OLD LETTERS
Carroll County IL


January 2, 1848 Letter Written From Carroll County, Illinois
By Samuel Preston And His Wife, Sarah Ann Garrett Preston
To Her Parents, Horace Garrett and Abula Meade Garrett,
Who Lived in Bureau County, Illinois
Transcribed By Alice Horner

Samuel Preston was the first settler in Mt. Carroll Township, Carroll County, Illinois. He married Sarah Ann Garrett on December 11, 1844 in Bureau County, Illinois, where he and his parents had lived briefly in 1835, before settling in Carroll County. Sarah Ann Garrett’s parents were Horace Garrett and Abula Meade Garrett. Horace Garrett was born about 1787 in Hartford, Connecticut and his wife was born in 1795 in Catskill, New York. They’d married before 1818 and had moved from Marietta, Ohio to Bureau County in 1837. A brief description of the people named in this letter appears at its end. The first part of the letter is written by Samuel Preston, and the last by Sarah Ann Garrett Preston.
(Transcriber’s Note: My notes questioning the original text are in parentheses)



Mount Carroll Jan 2nd, 1848

Dear Parents: The year 1847 has just closed and I believe that I cannot have a more fitting time than the present to give you an account of our stewardship. Having been blessed with uninterrupted good health and a propitious season, we have been enabled to draw from the exhausted bosom of Old Mother Earth sustenance sufficient to supply our bodily wants for at least a year to come. My entire crop of grain this season has a little exceeded 3000 bushels, viz 700 of wheat 400 of oats 200 of barley and 1700 of corn. Wheat is now selling at 45 cts, oats at 18, corn at 15 cts per bush. I have made about 4000 lbs of pork, which I shall pack the bigger part of it myself as it is worth hardly enough at present to pay hauling to market; the average cash price is 2 cts per lb. We have had but little rain here the past season which has caused the streams to be very low while we see accounts in other parts of the country of cities being almost inundated by the rise of their rivers our own scarcely afford water enough to supply us with bread.

They are now putting in a steam engine at Carroll Mills capable of making 300 lbs of flour per day which will soon be in operation. We have been looking for some of you up here for some time but we have about put off looking till you come if you cannot come and see us we would like to have you write and let us know what you are all about, what is Amasa about, in some speculation no doubt, tell him we should like to have him speculate along this way. Andrew, I suppose you are going to school and have plenty of time to write so you must send some of your compositions up here, you and Esther have done pretty well considering our own negligence but you must not let that discourage you.

I do not know when we shall be able to make you another visit. I have commenced getting out timber for another barn 38 x 48 ft. with stables and cellar under two thirds of it. If I get the materials ready this winter I shall put it up next summer; our family is quite small this winter having no one but our own folks. I must close to leave room for Sarah.

Yours with Respect
Samuel Preston


Monday after

Dear Mother and Sister:

You have learned from the above the particulars of situation and now I expect it would be interesting to you to know a little what the women have been about here this summer and fall. Long about the middle of the summer nine of us formed ourselves into a sewing society this summer for the purpose of raising funds for some benevolent object, ere was prospered beyond our expectations in getting work and selling garments; we met every Friday in the afternoon and worked three hours like every other good cause it has been prospered and I think another summer will go on with vigor. We will not meet any more until warm weather again.

I learned from Mary when she came back from Como that you and Amasa had been up there to make a visit. She told me a great deal about you, said you were going to school this winter again and you wanted to come up here and make me a visit very much. She said Ellen thought that Amasa was paying some attention to one of the Miss Ramsies, is he or not, when you write tell me. Tell Amasa he must look out for he will soon be 26 years old and I am afraid he will be a bachelor yet. Ellen has a small daughter, it is now about four months old. I am much obliged to Andrew and Esther for the long and very intelligent letters.

