Howe Letters - 1872


Superintendent's Office
Chicago Northwestern Railway
Iowa Divisions Clinton, Iowa . [to the folks in Northfield; about 1872]

I had letters from Malverd* and Ione* last week - both well and doing well. Hannah's Mattie has been quite sick; but is better - the others are all well. I wish you could see our Oda - she is well. Annie must tell you about her. She is a real little witch.
We have had terrible freshets in Iowa this month and much damage done to farmers and railroads. Our road was badly damaged in several places and the repairs kept me pretty busy. We are all right again now.
As I start for Chicago at midnight, I must stop now. Casey Thayer left us Saturday night and he can tell you all the general news. Write a few words whenever you feel like doing so for your letters are always very welcome.
As ever, your Ike

* Tucker. Malvard married in DC. Ione, 29, had gone West to live with Aunt Adelia and Uncle John Blackburn in Paris Illinois. Ione was a music teacher, apparently a piano teacher. Adelia was 15 and Ione was 4 at the time William Tucker remarried Armena Simons after Theoda's death.

House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.
May 19, 1872

Col. I.B. Howe
Clinton, Iowa

Dear Sir:
Your letter of the 8th came to us today. I am unable to account for the delay in its reaching us. In reply, I will state that I am for several reasons, anxious to make that "scrutinarious" expedition with you.
Now to business. Your superintendent is eminently correct about getting an outfit at Winona or New Ulm. It can be done! We do not need more than one month's provisions, and, unless you wish to have a party that can be divided, and make reconnaissances in different routes, and meet to report, we do not need more than six men, which can be well accommodated in one tent.
Mr. Armstrong suggests that you will probably have 30 or 50 men, if so, the one-month will not be long time enough.
I have a good team and outfit for a surveying party of six or seven, my own tent, and camp implements, and would be glad to put the team and one man, Teamster, in your employ, then of course would prefer to meet you at New Ulm. I could bring my instrument and chains too.
I shall be in Washington until the 28th -- then go straight to Yankton, and will, if thought best stopover one day at any point you may fix on the road, probably Clinton.
I want to go, am anxious to, and will do so if there is no preventing providence beyond my control.
My Armstrong sends his choicest regards, and a copy of the Census.
There is no news here that you do not see in the papers. We are informed that everything is in the most prosperous condition in Dakota, and the immigration will be greater than at any former season.
In fine, our people are feeling extremely well with the prospects. Crops, immigration and Rail Roads.
Any telegram or letter you send me, I will answer, and go a great way out of the way to join you.
Very truly yours,
Geo. N. Propper
George N. Propper:
1855 On a proslavery committee in the Kansas territory.
1856 Author of a survey map of Kansas townships. It appears his profession was surveyor.
1863 Involved in the formation at Yankton of the first Masonic Lodge in the Dakota Territories.
1865 Witness at the signing of a treaty with the Ponca tribe from the Kansas Nebraska territories. Treaty signed in Washington.

Journal of the Expedition from New Ulm to the Big Sioux River - Dakota Territory

James Henry Howe, 1827 to 93, born in Turner, Main.
He was Attorney General for the state of Wisconsin, 1860 to 62; a Col. in the war 1862 to 64; was a judge; CNW R.-- Solicitor 1868; by 1873 was General Manager. Therefore this was probably written early 1870s.
Assuming this is actually the scrutinarious expedition, it would be summer of 1872, probably mid-June to mid or late July.

