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Pioneer Papers

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Weekly Republican, March 31, 1876

Isaac Snedeker’s trip from New York State to Illinois in 1844

Mr. Isaac Snedeker, the writer of the following paper, is well known to many of our readers. He is well acquainted with the Telegraph, having been a subscriber thereto for about thirty years. He is one of the most prominent agriculturists and horticulturists of our neighboring county of Jersey. Although he is approaching seventy years of age, he is still apparently hale and vigorous. He is a fine type of the progressive Illinois farmer, who having sown good seed is now reaping the harvest of an active, useful, and successful career, surrounded by relatives and friends and enjoying the respect and confidence of all – (Alton Telegraph.)

Jerseyville, Ill. – March 17, 1876
     In the year of 1844, living in the State of New York, near the city of Rochester, Monroe County, I determined to go west. The great break down of 1837 in New York had extended westward and in 1840 had reached the Mississippi, and the great valley felt the terrible financial shock throughout the length and breath of the then great prospective country. The credit system had been almost unbounded; it had long arms and threw out its winding vines in every direction, until almost everyone had become infatuated with the wonderful prosperity of the country. Everyone had to ask for credit that wanted it; and almost as many having confidence well established were willing to give credit. All the business of the country appeared to change hands, and in fact, did so to a large extent. Those reckless and unskilled in the transactions of business would dash in, and by some turn of luck might make a fortune, that induced opthers to follow, until such a class of men had full control, and every article of produce and commerce went “away up a kiting.”
     Flour per barrel, twenty-four dollars, in the City of New York and relatively so all over the country.
     But it was short. The true business men saw they had trusted too far and must stop. They knew that heavy loss was inevitable, and they must take matters into their own hands again. Then came the crash, terrible, and sad.
     And now with the odds and ends that an abused credit had left the, down upon the bed rock they must start again, and get ready to go slowly, and surely. In about this condition I left New York; came by the way of the city and to Philadelphia. Having better means of transportation at Albany, the Hudson, which I intended to descend, was frozen solid, so I pushed by railroad to Bridgeport, Conn. I there took a steamboat to the City of New York and from there, by missing and catching connections, in three days, I arrived in Philadelphia all safe, one hundred miles now.
     In connection with my brother, Samuel, we had put up in boxes about four or five thousand pounds of freight at Trenton, New Jersey, as our outfit to the West. I was to take the freight and go on alone. By inquiring, we thought best to go over the mountains to Pittsburgh, and down the Ohio River to Cairo, and up the Mississippi to St. Louis, rather than go out to sea via New Orleans. I finally made a bargain to have my freight taken to Pittsburgh at one dollar per thousand, with myself and dog, passage and board six dollars. We loaded our goods in the warehouse. The canal boat being built in sections and mounted on tracks was run into the warehouse for loading, so ??? run on the railroad, a part of the way or ?? where there was a canal.
     We finally started, the first day by railroad, running to Columbus, eighty miles. That was doing well. At this place our trucks were run down into the water, the different sections of the boat floated, and were gathered together and fastened firmly, and made one good canal boat. Now to the foot of the Allegheny Mountains, and then to be hauled up on an inclined plane, our boat being parted in different sections again. On we went, seven days, and we were at Pittsburgh. Here was a number of boats, good steamboats, wanting freight and passengers for St. Louis. I struck a bargain, twenty-five cents a hundred for freight, and seven dollars for passage and board of self and dog. We set out for St. Louis. We got there. It was very small to what it is now. Fourth Sgreet being as far as the city went in close buildings. I stayed there, looked around, inquired about ??. Prices were low and very tempting; but being an Abolitionist I firmly declared I would not live in a slave state ??. to Alton and Jerseyville. All business pros?? As could be. No price for anything. It was the ?? May, grass was growing. It was seven weeks since I left Rochester. Almost constant traveling, and trying to travel had brought me to the land of promise. We got onto the rise of land about four miles south of Jerseyville, where we could see the little town. It was not much to look at four miles off, but the fine prairie, so rich, so beautiful, grand and enchanting. I broke out with feelings of great emotion and gratitude to God for what my eyes beheld, for I had never looked upon so grand a sight before. There was considerable farming done near the town, and still great, beautiful prairies lay out with hundreds of cattle feeding them, and they were worth about five to ten dollars per acre, and no sale, no money, no confidence. The prices of produce were as you might have a chance to trade something for something else.
     I bought what I considered as good a team of horses as there was in the country for one hundred and ten dollars, and four yoke of oxen, with yoke and chain, at $25 per yoke. Times were hard then, but we could live, and the prospect was so good it gave courage, and we have more than realized all that we anticipated. I can, with joy and satisfaction, say I am glad I live in Illinois.

Contributed by Marty Crull and his volunteers.

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