This letter was written by Major Joseph H. Mayborne (1821-1892), an Englishman, who came to the United States in 1825 with his parents, William and Elizabeth Mayborne. The Mayborne’s settled in Sherman, New York, on land purchased from the Holland Land Company. From 1825 until 1846, Joseph Mayborne resided in New York State where he engaged in agriculture and studied law. He then relocated to Chicago and remained there two years before going to Geneva, Illinois, in the Fox River Valley west of Chicago. He served as a Major in the Civil War, having been appointed as Army Paymaster by the recommendation of Lyman Trumbull and Gov. Richard Yates who wrote personal letters on his behalf to President Lincoln. After the war, Joseph served as a State Senator for four years. A City Directory for Geneva states that Mayborne’s law office was located over “Patten’s Store.” Joseph Mayborne married Theresa Johnston on 24 December 1846 in Kane County, Illinois.
The Mayborne and Willing families were inter-connected by marriage, which explains Joseph’s intimate knowledge of the Willing family relocation plans discussed in the following letter. The “Mr. Willing” referred to in the letter was Samuel J. Willing, Sr. (1782-1844) who was married to Jane “Jenny” Jenkins [or Jenckings] (1783-1849). Samuel’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth Willing (1802-1875) was married to James Cosgrove (1799-1867), who is mentioned in the letter as having been a partner with his father-in-law. Samuel’s oldest son, William Willing (1804-1887), was married to Antonette “Nancy” Cosgrove (1807-1892). William and Nancy moved for a time to Nettle Creek in Grundy County, Illinois. Samuel’s second son, Samuel Willing, Jr. (1813-1844) was married to Joseph’s sister, Mary Jane Mayborne (1814-1897).
Addressed to Messrs. Fox Sons & Co., Plymouth, England
April 25, 1846
Messrs. Fox & Sons & Co.
Gentlemen, I wrote to you about the middle of November last in answer to yours of the 13 of September and stated my terms if you wished me to undertake the collection of your debts to which I have received no answer. I thought it was possible that it had mis carried & therefore send another.
I returned from Jamestown, New York, some four weeks ago, and intend to make this place my home. Mr. William Willing, the oldest son of Mr. [Samuel] Willing, has sold all his property in New York and now is on his way to Illinois and is going to a place called Bristol fifty miles from Chicago where his Uncle Samuel Jenckings [Jenkins] resides. Under the laws of Illinois, I do not think that I should have much trouble of collecting your debts, or not as much as in New York and William — being the person in whom the old Gentleman keeps his till — I think that now I can reach him without doubt. And if I do, as your attorney, get a judgement against him from all I can learn & know about the circumstances, I think I can collect some $1500 or $2,000. I also think I can collect somewhere near the same amount of James Crosgrove, the son-in-law of Mr. Willing, who has been connected with him in business. I therefore will say that if you wish me to make the effort, I will, on your sending me a power of attorney & fifty dollars & giving me twenty-five percent on the amount which I may be able to collect.
I am a stranger, it is true, to you, but still I think I may say that at home I have something of a reputation as an honest, industrious lawyer. Although a lawyer and an Englishman, I do not wish to take the business as an agent under the Messrs. Wilks, as your request ____ mentioned in your letter, for I have some reason to think that they wish me to do the labor, and they at the same time received the pay, and if they had made the enquiries as your agents should of done, they might of collected your debts years ago, and it would of been much easier then, than now.
If you choose to accept my offer, direct your letter to Chicago, Illinois.
Respectfully yours, — J. H. Mayborne