1841: William Richard Ross to Henry Mason Morfit

Dr. William R. Ross

Dr. William R. Ross

This letter was written by Dr. William Richard Ross (1804-1885), one of the first settlers in Burlington, Iowa. He established a general store there in 1833 from which he sold dry goods, groceries, drugs and medicines. He was married to Matilda Morgan (1816-1888).

Ross wrote the letter to Henry Mason Morfit (1793-1865), the son of Henry Pitner Morfit and Henrietta Hanna Porter. After his capture at sea in 1810 at age 17, Morfit escaped from his French captors and returned to the United States, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar in Virginia. For a while, Morfit lived in Missouri and later in Baltimore, Maryland. He married Catharine Campbell about 1816 in Washington, D.C. They had sixteen children. During the summer of 1836 Morfit was sent by President Andrew Jackson to investigate the condition of the new Republic of Texas. His report, written in a series of ten letters from August 13 to September 14, 1836, and submitted by Jackson to Congress on December 21, 1836, was favorable to Texas but advised against immediate recognition of the republic, chiefly because of the threat of a new Mexican invasion. In 1861 Morfit was elected to the Maryland legislature. He was one among several prominent members of the Maryland Legislature who were arrested in 1861 by orders of Lincoln’s War Department under suspicion of their loyalty to Union. He died in Baltimore on December 1, 1865, and was buried in Washington.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Henry M. Morfit, Esqr., Attorney at Law, Washington City, D. C.

Burlington, Iowa
October 21, 1841


I wrote you some time since that I would send you the money I owe you by Mr. [Thomas Hartley] Crawford, Superintendent of Indian Affairs. I went to the Indian Agency & saw Mr. Crawford twenty-five miles from this place & asked him if he would do me the favor to take some money to Washington for me (I took gold with me to send you). He told me he could not take specie but would carry paper (Bank Notes). I told him then I would see him in Burlington as he had to pass through this place to hold a Treaty with the Winnebago Indians. I left the agency & his ___ he was then un___ — he declined to go any further & the first I heard of him was that he had returned by the way of Fort Madison striking the River twenty miles below here & was gone home. His health became worse & he declined going on to the Winnebago Treaty. Thus I have in him been totally disappointed. after going to see him 75 miles. General [Augustus Caesar] Dodge is now here — our delegate in Congress. He has agreed to carry it to you & by him you will receive it. It seems some fatality has attended his business throughout, which I deeply regret.

Respectfully, — William Ross

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