Copies of these letters are printed in the Transactions through the courtesy of Mr. J. W. Clinton of Polo, who contributed the following explanatory note:
The following letters written from Ogle and Carroll counties between 1838 and 1857 came into the possession of the Polo Historical Society in January, 1905. The letters were written to David Ports, a cooper, who resided at the time in Washington county, Maryland. The letters were preserved by him and brought to Carroll county many years later. At his death they fell into the hands of his son, Otho J. Ports, now a resident of Hazelhurst, Illinois. From him they passed into the possession of the Polo Historical Society as stated above.
The letters throw considerable light on the modes of travel from the east to the west as well as the conditions of the country seventy years ago. In those days there were three routes of travel from New York state, Pennsylvania and Maryland to Northern Illinois: By boat on the Great Lakes to Chicago; by wagon trains across the intervening states of Ohio and Indiana, and by steam boat from Pittsburg down the Ohio, up the Mississippi and then up the Illinois to Peoria or Peru and thence overland or up the Mississippi to Fulton or Savanna and thence across country to eastern Carroll or Ogle counties.
The first settlement made in Ogle county was made at Buffalo Grove, near Polo, between Christmas, 1829 and early in January, 1830, by Isaac Chambers, a Virginian, who came to the country by way of Springfield and Peoria, and John Ankney, a Pennsylvanian, who probably came by the Ohio and Mississippi to Galena.
Samuel Reed and Oliver W. Kellogg from New York state probably came overland. Kellogg came to Illinois in the twenties and before settling in Ogle county had lived for a short period in Galena and at Kellogg's Grove in Stephenson county. Reed had followed his father west stopping on the way in Ohio a year or more. Both Reed and Kellogg arrived at Buffalo Grove in April, 1831, and might perhaps be said to be the first permanent settlers in Buffalo Grove, as Ankney moved to Elkhorn Grove after the Black Hawk war of 1832 and Kellogg bought Chambers' claim in April 1831.
In those pioneer days in the Rock River Valley letters played an important part in the settlement of the country and no doubt such letters as Smith's and Wallace's brought many settlers from Maryland and New York to Ogle county.
To illustrate: Samuel Reed, Sr., came from New York to Peoria county in the twenties. His son, Samuel, came to his place in the early spring of 1831 and thence north to Ogle and Carroll counties in search of a better and healthier location. Buffalo Grove seemed to offer all that he demanded. He was soon followed by a brother-in-law, Cyranus Sanford and he by his sons, all from Delaware county, New York. In '34 and '35 others from Delaware county followed. In 1835 John Waterbury and Solomon Shaver came from the same county to view the country and the next year they with a company of sixty-nine others, all from Delaware county, came to Buffalo Grove as settlers. In the settlement of Mt. Morris, about the same course of events occurred. In the summer of 1836 Samuel M. Hitt and Nathaniel Swingley, from Washington Co., Maryland, arrived in Ogle county at what is now Mt. Morris. They were pleased with the country and in the autumn returned home and the next year the Maryland colony landed at Mt. Morris. In subsequent years the communications thus established brought many settlers from Delaware Co., New York, and from Washington county, Maryland. So true is this that today the Marylanders and their descendants are far more numerous in Ogle and Carroll counties than the settlers from any other single state.
The copies here printed were taken and compared with the originals by Evangeline Holmes.
Letter from James and Sarah Smith.
(Postmarked) ELKHORN GROVE, ILL., April 16,-39.
MR. DAVID PORTS,
Boonsborough, Washington County, Md.
Dear Brother, I once more take up my pen to give you some information of our afairs and the far west to which we have straid. We landed at Savanna with father the time I toled you in my last; he landed with $500 and his mair, waggon, and harness which he soled for $165 more making in all a capitol of $665; his 300 acres of land he intended to get has dwindled down to about 3/4 of an acre one of which he proffered me but I declined accepting it thinking he would kneed it himself if he lived to get olde. He built himself a log house on one of his lots into which he moved the 7th. of July without a cent to bless himself and to cap the monstrous climax he and mother ware maried the 1st of Jan. last. You may ask me what I have done (who landed with only one dollar in my pocket and $30.00 of olde debts on me) Well I will tell you I began to work, and as I worked I lived in the olde fashion way from hand to mouth at the following rates, flour $10 per barrel, bacon 14 cts, per lb. beef 9 and mutton 7 and notwithstanding we had four months sickness (dureing which time I was doctor, nurse and cook) we still live to the preys of him whose tender mercies are over all his works, and eat our own corn and pork In addition to that I have 35 acres of prararie as good as any man could wish every foot of which can be cultivated without the annoyance of stump or stone and 5 of timber and a good log caben all for $60 most of which is paid.
I also have 10 lots in Elkhorn city
Levina has got 5 acres of timber and 5 of prararie for 30 dollars and the prararie broke for her bed. She has lived with us all winter within 4 weeks back when she went out for work for $2 per week. Father and mother are well.
My claim lies adjoining Elkhorn city which may become a place of considerable buisiness as the central railroad pases within 1 or 2 miles of us. We are still all well and perfectly satesfied with our situation and prospects.
Inform me when if ever desire comeing to our country. I think you could do well here for the cooper here charges 62 1/2c for flour and 2 dol for pork barrals, and all other work in proportion. If I knew when you could get here I could have a house for you; however you shall not be houseless; bring nothing but your bed and clothes as for furnature we have no kneed of any.
If there are any persons coming to this part of the country this fall try and procure me as many locusts seed and chestnuts as possible; put them in a box and send them to me.
Give my respects to unkle Wm. McCoy and all our enquireing friends. Remember Levina to Mrs. Hammond and tel her that she has not written to her yet but has not forgot her promise; she is waiting to become more acquainted with the country so as to give all the information possible when she does write.
No more at preasent but entertain as ever the best wishes for your preasent and future happiness.
(Signed) J. H. SMITH.
As soon as you get this letter answer it for I have been troubled for a month back with dreams of your death.
(Signed) SARAH A. SMITH.
P. S. We have mechanicks of most all kinds, people from every state in the union and from most all parts of europ to give you some idea of the number of inhabitants there is about 75 or 80 families in our township of six miles square.
J. H. S.
Be shure to direct your letter
Elkhorn Grove P. O.,
Carroll Co., Ills.