Ezra L. MILLER
Patents and Diagrams
Ezra L. Miller 1784-1847
Narratives of Colleton County
Ezra Miller Letters
Diary of Nancy Eliza Miller
Hope Miller Matthews and Captain John M. Le Cato Letters
Responses to Website
Recent attempts to locate the great niece, have proved futile, but contact with a relative that had corresponded with Captain Le Cato gave us a current day contact with the family. We thank Jack King of Niceville, Florida for giving us his permission to use the letters and family history that his father had gathered along with Hope Miller Matthews.
The letter that initiated the exchange between the Captain and Mrs. Matthews is dated July 27, 1981 and it is addressed to Mr. Darby, then President of the Charleston Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Some of the letters are reprinted on the following pages and readers will find that each letter adds more details to Ezra Miller’s biography. Finding the personalities behind the more recent letters, gives one the feeling that each is someone you would have liked to befriend. Captain Le Cato’s charm is known by many in the Charleston area and we are equally charmed by the great niece through her gentle letters.
Please join us as we explore “The Life and Times of Ezra L. Miller”:
The July 27, 1981 letter reads:
Dear Mr. Darby,
When a replica of “The Best Friend” was shown cutting her own ribbons I intended to write to you but my husband was injured and has required constant care since then.
Ezra L. Miller who had “The Best Friend” built at his own expense was my great grandfather’s brother. It was due to Ezra that Horace Allen Miller gave up a fine farm in Mt. Morris, NY and bought land near Rockford, Ill. in 1838 with Ezra but Ezra never farmed his tract.
Over the years a Miller-Allen Genealogy has grown from a few pages to several hundred due to the help of many and I hope you will be able to add the most wanted bit of information on Ezra. The Smithsonian Institute has added other inventions of Ezra besides his Steam Locomotive and hopes we can complete the record of his life by securing the place and date of his death.
He was born in Simsbury Conn. August 29, 1784 son of Jonathan Allen Miller and Hannah Case. He was baptized Oct. 10, 1784 in the Congregational Church at Avon, Conn. A Diary left by a niece says his eyesight failed and he had to give up his life ambition to become a minister. Studying by firelight was too great a strain, so he went South and taught school for a while. The History of Colleton Co. by Beulah Glover tells of Ezra’s life in Walterboro and the Charleston Newspapers give a lot of information regarding his association with the Charleston Railroad and Canal Co.
As you know the Town of Hamburg has a Fall Festival when the Best Friend is remembered.
It seems strange that a man who changed transportation in this country to Steam left no record of his death. Family records give 1847 as a date of death but we want to know where and the exact date. 1847 may be wrong.
The Brooklyn Directories show Ezra living there. The last 1847 – 48 Directory was issued in June and so Ezra could have been living when the issue went to press – Say around May 1847. The 1850 census shows Mary Miller with 2 children; Charles Phillip and Mary. She is running a boarding house and is a widow.
There are 2 old Cemeteries in Brooklyn and possibly Ezra is buried in one of them but so far the Superintendents will not search unless one knows within 2 weeks, the date of death.
Possibly a request for a search coming from you would bring results. The Evergreen Cemetery covers several hundred acres and we know cousins of Ezra are buried there. The Cypress Cem. is also in Brooklyn and a very old one. I will be happy to pay for their fee and if you are interested will send you other records on Ezra – such as Articles appearing in the Scientific American Apr. 10, 1852; A Patent in the same magazine, October 3, 1846; Boston Daily Advertiser, Sept. 17, 1851 by B. J. Howland; etc. I have 12 letters written between 1835 and Sept. 1844 (copies of them) from Ezra to his brother, Horace.
Dr. Robert Sutton, Chairman of Illinois Historical Commission has given copies of Ezra’s letters and all other data found to date. He also would like to complete Ezra’s life with the place and date of his death.
I hope you are not too bored by now and will answer with good news.Sincerely,Hope Miller Matthews
Captain Le Cato responded, as follows (no date on the letter):
Dear Mrs. Matthews:
After passing through a number of hands your letter enquiring about your relative, Mr. Ezra Miller ended up with me. The results of my efforts so far are summarized below. Unfortunately, I am involved in several other historical research projects at this time and do not wish you to feel that I can devote any substantial effort to assist you. In fact, I have probably learned more from you most interesting letter than I can give in return.
I gather that you have already explored the files of the local papers so have not attempted to set more from there. The definitive book on the early history of the South Carolina Railroad is “Centennial History of the South Carolina Railroad” by Samuel M. Derrick. The original is out of print and hard to obtain, but a reprint has been issued. If you do not own or have access to a copy, there is no problem in making you pertinent parts by photocopy. There are four references to Mr. Miller which substantiate the information you gave. Unfortunately, there is no reference to his life subsequent to his early years with the railroad.
Derrick’s book also contains a description of the locomotive E. L. Miller which was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1834. Technical information on this engine can be found in “The Locomotives That Baldwin Built” by Fred Westing, Bonanza Books, New York. Mr. Westing reproduces much material from a 1923 book on the subject which was used by Professor Derrick as a source.
I have several other sources which might turn up useful information and will follow them up as time permits. Two possible sources I will pass on to you:
A railroad historian, Mr. Al Langley, Rte 1, Box 64A, North Augusta, SC. 29841 and TRAINS Magazine, 1027 N. 7th St. Milwaukee, WI. 53233. A letter published there would put you in contact with railroad historians all over the country.I am sorry I could not be more helpful at this time, but will put your letter in our museum files for the benefit of others.
Very truly yours,
John M. Le Cato
The letters between Captain Le Cato and Hope Matthews continued from 1981 until 1987. Captain Le Cato used information from the letters as well as other resources for inclusion in his document, reproduced below. This document is included in part in the May-June 1993 Ties Magazine.
BUILDER OF THE BEST FRIEND
Ezra Miller was born on 19 August 1784 at Simsbury, Connecticut and baptized on 10 October 1784 in the Avon Congressional Church. He was one of several children of Jonathan Allen and Hannah Case Miller. Always of a studious turn of mind, he set out early to prepare for a career as a minister. Failing eyesight forced him to give up this course of study, but he acquired enough education to enable him to support himself by teaching at various times in his life.
As a young man traveling in the southeastern states, he visited South Carolina. He is recorded as teaching in Charleston and elsewhere while investigating various business ventures for which he showed considerable aptitude. By 1820 Miller was engaged in several enterprises and lived in Charleston at 265 King Street, corner of Wentworth. The same year, he is listed in the Colleton County census as engaged in commerce and heading a household which included several slaves.
“Recollections of Colleton County,” by Beulah Glover, states that between 1822 and 1824 Miller owned a tannery, a shoe factory and a steam saw mill in the Walterboro and Charleston. Family records say that he had a grocery store and supply business on Miller Street in Walterboro.
In the mid 1820s Charleston had fallen upon hard times and many people felt that it was essential to open new contracts with the cotton growing areas and the West. On 4 December 1827 a bill was proposed to incorporate a canal and railroad company to link Charleston, Hamburg, Columbia and Camden. Alexander Black presented this to the Legislature, with the support of William Aiken and other prominent citizens. Miller quickly joined this group and on 28 April 1828 was made a director of the new company.
Horatio Allen, a New yorker experienced in construction was made Chief Engineer with Miller’s backing. He and Miller went to England where they observed the famous Rain trials of steam locomotives and gathered all available information on railroading.
In 1829 the railroad offered a prize for a horse propelled car which was won by Miller. The car was constructed by Thomas Dotterer and Christian Detmold, a skilled German engineer employed by the company in surveying. These men then turned their attention to designing a steam locomotive. Miller’s observations in England had convinced him that steam was the only practical power and a miniature locomotive running on a circle of track was built and demonstrated.
The locomotive attributed to Miller probably included ideas from England and work from several others. The exact contributions of each individual are not documented but some sources claim that Detmold should be credited with the major part of the design.
Miller’s enthusiasm for steam power was not enough to convince the more conservative members of the board to invest in such an innovation. It was finally agreed that if he were to build an engine that met certain specifications, the railroad would buy it. Miller, using his own funds, some $4,000 dollars, had a locomotive constructed by the West Point Foundry in New York. On 23 October 1830 the parts of the engine arrived in Charleston aboard the brig, “Niagara.” Miller engaged the firm of Eason and Dotterer to assemble the engine and assist with its tests. Around this time, it was christened, “Best Friend.” In the initial runs, the wheels were found inadequate for negotiating curves and other problems arose. A local machinist, Julian Darby Petsch, is credited with many small improvements and one major one, replacing the wooden wheels with wrought iron. From this, he went on the devote his whole life to the railroad. The basic design was sound and by mid December the little engine was pulling four loaded cars in excess of twenty miles an hour. The directors agreed that he had met their requirements and purchased the engine from Miller. On Christmas Day 1830 the first scheduled train in America left from Line Street, carrying revenue passengers.
