These two letters were written by 14 year-old William “Stuart” Walker (1839-1907), the son of William Hammer Walker (1797-1859) and Ann Harris (1807-1844). He wrote both letters to his 17 year-old brother, James Alexander Walker (1833-1911).
I believe the first letter was written at Lancaster in Keokuk, Iowa, where William was boarding and working as a hired hand for George Charley (1834-1873) who was married to his older sister, Mary E. Walker (1836-1910). George and Mary were married at Keokuk on 12 May 1855. By 1860, George Charley had relocated to Walker’s Grove in Township 20, Range 7 of Mason County, Illinois, where he was a farmer. At the time of the 1860 US Census, William was enumerated in the Charley household, laboring as a farmhand. William and George would both later serve together in Co. K, 17th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
May 25, 1855
I received your kind and affectionate letter this evening and was very glad to hear from you. You must have had an awful time with the old woman.
I have been tolerable busy today. Our groceries has not come on yet. Mrs. Dyer was down at Mr. Winer’s yesterday and said you had got a letter from Margaret and said they was afraid of the cholera on the river. George is sick now and Mary has been tolerable sick but is getting better now. George was taken last night tolerable bad but I don’t expect you can read — badly I write.
I wish you would come up on Sunday if you can. I have wrote all I can think of. You must write every once in awhile and let me know how you come on.
Yours, — W. S. Walker
I have got me a good violin now.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Walker Grove [Township 20, Range 7, Mason Co., IL]
September 25th 1855
I take the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know we are all well at the present time and hope you are enjoying the same blessing. I received your letter while Father was here and gave us great pleasure to hear that you was well. I reckon Father got home some time ago. I am looking for you out before long.
O, I almost forgot to tell you that I had such a fine bait of P_____ [?] (I don’t know how it’s spelled). They are very good. There is a great many out in the woods and are just getting ripe. I am almost tired of apples and peaches. There is just of them everywhere. Lots of trees have broke off. Apples sell for 12 cents a bushel and peaches for nothing. O, I want you to come out here so bad. I think if you would come and settle here you could do a great deal better. If you bought a store here, you could get your goods so handy. Pekin is just 35 miles off and Peoria 30 and Havana 15. Peoria and Pekin are both larger than Burlington.
There is a great show at Petersburg today 12 miles from here. Petersburg is about the size of Fairfield — only the town is a great deal more flourishing. It is on the Sangamon river. One steamboat has come up there. There is a right smart of sickness around here now. I started last night about 11 o’clock and went ___ miles after quinine. When I got back, the doctor had to start again and did not get back till about 10 o’clock this morning and he is gone and this is generally the sickest part of the year.
I had to go after a girl the other evening and of course I thought I would create quite a sensation but somehow or other the girl could not come and I come back as med as a wet hen. (excuse my grammareonativeness — short word, ain’t it)
O, the fair will be at Havana in about a week — the Mason County Fair. The fair begins at Springfield tomorrow, I believe.
I believe I have wrote all I can think of. Give my love to all the folks at home and tell them to write often and I want you to do so yourself. I remain your affectionate brother and friend, — W. S. Walker
P. S. I sent my little book to you by Father. I had almost forgot to tell you we got cousin Robert’s miniature ¹ and his wife the last mail. His wife is the best-looking woman I ever saw. I want you to send yours soon.
¹ “Cousin Robert” was Robert Fletcher Walker (1830-1890), the son of Joseph Culton Walker (1786-1841) and Lucretia Fletcher (1790-1851). Robert migrated to Lane, Oregon in the early 1850’s and married a woman there named Aremathy Scott (1833-1898).