Denmark, Ia. 1856. pp. on a folded folio sheet. Old fold lines. Minor soiling. Near fine. Item #555
Letter written by emigrant Timothy Allen back to his friend, Dr. William Maynard, in the “Old America,” describing at length “the Promised Land” of Iowa. Writing in February 1856, he states that they are all well, though the weather is quite frigid.
“We are all well have been very well since we came here. We live all together in a smallish house the only house we could get in the place. We saw a great many people going back they could find no houses to move into out west. It has been cold weather here since Christmas some of the time very cold mercury standing as low as 32 degrees below zero snow is about 15 inches deep here now. We have had no chance to look about yet. Improved land here is worth from 20 to 30 dollars an acre, close to a good market only 9 miles from Fort Madison and 15 from Burlington, right smart places as they say. People are paying 10 to 15 pr cent for money here to enter land out west...they say land is better out west than it is here. Good enough here. Mr Brown let out 15 acres of his land last year to plant to corn he got 500 bushels one third of the crop for his part...there is thousands of bushels of corn in this neighborhood that is not harvested yet. … They raise good spring wheat here, good for grass, there is no thistles here.”
He goes on to describe the town, wildlife, and agriculture in the area. “Denmark is laid out in square lots of 2 ½ acres in a lot of streets running all around them. Land is level, it is a very pretty place. Lots are worth from 150 to 200 dollars.” He also regales his reader with tales of improvisational ingenuity out on the prairie: “We have put up 2 windmills to draw water for cattle, spoked one waggon wheel made on jumper and shingled one building since we came here. We have some first rate furniture a table we made out of our boxes it answers for all of us 6 chairs and 2 trunks for seats. As good bedsteads as ever was made of boxwood polls our house is well furnished every room filled with bed clothes boxes and tools.” He continues: “I don’t know what we shall do yet we want to see the country out father west before we buy land. We started to go out west about the last of December but it was so cold after we had gone about 80 miles we turned around and came back. Since then there has been 16 men froze to death somewhere near Fort Desmoins all of them hunters. They had too much whiskey with them. You have not much idea of cold weather till you have been out on one of these prairies.”
Denmark, founded in 1835, was settled by New England Yankees, among the first to emigrate to the region. The town is located in Lee County, in the far southeast corner of the state, near the border with Illinois and Missouri. Despite Allen’s claims as to Denmark’s incomparable locale, today it is an unincorporated village of about 400 people. A good letter describing the frontier in Iowa, both its hardships and appeals.