At the time of the “Best Friend’s” construction, a number of locomotives were being built and tested. Early in 1830 the Baltimore and Ohio is said to have tried it’s “Tom Thumb” in competition with a horse and lost. Of several British Imports, the “John Bull” which arrived in August 1831 was probably the most successful. It ran in regular service for over thirty years. A number of railroads and communities have claimed the first train, but none can dispute that Ezra Miller’s “Best Friend” was the first train to be put to work on a common carrier for people and goods.
Miller remained a director of the South Carolina Railroad for some time while continuing to travel extensively, both in this country and abroad. While investigating locomotive designs, he met Mathias Baldwin, a Philadelphia watch maker, turned locomotive maker. The two worked together at least until 1838. Baldwin applied his meticulous craftsmanship to the innovative ideas of men such as Miller, weathering the 1837 panic and laying a solid foundation for the Baldwin Locomotive Works, a preeminent corporation throughout the age of steam. By 1838 Miller was receiving two thousand dollars a year, plus expenses to visit railroads around the country. Accounts differ as to the exact relationship of the two men. Baldwin paid Miller royalties on a device for increasing traction by applying part of the weight of the tender to the driving wheels, then bought the rights for nine thousand dollars. Miller apparently introduced the 4-2-0 wheel arrangement to Baldwin after having seen it tried on John M. Jervis’ locomotive, “Experiment.” The second locomotive that Baldwin built was sold to the South Carolina Railroad. It was named, appropriately, the “E. L. Miller.”
The years from 1830 to 1835 appear to have been the prime of Miller’s life. In 1832 he commenced construction of a cotton mill and residence at Cohoes, New York. Shortly after the buildings were completed, he fell ill and disposed of the property for what it would bring. The commodious residence became a hotel.
In 1834 in New York, Miller married Mary Brittan (or Brittain) of Elizabeth, New Jersey. At the time, he was fifty years old, she thirty. They produced five children, but only one, Charles P. survived to maturity and produced descendants. He served as a lieutenant in the Union Army, then became a prosperous lawyer with homes in both New York City and New London, Connecticut.
In addition to the device for increasing traction, previously mentioned, Miller patented an improved steam boiler in 1830. Details of this were lost, it may have been the boiler of the “Best Friend.” He also patented a mechanical seed planter and several steam heating devices. In 1838 a niece described the Miller comfortable home in Brooklyn Heights which was heated by a steam plant of her uncle’s devising. His last patent was for a hot water heater in 1846.
Letters from Miller to his brother show him to have been of a philosophical, religious and somewhat pedantic turn of mind, with a strong sense of duty and affection towards his family. To a letter discussing pork prices and the Creator’s design in raising man above the brutes, he appended a receipt for using honey to prevent chapped hands. From 1836 on, there are recurrent references to his ill health. In 1838 he speaks of financial problems in New York although he is still employed by Baldwin at a good salary.
Around 1838 Ezra’s brother, Horace, migrated west to Winnebago County, Illinois. Ezra encouraged the move and provided a good part of the financing. From then on, his letters are full of technical advice on laying out a farm, the preparation and planting of seed, fencing, ditching and building houses. Ezra appears to have been ahead of his time in warning against depletion of the soil by over cultivation and he was well aware of the basic principals of crop rotation. In one letter he advises the tarring of seed corn to “prevent the gofers” and in the next paragraph a bit of classical poetry is used to advise his brother against running for the presidency in opposition to Harrison. In France, Miller had studied sugar beet culture and refining and he sent to Illinois fifteen pounds of beet seeds, along with those of squash, rutabagas and French grasses.
In 1844 Miller wrote about the popular acceptance of his heating furnace. Shortly after this, there is no more correspondence in the family papers and it seems probable that some correspondence may have been destroyed. Family traditions indicates that he invested heavily in Brooklyn real estate and suffered badly in a financial decline and a disastrous fire.
On 5 March 1847 the following appeared in the Newark, New Jersey Daily Observer:
MELANCHOLY SUICIDE THIS NOON
During a long life of active business as a merchant, he maintained a spotless reputation. In his domestic relations, he was singularly happy, and in all his intercourse was remarkable for great singleness of heart and amiability of temper. He had succeed (sic) in accumulating a considerable estate, but within the past few years it has been seriously impaired by reverses. These have bourne heavily upon his spirit, and acting upon a mind peculiarly sensitive, with a hereditary predisposition to insanity (his mother and sister having been similarly afflicted) proved too much for endurance and dethroned his reason. He recently exhibited powerful forebodings of catastrophe, such as has at last terminated, with his life, his earthly troubles.
He left his family in Brooklyn yesterday, visited his father in law, and left Elizabethtown in the Philadelphia train and was supposed to join his family.
The Tribune of this morning says that he was a man of considerable science and that his improvements in the construction of locomotive steam boilers were adopted both in this country and in England as far back as 1830.”
John M. Le Cato
Charleston, SC 1984
Additional information from the Newark Daily Advertiser, and furnished by James Stuart Osbourn, Senior Reference Librarian, Newark Public Library on September 26, 1983 reads::
“Near him were found two letters, one affectionately commending his wife and children to the guardianship of his father-in-law, to whom it was addressed, and requesting, as a last favor, that he might be interred by the side of his deceased children, and the other directed to his wife, full of expression of fervent attachment, and avowing his inability to thank her adequately for her kindness, patience and affection. It is gratifying to know the widow with fatherless children will have in the gentleman, to whose charge they are commended, a faithful friend and protector.”
The name, “Miller,” is perpetuated in Walterboro by a street which runs from Wichman to Carn Street but the name of Ezra Miller is known to only a few. Yet he was among the pioneer industrial builders of Walterboro and operated the first freight service between Walterboro and Charleston. About the year 1822, so the story goes, he built what was then a large store on the corner and at the foot of what is now Miller Street, later known as Hyrne’s Store and now as Dawdy’s. From that date until now there has been a grocery store on this corner. Each week he would send a wagon to Charleston to get the goods he needed and any articles the citizens needed transported. Sometimes a passenger was added to the load.
He is also credited with the building of a large tannery and shoe factory in Walterboro, near Ireland Creek. With a co-partner be built a cotton gin and, in the year 1826, Walterboro’s first steam saw mill.
He then moved to Charleston and is listed as a merchant of the city. But perhaps his crowning enterprise was his work on the “Best Friend.” A recent news story reads: “Credit for getting the first locomotive on the rails of the new South Carolina Canal and Rail Road should go largely to E. L. Miller, a Charleston merchant and one of the road’s directors. A miniature model built under his personal order first demonstrated the practicability of the locomotive in a public trial February 1830 and the full-sized “Best Friend” was built at his personal expense and purchased by the railroad only after it had been tested and approved.”
“The first railroad in the United States was the South Carolina Railroad, afterwards called the Charleston & Augusta, a distance of 140 miles. The road was begun in 1826 and completed in 1833. Some of the queer things which distinguishes it from the road of today were: The first motive power used on this road was wind, utilized by sails made of cloth on the cars. The locomotive had two smokestacks, one at each end. In going to Charleston one of the stacks was used, and in coming back the other was used. There were no spark-arresters , and everybody along the route had to watch their property to prevent its being burned up. One hundred miles a day was good traveling in those days. When night came on. all hands struck camp and waited for daylight to come in order to proceed . The track was composed of ties and 32-foot stringers on which a band of iron, like a common tire, was laid and nailed down to the wood. A track walker walked ahead of the engine every day to knock down “snake-heads,” or nail heads, to prevent accident. The dread of the engineer was the “snake-heads” protruding above the iron rail, for they were prolific sources of accidents. The conductor collected the fares from the outside, walking on boards about like the open street cars are now arranged. There were no conveyances on the cars in this day and time. The cars stopped at stated intervals for the convenience of the passengers. The mail facilities were meager and very primitive. A split stick served for a mail bag and letters were put in the stick and handed up to the conductor, and they were thrown out the same way. The coupling links were made of wood so that when the car ran off it would break and save the others from running off.”
(1) Letter, July 28, 1960, to Rear Admiral Neil K. Dietrich, U.S.N.
(2) “Best Friend of Charleston, S.C.” copied by Grant C. Miller from “History of Baldwin Locomotive Works” and family letters.
