Category Archives: Illinois Homefront

1865: Coles Jackson Brown to James B. Brown

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.

Coles Jackson Brown, ca. 1865


[Henry county, Illinois]
March 26th 1865

Dear James,

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.

Samuel and Artemas, ca. 1865

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.

1861: Ann (Updegraff) Starr to Nathan Updegraff Starr

How Ann might have looked in 1861 (Will Griffing Collection)

This letter was written by Ann (Updegraff) Starr (1801-1865), the widow of Merrick Starr (1795-1851), and the mother of Nathan Updegraff Starr (1825-1902) to whom she addressed her letter. Ann wrote the letter letter from Quincy, Illinois, where she resided with her daughter, Hannah (Starr) Willey (1830-1885) and Hannah’s husband, George F. W. Willey (1821-1892)—a native of Germany who previously served in the US 4th Infantry and was a Mexican War Veteran.

Ann grew up near the Quaker village of Mt. Pleasant—a rural farm community in the rolling hills of eastern Ohio. Her parents have been identified as Nathan Updegraff (1750-1827) and Ann Lupton (1767-1833) who came to Ohio in 1802, settling on Short Creek, some two and a half miles northeast of Mt. Pleasant where he built the first mill in the township. She married Merrick Starr in 1824 and raised their family as members of the Quaker faith, attending the Short Creek Monthly Meeting.

Merrick and Ann eventually relocated with their daughter Hannah and her husband George to Worthington, Franklin county, Ohio where Merrick earned a living as a shoemaker; George laboring as a music teacher. After her husband died in 1851, Ann relocated to Quincy, Illinois, with George and Hannah where George found employment as a “professor” of music, no doubt.

Ann’s letter provides us with a glimpse of Quincy, Illinois, in 1861, informs us of the “display and patriotism manifested on the occasion of the Fourth of July, and of the growing fears of a Rebel invasion up the Mississippi river or from the neighboring state of Missouri.


Addressed to Mr. Nathan U. Starr, Delaware, Ohio

Quincy [Illinois]
August 4, 1861

My very dear Son,

How swiftly time passes. It is now nearly a month since I received your most welcome letter giving me an account of the Fourth of July with you and although it is out of season, I will tell you a little of the doings here. There was much display and patriotism manifested on the occasion. There was a great military parade—two cavalry companies besides several other companies of soldiers, and firemen, citizens, &c. &c. marched through several streets and around the public square, and also an oration on the square by Rev. Edward Beecher of Galesburg, Ill.—brother of Henry Ward [Beecher], which was fine, and speeches by several citizens.

The North seems now to be united and the same feeling throughout to put down the rebellion against the government. The troops that enlisted here for three months and have been at Cairo, their time expired yesterday but few came back. They expected there would be an attack there very soon and as they were well drilled, they agreed to stay awhile longer. Gen. Pillow has a large force about twenty miles from Cairo and is threatening them but they are well prepared and anxious to receive them. The Rebels in Missouri are getting very troublesome and much more bold since the repulse at Manassas. There has not been any trouble here yet but some fears there will be. They are much enraged against some of the citizens of Quincy—Gov. Woods in particular—and had set a night to burn his house. There was a guard placed around the house but the enemy did not come. Mrs. Woods suffers much alarm. Moses will remember the house; he went to see it. It was not finished then. It is now completed and the family living in it.

I want to see you all very much indeed but do not know what to say about going this summer. G[eorge] & H[annah Willey] think they could not go. You kindly offered to take me to Mt. Pleasant if I come to Delaware [Ohio]. I received a letter from cousin Anna Mendenhall last week. They want me to make them a visit. She says Aunt Hannah wants me very much to spend some time with her. She is very lonely since Jesse’s death. Uncle Nathan is married but she did not tell me whom to. I suppose she thought I had heard it before. She said she had written to Moses and had received a letter from him. I suppose she told him all the news. There has been many changes since I was there. Do you ever hear from our friends at Mt. Vernon?

The weather is very warm and dry for the last week. The thermometer has risen to 104 degrees but there has not been much sickness here so far. We are all very well at present. You ask if I ever have any of those attacks to which I have been subject. I have not had any of them for some time and the last two or three were quite light. I hope I have got over them.

[Your wife,] Ollie [Olive Louise Horr], was not well when you wrote. I hope she has has recovered her health. I was glad to hear you & Mand family were well. Please write soon. G[eorge] and H[annah] send much love to you all with many wishes for your present and future happiness. Your affectionate mother, — Ann N. Starr