Timothy Hagenbuch’s 1851 Letter to His Brother, Enoch
In 1851, Timothy Hagenbuch wrote a letter to his brother, Enoch. The story of how this letter came to be discovered was discussed in the first part in this series. Future articles will explore and analyze its contents.
Below is an English translation of the letter which was originally written in Deitsch. Many thanks to Jean McLane and Alan G. Keyser who graciously worked to provide the translation.
Letter from Timothy Hagenbuch to Enoch Hagenbuch
Albany, September 1, 1851
Dearly beloved Brother Enoch, I send you, your wife and children hearty greetings, and say Praise God and Thanks that I can still write to you. As far as we are concerned, we siblings, as far as I know are healthy as usual in the neighborhood, [but] a bit of stomachache is in the neighborhood.
A week ago today a child of Johan Donat was buried because of that, but in Maiden Creek Township on this side of Reading, and in Oly [Oley] Township and there about, dysentery is pretty bad. I have heard that as many as 6 to 7 have died per day. I got your letter on the 27th that you wrote on the 11th of August, and I see that your neighborhood is sickly.
Brother M[ichael]’s house is far from finished. It is pointed outside. They have started to plaster inside, but the carpenters are not yet finished. So they cannot plaster it completely, and nothing has been done on the porch. B[rother] Levan’s house is also far from being finished. Christian Knepper’s and Samuel Schmidt’s barns are pretty well finished. Brother Amos’s barn is also about finished. Amos has put his land up for sale. He is eager to sell; the reason is that his land is too poor and rough, the taxes horribly high and his interest is also too high.
Amos has always said he would not go west during his lifetime. Now he is really hot about going west, his wife is the main reason for that. She wants [to go] west for better and cheaper land. Amos gave $3400.00 for 123 acres. The new barn costs also. Now he wants to have $4000.00. Some folks think he could get it. Johan Knepper lives 1/2 mile from Amos, he bought 50 acres 7 years ago for $410.00, now he has been offered $1300.00. Johan Knepper wants to move west with Amos. Carl [Charles] and Aaron are going too.
Amos’s only son Salomon [Solomon] Bailey Hagenbuch got married on the 29th of June to Jacob Schellhammer’s daughter, Christina. Sal was really too old, on his wedding day he was 244 months and 4 days old. He is moving out with his father, maybe Daniel Rieth also. Amos’s wife wants to take the railroad outbound so that they will not be on the way so long.
Jacob Seeler from Schuylkill went out last spring to Illinois on the railroad and by water in 4 days, Amos or the company wants to go to Illinois by next spring. Brother Daniel had already written 2 letters to Carl and 1 to Michael, he writes that he has lived in 5 states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois, and in Illinois he liked it best of all. That was the best land for grain. His neighbors said so, too. His neighbors come from 2 states. Daniel says that in his neighborhood the land produces richly.
So many [people] are moving into his neighborhood. He was once at the water. A steamboat arrived with 20 households. Another time he was there [and] so many had arrived that he thought half of Pennsylvania was coming. There were several households from Schuylkill, in Center County. You probably know that Brother D[aniel]’s land is purely prairie land, not a single tree [trunk wood]. Amos, Knepper and the others don’t want to go there. Amos said he does not want to go where there is no wood, and if [he does] not move 20 to 30 miles away from Daniel, the people who live in the prairie can still buy wood. After 15 to 20 to 30 years have passed they can still buy it.
Amos also doesn’t want to begin in the bush. He wants to have a piece that is built up. He is too old and stiff and has no more boys to help clear. Enoch, if you can find a good and reasonably priced area this fall then perhaps the brothers will move to your neighborhood; because they do want to go to Daniel’s [area]. Because it has no wood, the company wants to have wood, and if the land isn’t exactly the best of all but [has] wood and good water.
I heard Esq. Kistler say he had been out west [where] the people who have the best land would give it up for land that was not so good and had better water. The bad water really makes people sick in the summer. I hear people say far and wide that Illinois is the best state of all the western states for good land and health. A man in Schuylkill Co. was as far as 15 hundred miles from here, to the west, he said on the line of Indiana and Illinois he liked it best of [all] he had seen. There it was the healthiest of any region in the west that he had encountered.
Brother D[aniel]’s County, LaSalle County, Ottawa P.O., his County/town is Ottawa, 7 or 8 miles from Daniel. In the first letter he wrote we should send the letters to the Peru P.O., now they should go to the Ottawa P.O.
I must close [this letter] to you, it is completely full. The harvest is good and plentiful, a lot of hay and good, oats short, corn, buckwheat. There are not many potatoes either. It is too dry all summer. Don’t forget to write back. So much [that’s all] from your brother and well-wisher, Timothy Hagenbuch. I haven’t yet seen B[rother] Grünewaldt.
Outside of the letter, front text:
Mr. Enoch Hagenbuch
Outside of the letter, back text in pencil:
No one has died