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The Curators at Work - Letter 1849

What does this letter tell us about the Kelsey family?

Cedar Rapids
February 16, 1849

James Cooper Kelsey July 13, 1821 at Mound Farm, Niagara County, New York Feb 8, 1903Dear Parents Brother & Sisters and all to whom these presence may concern,

I J. H. Kelsey of the Town of Cedar Rapids County of Marion State of Iowa of the first part to the above named individuals of the second part doth Send greeting and sayth that I of the first part am enjoying good first rate and ever to be thankful for the enjoyment of Life Health Liberty and the freedom of Speech and the Press and hope that the above named Parties of the first part are enjoying the Same blessing.

You seem according to your letter to be under a great mistake concerning that land you think part is across the river and would not be convenient to get at and therefore came to the conclusion that it is best not to buy it. But it is all on one side of the river and is highly necessary in order to make a good farm. To have it, and it can be sold any time for as much again as we have to give for it.

What was the price of land in 1849? What is the price of land today?

I have drawn a map of the Farm as near as I can with a description of the same and by buying the Fraction of 65 acres we can keep the 30 odd and nothing will be said about it as it is so small a person looking on the Map will overlook it.

I think by measurement in the 65-acre lot there are 75 acres or more as the fractions are always underrated in the general survey. They want to make the rivers as large as possible and by that means all the fractions are larger than they are named on the map, which I think looks very reasonable. You will see by the map that is herein enclosed that it is highly necessary it should be added to the present farm.

Why was timber so important to early farmers?

There is not timber enough on the farm to support it if we intend to make it a homestead. And I am so much afraid that some one else will enter it away from us that I hardly know what to do some times. If we do not get the timber land the first man that I can trade it to will get it as I consider that the most valuable part of the farm as timber is very scarce here and every body is anxious to get some timber land.

What motivated people to come to Iowa?

You wished to know which is the best cheapest and quickest way to come to this place. I cannot tell at present. I have written to a friend in Dubuque to find out and let me know. As soon as he does I will send you word.

Why was the prospect of the railroad coming important to early settlers?

You wish to know about the markets here and a great many other things. I have given you a correct statement in a former letter but whether you have even received it or not I cannot say and for fear you have not I will give you another. I am 75 miles from Dubuque, 60 from Bloomington, 23 from Iowa City (the Capital), and 5 from the county seat that is to be moved to this place. The Railroad is to go through this place….

What was happening in California that would motivate John to travel that far?

…I have received my card from the lodges and so had green. I should like to go to California this spring as the best men we have in this part of the country are going. All those that wish to go say now is the time and all that wish to embark in the Gold Expeditions now is the time. Next spring may be everlastingly too late and if you hear of my being there you must not be surprised.

What factors draw people to Iowa today? How are these factors alike and/or different from the factors that drew pioneers to Iowa?

I wish you would answer that letter that I last wrote. I said all in that letter that I thought necessary On that map the 80 and two fortys are entered and all we need to make a good farm is the odd 65 acres.

John H. Kelsey

* This letter has been edited slightly to make it more readable for 21st century readers. The challenges of transcribing a 19th century handwritten letter include changes in spelling, punctuation and usage.



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