Letter home to Eckford, Mich.,   5/2/1854

Chicago:   Dirt and Dutchmen;   a great deal of boating
including the wrecks of 2 vessels;   an objectionable water source;
but give me my own sweet home

The following is a letter from William W Wells to Martha B Wells. They are the parents of William Ozias (our hero, 9 years old), John M Clark (5½ yrs) and Martha Ida Almyra (3 yrs, 4 mo)

 In transcribing the letter I have followed Wm.'s spelling and punctuation and general layout. My notes are enclosed by [ ].

PJW 3/22/99
cover of letter
page 1 of letter

Chicago may 28/54

My Dear M

 How I long to see you all again, it seems like a great while indeed since I left you   how do you all do and how do you1 get along for (I am lonely without thee my own dear bride)

 I promised to write you what I saw but I cannot for my mind flies from here to Eckford and back again so fast that it is almost impossible for me to write anything

 the most there is here is Dirt and Dutchmen for Chicago is mostly composed of those two materials in all their varieties    it is Dutch Dutch Dutch all the town over   or at least so far as I have been and that is no small part you may be assured,

 J[?] Bs brother is verry kind to show me some of the sights    and this forenoon I had a very good Pilot in the shape of a little dutchman that works in the shop with me    he seems more inteligent than most of them do and can talk English so that I can understand half or two thirds he says    there is a wagon shop across the street from here where they have 30 men and

- end of page 1 -

Chicago's fourth City Hall, 1854-71
Chicago's fourth City Hall,
page 2 of letter they are all Dutch but just one 2

 there is a great deal of boating done here    it is boats boats boats on the river and lake shore for miles each way

 I have been walking about most part of the day and have been to see the wrecks of 2 vessele that were destroyed in the gale that I told you about before I left

 the maste of one just show out of the water within a few rods from shore    it foundered itself to pieces against the breakwater and 3 poor sailors undertook to save themselves by jumping on to it but were dashed about by the waves and killed    the other boat sank in deep water about a half a mile out
You begin to think in your mind and wonder how Wm likes Chicago by this time well it is verry easily to do for I do not like it at all at all    the first and greatest objection is the water source    cows and pigs would hardly drink unless they were very dry indeed but there is enough of something else to drink besides water    we have coffee 2 times a day and tea once and beer the rest of the time    there is lots of beer and brandy

- marginalia -

I have not said half I want to, but wait a while and if the Lords willing I shall soon see you and then we can talk faster than I can write

- end of page 2 -

Chicago in 1854, boats boats boats ...
Chicago in 1854,
... boats boats boats
page 3 of letter used here and I shall follow the beer system while here for the water is enough to sicken the dog    I have not seen one glass of good clear water since I left michigan nor do I expect to again until I return to it    I do not like this western country as much as I thought for although there is some of the farms that are verry nice indeed but give me my own sweet home and somebody may have this)

there has been 2 fires since I came    one that destroyed a great deal of property

 I am working for Boosman and probably shall while I stay here and will not be many weeks
The above was written Sunday evening and as I had been looking about though the day and did not feel the verry best I thought of not closing this until I felt better but not hearing from you since I left home and it is now wednesday evening   so I will fin...
along and if I do not fee...
soon than I...
shall come...    [this corner of the letter cut out3]
the funds to...
are as high...

- end of page 3 -

page 4 of letter
you need not write to me after receiving this unless you here from me again for it takes so long for letters to come from Mich. here that I may be on my way home before an answer could get here

        tell the boys to remember and be good and obedient and they shall have a small present when I get home

        tell M. I. A. that pa says she must not run away but stay with her mother and pa will bring something home for her)

        and now Ma I want you to keep up good courage and hope for the best

from your ever faithful


To M B Wells

- end of letter -


  1. Wm uses much underlining though out the letter which I omit.
  2. Perhaps it is a good thing that Wm could not know that both children of his granddaughter Lena, Wells (my father) and Eleanor, married "dutchmen", i.e. Germans. 5/28/99
  3. I think Wm cut the corner out of the letter himself because the closing was carefully written around the missing piece. It is possible that while ill he said things he had second thoughts about, then cut them out and added the marginalia. pjw 10/15/2003

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edited by Peter J Wait, 5/8/2000