Mother Preston’s health has been very poor during the latter part of the summer and fall. She has been unable to do any work at all. I believe I have told you what her disease was the liver complaint and piles. She does not realize very severe pain if she keeps still, has some all the same in her side. She has been very much troubled to get sleep; there has been several weeks she thought she did not get any sleep at all. Last Thursday she rode out, and she thought it helped her some, she has tried every thing almost and can get any thing that will help her much. While I think of it I must tell you of a new cure for the Fever and Ague. Take this common plantin root and make a strong tea of it and drink half of a tea cup full once an hour until it operates as physic; do this until you think your stomach is well cleansed, and I warrant it not to come back again. Try it, if you need and tell others of it for it has been tried here to satisfaction.

I have been looking for Amasa, Esther, and Andrew for about two weeks and have been very much disappointed for I expected that they would come to spend New Years and Christmas with us but I console myself by thinking that it’s all for the best. We spent Christmas and new year’s at home and had no company. We took dinner at Mr. Bliss’ thanksgiving day and the next day Fathers folks and Mr. Bliss folks came over and took dinner with us. How have you spent the time down there, tell me.

When I wrote again Esther wanted that I should tell a long story about Ellen. If she could be here in the morning when she gets up and follow her around from one of her plays to another she would know more about her than I can tell her. She is not large of her age nor very tractable about talking a lot, she can say a great many words. I don’t think her features have altered much since you saw her and her eyes are as big as ever. She is very spry and can beat almost any of the children of her age playing. I expect if Esther saw us here she would think a good deal of having Ellen go ______ (can’t read this word) with her. She loves very much to visit, and is not afraid of anyone. She goes to Grand Father very often and feels at home when she is there. If you see any ________ crooks in my writing you may charge the most of that to Ellen, for she is generally at my elbow with something in her hand when I am writing, saying “Ma oh Ma, see here Ma,” and if I don’t look at the instant, touches my elbow. Her hair has grown so that it will part on her forehead and almost reach down to her neck and I suspect you would like to know the color of it, so I will send you a little of it. Oh how I wish I could see little Charlie and William. Do you know how Eliza and Mr. Cornell are, as they have never written to me yet?

I was hoping Esther could come up and spend the winter with me, for I think that she would have enjoyed herself very much for we have been alone except for two or three weeks that sister Mary stayed with us. When she came back from Como, she was very sick with the fever and ague. I believe none of the folks who have lived on this prairie have had a case of the ague this summer. This district has bought a building that stood in Mr. Bliss’ yard for a school house and have moved it down a few rods on the forks of the mud (the writing is unclear there) and are about to finish it off to have a school in it. I was in hopes they could get it done in case I have had Andrew come up here and gone to school this winter but I feel he is in school before now.

Write soon and tell me what you are about and when you mean to come up here. I shall be anxious all the time now until I hear from you. Tell Mother she has made more cash than all the folks around here has put together. (That might not be cash, but it looks like cash.) Tell her my cheese was liked very much around here last summer and I think her way as the best yet for making cheese.

Love to all,
Sarah Ann Preston

Samuel and Sarah Ann Garrett Preston had only one child in 1848, their daughter, Ellen Eliza, who was born June 7, 1846. His parents, Samuel Preston and Elizabeth Ingram (Gunn) Preston, were also living with them. Elizabeth Ingram (Gunn) Preston, although in bad health when the letter was written, lived until 1872. Her husband died in 1850.

Horace and Abula Garrett had 5 children; their 2 youngest, Esther (born November 22, 1828) and Andrew Garrett (born October 27, 1831) were still at home. The two children older than Sarah Ann Garrett were Amasa Garrett and Eliza. Amasa was planning to marry and shopping for property; in 1848, he would buy land in Marshall County, Illinois. Eliza had married John Cornell and was living in Concord Township, Bureau County; their children in 1847 were Charles and William.

Sarah Preston refers to someone named Mary; that is Mary Preston, a sister of Samuel Preston, who was visiting another sister, Ellen Maria, whose husband Howard Few Smith who owned the mill at Como, Whiteside County, Illinois.

