This letter was written by Coles “Jackson” Brown (1815-1895), the son of Abram Brown (1777-1862) and Mary Purdy (1783-1873) of Putnam county, New York. Coles was married to Sarah Mary Cowl (1811-1894) in January 1836 and worked as a carpenter in Putnam county, New York, until sometime in the 1850s when he became a farmer in Burns township, Henry county, Illinois.
I feel certain that Jackson wrote the letter to his son, James B. Brown (b. 1844) who enlisted on 9 August 1862 as a private in Co. D, 112th Illinois Infantry (though there seems to be some discrepancy between his census record age and his enlistment record age). James served his full three years, mustering out at Greensboro, North Carolina, on 20 June 1865. In his letter, Jackson responds to his son’s complaint about not getting any letters from home by informing him that: “Well, it is not that there has not any been sent for we send one every week. I think you will get a big mail if you ever get the half of what letters that have ben sent to you.” Of course the 112th Illinois was engaged in the Carolina Campaign at that time and mail was slow to catch up with the regiment.
[Henry county, Illinois]
March 26th 1865
I now take a few moments to write a few lines to you to let you know that we are all well and enjoying good health. You say you get no letters from home. Well it is not that there has not any been sent for we send one every week. I think you will get a big mail if you ever get the half of what letters that have ben sent to you. Well this will do for this time.
Vails folks have broken up. The old man 1 is going East. Sarah teaches in Kewanee this summer. Mrs. Vail is a going to live in Kewanee. Ed Furst 2 sold the place a few days before he was to make the dead out. The chap backed out. They had a sale which amount to about $1500.
Benjamin has got home from court. That woman Mrs. [Mary] Ferris who shot William Pike had her trial. 3 It occupied nine days. She was cleared. I suppose you heard of the prisoners breaking jail about four weeks before court time. They had caught two but the two that was in for murder, they have not yet been found. There were Irishmen. They killed a man in Annawan.
Smith has moved. Parker is a going to build this side of the first holler south of ours. This will get to be a nice street if we ever should build a house and Jonathan should build too. Oh, I must tell you before I forget it, Sam[uel J.] Murphy is married to a Miss [Artemas] Welland 4—a renter on Feslar’s place. Murphy bought a half section of land up of Suthard—paid six thousand dollars. I think he must be some in debt. Also one of 120 acres in Iowa.
Emmaline starts for this place one week from tomorrow. She may be here before this reaches you. It is reported that George is to be married. We do not know how true it is nor to who. Jim don’t come nigh us at all. He has rented Bill Henry Conner’s farm. Bill went away to avoid the draft but has since got back.
This town has been trying to fill her quota by buying men and having them credited to the town. They raised eleven thousand dollars. Because they lacked about $1300, they came home and paid about all of the money back. They have made about four or five efforts to raise men and failed each time. Now I believe they are a going to show bonds on the town and raise the men. This town had 36 men to raise. Burns [township] has put in nine which she thought would be more than her quota but Cambridge got the credit for the men that we had ought to have had credit for. Cambridge had 9 men to furnish. It comes hard on Burns. It takes about one in every three. I think it will take more for there will be a great many that will go away and stay till the draft is passed. Then will return.
George Hamilton 5 has been gone for two or three weeks. I believe he is in Indiana. There has been five left they say last week so you see how patriotic folks are. Rosco is doing first rate. Grows some. Fly and Daisy make a nice little team but I think it best to sell them if they will fetch anything nigh what they are worth. They are small and always will be small. As they are matched, they will I think fetch all they are worth.
Write whenever you can. We have had awful wet and cold weather. We have done nothing yet this spring. I believe I have give you all the news. I remain as ever yours &c., — Coles J. Brown
1 I believe Jackson is referring to Alexander Vail (1804-1894) who lived for a time in Burns township, Henry county, Illinois, with his wife, Sarah Marie Sebring (1805-1867). When Alexander went back to his home state of New Jersey, Sarah remained in Kewanee and taught school to earn income. She died two years later in 1867, her youngest child then 20 years old.
2 Edward Furst (1834-1905) was a German emigrant, his surname actually spelled Fuerst. He was married to Louise Krouse.
3 Information about the trial can be found in the following Evening Argus newspaper article (interesting). Click to enlarge.
4 Samuel J. Murphy (1843-1902) grew up in Washington county, Pennsylvania. He married forst Julia Artemus Welland (1843-1874). After her death he married Julia Florence Hill (1848-1884).
5 George W. Hamilton (b. 1843) was the son of William Hamilton, a farmer in Burns township, Henry county, Illinois. George was one of the local boys identified by name that Jackson claimed had left the state in order to avoid the military draft. He was enumerated back in Burns township at the time of the 1865 State Census in July.