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 O. H. Wallace.
(Postmarked) MT. MORRIS, ILLS.,
November 23rd, 1846.
MR. DAVID PORTS,
Lappens X Roads, Washington County, Md.
Well old friend I take this opportunity to forward you a few lines to inform you that we are all well at present and hoping theas few lines will find you all ingoing the same blesing — it has been pretty sickley all around us with the chils and fever and some cases of the bilous feaver but not many deths — I suppose you heard of the deth of my father He wasant well from the time we left Maryland til his deth — And I supose you heard of the deth of old Mr. Palmer and Isaack Emore — it tis bin the sicklist spring and fall that has bin sinse any of our Marylanders has bin out heare — Well I must let you heare what I think of this little valley as I cal it for it tis onlcy abught 800 miles to the Alagany and 2000 to the Rocka mounten — I must tel you the truth I don't wish myself back you may depend on it to be a slave I am in a free state and a plenty of worke and good wages. — I can get more for my family by wirking 2 days in the week than yon can and wirk 6 and I will give you my reason for saying so. I make my dollar per day in the summer and get in the winter one Dollar pir hundred for making rails and in the fall you get 4 bushels of corn for one days wirking on the stack — well this fall porks will bin abught 2 dollars and maybe 2.50 — wheat is selling heare from 30 to 37 1/2 corn from 10 to 12 1/2 — potatoes we don't keep any account of them and the best I ever eat is hear — if you will pleas to bring me a waggon load of appels and sider I will give you 4 bushels of potatoes for one bushel of appels — altho I have some barels but tha have...tha ante as sweet as your appels.
And then you can raise as much off one acre heare as you can raise of 3 in Maryland Mr and Curren bild a house 16 by 20 on Mr. S. Hitt land last yinter — he found all and I done the wirk and I get it for a tirm of years he break up some land — and I just put holes in the sod and planted my potatoes pumpkins cabbage and never done anything til I dug them and had better potatoes than I ever had among your stones — I forgot to tel you the price of beef I can buy the best of beef for from 2 to 3c pir pound — and it would do your hart good to sea the...prairie hens partredges rabbits wild geese ducks and then go to Rock River with us when we cetch pike that will way from 20 to 25 pounds and sturgeons that way from 70 to 100lb. and all kinds of the best fish — I am a nitting a sain [sein] 50 yards long for Mr. Heth brother James and myself — James lives 3 miles and Will 8 from me and doing well — I live one mile and half from Mt. Morris — And if I cold get my mony I ben by [would buy] 20 akers one mile from Mt. Morris and all my old Marylanders around me — the man that owns the land is abilden am another place a mile from it and
260wants money bad so now is my time if I had my mony. I want you to get to see H. Palmer and tel him to go and see Dr. Titghman and then let him tel you what luck and wright to me — also I rote to V. Taves laste fall abut some business and haven got any answer — I wold like to no what he has done for me — also I rote to Thos. Albaste and havent got any answer — but I reken out of site out of mind. I got a letter from E. Blom and a mail paper — and by what I see in it I think all the Locofokes has turned rong side out — you have made a pore sho. I am glad that I am out of the scrape — so I think you and some more had better come to this free state — before you get to be a whig.
O I forgot to tel you the prise of whiskey, Ohio Whiskey is 60c per gallon — the rot-gut that they make heare is 37 1/2 but when you drink it you must hold your brith and it tastes a week old by 6 days and if you get any in the summer you must hurry home as it will get sawer — for my part I don't take a dram sometimes for 2 monts — and I am hartier and can eat like old Tom Boisung. My old woman is gitten so fat she can hardley waddel — I thot moving so far from the old sod we wold stop our old tricks but it tis like the boys bela ake [belly ache] — worsen — we are both gitten young — and if you wold see Mrs. Albart how she can jump abut you wold think it was a gal of 16 and she never was hartier than she has ben this summer — my old woman, Mrs. Albart, lawrence, Mary and the rest of my family send their best respects to you and wife and Miss Poffenbarger and to all thare enquireing friends — also my respects to all my old friends and if you and some more will come over some Saturday I will have you some Ohio whiskey and a good mess of our big fish and some fried venison — I must close and I hope you will get my letter and will see Mr. Palmer you will rite and I hope to heare that you are a coming to this fine cuntra — Nothing more but still remain your old friend.
(Signed) O. H. WALLACE.
Nov. 24, 1846.
P. S. If you have any noshen to come out heare and if you want me to attend to anything abught your farthers estate I will with pleasure Smith lives abught 30 miles from me and if you want me I will find out if your farther maid a will or not and how it stands. It wold ben the best thing you ever done to come out here — and a good many more of my old friends to make a easy and a good living — I want you to see V. David Davis — I want to know what he has done for me for I must have a meshean augar from hearde some how — he can get achance [?] to send it by some one in the spring — Don't fale and right to me as soon as you see the persons I have menshend — and I will be happy to heare from you and all my old friends — my letter is like all you old Locofhers [Locofocos] — it is upside down — I must give it up.