The Bliss family comprised Lewis Bliss and his wife Eliza Jenkins Bliss and their three children. He was born in 1806 in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the same general area where Samuel Preston was born (I don’t know whether they’d known each other before settling in Carroll County). He ran lived on a farm in what is now Section 11, Mt. Carroll Township, land he’d bought from Samuel Preston, just to the east of Samuel Preston‘s property with the pond. Lewis Bliss owned an inn just to the west of that property.

For more information on these people, consult my Rootsweb.com family tree, “

Letter To Samuel Preston From George Hay, February 23, 1894

Notes by Alice Horner: his letter was apparently written in response to Samuel Preston’s History of Carroll County, Illinois, published in 1893 in the Carroll County Mirror (newspaper) in 1894. It was written on Savanna State Bank (Savanna, Carroll County, Illinois) letterhead

Savanna, Ill, Feb. 23, 1894

Mr. Samuel Preston:

Dear Sir:

Like many others, I think you are “making history” that is exceedingly interesting to the old settlers of this County. If you can tell it, I shall be happy to learn just in what year old Grandmother Pennington and her two daughters, Mary, and my wife Agnes, came to this Co. If my memory serves me right, they must have come here in either ’46 or ’47, not later, as I came to Mt. Carroll in 1849, and became acquainted with her (Agnes) who afterwards, when I returned from California, became my wife. Her mother, Mrs. Pennington and Agnes, kept house quite a long time for Mr. (Leonard)Goss.

There were some settlers there that lived about three miles north west of Mt. Carroll, near “the diggins” that my uncle Peter Hay owned. Among these that I knew well were John Tilson and his wife, who had quite a comfortable home out there, and had been there two or three years. Morris Saxton, William Reid, Mr. Morehead, and many others that I found there, in a measure quite comfortably fixed. In these days the idea prevailed among a great many that these big prairies were no place for a man to settle, as there was neither wood nor water, on a great deal of the prairie land, and running water was there an indispensable adjunct of a good farm.

I hope you will go on with your Pioneer History until you have made “a round up” of the Pioneer Age, where you can gather up these interesting records and are ready to publish a complete history of the early settlement of Carroll County, and of its subsequent progress and career, as one of the leading agricultural counties of Northern Ill.

Yours Resply,

George Hay


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Letter To Samuel Preston, Mt. Carroll Township
From Captain Robert M. A. Hawk, U. S. Congressman From Mt. Carroll
Notes by Alice Horner: This letter was written December 11, 1880 on U. S. House of Representatives letterhead and envelope. The envelope wasn’t cancelled in Washington, D. C. until December 22, 1880. There is also a Lena (Stephenson County), Illinois cancel dated December 24 on the back of the envelope. There is no evidence of a stamp on the envelope; I think this is because Congressmen had free use of the post office. The words “Major Hawk, 1880” were written on the envelope later in pencil.

December 11th, 1880
Samuel Preston, Esq.
Mt. Carroll, Ill.

My Dear Sir:

I have just visited Prof. Baird at Smithsonian Institution and had a pleasant interview of an hour. I mentioned you as one of my constituents as being interested somewhat in Fish Culture. He gave me a blank which I herewith enclose, and which I hope you will read carefully and fill out. After which please return to me and I will endorse it over to the Professor who agrees to send fish (carp) to you in the spring, should you desire them.

We have been in session a week now and have made very little progress in legislation. The Dems have precipitated the joint rule on the Electoral Count which stirred up discussion. Rumors prevail within a day or two that they will lay aside the political question and proceed as soon as possible with the appropriation and funding bills. Weather here is fine. Prospect of a very short recess at holidays. I see you are having quite cold weather with you.

With kind regards to Mrs. Preston and hoping to hear from you at your convenience.

I am
Very Truly Yours,

R. M. A. Hawk

Note: The blank (form) doesn’t survive, so perhaps Samuel Preston was able to obtain some carp for his pond through the Smithsonian.

For more informaton on the Preston family - click here

Downing - Bickelhaupt - Preston Families

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