MESSRS. EDITORS-If many of the intelligent persons who emigrate from the Eastern States to the "Great West," could look a few years only into futurity, they would greatly profit by it, not only to themselves, but to the country. Will any of those who intend in future to emigrate, profit by the kind hint of a friend?
Instead, then, of bringing with you many cumbrous articles of furniture that will be almost useless in such a residence as you must necessarily inhabit in a new country; or at any rate, such as you can well dispense with in a "log cabin;" let me honestly advise you to bring the worth of it in "Berkshire pigs," "Durham bulls," "Leicester sheep," and other improved machinery, that will add much more to your wealth and comfort, than mahogany side-boards, tables and chairs, and gilt looking glasses. I do not object to these things in their proper places-but the place for them, is not in a house composed of rough logs, having the cracks between them "chinked" with rails, and "daubed" with mud; having a floor made of "puncheons," that is, plank split out of logs, the roof covered with "shakes," or "clapboards," about four feet long, laid upon round poles; the chimney built without stone, brick, or mason, composed of sticks and clay-the door of split boards, with wooden hinges and latch-for such are some of the "fixins" of a log cabin-and in such a dwelling-place has many a good family lived comfortably, contented, and happy, while earning the means to provide a better one-and in such an one has been many a good piece of furniture spoiled by an exposure, which such articles are not calculated to endure. Besides, such articles run much more risk of loss and damage on the passage than a cage of Berkshire pigs.
Let me earnestly advise every person intending to emigrate to the west, particularly the northern parts of Indiana and Illinois, to which water communication is so cheap, safe, and convenient, to dispose of all articles of luxury, that are unsuitable to the situations they will be likely to be placed in, for a few of the first years of their new habitation, and invest the proceeds in valuable stock, and improved farming implements, with a variety of the best seeds; and my word for it, they will find their account in it.
A word more, honestly spoken. Although the inhabitants of all new countries are anxious to see it settle fast, and urge their friends and acquaintance to "come west," without distinction, there are many that come who are entirely unfit for "new settlers." An able general selects a small portion of a large army for pioneers, because of the peculiar fitness of that small part for that arduous and important service. It is my opinion, that a much smaller portion of the community are fit for pioneers in settling a new country. Too little heed has been paid to this important fact, in the great rush for the west, a few years past. Thousands have rushed forward with the bright vision of an "el Dorado" before them, to find nothing but disappointment, loss of property, vexation of mind, and consequent loss of health, and sometimes loss of life; all attributable to their own heedlessness, rushing headlong into a situation that nature, education, and habit, had totally unfitted them to occupy. Let not my western readers say, that I would discourage the settlement of the country; I always have, and always will, encourage the thousands who have, and who would better their situations, by emigrating from the old states to the west. But let every person disposed to emigrate, first seriously inquire whether he would better his situation or not. Let him lay open to himself, and more particularly to his wife and children, if such he have, a complete picture of the case; and don't let him forget to point out all the shades as well as bright spots in the picture. To a large portion of the new settlers of a new country, there is an indefinable charm in "making a beginning" in an uncultivated wilderness, and causing it to "blossom like the rose," that lends life a pleasure, and overbalances all difficulties.
Happiness, and not wealth, should be the aim of all; though no man should allow himself to be happy, without he is doing some good in the world-promoting the happiness of his fellow creatures, as well as himself. And to such dispositions only, will my present advice be availing; but to such, I hope it will avail so far as to make them inquire, when they are preparing to emigrate, whether they will not be likely to contribute to their own wealth and happiness, and that of their fellow creatures, by following some of my present advice.
I believe I could advise who would be likely to benefit themselves by emigration, but that would be advice thrown away. But I hope the advice to all emigrants, to bring with them some choice selections of stock, as the most profitable investment of money that they could make, will not be entirely lost.