(3) “Centennial History of South Carolina Railroad” Derrick
(4) “A Treasury of Railroad Folklore” Botkin and Harlow
(5) “The American Railroad Passenger Car” White
(6) “Locomotive Designers in the Age of Steam” Westwood
(7) Material on file at the South Carolina Historical Society, The Charleston Library Society, The Charleston Railroad Artifacts Museum, The Confederate Museum and the Charleston County Library
(8) The family papers of Hope Miller Matthews of Evanston, IL, a great niece of Ezra Miller
(9) “Memories of Colleton County” Beulah Glover First Printing 1962, second 1963, third and revised 1969
PATENTS AND DIAGRAMS
Patent June 19, 1834 issued to E. L.Miller for Car Propeller an improvement in the mode of increasing the adhesion of the driving wheels of Locomotive Steam Engine
Patent April 10, 1841 Corn Planter No. 2,047
Patent July 7, 1846 No. 4,625 Steam Heater , last known patent of Miller’s , with specifications, NY home heated with steam
Ezra Miller Letters
letter November 29, 1835 to Horace Miller..child of Father’s wife, $500, chapped hand recipe
letter February 29, 1836 to Horace, William, Catherine and Mary send regards, poor economic times
letter May 28, 1838 to Horace, time of prosperity for Horace, Baldwin pays EL expenses $2000 year, nephew Walter with EL
June 7, 1838 Ezra reduces his debts by $60,000
letter July 8, 1838 to Horace, talk of owning property
letter August 38, 1838 to Horace regards from Lily and Mary, on expedition to see Hudson and check on Sister Whiting
letter November 29, 1838 Clark quit school, Hiram nephew (son of Orrin) discusses banks, ditches, seed, chestnuts
letter March 12, 1939 to Horace Baldwin may be having difficulties, harsh words for lack of writing, Mary’s health bad
letter addition March 12, 1839 diagram of fence, short line through to river, enclosure for stack
letter to Horace April 6, 1839 digging cellar
letter June 6, 1839 letter to Horace from brother Jonathan selling farm, Clark still in Buffalo, Eliza’s letter to father , Horace Allen Miller,
contract February 5, 1840 for $1,838 from Horace for property and joint ownership in Winnebago, Illinois
letter to Horace April 20, 1840 Eliza commended for profiting from interest Ezra and family have taken in her, discusses opposition to Harrison for president
letter September 24, 1840 to Horace in pencil received, appended to Eliza’s, discusses religious feelings, criticizes Eliza’s letter, discusses brother A., crops
letter August 29, 1841 to Horace after long trip, made in comfort, apologizes for his anxiety
letter September 29, 1844 hot air furnace, but little profit, niece Eliza wrote, wife Mary to respond to letter
ORRIN B. MILLER’S LETTER
October 20, 1844 to Horace from brother, Orrin, Walter, Hiram in Ill, Orrin to teach Harvey, employed, father in 80th year, temperance cause
Diary of Nancy Eliza Miller, dau of Hannah Clark and Horace Allen Miller, visited in EL’s steam heated home, Ezra ‘s poor eye sight due to studying by firelight, taught in Chas, never became minister,went to England to learn about steam engines, his engine became known as Baldwin Eng, married Mary Brittain, born 1786, died 1847, tells of Nancy’s scarred face
letter from Matthews to Darby July 27, 1981
reply from Le Cato
letter from Matthews to Le Cato September 18, 1981
letter to Matthews October 20, 1981
letter to Le Cato December 30, 1981
letter to Matthews January 4, 1982
letter to Le Cato February 10, 1982
letter to Le Cato March 20, 1982
letter to Le Cato March 26, 1982
letter to Matthews April 14, 1982
letter to Le Cato April 17, 1982
letter to Le Cato August 27, 1982
letter to Le Cato September 15, 1982
letter to Le Cato December 6, 1982
letter to Le Cato January 24, 1983
letter to Le Cato February 13, 1983
letter to Le Cato March 7, 1983
letter to Le Cato April 19, 1983
letter to Le Cato May 21, 1983
letter to Le Cato September 20, 1983
letter to Le Cato October 3, 1983
letter to Le Cato October 7, 1983
letter to John White, National Museum of American History February 15, 1984
letter to Le Cato March 26, 1986
letter to Le Cato November 7, 1987
William G. King Genealogy Preface for Miller family dated after 1969
Beulah Glover Historical Material 1962-63-69
John White, National Museum of American History February 6, 1984
Jack King February 15, 1999
“Best Friend of Charleston” copied by Grant Miller from “History of Baldwin Locomotive Works” and family letters
“History of the Cohoes, NY by A. H. Masten, 1877
Many of the early records in this book have been published and deposited in libraries, such as Burton Memorial of Detroit, Rockford, Illinois. They can be found in History of Northampton, George Sheldon’s History of Deerfield, but one man E. H. T. Miller of Scotsdale, New York, should be given credit for compiling the genealogy from early England through 1850. He spent his entire life interviewing Millers in 40 states and searching records in America and England. He left his records to his nephew, E. H. T. Carver, Scotsdale, N.Y. a lawyer, who has given them to Professor Charles Pflaum of Rochester, New York, (University of Rochester) 1969 to publish.
Credit must be given to Grant C. Miller who brought down to date Horace Allen Miller’s branch and copied many pages from the “Diary of Eliza Miller Marsh.”
Corrections and additional information requested.
Wm G. King Hope Miller Matthews (Mrs. W. Carey)
27 W. Hillcrest Dr. 730 Trinity Court
Greenville, SC 29609 Evanston, Illinois 60201
November 29, 1835
Mr. Horace Miller Esq.
River Park P. O.
Mt. Morris, Livingston Co. New York
My dear Brother,
Your letter with a draft for $500 has been duly delivered. It gives me pleasure to learn that you arrived safely at home and that you had the blessing of finding an affectionate family in good health.
I am certain that the books sent you, if read with attention, will not prove an unprofitable investment. I have long been of the opinion that when a man’s circumstances will admit of his wearing anything better than osnaburgs and eating anything better than hasty pudding and hoe-cake, he is rich enough to buy useful books sufficient to employ all the leisure of himself and family in reading. Did you never reflect that it is mind, intelligence, and information which elevates one above another and his species above the brute. The ox, the horse, the uneducated and illiterate man can like labour, but only labour, while the intelligent and well-informed man combines with his labour the powerful agency of mind, or intellect, which guides and controls the unintelligent labour of his species and elevates him to the station designed by his Creator in this world, and if properly directed, prepares him for that designed time in the future.
In the few hasty lines I wrote you on the receipt of your letter from Albany I request that you would not dispose of the child of father’s wife until she could be in some way comfortably provided for. I thought it could hardly be right to turn her out of doors helpless and friendless and without a home. I do not know what provisions are made for the support of the destitute in your country–of this you must be the best judge and be guided by circumstances. Before the receipt of this I hope you will have made such arrangements as will make Father comfortable and happy. Whatever you do, I hope you will pay the utmost respect to his feelings and wishes, so far as can be done consistently with a sense of duty. It is equally our duty to endeavor to contribute to his comfort and happiness as it is to feed and clothe him.
I should hope that you might bet a better price than your name for your pork. It is at present $7 here for such as you describe yours to be. If you were sure to put it up, so as to bear the city inspection, I think you might be sure of $20 when the canal opens in the Spring. Let me hear from you frequently. You can always find enough of your own and the affairs of our connections to fill up a letter. Tell Brother A (Allen) that hay will be worth more than any advance he can get upon stock to which he will feed it. It is now worth $20 per ton here and rising.
We are all very well, and all join me in love to your wife and family, as well as all our friends.
Very affectionately, your Brother,
E. L. Miller
P.S. I have learned a most invaluable remedy for chapped hands. It is this. After washing your hands clean with soap and water, and while they are dripping before you have wiped them at all, take nearly a teaspoonful of honey, which rub well into your hands, then wipe them dry without putting them into water again. Repeat this morning and evening, and your hands will be as soft in winter as in summer. (recipe for all)
February 29, 1836
Horace Miller Esq.
Mt. Morris, Livingston Co.
My dear Brother,
I am in possession of yours of the 13th inst. with Draft for $120, which, I assure you, was quite acceptable for I need more money than I can raise at present.
Prospects are mending here a little for real estate, and I have reason to hope that I shall not ultimately lose much, though I still look for a great reaction in the subject. It may be some time in coming, but come it will. The present state of things is unnatural, bloated, dropsical, and cannot endure long. Everything has now a fictious value–even common labourers get nearly double their usual wages, say $1.50 per day–and yet this is but little better than 75 cts. formerly. Rents, provisions, fuel, beef, which is the present price of choice pieces in our market? 12 1/2 for mutton, and 14 pence for veal, and wood at the enormous price of $15 to $18 a cord?
This has been a severe winter for the poor. You who live in the country where there is little or no actual suffering from poverty can form no idea of the extreme misery and distress which a large town like New York exhibits in a season of such severity as the present. There are but few hours in a day when a demand is not made on our charity, and we have frequent opportunities of witnessing such scenes of distress and hearing such tales of misery and suffering as are calculated to arouse the sympathies of our nature. How much reason have we, who are comfortably situated, to remember with gratitude that kind Providence from Whom we derive all our blessings, and how ready should we be to exhibit our gratitude by contributing to relieve the necessities of those who are destitute of the comfort we enjoy. I often think that we have no right to consider that we possess as exclusively our own. Those who have wealth are but the stewards of Him Who giveth all things and must in the end account to Him for their stewardship.
I should have been pleased the hear the particulars of your last purchase, when you expect to move, what sort of a house you have on your new farm, and whether you will write soon and tell me ll that many interest me, both of your own affairs and those of our friends.
How has Father fared this hard winter? Is he comfortably provided for and is he satisfied with his situation?