Col. James H. Howe
General manager, Chicago Northwestern Railroad
Dear Sir:
Herewith I send you a copy of my journal, as kept from day to day in making a hasty examination of the country from New Ulm, Minn. to the big Sioux River, south of the 45th parallel in Dakota, where you propose to extend the W. & St. P.R. [Wisconsin & St.Paul? Railroad]
I also send a description of the country through which we passed from the Big Sioux to Breckinridge via Fort Wadsworth.
In this summary of the report, the examination from New Ulm to the state line is omitted, as the road is all located there, consequently I will commence at the west line of Minnesota, which we struck about 2 miles north of the south line of "Range 116", where we found a government boundary post near a branch of the River.
This branch rises in the Coteaus near this point and is a fine, rapid stream of pure water, flowing between timber skirted banks 70 or 80 feet high, until it reaches the valley at the foot of the Coteaus.
Here would be a good site for a pleasant town, as the soil of the prairies and Valley is good and timber and good water can seldom be found in this region.
The men have "staked their claims" and commenced improvements here.
From this point we ran by compass nearly West, but bearing slightly to the North until we struck the Big Sioux River at Lake Kampesca two or three miles south of the 45th parallel, according to Rice's map of Dakota.
The distance from the State Line to Big Sioux as measured by odometer, on the line we came is 38 miles, but I think that a railway line and correct measurements would not exceed 33 to 35 miles.
The construction of a first class railway over the Coteaus from the state line, for 10 or 15 miles, will be expensive, requiring heavy "cuts" and embankments, but from the west side of the Coteaus to the Big Sioux, a good road can be built at a moderate cost. I think that a survey of the line will show that it will be economy to operate a cheap road with heavy grades, rather than build an expensive road with light grades and slight curvature, for the small amount of business you will get during the next five or ten years.
You will notice that we strike a branch of the Big Sioux, called Red Willow Creek , about 32 miles west of the state line, where, if desired, a convenient temporary terminus of the Road could be made.
A great portion of the Coteau land is good, and nearly all in the valley of the Big Sioux is very good for agricultural purposes, but through all of the country we passed after leaving the Minnesota line until we arrived at the north east side of the Coteaus between Fort Wadsworth and the valley of the Red River of the north, very little timber was seen and in many places no good water can be obtained unless from wells.
Many of "the numerous "lakes", as they are termed, are simply huge pond-holes of stagnant water without inlet or outlet and in times of severe drought undoubtedly become dry reservoirs of pestilence. Others are so impregnated with alkali as to be worse than useless.
The only rock we saw in Dakota, except at Lake Kampesca, was drift boulders, most granite, in some places, north of the 45th parallel, almost completely covering the ridges and knolls for a width of 3 to 5 miles; but on both the east and west side of this rock ridge, we found good land.
For a more particular description of the country along the route, I refer you to the journal, in which I intended to note every important characteristic as we passed along.
If you are to build a road to the Big Sioux River, I should advise making Lake Kampesca the western terminus, as that is one of the largest and best bodies of water in that region, and south of the 45th parallel and Indian Reservation.
Care should be taken by the locating engineer to fix the terminus at such a point that extensions or connections can be made in any direction without interfering with the arrangements at the terminus.
A sketch and description of Lake Kampeska and the surrounding country will be seen in the journal, and photographs of the same, as well as of numerous other points of interest, will be forwarded to you in a few days.
As you asked for my general impressions in regard to what I saw in Dakota, I must, in candor, say that they are not favorable. It is true that a railway will soon introduce settlements and improvements so as to wonderfully change the face of nature, but it may be true that - as I saw the country, in its Sunday dress of June roses, and with its face washed by unusually frequent showers, a severe drought may change to dry, barren wastes, some of the land that a hasty examination has pronounced good.
I do not believe that any Railway in Dakota, between the 44th and 46th parallels, will pay operating expenses during the next five years.
Respectfully yours, I.B. Howe

Otterville, June 16, 1872
Dear Annie,
I rec'd a letter from Ike today (O! I was so glad to get it) saying that he was to be gone from home four or five weeks [scrutinarious expedition] and as I sat thinking how I should like to go and stay with you while he is gone, I thought I would begin a letter, but I do not know as I shall have a chance to send it to the P.O. for two weeks, for George is teaching our school this Summer and always has something that he wants to do at home Saturdays. The neighbors bring our papers and letters, but I seldom know when they are going to town to send. I hope you will do a lot of visiting while Ike is gone. I would not stay at home all of the time. [Annie is pregnant with GeoA, due in Nov]

George is going to town tomorrow so I must get this ready to send. Do you know what is the matter with Sophia? [She was sick at the time Bertie drowned.] I did not know she was sick till this week, though I was afraid some of them were. It had been so long since I had heard. How good it was of you to write and make Han write to me. I am so much alone this Summer that I believe I find more time to worry about you all than I have when I am in school, and besides there has been a good deal of sickness. We have been having terrible hot weather but it is cool and pleasant today. Everything looks beautifully green now. We have had a good deal of rain but are needing more now. I have had lots of roses, but they are gone now and I have no flowers in bloom but zinnias and some ?mignanette? (Not legible). My flowers and my cat are a great deal of company for me. Did you have a good visit with Delia? Where is Ione? Is Asa going with Ike on his tour? It seems like going a long way off. I hope to hear from them as soon as they get back. Does Daisy love to be out of doors as well as Momy [Mary? Mamie?] used to? Tell Oda that Charlie [10] gets the fan that she sent him very often and he always has some questions to ask about cousin Oda. Is Mary growing tall this summer? How I do want to see them. Daisy does not have to use her fingers to taste now I suppose. Well, it is nearly time for Geo to get home from school and I must stop writing and get supper. We are always very glad to get your letters. I hope you are feeling well and not lonesome while Ike is gone. I wish I could see you.
Goodbye darling, Net

