St. Louis: April 4, 1849. pp., on a bifolium and two separate sheets. Previously folded. Light wear and discoloration along old folds; one minor loss at fold point, slightly affecting text. Composed in a tight but highly legible script. Very good. Item #3062
A detailed letter from Forty-niner W.H. Morse in St. Louis en route to California, sent to a friend back home in New England. The preponderance of the missive details his journey from an unnamed town in the northeast, in which he went south through Baltimore to Harper's Ferry, and then through to the Cumberland Gap to Morgantown, where he caught steamboats that took him to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati ("A fine looking city only they don't pay much attention to the Sabbath..."). He continued along the Ohio River, and remarks on several of the sights, including William Henry Harrison's Log Cabin and, more grimly, a plantation with a large number of slaves working in the fields near the defunct Kentucky village of Cairo ("The most miserable unhealthy place I ever saw"). Morse completed his journey up the Mississippi River to St. Louis ("a right smart place as the western folks term it"), with the whole of his journey to that point taking thirty-five days. In the final part of his letter he first describes the city, where he has been for three weeks:
"I had supposed that St Louis was almost out of the world, but you will see laying along the levee most every day from 80 to 100 steam boats, some for Missouri river, some for Illinois, some for the Ohio & some for the far famed city of New Orleans and I must say that there is more business done according to the size of the city than any other that I was ever in...."
Morse then moves on to discussing preparations for the onward journey to California:
"I have been here three weeks next Friday with Mr Frye another member of our company buying our provisions & tools & medicins [sic] and we are now waiting for our waggons from Pittsburg. They are shipped and will be here tomorrow or next day when we shall leave here for St Joseph where the rest of our company have gone.... Our road will be along by Fort Laramie and & through the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains. There are great many that will go through in company with us, perhaps from 5 to 8000 although some place it as high as 12000 -- and the best looking set of men I ever saw. They all look hardy as though they could endure any hardship. Ministers, doctors, lawyers, and one judge that is [sic] stopping at the house that stop at. Our New Englanders are very highly complemented by the St Louis papers and I think they deserve it for they all seem to behave extremely well thus far...."
An interesting and expansive letter by an early Forty-niner, just as he is about to set off on the Overland Trail from Missouri to California in the Spring of 1849.