Cleveland: 1833-1840. pp. on three folded sheets. Folio. Old fold lines. Minor wear and soiling. In a highly legible hand. Very good. Item #470
Small archive of letters written by James and Mary Smith, English farmers emigrated to Ohio by way of Lowell, Massachusetts. The pair settled on a farm eight miles from Cleveland during a boom period -- in 1820, only 606 people lived in Cleveland, and only around 1,000 in 1830. The completion of the Ohio and Erie Canals, however, increased the population to nearly 6,000 by the time the last of these letters was written in 1840. The Smiths had seven children, at least one of whom (John C. Smith, 1814-1881) remained in Lowell working as a calico printer at the Merrimack Print Works.
As a family of farmers, the Smiths’ correspondence focuses primarily on their land and the value of their harvest. In the winter of 1837, James and Mary tell their son. “We have completed our stable…. It will hold ten head of cattle…. We have 3 acres of wheat in which we intend to raise much produce as we can, for Cleveland is a very good market. Our last butter, we got 21 cents per pound, flour is 7 dollars and 50 cents per barrel.” By 1840, the Smiths’ land is thriving:
“Our crop of wheat is 66 bushels. The last years was the best year for wheat since we came here… we sold butter 424 pounds, it made us over 70 dollars from 4 cows. The last fall, we cleared six acres and put wheat in it. It is the most we have put in since we came. The last harvest we had 18 acres to mow 5 acres of wheat to reap, 2 acres oats to reap, and six acres of wheat to put in. We hired a man one week to help us. We did all rest ourselves. We have under cultivation 40 acres…. Land is low because cash is so very scarce.”
Cash may have been scarce because of the region or due to the Panic of 1837, which hit the Smiths and their dairy in the next couple of years. A nice snapshot of the life of emigrant farmers in the Midwest during the 1830s.