This letter was written by Dr. Aaron Stiles, Jr. (1769-1836) who moved to Orange County, Vermont in the 1790’s from Tolland County, Connecticut. Late in 1825, Dr. Stiles, his second wife Nancy Collins (1790-1832) and two sons by his first marriage — Dr. Amos Stiles and Henry Gardner Stiles (1810-1876) — moved to what is called Point Precinct in Calhoun County, Illinois. We learn from this letter that Dr. Stiles’ property was located on the point of land between the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and that he built a log cabin here in November 1825.
Dr. Stiles wrote the letter to his oldest son, Aaron Clark Stiles (1804-1875). Aaron married Hester Wilson, in Muskingum County, Ohio in February 1826. He later moved to Calhoun County, Illinois and from there eventually to Kansas.
Addressed to Mr. Aaron Clark Stiles, Uniontown, Muskingum County, Ohio
State of Illinois
31st December 1825
I now with much pleasure transmit to you an account of our journey and situation. We started from Newton township on the 24 of September as you may recollect. We got on to our own land in this place the 9th of November. Our team traveled exceeding well — lost but little flesh on the journey. We traveled from 12 to 16 miles per day and some days more. Our tent afforded us comfortable lodging. Our provisions were of the most wholesome kind. Great care was taken to procure good water. Our resources afforded us but little wishes. Consequently we were all healthy and cheerful during the journey.
We lay by 8 or 10 days in the whole for the purpose of washing and bad weather. We crossed the Illinois at the mouth in a large canoe and swam our creatures over. When we got onto our own land, we set our tent and made ourselves as comfortable as we could. The next day on Friday we prepared tools for building a house. Saturday we made a little beginning to get out boards for covering. Monday we went on building a cabin 14 by 16 and on Saturday night following we got into it. Our neighbors kindly offered [to help] us but as we are pretty ragged, we put it up the whole ourselves. I was almost overjoyed at again getting into a mansion of my own homily and open as it was we have since made it both comfortable and convenient.
The country here pleases me better than it did on the first view of it. I live on the point between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers about 32 miles from St. Louis by land and better than 50 by water. Boats and rafts are constantly running. Till now, the rivers are shut with ice. Amos and Henry have just returned from going with a raft of wood. Beef and Pork are $2 per hundred, [Paper creased] twenty-five cents, Flour at St. Louis from 3 to 5 dollars per barrel, Salt generally $__ per bushel, 75 cents by the barrel. Men’s labor in Corn harvest 75 cents per day. Since that time, 50 cents per day.
I have built near the Northeast Corner of my quarter for the sake of water by a small rivulet and two good springs near that I think are durable. My land is plenty level for health and comfort. The soil good. Some good timber though not as much as I could wish but there is plenty of fractional land well timbered that I expect will be in market a year from this spring at $1.25 per acre.
There is a great extent of country between you and me. The water mostly low and I think unhealthy but the point is different abounding with springs of the finest water I ever saw on the high land or the bottom land. Some bad water it is about a mile or a little more from where I onto the Illinois bottom where the soil is rich beyond description yielding 50 bushels of corn to the acre with but little labor. Good [land] may be had in plenty for $1.25 per acre. There is some difficulty in some cases in finding the owners but this can generally be done. There has 7 families moved into the point since we came in. My nearest neighbor is one mile east from me; five or six more in less than three miles. There is a mill building in 2½ miles of me. At present we grind on a hand mill which answers very well. Amos and Henry had their Christmas at St. Louis. The rest of us were invited to Major Roberts’ a little more than two miles from us the way the road goes but on _____… close by where Major Wadsworth died where we spent the day very agreeably. The Major is from New Hampshire. He has all ____ offers me whatever I want to pay him when I can but I mean to be careful of getting in debt.
The inhabitants appear very civil and I believe a good set of people mostly from the Eastern States, and New Jersey. Some from my ___ the french that were here when I was here first have all moved off in consequence of being almost or quite set afloat by the unusual rising of the Illinois River last spring. I had ___ed to have forgotten to inform you that we have found a stone quarry on my own land that bids fair to be profitable for grind stones as my neighbors think they are fine ____ and I think good for building but I do not yet know the extent of them. Amos and Henry think they had rather work by themselves than with me though they are now at home as wages are so high and employ so plenty even now in the dead of winter. I am willing they should do as they think best. They had $5.50 in silver each for their voyage and a little to help them back. The bad weather caused them to spend a little of their wages but they made a good out notwithstanding. But of this, I suppose they will write more particulars in this letter.
The lead mines 420 miles above us are great source of market. The St. Louis market good but 1200 miles to New Orleans can run at all times a year. Good ham. Good water and healthy air. Steamboat navigation on each side. I was never so contented. I have not been so healthy this many years. I can only write you to come and partake of these advantages. My neighbors think you might get within 2 or 3 years here as there is no shoemaker here a bouts. A little waggon and horse will fetch your little family and all you would want. You might sleep in your waggon in the of a tent. [This page of letter is ripped in half and missing.]
— A. Stiles