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 Smith.
(Postmarked) ELKHORN GROVE, ILLINOIS,
Dec. 24th, 1839. (Postage) 250.
MR. DAVID PORTS,
Boonsborough, Washington Co., Md.
DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER we are all tolerable well except bad colds. In reference to your coming to our country I am of the opinion that the cheapest way of coming wold be by water and the best time is the spring as the water which you have to use is more healthy in the spring than in the faul. I would advise you to come next spring by all means for the land is expected to come in the market next faul or the spring following. Take a pasage at Wheeling for Fulton City as the treble of reshipping and getting another boat may be great; land at Fulton City leave your family and come here on foot a distance of 20 miles and we will get a waggon and team to bring your family and frait. Another disadvantage attending comeing the faul is the low water in. Be cautions of taking pasage on a boat in great reputation for speed for they are more liable to meet with accidents than those of less speed. Flour barrels are 50c. Lavinia sais she will let you have as much timber as you can work up in one winter for a begining Produce of all kinds is low owing to the great abundance rased this year, wheat is 75c corn 20c and no demand the price of labor has not fell in the same proportion labor of all kinds being in great demand but we have suffered much here in consiquence of the pressure cash is very scarce. When you get to Wheeling procure a supply of Sapingtons antifever pills and follow the directions in case of an attack on your journey. Get two bed pans if possible crockery if no other 1/2 lb cough powder 1 box of streangthening plaster.
if you are in need of clothes get the stuff and get them made after you get here get stuff for an overcoat of the stoutest you can get if you need it also bring all your dishes for they are high here
In refferance to the climate here the cold would not be felt as much as it is ware it not for the country being so open and the houses generly open. We had frost the last night of August snow the 5th. of November 9th. it froze all day in the shade and on the 19th. hard freezing commenced 23rd. snow december 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15th. snow yet the weather has been moderate except 24 & 25 November
Notwithstanding the early frost there is little if any corn frosted. Inform David Hammond that shortly after we landed at Savanna, we saw William Snider with sister Catharine and her husband all of whome ware on their way to Iowa terratory
Father and Mother ware well a few days ago when we heard though he has been sick considerably this sumer and faul Give our respects to Mrs. Kiplinger and tel her to send me some sort of her flower seed viz. roses, May cent pink, procure a box of convenient sise to contain the following roots viz. tame grapes, tame camomile, sweet brier, gesamine rose, red & white currents, flowerry ammon, engraft into the roots the old time early sweet apple, sweet pipen, yellow pipen, green pipen, the paridice apple, the best pears, gipler apple, leave the upper end of
254your box open so as to receive water occasionally on your journey
We built a chimney, laid a hearth, dobed the house, and dug a well in six days if old Maryland can beat that send me word, tell Susan to ask Mrs. Booth for a quilt pattern called tangle britches which she has peised with pale blue calico replace a flat iron to old Mr. Stone wich we took in a mistake and we will give you one when you come bring Mulkyes sylabic spelling book and Kirkmuns gramer. Give our respects to uncle McCoy and all who think us worth enquireing after. Write as soon as you receive this and inform me how and when you are comeing
No more at present but remain yours with love and esteem
(Signed) JAMES H. SMITH.
don't forget a shrub bush.