Ione, 29, had gone West to live with Aunt Adelia and Uncle John Blackburn in Paris Illinois. They moved to Colorado May 1871. Ione was a music teacher, apparently a piano teacher. Adelia was 15 and Ione was 4 at the time William Tucker remarried Armena Simons after Theoda's death.


Monday! [Have to guess at the date from the apparent young ages of the kids. Lacking punctuation and grammar as written. If 1872, Mary is 7, Oda 5, Daisy 2, George to be born in Nov. – If Daisy not born yet, prior.]
I had a chance to send to the Post Office, and I want to improve it because I can talk with you a minute. This has been a quiet peaceful day, every things looks beautiful we had a nice shower last night. The children have been real good enquire for Pa pa a good many times in the day but your pet seems to feel your absence most she sat in her little rocking chair out on the Pia'zza with me and she sat as still looking as steady down to the floor when she looked up into my face those beautiful eyes all full ready to drop a tear and says why don't come home. We are all well. Sarah seems to have considerable trouble with Emma but I do not pay much attention to it. I am anxious to hear how you are. Oda is asleep -- I have been reading to Mamie.
Your own loving wife, Annie

Boxford, Mass. 24 June 1872
Addressed to: Mr. IB Howe, Clinton, Iowa
My dear Uncle:

Our Birdie has flown -- Bertie has gone to heaven. Oh! It is so sudden we can not realize it yet. Last Friday he joined the angels with Mattie. He and Netti [8], with Mr. Killam's children [cousins] went down to the river to bathe, he with a few others ran ahead, and went into the water first. He went beyond his depth, and the current took him. He did his best to get ashore and came within about a foot of one of the older children -- then said "catch me, catch me" and went under. The third time he came up they told him to [?] up his hands and the little darling did so. The water was very deep -- much deeper than usual, and the river much higher. The children came up to the house and the people soon were searching for him. This was about five o'clock. They searched until past eleven that night -- commence at four the next morning and found him 1/4 past nine o'clock that morning. There were many divers but the water was so deep they could not find him for so long. Ike [14] went to Lawrence that morning. Saturday morning told Jim [22] who immediately telegraphed to me. I was in Boston that day and did not get the telegram until 1/2 past 7 -- too late for any train. I got a train and came down in the night -- reached home at 1/2 past two o'clock Sunday morning. The funeral was at five o'clock Sunday afternoon. He was in the water all night long, yet -- he looked very natural. Before he went to the river he came into the house, kissed mother and bade her goodbye and was so happy. He was always happy.

Mother was confined to her bed at the time. Tom [23] was in the other bedroom sick with dysentery. He immediately sprang up and held mother in the bed. You can imagine with what agony they lived through that terrible night -- with our darling there in the water -- no one knew where, and you, Uncle, can sympathize with us -- and we with you. O it is so hard to give these little ones. Yet we have two beautiful buds in heaven. I know they are there. Mother wants you to write to Aunt Nettie and tell Aunt Han that Mrs. Laggin is going to write to her about it -- Mother can not leave her bed at all now. I hope and believe that she will bear up under this heavy blow. Evie [19] has very little time to write and Mother can not write at all. And I have to get back to school tomorrow morning for a week when I shall come home for a good long vacation. I know this sheet looks terribly but it is the best I can do today.

Mother sends her love to all of you, also accept mine. Dear Uncle, please write to Mother as soon as you can -- if you can't answer mine -- write to her. It is terrible to have to give up our little pet -- and so sudden. I can not write any more.
Goodbye from, Susie [17]

Bertie: nickname for John Herbert Sawyer, the youngest -- 7 years old.
All names listed were Susie Sawyer's siblings, Mattie has died in 1869, age 7. Tom was also their father but when she mentions him by "Tom" it's probably her elder brother. -- Tana.
The Killam's are Sawyer cousins on the mother-in-law side.