Here is a vast country of the richest soil, not one-tenth part cultivated, forming a pasture for stock equal to your eastern clover fields, and susceptible of supporting immense herds, making tons of beef, butter, cheese, and pork, with small labor, and no interest upon the cost of valuable land. But we are lamentably deficient in stock; in half a dozen counties, there are not half a dozen pairs of Berkshire hogs. In fact, hereabouts is the worst breed of hogs I ever saw in any country. Sheep are of the coarse common kind, with no means of improving them; and although it is supposed by many, that sheep require a hilly country, I never saw sheep do better in any place than in this prairie country. But with a good breed, we also need a good breed of shepherd's dogs, for the prairie wolves are very troublesome. These are a species between the wolf and fox. They are somewhat larger than the largest kind of fox, and "bold as the devil." At this season of the year, the sheep need constant watching in the day time, and close yard at night. There are none or very few big wolves, or other troublesome animals. Sheep and cattle are easily wintered on native grass, and the country is entirely free from disease among flocks. If, then, men grow wealthy upon stock farms that are worth $100 an acre, what would we do here with the same kind of stock, where a man may get 80 acres for $100; with an unbounded range of common for pasturage? For dairy farms, a prairie country is remarkably fine; the native grass producing the richest kind of milk, and the fattest and richest beef I ever saw on grass alone. But of pork, I will only say that it cannot be made of the animals common to this country. Come, then, old and young, rich and poor, male and female, all who sincerely believe after mature reflection, that you can better your condition by emigration, and you shall find a wide and fertile country; but be sure you bring every one of you, an improved pig, or sheep, or cattle, or plow, or other implement, and that you cultivate the soil in an improved manner, and you will improve yourselves and neighbors.
And now I hope you may improve by the advice of your old friend,
Lake C. H. la., Aug. 20, 1840.
[October 20, 1840]
MESSRS. EDITORS-Since reading my first article of advice to emigrants, I have concluded to risk throwing away a little more advice, and shall endeavor to point out "who would be likely to benefit themselves by emigration."
Young hearty men, married or single, mechanics, or laborers in agricultural employments, who with an untiring industry are unable to "get ahead in the world," if they emigrate to the west, and pursue the same industrious course, will find their situation improved by the change. But let no one come here with the expectation of finding wages higher, provisions low, land so cheap that he can get an 80 acre farm for $100, and consequently that he will be able to acquire an independence with little or no exertion on his own part. True, land is cheap-it is hardly possible to imagine a soil more rich, but land bought of the United States at $1, 25 an acre, is not a cultivated farm.
And although it is easy to bring dry prairie land into cultivation, it requires a persevering industry on the part of the settler, sometimes accompanied with great privations and hardships for himself and family; and in this case, "a bad beginning" does not "make a good ending."
Thousands, who were "well to do in the world," in the eastern States, and who on an old improved farm would have continued "well to do," have had their minds highly excited by overwrought pictures of "a paradise of a place" in the west, and without stopping to inquire whether they were fit for pioneers, have rushed upon the shipwreck of their hopes, health and happiness of themselves and families.
Upon the other hand, thousands are toiling from year to year as tenants or owners of some barren little spot, who might with similar industry in this country, become large and wealthy farmers. For what their own little farm or other spare property would sell for where they are, they might procure a farm for themselves and each child around them. A farm, did I say? No, not a farm, only the raw material out of which to manufacture one, by long and constant toil. But then that toil is cheered and supported by the constant exciting pleasure that an industrious man always feels while "making improvements," while creating new things. But I have known many emigrants to this country, who were totally incapable of making the necessary improvements to render themselves comfortable, and after a few months of vexation and trouble, after exhausting almost everything they possessed, have returned to the place from whence they came, to curse the country and discourage others from emigrating, who under the same circumstances, would have laid the foundation of a fortune for themselves and children. Had some of these disappointed seekers after the paradise of their distorted vision, first inquired whether they were at all fitted to perform the pioneer duty of a new settlement, they might have saved themselves much money and vexation. Let the emigrating disposed person, then seriously inquire whether he is going to benefit himself or not; above all things, let the wife and daughters know what they have to go through in a new country. I have known some that have come to the west with high wrought fancies of romantic felicities, who have removed to weep with bitter disappointment; such do not make happy, contented, good citizens. But had they "known the worst at first," they would have met it with fortitude; and enjoyed life in a log cabin, better, perhaps, than they had formerly done in a large mansion house.
Let those who are unwilling or unable to bear hardship, or who are unwilling to humble themselves to a residence in a log cabin, remain where they are a little longer. The west is no place for pride or laziness; we want industrious farmers and mechanics; we don't care how poor a man is, if he is industrious, he cannot remain poor. We are also glad to see the wealthy come too, particularly when he brings along a lot of choice stock, as many of late do.
