and, with two half-breed yoyaguers, determined to descend the river, while the remainder of the party took the land route. When the latter party reached Yellow Lake they found the half-breeds there, but could learn nothing definite in regard to McEwen and his companion; nor could the learn anything in St. Paul, where both these gentlemen had business engagements.

McEwen was known to have about $600 in notes and drafts on his person, and his companion $1,000 in gold. The half-breeds were seen a short time after in St. Paul in possession of large sums of money, principally gold. It is believed that they murdered these gentlemen while descending the river. The circumstances are strongly in favor of this belief.

Was McEwen’s party going “across the country” to the Office of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C.?

Mr. McEwen had resided in and about LaPointe for several years, and owns considerable property in that county. He was an explorer; and is well and favorably known throughout the lake region. The other gentleman was in the employ of Mr. Gilbert, superintendent of the Lake Superior Indians; and was returning to Detroit from La Pointe, where he had been on business connected with the agency.

Benjamin Armstrong organized the McEwen search party.

At latest advices a party were organizing at La Pointe to go to the St. Croix and arrest the half-breeds, and if possible learn the fate of the missing persons.


Early Life among the Indians:

by Benjamin Armstrong

CHAPTER XVII.

A Murder on a Trial at Yellow Lake.——Yet a Mystery.——Collar and Sleeve Buttons of the Murdered Man.——An Introduction to the Bear Family.

early life among the indians

Early Life Among The Indians by Benjamin Armstrong, Chapter XVII.

In 1855 [sic] a man named McEwen came to me at La Pointe who told me he was from California formerly, but was then located at St. Paul; that he had been prospecting through this part of the country for some time for the purpose of finding a suitable location for business and to buy real estate but as the weather was becoming unfavorable for this work he had resolved to return to St. Paul and wanted to know if I could furnish a couple of good reliable men to pilot him as far as Yellow Lake, for when once there he could get on alone over old lumber roads to St. Paul. I furnished him with two men whom I considered reliable. They were two half breeds by the name of Gostelang, their first names being Belamy and Batese, and it transpired that they did their duty and left McEwen at Yellow Lake all right, at a stopping place kept by Joseph Cobaux (or Cavillion), and that McEwen remained at this place two nights and a day. I further ascertained that Cobaux advised McEwen not to follow the tote road as he had intended but to go by trail to Clam Lake and from there to Wood Lake, as it would shorten the distance some ten or twelve miles and that he would send a man with him as a pilot until he should again come to the tote road, which he would do at a place called Knute Anderson’s Meadow. Subsequent events show that McEwen took this advise but he was never again seen alive by his friends.

North Woods River:
The St. Croix River in Upper Midwest History
By Eileen M. McMahon, Theodore J. Karamanski, pages 64-66.

Among the unsavory traders who entered the St. Croix at this time was Joe Covillion. He was a Metis who took over the former mission school at Yellow Lake and used it for his post. Located on the Yellow River just where it leaves Little Yellow Lake, the trading house was the scene of many drunken reveries and a key location in the first murder mystery in the St. Croix valley. In 1845 [sic] Albert McEwen hired Covillion to guide him to timberlands in the Yellow Lake region. McEwen had a large amount of gold coin he hoped to use to secure title to lands upon which a profitable speculation might be made. McEwen never returned from the trip. Covillion explained that he had actually not been with McEwen and he cast suspicion on a Chippewa who was alleged to have actually served as guide. Not long afterwards McEwen’s body was found stuffed in a hallow tree about ten miles from Covilion’s post. Preliminary investigation revealed that Covillion had in his possession a large amount of gold coins, McEwen’s watch, and a fist full of land warrants. Calmly the trader explained that he obtained these from the Chippewa in trade. Later that winter the Indian whom Covillion had claimed guided McEwen was found dead in his camp. Covillion, the owner of ‘considerable property’ retired to Taylor’s Falls, where he died in 1877.”