Clinton, Iowa, August 12, 1872

Notes; Since the death of Bertie, less than 2mo, Soph has gotten well, has been somewhere and is back. Ike has made the scrutinarious expedition late June to late July. Annie is pregnant and gone off with cousin George to see the Goulds. Ike is home in Clinton with the kids.

Dear Soph.

I suppose you are home again and now I want you or Susie, or both, to write me. These visits, even if short, have the good effect of refreshing our memories and renewing our interest. I have a stronger desire now to visit New England than before I went, and although so near sick when there that I could not be of much comfort to myself or others. The memory of old friends and pleasant scenes, is a source of enjoyment.
My health began to improve before I left Vermont and is now about as good as usual. We have had cool, comfortable weather, nearly all of the time. Heavy rains have injured the crops in many places, but the prospects are good for fair crops. We are all well --- Annie and George [G. Peabody would be 36, same age as Annie who will give birth to GeoA in Nov.] went to Janesville last Monday to spend a week or two with the "old folks" [Gould age 69&66; he dies at 74]--- Annie writes that they seem better than when she was there before. Hannah (Ike's sister Han) has not yet returned from her visit to Minnesota. I am glad she remains so long, for she needed rest. Cora (Hannah's oldest child who was married & living in Minneapolis) has been very sick again, but is better. A letter from Asa yesterday morning said Ann (wife Lucy Ann) was quite sick with dysentery; but he thought was some better --- They wanted Ella [daughter 20, not yet married to Dr. Claggett of Northfield.] to go home. I telegraphed Ella, who is about 20 miles from here "camping out" with a picnic party and I suppose she will be here today and go home next week.
I have not heard from cousin Martha or any other eastern friends, except Asa, since I came home. I wrote Cousin Martha, yesterday. Tell me about her when you write. Did Mat. go home with you? Is there anything we can do for her comfort, more than we are doing? [Who is Cousin Martha and Mat.? Martha Jones is older sister. Soph's little Mattie is gone 2 yrs before Bertie. Han's Mattie is 22, married and living in Clinton.].
Soph! We ought not, and I hope we shall not again let so many years pass between our visits. There is nothing gained by it, and much is lost that is better than dollars.
Write soon ---- Now I will go home to dinner and see my three "motherless chicks" [ages 7, 5&2]who will be standing at the gate, "watching for Papa."
As ever, Ike


Mechanicsville, Nov. 20, 1872

Addressed to: I.B. Howe, Esq., Clinton, Iowa
In handwriting on envelope edge: "From Dr. Keith when George was born."
George Alonzo Howe was born Nov. 18, 1872

Friend Howe,

We congratulate you on the happy accession to your family. I suppose the old Supt. of the Iowa Div. of N.W.R.R. now spends most of his time in the Nursery! Well Oda is as happy as ever. She says nothing about going home - tells everyone that she "is going to stay all winter." She enjoys short rides very much. Her appetite is uniformly good and her bowels regular. She enjoys her sled much and never fails to run to meet me. When she speaks of home & the members of the family, it is not with any desire to go home to see them. We don't tell her the Golden News, for fear of exciting a desire to return. We should not think it prudent for her to return for many weeks. Your angel wife needs all her strength for herself and "My boy. O/ My noble boy!" and should not have her nerves excited over caring for the girls. So you will feel free to let her remain here as long as it may seem best.
In haste Yours truly, S. Keith
Mechanicsville, Dec. 10, '72
My dear Mrs. Howe,

I drop you a hasty note in relations to the prevalence of Scarlet fever in our place. There has been only one new case, that we have any knowledge of, since Oda's return. The Dr. thinks it would be prudent to have O. return on account of it, any time. We missed her much since she left. We are all conscious she is a treasure.
Much should I like to see the dear new baby. I do hope you may have a more rapid recovery than you are accustomed to. If little O. being with us will indirectly contribute to that end, please let her return. We will pledge not to abuse her very badly. I suppose she is delighted with the dear little brother. Say to her May Sharp is impatient for her return. Oda won many friends & admirers during her short stay with us.
Gertie will have two weeks vacation to spend at home. Will Mamie [Mary?] remain at Janesville through the winter? I think it so good in Oda to stay away from her own dear home so happily and womanly as she did. Her dollie's skirt is here.
With love, M. B. Keith