There is one more class of inhabitants that we need; that is, able and efficient teachers of common schools. It is one of the difficulties that all new countries labor under, the want of good schools. Dollars and cents are of so much more importance to many men, than the education of their children, that they are unwilling to incur any extra expense; and in many cases, the difficulty of obtaining a teacher without taking any trouble, keeps a neighborhood destitute of a school for a whole season.
But enough at present; in my next, I have some idea of drawing a picture of "making a new settlement in the west," for the amusement of emigrants, or those that intend to be such. Your old friend,
Lake Court House, la., Oct. 20, 1840.
[November 1, 1840]
First Night on the Prairie.
MESSRS. EDITORS-In my last I proposed to give some account of the manner of making a new settlement. Although the subject is not exactly such an one as is calculated to add to the knowledge of those who are seeking for something new in agriculture, it may be one from which a numerous class of your readers may gather something new to them, and I hope sufficiently interesting to add to their amusement of a long winter evening. And that, you know, is a strong inducement towards causing many to read; and that should always be a prominent object, to make a paper amusing as well as useful,-in fact the two should be constantly blended. The most useful articles are too often too dry to attract the attention of the hard laboring man. An occasional article then, which will amuse as well as instruct, and which will tend to "lighten labor" by adding an hour of enjoyment to the toil-worn laborer, will certainly have answered a good end-such is my present purpose-but if you consider it out of character for your journal, you know how to dispose of it without giving offence to a real friend. But to those who intend to set their faces westward, I think an old settler's experience will be interesting. I will begin with the FIRST NIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE.
It was the last day of October 1834, when I first entered this "arm of the Grand Prairie." It was about noon of a clear delightful day when we emerged from the wood, and for miles around, stretched forth one broad expanse of clear, open land. At that time the whole of this country scarcely showed a sign that the white man had yet been here, except those of my own household. I stood alone, wrapt up in that peculiar sensation that man only feels when beholding a broad rolling prairie for the first time-it is an indescribable delightful feeling. Oh what a rich mine of wealth lay outstretched before me. Some ten miles away to the south-west, the tops of a grove were visible-toward that, onward rolled the wagons, with nothing to impede them-the road was broad-the grass (which some think grows so high as to impede travel,) only a few inches long, except in creeks and wet places. Just before sundown we reached the grove and pitched our tent by the side of a spring. What could exceed the beauty of this spot! Why should we seek farther? Here is every thing to indicate a healthy location, which should always influence the new settler. And here let me caution the emigrant always to beware locating upon the banks of streams. After enjoying such a night of rest as can only be enjoyed after such a day, the morning helped to confirm us that here should be our resting place. In a few hours the grove resounded with the blows of the axe, and in four days we moved into our "new house."
"Dear me," do I hear some parlor-loving wife of an expectant emigrant say, "where did you get your boards to build it with?" My good lady, we were 40 miles from a saw-mill, and of course the house was built and finished off complete without a sawed board about it, and but very few nails, nor a brick or stone. The sides were round rough logs, not even the bark taken off, laid up by notching the corners together, the cracks well filled with clay, the chimney all clay and sticks; the roof, floors, and door, all made of split boards, and the tables, bedsteads, and cupboards, all of the same materials.
"Oh dear! I never will go to the west, if I have got to live in such a house as that. Why, it ain't as good as our hog-pen-and only one room!"
No mam, only one room-and we were very glad to get that just as winter was setting in upon us, 15 miles from neighbors, 40 miles from mill, store, farm, or post office. One room 16 feet square, in which have lodged 16 persons, other emigrants like ourselves, night overtaken in winter, without other shelter, and in which my family spent a happier winter than I ever expect to see again. And although not as costly, madam, as your aristocratic hog pen, yet I can assure you, that even you could live comfortable in such a house, and if you come to the west, as you are now thinking of, you will be very likely to live in a similar one-and you will be very comfortable too, and if I should happen to call on you, you must not think you could not make me comfortable too, although you had but "one room."
"No neighbors-so lonely"-do you say. No, I assure you, we were not lonely-never less so than that winter. In the first place, there is a dozen "honey-trees" to be cut and taken care of, and as there is no fruit nor vegetables, the deficiency is to be made up with cranberries. Then there is the venison, geese, ducks, grouse, quails, and squirrels, &c., to dress and eat; and once in five or six weeks we had "the news" from the post-office. There was no lack of employment in doors or out-no loneliness-no repining. We all came here with a full knowledge of what we had to do and expect, and so there was no disappointment.
