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 Sarah Smith.
(Postmarked) BUFFALO GROVE, ILL., Sept. 26-'39.
MR. DAVID PORTZ,
Boonsborough, Washington Co., Maryland.
DEAR BROTHER. I once more take up my pen to implore an answer to the many letters I have written we can get no answer from eny person that we have written to we believe the proverb that absent friends are soon forgotten if you would wish to know, I can inform you, that we are well and hope you are in the same ingoyment father has been sick this summer but he is now well and continues to live in Savanna which is a very sickly place, a title we can give to all the towns on the
252Missipey I must now inform you what we are doing We have raised a hansome frame house in elkhorn City a new town which is laid out betwen buflo and elkhorn groves we expect to finish one room to move into this winter times are very hard here money is as scares as the indians and they have left the state long ago we have fine crops here wheat sells at 75 cents per bushel corn 37 oats 25 potatoes 37 and every thing els acording we have all maner of wild fruit here but if ever you come here bring me a good apple so I can look at it and if you posibley can, bring me a shrub bush, plant it in a box and leave a little hole to water it I am allmost out of news but must let you know Levina lives with us she is in good sperits now but she had some trouble this spring for por Pinkey was taken sick in may with the distemper /and died/
but skip is alive and as cross as ever — enough concerning dogs. We are dooing better here then we ever could have done in the east we have a good home a good cow a good lot of chickens and a plenty of good things to eat and tolerable plenty of cold weather in the winter but the heat in the summer is greater than it is in the east.
I want you to write as soon as you receive this letter and let me know every thing that has transpired in Washington Co. within a year past. Let us know something about uncle Patrick's famly give our respects to uncle Macoy if he is yet living tell him we don't forget him although there are many mountains between us. Our country is not so healthy as it was cracked up to be there is a great deal of feaver and ague along all the water courses which is the case in every country espesuly in a new country but we have an excelent remeby to cure the creature, caled Sapingtons antifever pills which will stop it in thirty six hours let me know wheather any of our neighbours intend coming out in the spring and wheather you intend to come along I think you could not worse yourself for you will have a sisters house to stay in untill you can suit yourself you will not have the difficultys to indure that we had, being landed upon the maiden shores of the missisipy without either friends or money amongst straingers in a strange land but we soon found employment sufisient for our support.
I must now conclude by sending our best respects to you and Susan and to all our acquaintances.
You need not be afraid Indians or of starveing the former have left the State, and as respects the latter there is produce of all kinds enough to supply the present population for two years no more at present but we remain as ever your affectionate sisters and brother,
(Signed) SARAH A. SMITH.
direct your letter to
ELKHORN GROVE, CARROLL Co., ILLS.