The present severe season has sickened me of Northern winters. I have suffered much and expect to suffer much more in the changes of the spring with this unfortunate constitutional malady. Of one thing, I am certain, this complicated machine cannot much longer keep in motion. Whether it be longer or shorter can be of but little meaning provided I am prepared for the event.
William, Catherine, and Mary join in love to yourself, family, and all the friends.
E. L. Miller
P.S. William left stove, scales, saddle and bridle with Frederick Stanley to be sold, which, if he has sold, I wish you to collect.
May 28, 1838
My Dear Brother,
Yours of the two dates of the 22nd and 27th of April was not delivered by Mr. Sleeper until just before he left town, or I should have replied to it by him.
It pains me to learn of Sister Whiting. What a life of suffering has she lived. Sickness and poverty have been her lot from her youth. How has she struggled to raise her children reputedly! And after a life of so much privation, poverty and pain, she seems reserved for the very climax of human misery.
How mysterious are the ways of Providence. Surely, surely, there must be another state that my circumstances do not admit of my contributing as liberally to her support as formerly, but I console myself with the reflection that under the improved circumstances of my brothers and they will not have less sympathy or feel less disposed to assist her than I should do in their situation. Such a lesson should teach us our frailty and our dependence on Him who has created and who upholds us and excite in us the most lively gratitude to Him who has blessed us with health, comfort and happiness.
I am gratified to learn of your prosperity and warn you to be cautious; a few fortunate throws make a gambler and an equal number of fortunate operations a speculator. I am indebted for my ruin to three or four successful sales which I made when I first came to Brooklyn.
I have made arrangements with Mr. Baldwin to visit most of the railroads in the country the ensuing summer. He pays my expenses and at the rate of $2000 a year salary. I expect to leave in a day or two to go as far South as North Carolina, to return in about four weeks, then to visit the Eastern States, and somewhere about the last of July to start for the Western part of this State and the Great West via Mt. Morris if I can possibly spare the time. When, if you are ready to visit Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, i.e., I shall be happy of your company. But I do not indulge the hope of finding a paradise, or a place where a prosperous man well settled in the Western part of this State can hope to find as much comfort or happiness as he would leave at home. In all my wanderings, which you know have not been few, I have found no spot of earth without some bad qualities to balance the good. Nor need we hope to find a situation where wealth or even a common substance can be earned without the means ordained by Heaven, “by the sweat of thy face, i.e.”
Walter who is with me and fast recovering hi health hears ofter from his Father who writes that he is heartily sick of Ohio, thinks it sickly, and intends returning to the State. (Walter, a son of Orrin Miller, an Episcopal Rector in Wooster, Ohio and Ezra’s brother)
The result of my own business is as uncertain as ever. I think the City of New York has passed the crisis of bad times and that prospects brighten for those who are not already ruined.
But things mend too slowly, I fear, to do me any good. Mary and the child are well as usual and both join me in love to all the Aunts, Cousins, i.e.–particularly our dear Father who I hope is well and comfortably provided for.
I am very affectionately yours,
E. L. Miller
Will have the papers acknowledged when on my way to the West.
June 7th – The day above was written I renewed an old negotiation for the Jackson property and am happy to inform you that I have wiped my hands of it.
By this and another compromise I have reduced my liabilities nearly $60,000 less than they were when the above was written. I now breathe quite freely and have a fair prospect of having a little something left.
I still owe money, but if I have my health and can make anything to keep down the interest for a year or two til real estate is out I may reasonably hope to have a few thousand left. Perhaps before the year is out I may need the assistance you and my other Brothers have so kindly offered. It would now be for my benefit and not for that of my creditors. I wish you to retain the satisfaction I sent you in Brother Orrin’s case. I expect to leave for the South on Saturday next.
July 8, 1838
My Dear Brother,
I regret that you told Mary on leaving Brooklyn that you would return in case you learned of my arrival before you left Amsterdam, otherwise I should have gone there to see you, though with much inconvenience to my arrangements for starting East.
I was very anxious to see you, not only on Sister Whiting’s account, but also on account of your intended trip to the West as one can say so much in a few minutes conversation than they can write in a week. I am sorry to learn from Mary that you have any idea of removing farther West. To a man like myself, broken down in fortune, the low price of land might offer a last and hard chance for a spot of earth to call one’s home and a place on one’s own soil to deposit their bones, but to one successful and fortunate as you have been for the last four or five years, after having struggled so long and hard with the difficulties and privations which always accompany a new settlement, I can see no motive which should induce you to remove just at the moment when you are beginning to reap the fruits of your toil.
Schools and churches, and the thousand conveniences of an older settlement, and a more improved state of society are beginning to surround you and you have, I should hope, attained some little respectability and standing in the community in which you have so long resided. This is a consideration of much importance, and should not be resigned for but weighty considerations. Every man as a member of society has certain duties to perform and is under certain obligations as a member of the community in which he lives. This moving about, this emigrating spirit, which pervades all classes in this country has gone far, very far, to annihilate every feeling of attachment to one place or another, and instead of a man’s feeling that his interests are identified with the community in which he lives, he feels that he has no place that he can call his home, his native spot.
If it be your object to accumulate more property, I should say your knowledge of the means of doing it and the fcilities which the community in which you live afford make it far more adviseable to stay where you are. The advantages you have been able to give your children in the way of education, and those you have enjoyed for your own improvement, will be in a great measure thrown away bt removing to a new settlement. I am aware that there is a kind of fascination connected with the idea of a new settlement. The low price of lands, fertility of the soil, always represented to an emigrant as a sort of earthly paradise, lure thousands from comfortable homes to their everlasting regret. But, disguise it as you may, there are hardships, inconveniences, and privations which you cannot hope to escape. Very few, almost none, of the fertile lands of the West are perfectly healthy–and for a man with a family like yours what consideration of profit can make amends for the loss of health, perhaps of life, consequent upon what is called a seasoning.
I am now on my way to visit the railroads in this and the adjoining states East and expect to return to New York in eight or ten days, taking Hudson on my way, where I hope to find Sisiter Whiting in a state of improved health. If I do not give up my Western trip, shall be ready to start about the 1st of August and intent to make Mt. Morris on my way, when, if you persist in going, I shall be happy of your company.
Let me hear from you as soon as you receive this, and let me know when you intend to start and where you will bend your course–and how all the friends are, how they prosper, and what kind of crops you have. Have you heard anything of my Rev. Nephew, (Orrin), and where is Hiram!
Prospects are rather improving for my Brooklyn property and, though I have still a heavy load on my shoulders, hope if my health is spared to be able to sustain it and to save a little something from the wreck.
We have, so far, a very warm summer which suits me very well, and my health was somewhat improved by my Southern trip.
Mary is with me, as you see–she joins me in love to yourself, family and all our friends.
I am very affectionately,
E. L. Miller
P.S. I have just learned of a family who removed some time since from this place to Michigan where thay all got sick, some died, and the remainder have returned to end their days in old Connecticut.
August 8, 1838
Horace Miller, Esq.
River Fork P. O.
Mt. Morris, Livingston Co.
My dear Brother,
My arrangements are made and I expect to start on my expedition tomorrow evening. I intend to stop at Hudson and shall take time enough there to inquire particularly into Sister Whiting’s situation and see her if I can—–.
If nothing interferes with my plan I expect to be with you about Wednesday or Thursday of next week end, as I can spare but two or three days to stop, hope that none of the damily will be out of the wy for I want to see you all.
Mary and Lily send their best love and wish that it were possible for them to go along. They would enjoy a visit among you all very much.
Hope the weather is not as hot and dry with you as with us.
E. L. Miller
November 29, 1838
Of Irishmen-for ditching I expected to hire by the rod, in which way all the ditching of the country has been done. I annex a diagram of the size of the bank and ditches. The sides of the bank to be handsomely laid up with the prairie sod, grass out, and not less than four inches thick, cut with the spade into convenient sized sods, and the joints broken like brick work. Irishmen are worht very little upon the farm, and all our ditching should be done if possible by the 1st of June. From three to four shillings per rod is the highest price which has been paid there for this kind of fence. A smart man makes four and some have made five, rods in a day. If these men will put enough in your hands to secure their expenses out, and will contract to lay up a ditch of the kinf described for 3/6 a rod, we will give them all they can do till the middle of June, but could not agree to take them by the year and for the balance of the year. Labour Is scarce there and they can get much higher wages than they can here.
I am glad you have hired the two carpenter farmers and hope you will succeed in getting Dewey, if as good as you describe. These, with Miles and yourself, I think will be enough for the farm and what cabins we shall build this year. Would like to have Irishmen If they would like to go on the terms proposed. If you could carry a smart middle-aged woman to do your cooking it would be well, but you must not think of letting Sarah Ann go. By taking a few lesons before he goes, I presume Miles might learn to do all you will need, except the washing, which can be arranged in some way after you get there.