It seems that McEwen had written to a partner of his in St. Paul prior to his departure that he would arrive there about a certain time, and that his partner had become anxious about him after the time had expired. He wrote to me. I answered him telling all I could, which was his start and arrival at Yellow Lake. In a short time after this friend of McEwen‘s, whose name I cannot remember, came to La Pointe to ferrit out the mystery. I gave him what information I could and he set out, promising to let me know from Yellow Lake what success he was having. He did so, saying that McEwen had arrived at Yellow Lake and remained there two nights and the men that I had sent returned the next morning. I then sent two men to Yellow Lake, who could talk both English and Chippewa, and instructed them to talk with whites and Indians and get all the information they could and the route he had taken and follow it and find out if possible what had became of the man. They ascertained at Yellow Lake from the Indians that Cobaux had sent a man with him by way of Clam Lake trail. The men followed. At Clam Lake they found where they had a fire and had cooked a meal. The next sign they found was at Wood Lake where they had occupied an old lumber camp. Here they found blood stains but a thorough search of the camp only revealed a tin box in which McEwen had carried his papers and minutes of land descriptions. The streams and lakes were now frozen over and snow had fallen and further search had to be abandoned until spring. A search was instituted then which resulted in finding his body in a little lake at the head of Wood Lake proper. The head had been cut with an axe or hatchet on the back part of it. Nothing by which he could be identified was left except his clothing. His collar button and shirt studs and a valuable finger ring, which he told me were made of gold he had dug himself, were missing. I do not think McEwen had any money about him except what might have been left from ten dollars which he borrowed from me. The collar button and Shirt studs, or similar ones, were afterward seen in a shirt worn by a trader at St. Croix Falls, but there being no one who could identify them to a certainty, we were compelled to be satisfied with our own conclusions, but from what we had seen of them and what he had said of them, we were more than satisfied that they were the property of Mr. McEwen.

In the spring of 1841 my first real good introduction to the bear family took place. It was in the logging camp of Mr. Page and less than one mile from the present city of Hudson, Wis. The camp had been pretty well cleared out of its supplies, theyhaving been moved down to the place where the drive would begin. Only a few papers, scalers rule and time book and a keg part full of molasses were left behind. One afternoon after the landings had been broken and booming about completed, Mr. Page requested me to take a man and go to the camp and return in the morning, bringing the rule and papers and have the man bring along the keg of molasses. I took a young Indian about twenty years of age, named Wa-sa-je-zik, and started for the camp. It was nearly dark when we started and we had a mile to walk over a muddy trail. The boy stripped some birch bark from an old wigwam near the road and made a torch to use as a light when we reached the shany. When near he handed me the torch and picked up some wood to make a fire. I lit the torch at the cabin and found the door partly open but went in followed by the boy and dashed his armful of wood down at the fire place. At this we heard a rush along side the camp at our left that nearly scared the life out of us and raising the torch we beheld two bears, who had doubtlessly been attracted to the cabin by the scent of the molasses. They made a rush for the door where they entered but it was closed and wheeling about they faced us, their eyes shining with a lustre that we would much rather have seen in a painting.

Imprisoned with two bears

Plate “Imprisoned with Two Bears” between pages 238 and 239.

But we were there; no door but the one the bears were guarding and no window where we could escape. We stood like statues for awhile eyeing our companions, while the torch was fast burning away. The roof was made of shakes and the eaves were about four feet from the ground. Escape we must or we would soon be in the dark with our black companions. We expected every moment to be pounced upon, for every spring bears, as a usual thing, are very hungry. It occurred to me that perhaps I could move the shakes enough to crawl through and handing the now shortened torch to the boy and at the same time instructing him to keep it waving to hold bruin at bay, I made a dash for the shakes and soon had a hole through which I could crawl and did crawl and shouted to Wa-sa-je-zik to come. The lad went through that hole like an arrow, and he was none too quick, for the bear espied the light of Heaven through the hole I had made and dashed for it, but missed his footing and fell back. By this time we had the shakes kicked back to place and Messrs. Bruin were our prisoners. We camped outside that night and in the morning got a rifle and killed them both. We took the hides and the best of the meat to the boys on the drive and had a regular pow-wow and feast to celebrate our adventure.

Did Benjamin Armstrong leaving a clue to connect Albert McEwen‘s death and stories about the bear family in this chapter?

I had several experiences with bears after this but never again was caught in their den. A black bear is harmless except when wounded or cornered and then they are a wicked foe. I once wounded one and before I could reload my gun he was almost upon me and we had a lively promenade around an old pine stub until I got my hunting hatchet from my belt and dealt him several blows when he gave up the fight and we had no quarrels over gate receipts. He started away uttering an occasional growl. I picked up my gun and finished loading it and I soon had his hide as a trophy.

