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) CHERRY GROVE,
8th February, 1844. (Postage) 25c.
MR. DAVID PORTS,
Boonsborough, Washington Co., Md.
DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER. I now take up my pen to give you the melencolen news of the death of our dear sister Lavinia who was maried
256the 2nd. of last Aprile to a miller a widdower by name William James and died last Sunday night quarter past nine o'clock P. M. One of the greatest causes of grief to us is that we live 30 ms. distant and never got word of her illness until Sunday. Her complaint in the first place was false conseption. She then took cold and it terminated in concumtion her whole illness lasted only four weeks.
We had a fine daughter born October the 7th., 1841 which we call Eurillah Jane and the 12th. December last a fine son which we call James William.
It is but justice to Lavinia's neighbours to say that she had all the assistance that her neighbours could afford in all her illness and the best botanical doctor in the country. Sarah Ann is as well as could be expected, considering a bad could she had previous to her confinement accompanied with a most afflicting cough which has raged to great extent thrugh the whole country.
Father and mother are both well considering the infermaties of old age; father complains very mutch with rhumatism they now live near us his house is unocupied in Savanna they unight with us in earnestly requesting your wrighting and leting us know something of your affairs.
I must now state the reason of my remaining so long silent. The last letter got from you was in the faul of 1839 in that letter stated your intention of comeing to this country and requested my advice as to the best route I then wrote immediately in which I gave you all the directions I thought necessary, notwithstanding I had written but a short time before.
Since that time we have had no information of you except occationly from persons comeing from Maryland we made all the preparations in our power for your comfortable reception. Spring roled around and we looked in vain for you or any tidings from you. I concluded that you were affrunted from some cause we knew not what we thought that you did not intend to trouble yourself about us nor wish to be troubled by us so we concluded to not write to you any more but circumstances have transpired I think a bad promise is better broke than kept. You will therefore except this as an apology and be careful not to give us any ground of complaint from this sorce in future I trust that you will write by which you will afford us satisfaction and discharge your own duty.
I have sold my possession at Elkhorn Grove and moved to this a distance of 17 miles whare I have got good farming land, good mowing land, and a never failing spring of good water. Give our love to unkle McCoy and tel him that he is not forgotten by us though we write not; tel him to write to us. I am still pleased with the country although I have had to struggle against hardships of various kinds I still thing that the north-western part of Ills. possesses advantages over any portion of country I have had the fortian to see yet even this has its disadvantages which I think will be overcome in time by persevering industry of man.
Direct your letters Cherry Grove Carroll Co. No more at preasant but remain your sincere and affectionate brother and well wisher
(Signed) J. H. SMITH.
Feb. 4th, 1844.
DEAR BROTHER. Tell me whether you intend comeing to this country let me know how many children you have and their names and ages. Our poor sister had to go down to the grave without hearing from you the withering hand of death would wait no longger She had a kind husband who was both willing and able to make her comfortable while she did live. Give my respects to all our friends.
(Signed) SARAH J. SMITH.