I will see the men about the mortgage, but fear nothing can be done unless the offices have an agency in your section of the country. This is an Important feature in our arrangements-we cannot do without money-and I fear I cannot, without great sacrifice, sell a dollar’s worth in time. So this negotiation should be looked to without delay. I wish you had writtten some few of the thousand other things in the time which intervened between the receipt of my letter and the date of yours. It is not more than six or seven weeks to the time you spoke of starting. We have so many things to consult about that, unless we both are very prompt in writing, many points must be left unsettled. Do not lose an hour, unless sickness prevents, in answering my letters for the future.
Mary’s love has no relation to Hiram–Eliza Is very well and joins In love to all.
[Hiram, a nephew (son of Orrin)]
Diagram to letter of November 29, 1838:
Black locust seed to be got in Ohio–i bushel; 1/2 peck of chestnuts to be buried when you get there; corn for seed; small kind of white beans and all kinds of garden vegetable seeds; 2 or 3 bushels of clover seed and timothy for 5 or 6 acres; all iron articles of farming utensils that will be wanted, such as drag teeth, plough irons, etc., etc. What sugar, coffee and other groceries you will need before the first of July; a few bars of such sized iron as is suitable for common farming purposes; harnesses, traces, chains, etc.
How will you sleep–on straw or feathers? It will cost too much to buy feathers for all. Now, think of all the other articles you will neeed and send me a list so that nothing may be forgotten between us, with some calculation of what they will weigh so as not to get over 12 or 1500 for each team.
Flour may not be got in Michigan or Indiana, and pork may be taken or not, as convenient; axes, spades, shovels, iron wedges, beetle rings, etc., etc. –your Irishmen, if accustomed to ditching, can tell you the kind of spades. Horses should not be more than six years old–good, substantial, close-built, hardy fellows. I should like one pair to look well and to travel fairly. I had hoped you could bargain with men not to have their time commence until you got there. It must be six weeks before you can get fairly to work. This, with their expenses out and the little there can be done in the winter months, makes their wages very high. One of them should be such, as in case of necessity, to take charge and carry on business to advantage, but all this you understand better than I do.
No more fever and ague.
March 12, 1839
Mr. Horace Miller
Kishwaukee, Winnebago Co.
My dear Brother,
The twelfth of March and but one letter from you yet. I thought you would certainly write from Chicago, but from the time that has elapsed, do not now expect to get anything from you till after your arrival at Kishwaukee–and as the roads are so bad at this season of the year, cannot expect that for eight or ten days yet.
My last letter from Mr. Lee, postmarked the 16th of February at Kishwaukee, did not reach me till this morning. I have already written you, once in Chicago and three or four times to Kishwaukee, and if I were disposed to retaliate your neglect, would not write again until I learned where you were. But as I am not revengeful, will repay your negligence by five or six letters to one. I wrote you on the 26th of February, among many other things, on the subject of money matters about which I shall be very anxious until I get an answer, which I hope may be full and clear as to that and also as to the time when your arrangements will make it necessary for you to return. I have heard nothing further from Mr. Baldwin, but fear he is in difficulty.
I wrote in my last that I would suggest more fence that might be made with bank and ditch if you could not get rails and can get plenty of ditches. This is the line from K and L, which, by changing the course a little from N to M so as to bring it nearly parallel to the South line of the lots, would bring it where, or near where, we should need a permanent fence between the prairie and the timber. This, if judiciously arranged, would leave out but a small angle of the prairie between M and K and exclude a little more timber between L and N. I would like this line to be exactly parallel to the line of the lots if it can be done without throwing out too much prairie–if not, you might vary it a little. By measuring off from Y down to the woods North, and from the Southeast corner of N 5 toward K, you will readily see how the line will come, and for convenience hereafter when we can get rails, we might run a fence from Y down to this line so that cattle might come up to the stable through the woods.
I hope you will be a little particular in enclosing the house to have it done well. You will, I suppose, lay the floors loose for the present and when we come, to finish it, I think it will be best to fill in the walls. And this puts me in mind of brick–I wish you to see Mr. Lee and Mr. Seymour and see if some arrangement cannot be made to start someone at brick-making as soon as the spring opens. I was told there was a good clay near the river between the village and our line. It will be a great convenience to the village and neighborhood if someone would undertake it. I have marked a plot on the diagram of about an acre in front of the house at H which I wish to drag–sod to pieces as much as possible–then plough quite deep–drag very throughly–and plough again–and drag as fine as possible for a garden spot. All the things which I have written to you to plant early, I which you to plant again in May as though you had not planted them at all. Will write in my next about the beets. Wish you to get everything possible in the way of small fruit and shrubs. If Mr. Martin’s mulberries are the Morus Multicaulis, get a few of those to begin with. Mr. Haight at Rockford I believe has some.
Mary’s health is quite feeble–the rest of us are well and all join in love.
Affectionately, your Brother,
E. L. Miller
Addition to March 12, 1839 letter:
You will need as many as four or five ditches if you have any difficulty in getting rails. If you find you will be short of rails, your ditch and bank from M to N might be made first which, with the short lines from those points to the river, will make an enclosure for stock. The short line from N through the woods to the edge of the prairie will have to be made of rails. There is a strip of ploughing on the West line from J South. In making the ditch and bank through this, you will have to cut the sod on the outer edges of the ditch to prevent its breaking and caving in.
Letter of April 6, 1839 continued (fragmented):
I had no idea of making a permanent site at all. Long’s frame with a lienter, which would not cost much and could have been removed with but little loss except digging the cellar and well, the latter which might be useful to stock, would have been no consideration for securing th claims. We must look out for No. 1. It will be worth $50 per acre in less than five years. I had laid the same plan for removing the fence, but did not suggest it, wishing you to make every effort to enclose the woodland, making this a last resort.
I am anxious, very anxious to be with you and am writing with the greatest impatience for your answer to my letter on the subject of money matters of the 26th of February, and hope by the end of next week to be able to say something certain of my arrangements.
June 6, 1839
Mr. Horace Miller
Kishwaukee, Winnebago Co.
Yours of the 19th or 22nd was received on my return from Leroy and was the source of gratification.
The farm you spoke of for me–perhaps I may soon want. A Mr. Bears, the Husband of she that was Hannah Thorp, gave me a call yesterday to buy my farm. We agreed on the price and he thought he could make the amount of pay I want in hand but had to go home before he could determine. Is to let me know next week. My terms are $90 without and $95 with the crops. I think I shall try hard to sell the crops with the farm so that I may have a chance to get on in time to mow some grass and put in some wheat on that big hollow. Perhaps you had better take out some of it to sow on shares.
It is all uncertain about my selling–if I should not succeed, I have a mind to get the Sheriff to sell for me as he sold the Shields farm day before yesterday for $60/2 per acre at auction. James H. McNair was the purchaser. I would not have you hold the place you spoke of for me to your disadvantage, as it is a matter of uncertainty about my selling, but I shall make every exertion to do it.
I am much in heart, as this is the first clear, warm day we have had for some weeks.
Yours with much affection,
(brother of Horace and Ezra)
Your family are all well. Clark has not returned yet from Buffalo.
In case I should complete a bargain with Mr. Bears, I will write you immediately, and if you should complete a bargain with Mr. Bears, I will write you immediately, and if you should not leave soon after the receipt of this, please let me know the terms of the place you have bought so that I might know better how to make my payments.
(attached to this letter)
My dear Father,
Brother Horace just brought this letter from Uncle J’s, wishing to know if I did not want to write a line to my Father, and I have only time to fulfill his request, such as industrious body have I become since my return home.
Our rolls came yesterday, and we are making much exertion so to arrange our work as to be able to commence upon them on next Monday. I went out yesterday for the first time since my return home and enjoyed myself very much.
Mother received Miles’ letter last evening–we were much delighted with its contents, and it is our request that he would write us often. I am glad that he is so well pleased with his new home. I hope he will continue to be so.
Sarah and Mother are serving–Caroline and Willie are at school–Horace is chopping wood–and Clark has gone to Buffalo, and through mistake I have forgotten to tell what Eliza is doing. But I must stop writing, for Cousins Ruth and Sarah are below, and I must go and receive them. All send you a great deal of love–wish Uncle an agreeable summer and you a pleasant journey home.
I am as ever,
Yours affectionate daughter,
P.S. It is Mother’s particular request that you will make all possible speed in returning home, and you need not think that we all request the same–“Good-bye.”
February 5, 1840
Mr. Horace Miller
Kishwaukee, Winnebago Co.
My dear Brother,
Since writing you on the 29th January, relative to your interest in the Kishwaukee property, I have after more mature reflection thought it seemed inexpedient to wait until I got the statement of accounts and description of the sections for which I then wrote, as your interest might be jeoparded by the uncertainty of my life, as well as other casualties, and I herewith send you annexed such an article as my counsel states will secure your interest in case of my death, and as soon as I can get the statement of the accounts, I\i.e., for which I wrote, will make out a regular deed for your undivided share.
I hope you have been very particular to give me a full description of everything pertaining to the Kishwaukee property and also that of the Widow George claim, and whether the duplicates for this were in my name also. You will need to describe the parts of sections of all, the same as in the duplicates, and in stating the amount of your account, be particular also to give me the amount only that has been expended on the part in my name.