And my dear reader, when you come to the west, don't expect too much; humble yourself to new and strange things that your new circumstances will induce. And take my advice, if you cannot humble yourself to make a beginning in a humble log cabin, you had better wait where you are, until some better pioneer has made a beginning for you. Don't come here to be miserable, for generally we are a happy race, "full, fat, and saucy;" and some of us, after we have got a "good beginning," get a little lazy. Corn and hogs will grow without much work, and "hog and hominy" will support life; and "who would work when he was able to do without it?" If you answer that you would, and that you and your family can "make a beginning" in a log cabin, you may start for the west. But don't forget the advice I gave you in my first number, and don't forget your well meaning old friend "the squatter."
Lake C. H., la,., Nov. 1, 1840.
"To elevate the character and standing of the cultivators of the American soil."
[December 27, 1840]
MESSRS. GAYLORD & TUCKER-My worthy friends- You and many of your readers, will recollect the article published in No. 3, vol. 5, May, 1838, upon this subject. It was designed to call the attention of the public to the subject, and Judge Buel, in a note says- "Mr. Robinson's proposition meets our hearty approbation; and should it be favorably responded to by our cotemporaries who conduct agricultural journals, and whose opinions upon the subject we respectfully solicit,-we shall give it our cordial support,-and devise some means if others do not do it, to organize an association," for one of the noblest purposes ever devised, having in view the sole object
"TO ELEVATE THE CHARACTER AND STANDING OF THE CULTIVATORS OF THE AMERICAN SOIL."
Well, so far as I am able to judge, the proposition met with an almost universal approbation. The article was extensively published in the papers of the country. The comments of many editors were highly flattering. From the tone of the press, and numerous private letters, I felt strongly encouraged that this great beneficial project to this nation was about to be accomplished. I pictured to myself one of our happy meetings, when the friends of agricultural improvement from every State, county and principal town in the United States, should be joyfully interchanging heartfelt greetings with each other-not only exchanging sentiments, but valuable information, rare and curious productions of nature, and valuable seeds-storing up in our minds a fund of happiness for all our after life. But alas, that one year has gone, and another is fast going, and not one mighty spirit has stepped forward to say this thing can, this thing MUST, this thing SHALL, be done. Even the encouraging echoes that responded from all parts of the Union to the first proposition, have died away, until not one faint echo meets my ear. Shall I despair to wake them again, under such discouraging circumstances? No -I am well aware that the whole energy of the public mind, has lately been engrossed by another and exciting subject.1 But now there is a calm, there is room,-room to do good-and should I meet with one single echo to my second attempt to awake the public to the importance of this great proposition, that will some day assuredly shower blessings upon this agricultural nation, I shall not feel as though I had written in vain.
Messrs. Editors, let me reiterate my first text-"something can, something MUST, something SHALL," may I add, something will be done, and that speedily, "to elevate the character and standing of the cultivators of the organization, say it now or never. But above all things, let my friends Gaylord & Tucker, bear the fact in mind, that the whole responsibility now rests upon them to make a beginning of the organization. Let them not shrink from the honorable responsibility with which I have autocratically invested them; but proceed at once to name and publish the names of the committee, including themselves.
When the officers are nominated, should they fail to perform their duty, they must expect to hear loud blasts from the trumpet of friend Garnett, and your most humble, though devoted friend of American agriculture.
Lake C. H. la., Dec. 27, 1840.
NOTE.-Information-Many persons having read my communications, have written to me private letters, and often taxed themselves with postage. To persons so disposed, I would say, that I do at present, and have for many years past, held the office of Post Master.
[January 28, 1841]
MESSRS. EDITORS-By sundry assurances from unknown friends, that my articles have answered some of the purposes for which they were written, I am encouraged to continue. Even if they did no other good than to be the moving cause of bringing "two Durham cows" from my native state of Connecticut, to feed upon our boundless pastures, I should be satisfied. I hope Mr. Alien will give the required information, as to cost of freight, &c. And here I will take the liberty of saying to all persons desiring information connected with the great cause of improvement in agriculture, upon any branch within the extensive knowledge of A.B. ALLEN, or his brother, R.L. ALLEN, of Buffalo, that they have but to ask, and they will receive. If they wish similar information from Chicago, address JOHN S. WRIGHT,2 Esq. Editor of the "Union Agriculturist."
