Eddyville [Iowa]: 25 January 1859.
Small Octavo bifolium (ca. 20x12,5 cm). 4 pp. Brown ink on lined laid paper, blind-stamped paper maker’s monogram in the left upper corner. Fold marks, a small minor stain, but overall a very good letter written in a legible hand.
Interesting letter by a pioneer jeweller of Eddyville (Iowa) and Chillicothe (Missouri), talking about his store in Eddyville, the construction of the railroad which had extended 20 miles away from Eddyville by that time (the line built by “Keokuk, Des Moines & Minnesota Railway Co.” will reach Eddyville in May 1861), and mentioning the unfolding Pike’s Peak Gold Rush in western Kansas and Nebraska. Written with spelling mistakes and addressed to Barker’s brother, who lived in the family town of Oriskany Falls (NY), the letter is an interesting example of pre-Civil War correspondence by an American Midwest pioneer, showing his thoughts on possible participation in a gold rush.
“Leverett N. Barker, Chillicothe’s pioneer jeweler <…> came to Chillicothe in 1867 from New York state and was a resident of this city until two years ago <…> He was born at Oriskany Falls, N.Y., May 3, 1864, where he obtained his education and there passed his youth and early manhood, later going to Lockport, N.Y., where he served a six years’ apprenticeship in the jewelry business. Sometime after completing his apprenticeship, he moved to Eddyville, Ia., where he conducted a business until 1866, going from there to St. Joseph, where he remained a year, then coming to Chillicothe where he engaged in business, continuing in the jewelry business until his health failed.
In 1858 he married Miss Emma C. Gangwer of Pennsylvania <…> Soon after becoming 21 years of age, Mr. Barker joined the Masonic lodge at Lockport, N.Y., and was one of the leading members of the organization after he moved to this city. He was probably the oldest member of the Masonic lodge in America. During his early life here, Mr. Barker served as a member of this city council <…>.” (L.N. Barker Dies at Masonic Home// The Chillicothe Constitution Tribune. Chillicothe, Missouri. 2 May 1930, p. 1).
The text of the letter (the spelling is original): “I should have answered your letter before this but I have been very busey for a few weeks past. You know today is Sunday. My wife has gone to Sunday school and if I write any letter today it will have to be before she comes back. We will probely go to keeping house in about a week. I have got most everything readey. I have rented a building that has rooms enough for my shop and to live in also, whitch will make it very conveanent. I don’t feel safe to leave the store alone at night. I don’t pay as much rent for all of the house as I did for my other place and it is in a more business part of the City and a better house. After we got agoing I don’t believe it will cost us anymore to [live?] that it did me to board before I was married. <…>
My business is increasing steadily. The prespects for Eddyville are very good now. There is one Rail Road finished to within twenty miles of us. In a few years probely their will be three Rail Roads to Eddyville whitch will make it quite important place. I have not given up going to Missouri yet, but don’t know yet, when it will be, perhaps we will not go at all if I make it pay well hear.
My helth has been and is very good this winter. Write soon all the news and how you got away with your tobacco. Is their any excitement about the Pikes Peak gold diging at the Falls? Their is here and a great many are going. I don’t suppose there is any doupt but what there is gold their and enough to make it pay. I have seen men that have been through their and they say the country look just like the Calafornia gold digings. I don’t think I shall go at present…”.