We have a most distressing state of things here in financial concerns generally and my own affairs are verging fast to a crises which nothing now can avert. I now look to Kishwaukee as my last and only hope. I hope you may be able to get off the Sheldon claim by negotiation and, if possible, sell something to relieve you, for I can do nothing more.
We are all in good health–Mary and the children join me in love to yourself and family, and I am as ever,
E. H. Miller
N.B. This should be preserved with as much care as you would preserve title deeds, if not recorded–and if it would be likely to prejudice your interest with your creditors there, keep your own counsel. You should also preserve the letter that I wrote you previously on the same subject and all my old contracts for claims.
Do not neglect getting your stove, and be careful to send the accounts and descriptions for which I wrote very particularly and fully, and write all and everything about your business and money matters. For fear of a miscarriage by mail, I have made out a duplicate of this and had it acknowledged before a Commissioner, and have given it to Mr. Brittan (father-in-law of Ezra) to keep and have taken his receipt for it.
(2nd page gives diagram of where Horace should build a ditch fence and locate his house and garden)
To all whom it may concern:
I hereby certify that by verbal agreement which I made with my Brother, Horace Miller, at Mt. Morris in the State of New York on or about the 26th day of October, One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty-Eight, it is mutually agreed between us to become jointly interested in the purchase and improvement of certain lands in the County of Winnebago, at Kishwaukee County, in Winnebago County, State of Illinois, the settler’s’ claims to which I had previously purchased on Long, and Clark, and Hogeboom; and also in certain lands the settlers’ claim to which I had purchased of the Widow George, near to, and adjoining the claim of Benjamin Lee, in said County and State, it being distinctly agreed and understood that the interest of each in the aforesaid property should be in an equal ratio to the amount which each should advance for the purchase and improvement of the same.
And whereas, most or all of the duplicate titles to the above named property were issued from the land office in my name at the public sale which took place at Galena in October last, and whereas I have advanced for the purposes above specified about Three Thousand, Five Hundred Dollars, and my Brother, Horace Miller, has for the same purposes advanced Five Thousand Dollars, or thereabouts (the precise amount being matters of account to be settled between us cannot now be exactly stated), I do hereby for the better securing to my Brother his interest in the same in case of death or any unforseen casualty transfer, convey, and quit claim to him and to his heirs an undivided interest in the property and improvements above referenced to in exactly proportion to the amount which he has advanced, this proportion to be decided on a final adjustment of our accounts.
And I hereby bind myself, my heirs, administrators, and assigns to execute to him all the necessary legal conveyances to secure his interests and title in and to the same without unnecessary delay as soon as the accounts can be adjusted.
In witness whereof I hereto set my hand and seal this fifth day of February, One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Forty.
E. L. Miller
In the presence of:
Mary B. Miller
The word “and to his heirs”, fifth line from the bottom, on the first page, interlined before executed.
April 20, 1840
Mr. Horace Miller
Kishwaukee, Winnebago Co.
My dear Brother,
Yours of the 31st of March came to hand three or four days earlier than yours and Eliza’s of the 22nd sent by Mr. Buch. Both Mary and myself were very much gratifies with Eliza’s letter–with few exceptions, it is highly creditable to her, and you may assure her that nothing could so well compensate us for the interest we took in her improvement as such gratifying evidence that she is profiting by it.
We are truly gratified that your family appear so well satisfied with your new home. “The worm of the root,” we confidently hope, will be checked in his ravages by the persevering industry of yourself and family. With health and as good season I think you have little to fear. Your next crop must be immense if you get all your land under cultivation and some way will, I trust, yet be provided to turn it to account.
I have just sent you, with Mr. Matie’s goods which were shipped yesterday, 15 lbs. of best Tilesian Sugar Beet Seed (of which you may sell 8 or 10 lbs., if your neighbors want, at one dollar, the price here) with quite an assortment of garden seeds and a big Rohan potato with eyes enough to make 15 or 20 Hills. Among the seeds are three or four kinds of French Grass Seeds which, in the sugar beet districts, are cultivated in a rotation crop with them and other crops.
I either do not understand the description you gave of the direction of Mr. Lee’s road, or I think it extremely objectionable, as with the other roads it will cut the upper level all to pieces. What on earth can be the objection to its going up through the main street of the village, unless it be the mean policy of self-interest, for it would not increase the distance 100 yards. I hope to be with you before the 20th of May, until which I hope nothing may be done on it before I get there and decide where I may wish to build, should I ever have the means. I cannot conceive why the narrow views and selfish policy of one man should be suffered to interfere with and incommode a whole community.
Do not neglect to get tar and prepare your corn as I directed. It is more than worth the trouble for the advantage to the corn, but is vastly important to prevent the gofers. I would like to see a little experiment made with plaster. Hope you are preparing to raise all the clover seed you will need and hope you have cleared out your ditches and repaired your sod fence where it needed it, for I have a good many fears for the security of this crop. I sent a letter with the seeds to be forwarded to you the moment they arrive at Chicago. For fear Mr. Magie should neglect it, you had better look out for an opportunity to send for them as early as the 8th of May, by which time they will be very sure to be there, perhaps sooner. They are in five paper bundles and should be put into a box, bag, or something to protect them in the wagon, and be sure not to get them wet.
I cannot say that I am much gratified at the prospect of your being an opposing candidate to General Harrison for the Presidency at the next election–
“Cromwall, I charge thee, fling away ambition
By that sin fell the angels, how then
Can man, the image of his Maker, hope to win by it?”
But to be original and not to quote, I would say you have scope enough for your ambition to cultivate your four or five hundred acres of improved land and get out of debt.
I have spoken of the 20th of May, but something has occurred to render it doubtful what time I shall get there. If you want anything I can get at Buffalo, write there immediately as you get this and let Eliza copy it and send here. I will write again the moment I decide when to leave. If I do not get there by the 25th of May, plant the beets, as I see by the experiment of last year that will be early enough for winter feeding. Plant the melons and all except the small seeds as soon as you get them, but keep the grass seeds–poppy, lucerne, etc., till you see if I come by the 25th.
Lydia has been quite unwell for some time past, but is better now. Be careful in making any arrangements for your debt not to increase the number of them by dividing them.
In answer to your inquiries relative to the expense of getting up an establishment for the manufacture of sugar from the beets, it is not easy to speak definitively without fixing the estimate at a given capacity of production. Beet sugar may be manufactured in any quantity from 10 to 10,000 lbs. per day, but not to advantage in a quantity less than from 500 to 1000 lbs. per day–as the cost of skill and superintendence would be the same in a small as in a large establishment, and the expense of fitting one up on Rock River must be much greater than in this quarter.
To work with steam, which by all means should be the power adopted in an establishment of any importance, the business could not be started at all respectably for less than from 8,000 to 10,000 dollars, independent of buildings. Horses or oxen might be used to advantage tor the power in Illinois where the expense of their feed is so little, but as steam is required to make a quantity of sugar fit to use without refining, it would be the best economy to use it altogether.
The manufacture of sugar from the beet, unlike that from the cane or maple, requires much skill and experience to conduct it to advantage, although, when once understood, it is easily conducted. I paid much attention to the character of the best soils for the beet when in France and consider the soil upon the East side of Rock River from the Kishwaukee to Rockford as the best adapted to beet culture that I have ever seen. and as far as I could judge from our experiment there last year, think them richer in Saccharino than any I ever saw.
I am pleased to learn that your neighbors are getting awake to the subject, for, from the first, I have considered the introduction of some new agricultural production the only means of protecting the permanent interest of the West. The article on this subject which I wrote for the Journal of Commerce, and of which I sent you two or three numbers, have had the effect of rousing the attention of people in this quarter to the subject to such an extent that it had become more difficult to supply the demand for seed. But this is mostly, for the present, for the purpose of feeding stock, through the making of sugar is looked to as the ultimate object. The greatest disadvantage with which we shall have to contend on will be the scarcity of fuel, for a cord of wood is required for every 200 or 300 lbs. of sugar, and in manufacturing to any great extent we might want a market, but the fertility and peculiar adaptation of your soil for the culture of the beet will, I have no doubt, counter-balance the disadvantages. It gives me pleasure, I assure you, to learn that the attention of your neighbors is turned to this very interesting subject, and I beg you to assure them after my arrival there, nothing will give me greater pleasure than to cooperate with them in everyway in my power to introduce this or any other valuable improvement.
Among the seeds which I send you are several kinds of French Grass and the seeds of two or three plants which are cultivated for oil in France and Germany. For more information on these subjects I meant to have visited France the ensuing winter, but fear my finances will not admit of it.
Affectionately, your Brother,
E. L. Miller
P. S. What I have written on the subject of sugar beet you will see is on the last page by itself, and if you think it can be useful in anyway, you may cut it off and show it to the Rockford people.