I did not meet Wa-sa-je-zik again until two or three years ago when I met him at Granite Falls, on the Mississippi. He recognized me at once and began to relate the story and it seemed like meeting a long lost brother, when our encounter with the bears had been revived.

Cambridge, April 22nd 1857

My Dear Son

Augustus Barber Grave

“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

This has been a sorgawful day to me, feeling more impressed with the awful calamity that befel over dear lamented Augustus and all our family in his loss One year ago to day.

I wanted to immerse myself in solitary seclusion from every body & every thing and mourn my sad bereavements, but that was impossible in the house so I went on the hill with Amherst & have been at work with him where we had none to molest or make us afraid.  Time has done nothing toward healing the wound, though perhaps something in habituating me to my affliction, so that if my grief is not so fresh & new it is still none the less severe.  There are many painful reflections & questions that are suggested by this calamity & 1st whether it was an act of providence in thus snatching him from this life the only way of which we have any certainty & that naturally brings up the question, why was it?  Was it for his good?  or for the good of any other persons in the world?  I know there are those who see, or pretend to see, some intended good in whatever they term the dealings of an [in?????] Providence, but my faith is not so strong in such things as to afford me any consolation in my affliction.

Could I be satisfied that an overruling Providence has removed our dear Augustus from this life, it would not be as painful to bear as it now is, for I should then be satisfied that it was not without wise & sufficient cause, whatever the cause might be, & I should humbly bow to that disposation however distressing it might be

It must remain a sealed book to us, how Augustus was hurried out of the woods, and why it was so ordained if there, was any ordination about it, till we meet him in another world, which I devoutly hope we may do though I am sorry to say more hoping than expecting.  Could that blessed assurance, that we shall meet him in the future state of existence, pervade our minds, how death would be show of his greatest terrors.  That we may all be enlightened, and be enabled to discover the truths, and guided in the path of wisdom & duty is my daily prayer.

It has been a great sugar season beyond any thing for a dozen years.  Dow has made over 1600 lbs.  Buck on the Carlston farm 2500 lbs.  Some have over 2000 & some over 3000 lbs.  Amherst has made some over 300 lbs with 74 milkpans & 4 buckets.  We are surfeited with sweet this spring.

It is still a general time of health all around us.

I got a letter from our Aunt Martha a few days ago, saying that Mr Burr was then at Lancaster, was still no better satisfied with the place than when there before, but he was in progress of a trade, buying out your Uncle Thode’s interest in the firm of Howe & Barber, taking an inventory of the goods &c.  He sent Thode home soon after getting there, on a visit I suppose, he Thode went to Brooklyn & brought Emily home from thence.  Mrs B. feels rather unpleasantly about going to L. “because Thode has done so miserably there, yet knows it is all his fault”.  I expect to hear from him again soon, possibly to night.  Alvira promised to come up and make us a story of some time this spring, but a letter recd to day from her informed us that she cannot come at present.  She is going in a few days to her husband within 10 miles of N.Y. City & has so much work to fit up a gal that is to be married next week that she cannot come wisely concluding that we can bear the disappointment better than the gal could that of not getting married just now while she is in the fit of it though she had seen her intended but 2 or 3 times & had not been acquainted with him over 4 weeks.  Alvira enquires for you & says “how I would like to see him” 

23rd

I suppose it is about time to begin to prepare for my journey to the Great Lake & I am so perplexed about that & other matters so that I at times hardly know how to turn myself.

Your mother has so many schemes that I consider unwise & impractical that are daily urged upon me that I find there is no way but to take the course I think best under all circumstances.  One is to hire out the farm & every thing on it for a term of years and move enough of our effects to Lancaster to keep house with & then go to building & improving the farm, at the same time leaving this place to go to hell faster if possible, than it has done for the 5 years that it has been farmed by somebody else, nor can any thing I say, convince her that whoever rented the place would do his utmost to skin it and rob it of every thing that could be taken from it.  (& now she having read the last two or three lines is accusing me of committing this very stripping & robbery myself saying that I take every thing for other purposes & put nothing on the farm again by way of repairs &c)  The fact is this.  The expensive journey taken by me last year is set down by her as a pleasure trip & I am continually reminded of spending all I can get in traveling back & forth between here & Wisconsin as though I do it for the purpose of wasting the money & nothing else.