No emigrant need fear any difficulty in bringing along cattle and hogs. Several of the masters of steamboats on the Lakes, seem to take great interest in the shipment of choice stock to the West. I have had three lots of pigs, shipped from Buffalo to Chicago during the last summer, in the sole care of the master of the boats, and from the appearance of the pigs on arrival, they must have been treated like cabin passengers. In fact, none but a brute could maltreat a Berkshire pig.
In the shipment of furniture, emigrants need advice. Great care should be taken in packing everything in the most compact manner, in barrels and boxes, strongly hooped and nailed; and very plainly marked with full directions. The freight upon the canal is charged by the pound. Upon the Lake, and upon storage in ware-houses, it is charged by the barrel hulk. The best way is to contract in New-York or Albany, for the whole charge of transportation clear through, and pay it, and take a receipt, specifying the contract completely. If you have a family, you will have enough to look after, without watching your freight all the journey. Many articles are lost, through the car[e]lessness of the owners. Articles are sold every year in Chicago, "for freight and charges," that never had any mark upon them of owner's name or destination. You cannot be too careful. Be economical, prudent and good natured upon your journey. Avoid haste and hasty words, although often provoked, and be determined to have a pleasant journey, and my word for it, you will have. And at whatever sacrifice, be sure to settle all your business before you start. For I have found out that "money to come from the East," is a very snail of a traveler; it but rarely overtakes the emigrant; and as for "going back after money," you can earn two new dollars here while you can hunt up one old one there.
If it be possible, always fix upon some definite spot for your location before you start-and when you arrive in a new settlement, beware of sharks. Be careful to settle in a healthy spot, although the soil should be less rich. Nothing disheartens the new settler so much as a season of sickness in the first year; and it is often brought on by great imprudence.
One prevailing fault among new settlers, is undertaking too much the first years. I have known many to completely prostrate themselves in a vain endeavor to fence and cultivate forty acres with strength only sufficient for ten, and after months of toil, finally compelled to witness the destruction of the whole crop, in consequence of their inability to "finish the fence." Not only the loss of crop, but a severe fit of sickness, brought on by over-exertion and exposure. For probably, while toiling at the field, the finishing of the house has been put off, and at last when placed in a situation to require a comfortable shelter from storms and winds, there is nothing of the kind. I have personally known much suffering, and sometimes death, to arise from such circumstances.
How much better to make a small beginning. To be sure and make the cabin as comfortable as possible, for at the best, it is to a family that have never been used to the like, but a temporary convenience, generally occupied more through necessity than choice. Not but that a log house can be made most completely comfortably, and I have often seen those of a very rough exterior, which showed the highest degree of neatness within. But there is such an anxiety among many emigrants to get a large farm, that the dwelling is neglected. This is all wrong; it is much better to have a "little land well tilled," and a house, if not "well filled" inside, at least have all the cracks in the outside well filled, if you expect to keep the wife, "well willed." Many an ague fit is brought upon the new settler by the unusual exposure to which they subject themselves in an unfinished log cabin, with all the cracks open, perhaps without door or window, and but half a chimney, and sometimes without floor or fire-place.
Such a change from all former usage cannot be submitted to with impunity, although in the summer time, and though it be merely for that indefinite period, " 'til I get over my hurry." The fact is that an industrious man upon a new place, where everything is to be created by the work of his own hands before it can be called a farm, is never over his hurry. And I am sure that I shall have all the female part of my emigrating friends upon my side, when I insist that it should always be the first thing to do, as I am sure it is the first duty of the emigrant, to make the dwelling house as comfortable as the circumstances will possibly admit. If a man will expose his own health, he is bound by the strongest ties to protect that of his wife and children at all times, and doubly so, when he has brought them away from the thousand comforts that they have been reared to, "to begin a new home in the wilderness." And although the new settler's log cabin is necessarily a rough uncouth looking dwelling, it can with a very small amount of labor, be made tight, warm, comfortable and pleasant. How many of my readers now dwelling in their handsome mansion houses, will, as they peruse this, look back to the positive happy days that they enjoyed in a log cabin.
That many of their descendants who are disposed to partake of the bounties that nature has provided for the industrious man in the Great West, will yet enjoy life in the same kind of humble habitation, is the sincere wish of their humble log cabin friend.
Lake C. H.la. Jan.28, 1841.