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1834: Maryland Doctor Heads to the Wild West of… Illinois!

Posted in Interesting Items  by Steven on January 22nd, 2011

I’ve been transcribing a wonderful letter from 1834 that I wanted to share.  Dr. William Grimes of Maryland is writing his childhood friend Adam Glossbrenner, a newspaper editor in York, Pa. who is writing a history of the area at the time of the letter. Grimes wants Glossbrenner to move with him to the “frontier West” – Illinois!

Note that only two years prior, the Black Hawk War had been fought in Illinois, and Chicago had only been founded the year before this letter!

“Clear Spring, 22 October 1834

Dear Sir,

As the return of my friend Mr Oswald to little York offers an opportunity of sending a letter, I have taken the liberty of writing one & addressing it to you. If the hebdomidal and gelling, which a man’s brain must of necessity receive in conducting a public journal , have not obliterated every vestige of former days, you must still recollect a “Waife upon the worlds wide common” who, in the by-gone days of childhood, answered to the familiar cognosence of “Bill Givens”. Now sir, stop for one moment & take a step thro’ the “dark postern of time long elapsed” &, unless your memory is very treacherous, you will find some your own acts associated with that, which, if unattoned for at the last day, will send you in company with all those who have spent their Sabbaths in early life on the banks of the Antietam, fishing for chubs. For my own part, I have long since eschewed my piscatory habits, as I doubt not, has been the case with yourself & not choosing to come within Franklin’s or Swift’s (I forget which) deffinition of a fishing rod: viz, “a long pole with a string on one end & a fool on the other.”

Ah! Adam, those were the days of sunshine & gingerbread – they have past, & bread & beef must now be had, for our wives & little ones! “Wut in Got’s name” are you about? I am told you have abandoned the “Editor’s table” & turned antiquary, going about in an old green buzecoat, & a little bag, picking up “Indian darts” & six like things – it is further rumored that you intend before long to prove to a mathematical demonstration that York County did certainly emerge from the great ocean of waters, with the other parts of the state of Pennsylvania, & at the same time. – I suspect it will be a difficult matter to make all the people of your county believe that – You might as well tell them that the world we inhabit is round & that it revolves on its axis every twenty-four hours. they would just as soon believe it.

But my object in writing this letter was to ascertain one thing, or perhaps two. Are you permanently located in York? or have you ever turned your thoughts to the great West? Do you not think that, as you are a practical printer, & a tolerable fair specimen of Editor, that you could do well by establishing a paper in some of the towns in Illinois? Now I have allways had a fondness for the art of printing, & I flatter myself that I can write a paragraph for a newspaper – I have disposed of my property here & am anxious to remove to some part of the west, & I would like to engage in conducting a newspaper with some practical printer, & pursue my profession. I will purchase the half, or the whole of the printing materials – I need not point out to you the power & influence a well conducted paper will weild any where – nor need I tell you of the inducements held out in the west to enterprising young men – Indeed, I not time now – but, if this proposition shall meet with your views, you can write me, & let me know your mind fully upon the subject.

We will then come to an understanding about it.

I do not know how soon I can get off as I am here now only because I have been disappointed in getting the money for my property – perhaps next spring & perhaps not before a year.

yours &c in haste
W.H. Grimes
I shall be pleased to hear from you soon.”

1834 Letter of Dr. William Grimes

I will be listing this letter Saturday on eBay for a client, and will update with the listing number for those interested.

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