If I ever go to Lancaster to live on that little farm I want to make it a pleasant and attractive home.  This considering the expense of building & fencing will require some money more than I shall have left in my pockets after I have got the family there, & to think of building without that means would be no wise & consistent as many other plans I hear daily proposed.”  One of which to build on the scanty remainders (here my patience gave way).  The trouble is, she wants to be present whenever anything is to be done, so as to exercise her undoubted & undisputed [p???ation] to “Benjamin” the business fully confident of her superior judgement & experience in all out-of-door work or mechanical or [????????] operations.

I recd a letter last evening from your Uncle Allen in relation to your land in Little Grant.  He writes the substance of the act of March 2nd 1857 as recd by him from Squires, & who concludes by saying “all entries will be reqarded as regular & in good faith untill there is proof to the contrary.”  Your Uncle says “who will therefore see that it is not necessary for Allen to take immediate steps to settle &c & for this reason I have taken no steps about Lumber.”

I had written to him to purchase lumber enough to build a house, thinking you would be down and need it to save your place.  Whether you come down or not I want to hear from you again before I leave home for the west.  Your Mother talks of going to Lancaster, but at times, especially at this minute, she talks as though she should not go, & that is the way the scale vibrates.  Amherst & I went yesterday to cutting the small spruces that have sprung up over the pasture & grows to be pretty good sized trees some 6 or 7 inches through & we shall probably try it again to day.  Amherst has now [?] rat skins having killed three this morning before breakfast, but one floated into the stream so that he would not get it by following it to the dry hill.  He is doing great things with the little old gun, will work in the woods till supper & then go ball over the meadow till dark.  My time is up.  Give my love to the boys & believe me your ever affectionate father

G.A. Barber


Cambridge Sunday May 3rd 1857

Dear Son

I again sit down to say a few words to you after a pause from April 22nd to this time.

Not really knowing whether you are coming down to Lancaster, or not, I have not been so punctual as previously on account of the uncertainty of your getting my letters so that you must not impute my [rumapneps?] in waiting to any [dririmestion?] of parental affection or anxiety for your welfare.  The last letter from you was dated at Superior March 15th and though I have great fears for your safety I shall hope to receive more of your ever welcome letters assuring us of your life being preserved & health also.  We are well at home, Amherst has gone to St Albans to day with Mr Kingsbury to return again to morrow.  Our Alvira is here with us on a visit & we should have a good time of it, if we could only make her feel contented & happy.  She came up last Thursday & says she must return this week.  Her husband is at Spuyten Duyvil creek 11 miles above N.Y. on the East bank of the Hudson and she is soon going to join him.  Your Uncle Burr has been to Lancaster & bought out T.M.B.’s interest in the stores & has come out in the Herald with the new firm of Howe & Burr, so that they are all bound to go to Wisconsin to live.  I think I wrote you in my last that Thode had come home for a visit but I do not know whether he has gone back again.  Your Uncle Allen writes me about your land &c, & I wrote you the substance of his letter.  He also sent word by Mr Burr to me, that I need have no uneasiness about it, as he thought all was right now.

I recd a letter from Mr Hayes a few days ago Saying that M. S. Bright had returned from Washington, was told by Mr Stevens the Lawyer there that there was no doubt of our land suit being decided in our favor, there being no trouble in the case.

Augustus Barber got into A Little Trouble and died soon after he decided to Let ‘Em Rip.

I am fearful that the expense of obtaining it will be half as Enough as it is all worth.  Still I shall not regret having done all in my power to hold it, as I think it was carrying out what Augustus would have wished could he have permitted to foresee his untimely death, & given directions.

Our spring has been unusually cold and backwards, so that Hay is in great request, though not very dear.  Dow has bought 2 loads at $8.00 per ton & may have to buy some more.  Very little has been done at springs work yet, the roads have been badly torn & what grieves me most of all is, the banks of the river are wearing away so fast on our meadow & is [??] going off like shot & in a few years we think have no meadow left, but every body’s meadows are suffering more or less this spring.  Well, let them slide, in 100 years from now I shall not care what becomes of them, for I hope now of my posterity will be situated so that it will affect them.