Unless you get a very long time by doing it, for a small debt is much more likely to be sued than a large one and often gives more trouble, hope you have made arrangements to get a good stock of poultry. Making cheese, it you were but able to buy cows, would be an excellent business, for cheese is always high at the West. Do not be discouraged–with a good crop and good health I think your prospects brighten, and I trust Heaven has yet in store for us many blessings. Love to all, I am affectionately yours,
E. L. Miller
September 24, 1840
Mr. Horace Miller
My dear Brother,
Your letter in pencil appended to Eliza’s of the 10th, postmarked the 14th, just came to hand yesterday and, I need not say, awakened a train of very opposite feelings and reflections.
It gives me great pleasure to learn that you are all well, while it awakens many feelings of sympathy and regret for the sick, with many anxious fears for the safety of those who are well. Indeed, since the sickness commenced last year, my whole existence had been overshadowed by regret that I had been the instrument or cause of so many of my friends being exposed to sickness and disease in an unhealthy climate. This, I know, is wrong, for after having acted upon mature reflection and followed the dictates of our best judgment, we ought with humble resignation to leave the result in the hands of Him who directeth all things in mercy.
Unpropitious as are the prospects for the future, all may yet result fortunately for our temporal prosperity, or, if not for our prosperity in this world, it may, and doubtless will. if properly improved tend to our spiritual benefit. Our blindness to the future, our errors in judgment, our total weakness and imbecility in controlling future events, should teach us our weakness and dependence and adjust us to rely humbly upon Him Whom “the end is known from the beginning” and in Whose hands are all our ways. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor riches to men of understanding.
Both Mary and myself were highly gratified with Eliza’s letter, of which I was the bearer, and we both feel when we compare it with her first efforts when she came to us that we are amply repaid for all the labour we devoted to her improvement. Her last letter, though very well, is inferior to the other–we speak not of the penmanship–but it does not embody as many thoughts or as much in mind as one who can write as well as can Eliza can, should always, be ambitious to exhibit. She has unquestionably a mind highly susceptible of cultivation, and nothing would give us great pleasure than to see its powers properly controlled, directed, and developed. If this were done, she may render the most essential service to her younger brothers and sisters.
I had a delightful time over the lakes and reached home on the morning of the 10th via Mt. Morris. I found all the friends there in good health, Father in particular. Allen had abandoned the idea of his Illinois trip, but I should not be surprised if he should yet go after learning that his children are sick.Jonathan is raising cloverseed, which, if there is water so that he can get it thrashed in season, he will ship you from Buffalo this fall, and Allen, should he go, will take charge of the pigs. But should these chances fail, I fear you will have to do without your Berkshires altogether, and your cloverseed, unless you can get it at Chicago. You should be sure to preserve enough money to pay for these. The .25 you have advanced Ezra will be a part, and Brother A. will doubtless need more advanced to his children so that payment, I presume, may be made there for both seed and pigs. Stephen (probably Stephen Coshun) may yet go–if so, I will try to send the pigs by him, but can get no cloverseed.
I hope you have not neglected titles of the lot in Clark’s name and that, if you have not already, you will immediately write Brother A. to send you an article binding himself and his heirs to make you title to the lots in his name when the money which he advanced shall be paid agreeably to the verbal contract between you. The sickness and sudden death which surround you in this, as well as in your future besiness transactions, must, I think, enforce what I now say and have said before on the subject. Do not, I beg of you, under any circumstances give any further lien on the property or take any important step in the business without consulting me.
The price for your horse may be low, but could you get the same for him in cash in a month’s time? You have to witness in everything except produce lower prices than you have yet dreamed of in Illinois. You wanted the horse, and need a pony in addition as soon as you can get him without money, but much as you want horses, I fear before you can sell anything to get it, you will want money more. I have paid your draft to Mr. Leitch. Hope bt all means you will not neglect to fix your stoves so as to make them safe against both fire and rain, and that you are keeping your accounts very strictly and systematically as I requested, particularly your cash account and an account of all your purchases; and also to keep your memorandum book and pencil always with you and never neglect to put anything down ’till a more convenient time. In building your sheds and pigstys, think maturely and. if possible, plan well. You will need many apartments for your hogs, or in winter the large will overlay the small ones and you will lose many of them. And plan for convenience and labour saving in feeding, for it will be no trifle to feed 200 hogs.
Do not omit to save every kind of seed of grain, roots, flowers, vegetables, i.e., I shall be curious to know the yield of your best beets and rutabagas–also Jones’s beets and turnips on the lower level, and shall also wish to keep the run of all your purchases and sales and the progress of all your farming business. So take long sheets of foolscap and not have five or six lines at top as Eliza did in beginning her last–write close and thick, and let me know all and everything connected with your farming operations, health, mental culture, i.e. Do try to arrange business so as to have your evenings devoted to the improvement of your children, and in giving my love to Clark, tell him that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to hear that he is cultivating a taste for reading. Your family have it in their power to take a respectable stand with the more intelligent part of the community, but nothing is more true than that it seeks like. Hope you have been prompt in writing again to me for we are all suspence.
With best love of Mary and myself. and wishes and prayers for the health of yourself, family, and friends, I am
Affectionately, your Brother
E. L. Miller
Contrary to all hope or expectation, Maine has gone for the Whigs. All and everything here promises well. Harrison must be elected.
Prospects for the wheat market are no better, the English crop is good, and flour dull here at $4.50 to $5.00. I think I would fat enough of the shoats for your own pork. Should think you may calculate upon $3.00 for the well-fatted and good-sized hogs, but not more. If you can make out 20 or 30, they will be well worth driving. Part may be barreled and sold to advantage next summer.
Economy in the use and good management in making of your butter may give you more than $100 worth of that to sell. the Goshen Dairymen, who make the best butter in the world to keep, say the whole secret lies in not sufficing the cream to stand too long upon the milk. This is very important. They also work out the buttermilk thoroughly, pack it the next day after churning in kegs perfectly air-tight. They use the first quality of rocksalt, mix a little salt petre, and sometimes sugar. The salt should be very fine and no more used than to make it palatable. The kegs should not be so large as to be long in filling, and should be closed so as entirely to exclude the air the moment they are filled. Butter put up this way in October will be found equally good the following April.
How did you arrange matters with Randolph, and what of the other note?
If you get a pony, get one that rides pleasantly and drives well, such a one as I should like for the way my business is shaping.
You will see me in Illinois next spring. Mary will write Eliza by Stephen. He can help you out in the long letters I ask for. Only keep a memorandum of all the items I want to know about.
August 29, 1841
Mr. Horace Miller
Rockford, Winnebago Co.
Illinois (via Buffalo and Chicago)
My dear Brother,
We arrived safely this morning after a very comfortable journey and have much reason for gratitude that we have been so safely preserved from every danger and accident through a journey of nearly three thousand miles, and with scarce the sacrifice of a single comfort.
The request that I would write, which you so often repeated at parting, assures me that you will be gratified to hear of our welfare. I am aware that the step of my leaving was one of doubtful policy, but hope it may be overruled by an all-wise Providence to our mutual advantage. I felt then, and still feel, that it was a dereliction from duty to a kind and affectionate Brother, and was induced to take it solely from a higher sense of duty to my family and whatever may be the final result to me and mine, hope I may submit to it with resignation. I look back, I assure you, to your beautiful country and your kind family with the deepest interest and shall be very anxious until I hear how you are getting through the dangers of the sickly season and how you succeed in preserving your health and your crops.
I am satisfied that for the future my advice or counsel can have little weight, but still must occasionally venture a suggestion. Notwithstanding the very unfavorable medium of a diseased mind through which I looked at your business when there, I am satisfied with the blessing of health, and with due prudence and industry, all will yet be well with you. Let me caution you, my dear Brother, against unnecessary alarm and anxiety, to which I am so prone, and of all things avoid taking any important steps in your business under the influence of such feelings.
On arriving at Buffalo I found wheat brisk at 10/ and 10/3–this at 10 cents freight, for which they were bringing it from Chicago, should make it worth at least 9/ there. Should this price for wheat continue, your prospects for pork, beef, i.e., are better than we had hoped, and I think your prospect quite fair of realizing from 1800 to 2000 dollars in all shapes from your present crop–and if you can sell your Shelden place for six or seven hundred dollars, it will altogether give you the control of your business.
Do not be in haste to cut down your measn of making pork for another year, at least to a fair extent, as you are situated. I still think it the best you could do. And do not part with your Berkshires. Well nursed and properly managed, nothing on your farm with the same labour will pay you as well for two or three years, providing you circulate the information widely. To prepare your pens, to keep them seperate, keep correct records of pedigree, and breed systematically and put the corn into the other hogs to the full extent of their appetites–that is, if you like the advise.
We, Mary and myself, look back on your kindness to us with the most lively gratitude, and Mary says, tell Aunt Hannah and the girls that she regrets that it is not more in her power to make some amends for having put their feelings and their patience to so severe a trial. She sends much love to all of you, as well as Lydia, who will never forget Caroline and Willy.
