1864: “Newell” to Monroe K. Weller

This letter was written by a Quaker named “Newell” who apparently recently relocated from Rutland, Vermont, to Ogle county, Illinois. A search of the census records, however, did not result in a confirmation of the author’s identity. He may have left Vermont because of his pacifism during the war — the reference to “the attacks of the Blue Devils” is perplexing.

Newell wrote the letter to his friend, Monroe K. Weller (1834-1918), of Copenhagen, New York. Monroe was the son of David Weller (1806-Aft1865) of Denmark, Lewis county, New York. Mentioned in the letter is Monroe’s younger brother, Emerson P. Weller (1838-Aft1905), who settled in Rochester, New York. Monroe married Clamenza Anna Rogers (1846-1920).


White Rock, [Ogle county,] Illinois
Eighth Day, Second Month, being the month of Purification 1864
[8 February 1864]

Respected, honored and beloved sir,

Having this day received a dispatch from your excellency which beareth date the 31st day of the first month, now therefore I prepare myself to indite an epistle in reply to the aforesaid message. And so it appears from thy message that the daily recurring events do not differ widely from what they were when I abode in Rutland. Mens minds are a curious compound so I judge by my experience. I understand that A. Harwell said * “that if he hd no money he should rather go away and earn it than stay there.” Meaning where I was. My mind on that point needs no explanatory remarks at this time as there are now two epistles bearing date between the one you reply to Jan. 2 and this, which contain a few remarks relating thereto.

* Perhaps I should not say he said so but he “as good as owned it” I am told.

Self=preservation is the first law of nature for remarks on that head. I refer you to opinions expressed in previous letters by myself, both halves. As far as Vermont goes, I would let it go; but I could not be persuaded to go to. It’s true, ’tis an old country and this is new. So much the better for beginners. So I judge, but this is indeed a new country, subject to many of the inconveniences of a new country. I now judge it to be expedient for me to go to Iowa next summer and possess myself of all the land possible if I like it there.

As regards the girls in this country, we have a few that I have the honor to be somewhat acquainted with that pretty well answer the catalogue you mention. “Do I intend to make the West a permanent home?” Certainly I do. Let certain changes occur or not occur in New York State. It does not effect my present intentions. No, I think we had better stay here [and] let Rutland do as it pleases.

Of course winter is not the time to judge of a country but I think we shall stay. This part of our country should be filled up with intelligent, capable, honest, trusty, persevering, self-reliant men. Of my own qualifications I do not speak but I hope to fill my sphere somewhere as I have wisdom given me. My past life is known to you. The future is yet to be filled. Of matrimony I need not speak as my views and hopes, experiences, and realizations are now well known to yourself. Better to you than to any one outside of the firm. I still think it all I have recommended it to be surely 3 years might dispel the mists of the honeymoon if so easily dispelled as some have represented them. I sincerely hope my friend Martin may find the matrimonial alliance all he has hoped. And that you if ever you are tempted to put on the bonds of Hymen will not find them as irksome as some of our acquaintance appear to. But you will find that

Single or Double
Life’s full of trouble
Pleasure is a bubble, &c.  There is no universal remedy for the blues but the prescriptions of the Great Physician. The more man meditates on the things of this world, the more worthless do they appear.

My better half suggests that I tell you, do not take a rib while you stay there. Now her experience might be of some service to you but each one to their own notion. But perhaps in this connection it may not be out of place to speak of our hopes and anticipations for the future on page 9th of your communication I find. How are you progressing in the way of wisdom? It is well with you at the throne of mercy? Alas — my record is not entirely clear. I do not live as I should. Still I try to keep the pearly gates in sight, to live and labor for the eternal mansions that the Savior has prepared for those that love His appearing. Circumstances govern us all too much, but still I hope and strive and purpose so to do till this short life is over. I know we do not put the importance to these things that ought to attach to them. Still as life wears away let us strive harder to enter in at the straight gate.

A wife of proper habits and principles is a great help to a man in these things. Let me admonish you if ever you do look for a consort, to be careful on this point. Look well to this one thing. It is a balance wheel to the whole character.

Of the things in this present world, now I purpose to speak. I mean to work a small farm this summer or rather part of a farm. And take a look at this part of the world, select a nook for future operations, there station myself and operate, report to you, make a home, lend a helping hand to beginners and encourage them, live so as to be remembered by a few. I do not aspire to office or honors (as this world reckon honors) but to have the respect of a few. I could hardly be persuaded to go back to Rutland as I was situated. Say what you will, circumstances have much to do with the attacks of the Blue Devils and the success with which you can repel the attack. Few generals presume with ten thousand to meet him that cometh with twenty thousand. Just so do not presume to beat back the Devil’s Blue and the neighbors too. I would not have you infer that Western air is proof against them. No, no place is free from their attack. But when you choose your own ground, you ought to have the advantage. I purpose now to sell the lot in Pinkney and invest the means here as I think a good situation here as likely to rise as that. Not but that that is good property, but here we could improve it and have the use thereof. Don’t look for great things just yet as time is necessary to get under way.

My plans are hardly settled yet. Sometimes I think I will let Adelia’s land lie in Pinkny and go out on the wild land, keep stock and farm all I can, purchasing what I break, and let the cattle roam at large so make or break go in for 640 acres or so start a hedge around it &c. Perhaps get a steam plow &c., run a large thing, go in debt and dig out. Sometimes I think I will buy a little, invest her money, pay down if little with little, be content, and so go small, safe, & sure. I think I can go in for a large farm and injure no one, have chances to help others that I should not have in other positions by giving employment to the worthy &c. &c.

The coming summer I mean to devote to observations as to the shape of the earth in this state and perhaps in Iowa. Also the chances for myself and friends. The laws that govern the chances of success and failure. Wheat, corm & money. I did hope if Emerson concluded to stay at home you would come out and then we could go in where we thought best and to suit ourselves. So work out our former plans and calculations which others pronounced so visionary and fantastic.

Cattle are certainly kept easier here than in New York. If you get out where the land is not all taken up, there is a great chance to summer cattle you will see. In the winter they run to the straw stacks and care for themselves. They have kept some 12 or 15 head of cattle and 3 colts with less labor than you give to 5 cows. Hay if wanted is got for cutting.

Perhaps if I stay here through the summer I may find that I do not like so well. I wish you success in your undertaking. It is considerable I know, but perhaps you will be enabled to carry it out. I wish you and all connected with you happiness. Keep me posted as to how the ship sails if agreeable. I wish to continue the interchange of thoughts, feelings & purposes by frequent friendly letters as heretofore. Let us continue & keep alive the friendship begun and so far perpetuated. It may be that we may yet be spared and brought to dwell near each other once more. The ways of Providence are mysterious and often astonish us in their results. I say Providence, perhaps you doubt the agency of Providence in my coming here. Perhaps it did not send us but things have worked curious with us for the last 25 years whether it is chance or Providence. I believe our friendship has been as pure & firm as the majority of such attachments and we have been spared to each other while others have been called from earth away. Sylvester is no more. From what I hear, I judge Libbie must soon follow him. Then where are the company that used to reside in the Rev. B. G. P___’s parlor Where are all those that used to meet with us in chapel and recitation room? Scattered and gone. Let us at least perpetuate and keep alive our friendship. May it ripen and soften as years roll away and the silver of age begins to come upon me.

And now I close, hoping that one year as it rolls away may bring us prosperity and peace. That if our lives are spared, we may look back upon it as a year well spent. But leaving the events of the future with the All wise Disposer of events, I remain your sincere friend, — Newell

To M. K. Weller, Copenhagen, N. Y.

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