I have to day been to the funeral of Elias Chadwick’s mother.  The old Meeting house was pretty full of old familiar faces, they had very good singing and preaching some like [Bes/Mrs?] Peet’s.  I have been trying to get Alvira to write something in this letter to you but she declines, saying if she writes to you she wants to write a good long letter.  How do you get along with your survey of the Islands?  Are Baker, Jo & William with you? if so give them my best [????] respects & tell them I will be with them in a short time, & am some better of my lameness so that I work about on the hills some, cutting up the everlasting growth of small spruces that have sprung up.

They are quite thick in some places, especially in that part of the pasture toward [P????] where they make quite a forest.  Some that I cut down will have limbs 4 feet long lying upon the ground and all the [??????] 12 or 15 ft shortening toward the top & when I get them off I find a good deal of good pasture reclaimed.  Amherst works with me and is quite strong and happy, and generally ready & willing to do almost any thing if he can work with me.  I am at a loss what to do with him this summer, think some of taking him to Pointe aux Tremble where the Dougherty girls went a year or two ago, about 10 miles below Montreal on the left bank of the St Lawrence.  He would acquire more French there in 4 months than in 9 months at any of our Academies, and the expense would be no greater.

The new Dr. (Deming) has just gone by returning from Johnson where he has been to see [Du??] Dow who is very sick & probably cannot live through it.  There has been but 4 funerals in this town before to day since I got home Dec 25th which I think is very well for as large a population as ours.  We had a great [?????] in Feb. & two very great floods this spring, and now we are getting the water over the meadows again to night and probably we shall have one or two more before planting is over by the time the floods are over our meadow will be pretty well whittled down.  I hope there will be a little left.

May 4th

Giles was to join his son Allen on Lake Superior for a second summer and continue working on Augustus’ unresolved land claims and survey contracts with the U.S. General Land Office.

All alive yet.  Some angry debate last night, because I said I should go to Lancaster if you came down there & then go up to the Lake in company with you.  The intention being to put you through to Superior on a bee line, let what will happen, & that was what I had calculated on doing, so that I should not be more than a week or then days in reaching La Pointe, unless you should be down at Lancaster when I should go there & join you.

Another theme of warm debate is concerning the disposition of the farm.  No 1 contends to have it rented for an annual rent with the cows, oxen, horses & every thing for 5 years & we all go to Lancaster to live on the farm there leaving this to be stripped of every thing the cattle & horses to die out and every thing on this place even if we are to sell it, & then go to Lancaster where there are no buildings, & have to build without [m?????].

May 5th

I went up to Johnson to Mead’s & N. Hydepark yesterday & it began to rain hard & steady while there & kept it up till I got home bringing a load of lumber with me.  Amherst came home & in the rain all the way from that Conglomerate Ledge 16 miles & when he got home you may be assured he made a sorry figure.  He found Thode Burr at home, & all the family well as usual.  They are not determined whether they will move to Lancaster in June or wait till fall, but rather thought to go in June.  Thode & two of the Girls will be here to day, or to morrow, & then I shall know more about the matter.  Amherst carried down this 13 pelts and realized $2.23 from them..  Am shot an owl up in the woods one of the large kind, wounded his wing so that he could not fly, had brought him down & kept him two weeks when he got away & went to the woods again.  Alvira has gone up to Sylvia’s & to Johnson & is coming back in a few days.  Amherst & Kingsbury saw Ryan Ballard yesterday, who Land he should come out & see me soon & probably send up some small articles to Hiram when I go up there.  I am yet undecided as to the time of starting for your country.  Take good care of yourself, and ever rely upon the paternal affection and solicitude of an affectionate father

G. A. Barber

J. Allen Barber Esq.


Laura Burr her writing

“Laura [?] Burr” in “her writing” is signed on the top margin of this letter.

Cambridge May 10th 1857

Dear Son

Again I sit down to give you the the assurance that we are all well, and are not unmindful of you our dear son.  Especially do we feel the loss of your society to day & yesterday as Thode Burr, Emily, & Laura are here & we all feel how much our pleasure would be enhanced, were you of our number.  Nor would your company have been less agreeable last week when Alvira was here & Hannah, Amy, Charlotte, & Levi..