Hoping to hear from you often with every particular of your health and prospects of your success, or the want of it, I am
Your affectionate Brother,
E. L. Miller
September 29, 1844
Mr. Horace Miller
Rockford, Winnebago Co.
My dear Brother,
I believe I have not written you since the receipt of yours of the 14th July. I have no excuse to make for the delay but my own inability to write, which is every year increasing, and Mary’s bad health and numerous cures, which leave her only spare time to do the writing indispensable for my business.
It is highly gratifying to hear of your good health, and the accounts we get of your crops–would also be very gratifying if the price would remunerate you for your labour. As it is, it is certainly a source of gratitude that you have in such super abundance all the necessary comforts in the eating way.
I often think of you with the most anxious interest for your success and always blame myself for my instrumentality in placing you where you are. I know too well the wear and tear of mind which pecuniary embarrassments entail. To live on, day after day and year after year, hoping but fearing still more the result of the future, with sleepless nights and anxious days, is, I know from sad experience, enough to break down the spirits and constitution of any man, but more particularly one of the nervous temperament. But this is not right–unfortunate as we may be, it is our duty to cultivate resignation to the will of that good Providence, who we know orders all things in mercy for us and who we know careth even for the smallest sparrow. And then, when we reflect that happiness consists so little in worldly possessions and that all we can do, even with our best exertion, avails but little to insure success unless crowned by His blessing, we certainly, as sational beings, but much more as to his will. But–“Physician, heal thyself.” Tis easier to preach both philosophy and Christianity than to practice either.
Since I wrote you last, I have met with more success in introducing my hot air furnaces than I could have reasonably expected. But my success has aroused such a competition that my profits are very small. It keeps me very, very busy. I work from one-half past five in the morning to nine at night with scarce a moment to devote to my family. I am getting up a cooking range, which, if it succeeds, as it is upon a principle entirely, I fear to hope for anything.
If you thought my long business experience has qualified me to give an opinion or advise you with regard to your affairs–if you will submit to me a full statement of them–nothing would give me greater pleasure than to make such suggestions to you as the circumstances may warrant. You are now fast passing the prime of life and such exertions as you and your family are making ought to be turned to better account and cannot certainly be long continues. Your flesh is not brass, nor are your bones iron, that you and they can long abide such severe labour. The mind also is far more destructible than the body and must sooner or later yield to the corrosion which hopeless embarrassments occasion.
Eliza’s letter to me of the 3rd installment has been received and perused with a great deal of pleasure. Such a happy buoyancy of spirits, as though the world were all spring and sunshine to her. I cannot but love her for the happy manifestation of such a spirit to all around her and on all occasions. May her sky never be clouded by the gloom and anxiety which have so constantly brooded over the prospects of her Uncle and Father.
we hear much of the prevalence of sickness about the water courses in the West and feel, of course, very anxious to hear from you. As to the prospects of better prices for your crops, I am sorry I can say nothing very flattering. The harvest appears to have come in well in Europe, and I see but little hope of much improvement in prices.
Mary’s health is much better now than it has been during the summer, and she will improve some of her first leisure to write to Eliza. The promised news papers have not yet come to hand. Our children have been blessed with fine health thus far and we all together join in a budget of love to yourself and family, wishing and praying at the same time that a favorable change in your prospects may yet cause your sun to set clear and bright with the promise of a “long spell” of fair weather to come.
I am, as ever
E. L. Miller
W.B. Are you not working your land too fast? Good as it may be, such continued cropping in unbroken succession must exhaust it, and when once exhausted, yours will be, I fear, a very hard one to resuscitate. How has plaster answered–and have you found any kind of grasses except the prairie which appears suited to the soil? I still feel an interest in agricultural pursuits, and but for my advance age and young family, should not have left your beautiful valley.
ORRIN MILLER’S LETTER
October 20, 1844
Mr. Horace Miller
Kishwaukee, Winnebago Co.
Your letter of the 1st September came to hand by due course of mail and it gave us great pleasure to learn the health of yourself, family, and friends.
I am happy also to say that we are in comfortable health and circumstances. Walter’s health is improving so much so that he is very comfortable and is now engaged in working for the press (“Wooster Democrat”) on the subject of Education, although he is not able to go out of his room yet. Hiram is gone to Illinois again. Orrin, Jr., has engaged to teach school in this place for six months at $25 per month, and Harvey has partially engaged in a neighboring village at $20 per month. My wife has just returned from Milton, NY and left her friends well. I heard nothing from Brother E.L. since his return to NY, but I feel very anxious to hear from him.
You wish me to enquire for horses. I have done so and find it to be impossible to purchase on a long credit, as they are very high and held at cash. Respecting a farm in exchange for yours–I have made some enquiry but have not yet found one. Bit I have no doubt that a notice put into the paper here to that effect would bring a knowledge of one in a short time.
It would give me great pleasure to have you comfortably located near me. I anticipate your intended visit with great pleasure and hope that Divine Providence may favour us with another meeting ere long. Should your visit be delayed ’till spring, I think I should accompany you to NY on a visit to our friends. The probability is that our Father cannot long survive as he is now in his 80th year, and he has recently expressed that if he could see me once more, he could die in peace, and I feel a great anxiety to see him once more and intend, the Lord willing, to visit him in the spring, and I should do it this winter if I dared to brave the severity of the winter traveling.
Our church edifice in this place is now ready for lathing and plastering and will be finished in about two months. It will be decidedly the best building in the County.
We have a bell now on hand which will be hung next week which will be heard sic to eight miles, and we have an organ in building which is to be worth $450 and to be finished by the time the church is. My congregation is constantly increasing and is composed of many of the principal inhabitants in the place. We are very comfortably sustained in our support most of the time, although to accomplish this I am all …(illegible)
I am now engaged in the Temperance Cause in this place and find the same battle to fight here that I found in NY ten years ago; the people being about as much in the dark here on that subject as they were there then.
Give our love to all our friends at the far West, and I remain,
Your affectionate Brother,
Orrin B. Miller
(Minister, Episcopal Church, Wooster, Ohio)
DIARY OF NANCY ELIZA MILLER, DAUGHTER OF HORACE GALEN MILLER AND HANNAH CLARK MILLER, NIECE OF E.L. MILLER:
My father’s Brother, Ezra L. Miller of Brooklyn, NY, made a western trip in the summer of 1838 and was so favorably impressed that he made a purchase of several eighties of land near the mouth of the Kishwaukee River, and induced my father to join him in opening up a farm there. on my uncle’s return, he invited me to accompany him to Brooklyn and spend the winter and spring with his family. The disinterested kindness and many favors shown me in this protracted visit with them has caused the most grateful remembrance in all the years since, and the tender memory will bring back the tears.
The days were mostly spent in their Library, with my uncle or aunt for company and teacher; the evenings in the sitting room, with reading aloud by one of us. The four-story, pleasant home was at that early date heated by steam, an appliance gotten up by my uncle. The house was on Brooklyn Heights overlooking the Bay of NY, and commanded a fine view of the harbor and the cities which are now included in the Greater New York.
Every afternoon I was expected to take a short walk alone or in Uncle’s company. Thirty years later, when visiting the place, though in other hands, I lingered at the gate looking up at the Library windows where I studies and the bedroom where I slept when a girl of fourteen and fifteen, and, with varied emotions called up, was loath to leave the place so full of memories and associations.
My Uncle Ezra taught school in his teens and was a diligent student , studying even by firelight and robbing himself of needed sleep. His eyes and health failed under such close application, and he was forced to give up his intended life work as a minister of the gospel, much to his sorrow. He went south for many years and followed teaching, in which he was unusually successful, mostly in the City of Charleston, SC. Being of a mechanical mind, he watched with interest the application of steam as a motive power, and went to England to learn what he could of the engines just then being constructed for the first railroads in use.
On his return, he superintended the building of an engine in Baltimore which was then considered the best in use. The patent he secured was sold to Baldwin, and it was afterward known as the Baldwin Engine and was extensively manufactured. At the age of 50 he was married to Mary Brittian of Elizabethtown, NJ. He was born in 1786 in Hartford, Connecticut; died in 1847.
The following was written when quite old and was difficult to transpose:
“I am afraid your market is spoiled dear,” said an old auntie to me, stroking my head. I could not have been past seven then, and I wondered at her meaning. I soon stole into the next room, and, climbing onto a chair, searched the mirror. There was my usual face, just like calico on one side and my forehead; as a little girl described it to me.
A tippling over of a little chair in which I was tied onto the hearth into the fire of a big fireplace when I was a year old left its marks about my cheek, eyes and forehead, but I was a happy child and loved everybody and my school and books, and I did not mind my scars. When scarcely in my tens, I was sent to a Seminary where I was in my glory. My studies and teachers and mates just suited me. Our best compositions were selected to be read on commencement day; mine on “What Do I Know” was one of them, and then I was unexpectedly called on to read a whole page from Comstock’s Natural Philosophy on the eye.
The wise committee on the platform was heard to say what a pity that bright girl had such a scar, and then my blessed father told somebody “he would give $2000 if the scars could be removed.”