This letter was written by Sarah Van de Bogart (1820-1870). She wrote the letter from Allegan, Michigan — a small village established in the 1830s in a promising location on the Kalamazoo River 20 miles from Lake Michigan. I wasn’t certain if the date was 1837 or 1839 but I’m convinced it was the former from the content of the letter as the Panic of 1837 paralyzed the growth of the village for several years.I don’t believe Sarah ever married and eventually returned to Alexander, Genesee County, New York where she lived out her days.
Sarah wrote the letter to her Uncle Joseph Van de Bogart (1787-1865) and his wife, Lois Knapp. Sarah mentions her cousins, Isaac K. Van de Bogart (b. 1817) and Francis “Frank” C. Van de Bogart (b. 1819) in the letter.
Addressed to Mr. Joseph Van de Bogart, Esqr., Batavia, Genesee County, New York
Allegan [Allegan County, Michigan]
March 25, 1837
Your very welcome letter came to hand a few days since after being detained a long time on the way. we feel very sorry to hear of your misfortune, but we are very glad you have got along as well as you have. I am happy to say to you that we are all enjoying perfectly good health. I had a letter from father yesterday. They were all well and apparently in good spirits. Henry thinks he shall be here in June or September. If the business should be dull in Rochester, he will come in June. Father thinks he shall be here this summer, but I hardly think he will. but if Isaac is to leave him this spring, what will he do, for you know he is father’s right hand man in all things. I was in hopes we should see Isaac here sometime but father tells me he thinks of going to Alexander to establish business. I had a letter from him and Betsy not long since.
Unckle, you appear to be rather surprised or suspicious of me because I have made up my mind to stay here a while longer & it is rather strange, but such is the nature of the human mind — subject to changes and I had almost said it whiffles like the passing wind. But Sir, you rather insinuated something about an object arresting my attention. Not so. I know it is the general opinion that a young lady cannot live in Michigan without being a subject to matrimonial laws. It may be in some parts of this state, but it is not the case here. But you may know and rest assured as I believe I have told you that should the right one make his appearance — even should he dart out of the wilderness clad in wolf skins — I am ready to join hands and go into partnership. But sir, I am not sure I even ever saw him. But should I find him, you shall know all about it as soon as mail can carry a letter. No more on this subject.
Concerning the business in this place, we think it is improving. Our money is good — what we have. The wild cat ¹ is entirely disappeared. Our grist mill will be in operation the first of April. There has been another thousand bushels of wheat brought in waiting to be ground. Our Steam Boat ² is all done but putting in the engine. It is a very fine boat. It is to take out a load of ladies on a pleasure ride the first trips. Mr. [Benjamin] Atkins ³ has been to work on it the most of the winter. He finished last Saturday. He is now going to work on his own house and a hand with him. He thinks we shall get into the house by the middle of May. There has been a very great quantity of maple sugar made near this place this Spring. It is selling for 12 dollars per hundred — the finest I ever saw. Provisions are quite plenty and cheaper than they have been. Our Rail Road is to go in forthwith. Then we shall see the Paddys flock in here like wild geese.
William commenced on his job yesterday in company with Mr. Bassett. They have gone to keeping house as regular as a new married couple. They have as fine a yoke of cattle as there is in Michigan. They gave one hundred and twenty dollars for them. They got a bunch of pork for 20 dollars first best, a barrel [of] flour for 8 dollars, and tin coffee, sugar, butter — don’t you think they will live fine? I do.
Now, concerning Frances. Mr. Atkins saw Mr. Wilson since your letter came to hand. He says he will give him the lot of land as he said before and as to the other hand that he spoke of, Mr. Wilson does not know whether he wants him or not, but he says he can get a plenty of work and good wages 20 dollars per month and boarded. There is to be a great deal of land cleaned up this summer. Concerning the money Mr. Atkins send you, it is perfectly good here but whether it will go in [New] York State, we do not know. Mr. Atkins has tried to get eastern money to lend but cannot. It will go as well as specie in Detroit. There is a Mr. [Milo] Winslow — a painter in Batavia — that left here last fall that is to be here the last of april to attend court. Mr. Atkins did think of waiting and send by him, but finally thought Frances would want to make his calculations about coming before that time if he came at all. Justin Ely has returned about a week since. You can now act as you think best about Frances’ coming. No more on this subject.
I received a letter from Minerva Parmer last week. Will you have the kindness to say to her when you see her that I have received her letter and will write her before a great while. My love to them. I have just finished a letter to Isaac to go in the same mail with this. I tell him I have found a black-eyed girl for him — one of the finest in Michigan. Her name is Laura and wish him to come and see for himself. I think of having her come and work with me if I want anybody. My work is very good. I have earned fifty dollars since I got well beside visiting, attending parties, weddings &c. Unckle, the sugar parties we have can’t be found in America but in this place, but if I were to tell you what fine times we do have, you should say we are extravagant. Ia admit it, I think so. Never was the feelings of mortals more strongly contrasted from summer to winter than in this place. We think we will enjoy ourselves while we can for by and by, I expect the Ague will catch us and then we must serve thanks.
Dear Aunt. If I had time and room in this paper, I would like to say a great deal to you in particular, but I have always been taught that man and wife is one and I have not found out to the contrary and I therefore say to you the same I do to Unckle — on what to say to him, I mean, for you just as much as for him. I would like to see you this morning face to face. I should have a great many things to say to you. If nothing happens to prevent, we shall visit Rochester a year from this Spring. I have got me a new dress since I have been here on purpose to have [paper torn] …in made loose. I will send you a piece worth here 2 dollars per yard. Aunt, how I wish you would write me a letter.
I must now close as my business drives me very much. I would like to scribble quite a lengthened tale but I fear your patience would be wearied in reading such a protracted ___ of nonsense. Mr. Atkins and Mary send much love to Unckle and Aunt and all the children and all the friends. William sends his love to Frances [and] would be happy to have him come and take tea with him. Please give my best love to all our friends — Delia Benedict in particular, and ask her to write to me. Unckle, please write as soon as you receive this a long letter. You know we shall feel anxious to know whether this gets to you safe. Please accept this scroll together with very much love from your affectionate friend and niece, — Sarah
Please write me as long a letter as I have you.
¹ The “Wild Cat” is a reference to paper money issued by a bank in Michigan with unsecured capital. It failed miserably.
² The Kalamazoo Gazette reported on 13 October 1838 that, “we are requested to give notice that today at 2 P.M. a steamboat will be launched at Singapore. the boat has been built by William Wilkins, and under the command of George Porter, will ply between our village of Allegan and the mouth of the Kalamzaoo River.” The steamboat was dubbed the “C. C. Trowbridge” but was soon found to be too large and unwieldy for use on the Kalamazoo River.
³ This must have been Benjamin Atkins (1803-18xx), a carpenter from Canada who settled in Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan in the late 1830s. His wife was named Mary (1810-18xx).