11th

I got broke off last night by the coming in of Dave Griswold Mary Ann Chadwick & Jim who has just got home from Wisconsin..  Mr Burrs folks are going in June to Lancaster for good.  Thode goes one week from to day.  He is going into your Uncle’s Office to read Laws, & how much I wish you would feel disposed to do the same & where now ready to begin with Thode, but says the objector (Mother) “There are 3rd & 4th rate lawyers enough now, more than can get a living,”  “Every boy should learn a trade,” &c &c, all too tedious to mention.  But I would advise you now, to so shape your matters that you can enter the office certainly this next fall, and go through with the study of Law as soon as practicable.  I do think it best for you, or I would not advise it, at any rate a year or two or even three devoted to the study of Law would be far from time & labor lost, even if you should then never practice any but follow farming or any other kind of business.  I do wish you would think of it, and if you can make up your mind, to try it, I think it will be the best thing you can do.  I do not want to have confined to such a dog’s life as [??] you are getting around Lake Superior.

I would certainly try to convince that famous objector that 3rd & 4th rate lawyers would never be more numerous for any thing you had to [??] with the Law, but of this be your own judge.  Amherst got home from St A. in the rain (I think I mentioned it in my last) and next day posted off to Johnson on foot to the exhibition a schedule of which I forward you, was there two nights & then came home on foot going down to Whitten’s after you r gloves making 4 miles extra travel 12 in all & then went to the top of the Gooseberry hill for snow, to warm sugar on for we melted some & cooked for By. who got back here some day.  But with Amhersts hard work this spring; hs exposure, & tramps he is getting worn down thin and has a bad cold on him.  Amherst heard at Johnson that Sis Hunt had left the Country to avoid the impertinent profanity of a Waterville girl.  Certain it is Sim carried Sis down one Sunday & went back two days afterward without him, & he has gone suddenly away leaving his shop and business, & if that is not the reason, none can tell what is.  The rumor at Johnson was, that he had vamosed to induce said female to bestow her billings gate or naughty words upon somebody else.  Poor Sister!  Though the rebellion caused snivelling, it did not wholly eradicate the old Adam, & perhaps his fall from grace was not so far as to break any of his bones… How are the Mighty fallen.  The ground was covered with snow this morning, the weather cold & unpleasant so that T.A.B. & the girls have not gone from to day & of cards, which for mental discipline is the best game of cards I know of.  Thode is the same old coon sitting on a rail.  Daniel [?] Dow died last Sunday making 5 that have died in [??????] street with in a year & none in any other part of the village next old Mrs Hunt, while we lived there B [?????????????] in all the rest of the village.

Since my last letter we have had a [???????] the 3rd this spring & 4th since Feb 12th & this last one has raised the very [????] with the meadows & banks, doing more damage than then meadow will repay in a long time.  I have not been down to ours yet & scarcely dare to do so, for fear my feelings may suffer.  I got a letter from Father dated May 1st saying Cyrus had sown the wheat on my land, set out some apple trees; & was plowing for corn.  There is where I want to be with means to erect suitable buildings & if we have anything more it will yield more profit there at interest than here in meadow land that is constantly giving us proofs of it fugacious nature.

12th

The Barber family was planning to join their relatives in Lancaster, Grant County, Wisconsin.

This letter did not get finished so as to “get to go” up to this time.  Thode & Laura & Emily left here this morning for home in high spirits, it is most likely the last visit they will ever make to Cambridge but if we all live to gether in Wis. it will answer every  purpose.

Amherst & I went up to cutting spruce bushes as soon as Thode went away & “wrought [son?],” till 4 o’clock this P.m without dinner or any rest.  We have so hard colds both of us, that we are unfit for labor, but the farther we get from the house the pleasanter it is, & this is the main reason why I am pursuing the bushes with such a vengeance.

I am afraid you would not be any better off if I should go on & fill out the sheet, & as Mother wants to go down to the store to night I will dry up.

The Barber Papers do not include copies of any letters from Lake Superior during the Spring of 1857.

Give my respects to all friends & accept of the best wishes for your welfare of your affectionate father

G. A. Barber


To be continued in the Summer of 1857

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