This letter was written by Elias Siler (1818-1893) to his brother, John T. Siler (1827-1903). They were the sons of John T. Siler (1783-1847) and Susannah Thompson (1785-1863) of Berkeley County, West Virginia. Elias married Susan Wilson Stuckey (1820-1903) in 1840 and, in 1846, relocated to Weston, Platte County, Missouri. John T. Siler (Jr.) married Rebecca Moore (1822-19xx). Another brother, Phillip Siler (1815-1879), is mentioned in the letter who also lived in Weston, Missouri. Phillip married Elizabeth Robinson (1816-1879) in 1840.
When the Siler brothers and their families lived in Weston, Missouri, it was a thriving village on the banks of the Missouri River a few miles above the confluence with the Kansas River and across the river from Fort Leavenworth. It was a major “jumping off” point for those embarking on the overland routes across the plains of Kansas. A flood in 1881, however, caused the river to change its channel leaving the village two miles inland which seriously dampened its commerce and sent the village into decline.
The letter was written in the spring of 1854 while Congress debated the Nebraska Bill. It was passed on 30 May 1854, creating the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, and opening the way for their settlement.
Addressed to Mr. John T. Siler, Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, Va.
Platt County, Missouri
May the 15th, 1854
I take the present opportunity of writing a few lines to you. I can hardly say in answer to your letter for it has been so long since I received your letter that that I am almost ashamed of it. But the longer, the worse, so I will try to give you as much satisfaction as I can.
In the first place, I would inform you that we are all in tolerable health. My own health hasn’t been good for the last two years. The doctor says my lungs are affected though I am still able to attend to my work. The people is generally healthy in this country. I understand there has been a few cases of cholera among the emigrants on the river. We had little or no winter. I mean we had very little cold weather or snow. The spring has been quite pleasant. Wheat and grass looks fine. The farmer hasn’t got their crops all in yet. Everyone is straining to see who can make the most money. Great inducements are held out to the farming part of the community, hemp being the great staple of the country. These will be the largest crops sown that ever was known. It has been exceedingly high the last year and it is thought will be higher this year.
I must inform you that we have become settled enough to commence building a new house. I will give you the size of it. It is nineteen by twenty-five feet — frame, one story high, with a cellar under it. I would have had it done but we couldn’t get the lumber to go on. It will cost about three hundred dollars when completed.
Besides my own work, we shall have apple trees, peach trees, cherry trees, pear trees — large enough to bear [fruit] by another year; so if you come out next year, we will probably have fruit of our own raising to eat. Everything else we have in abundance all the time.
You wrote you was all well and getting rich as fast as you knew how to take care of it so I suppose you never intend to come to this country to seek a fortune, though for the pleasure of the trip and the gratification of us, I still look for you some day. I was glad to hear from you all a few days ago by young Alexander from Hedgesville. He said mother don’t live in Hedgesville much anymore. I should be glad to see her out here. I think it would be a very pleasant trip for her if she could stay as long as she wants to with us. Brother Phillip and family is well as far as I know. He is still living in town and has to tend sawmill at thirty-six dollars a month.
I will next give you the prices of produce, stock, &c. Wheat is worth one dollar and twenty-five cents per bushel, corn 30 cts., bacon from 6 to 8 cts., beef 5½, milk cows from 25 to 35 dollars, two years old from 15 to 20 dollars, hogs are quite low.
I suppose we can look for you out here when Nebraska Territory comes in. There is considerable stir about it here though not half so much as there is in the East, so I understand. For my part, I don’t trouble myself much about it. When it does come in, I am handy to it for I can see a portion of it from my house.
Now I want you to write to me and let me know whether you have got or even seen the dear Miss which is to be your life companion. Give our love to mother and all the rest of the family. Do not forget to write as soon as this comes to hand so no more at present but remain your affectionate brother until death.
— Elias Siler and family to John T. Siler