St. Louis Oct. 8th 1837
Your letter my dear Carter on your return to Ravensworth giving an account of your trip to Bath, and the Adventures of “Mr Lee, 4 Ladies, 3 children and 2 Servants” reached me in the wilds of Rock Island Rapids _ _ My hand lighted upon ^ ‘it’ the first among exactly 2 doz. and two, which had been accumulating Since the last budget had been Sent, and as you have experienced Similar pleasure under the like circumstances, you will know how to appreciate that I enjoyed in hearing of the pleasure and happiness of so many, so near and dear to me __ Had you not let cousin Anna over task herself in that walk, I should have found nothing to regret, and then too if it should come to the ears of our Rose what a triumph he will have over her! I must add a clause to the advice you gave me from Jacob Faithful and bid her bear in mind “better luck next time” __ When I looked around upon the group that accompanied me, And Saw the hungry, tired, wet, well bearded set, I could not bear the contrast between it And the one you described, nor was the
picture brightened when I Saw these fourteen with bacon and bread in hand picking their location for the night on the puncheon floor of an uninhabited log cabin - Perhaps though they Slept as soundly as even Sis - Nanie with her two boys, and I am certain she would no more have procured the Music that lulled them to rest: than have changed the Soft breathing of Said boys into the croaking of a whole pond full of Bull-frogs - The trip ‘up the river’ altogether was quite a pleasant one, though-though like all of its kind had sufficient of the disagreements to prevent monotony, and cause us to enjoy all that could be classed under the opposite head - Above the mouth of the Missouri the Country changes its character altogether and the river is filled with Islands which gives great beauty and Softness to the Scenery – But the Soil is magnificient and to the eyes of the uninitiated nothing can be finer. I had no opportunity except at the rapids of examining into its merits - And the growth of the Black Walnut, Sugar Maple Bass wood, Hickory Elm etc was splendid - At the upper rapids I dug down 3 ½ feet into the Soil and could see no difference – An entire mass of Black light mole that you could cultivate with your feet - Off of this spot, filled with stumps of 3 & 4 feet diameter, and according to the owner,s Statement several rods less than an acre, he had this year gathered over 40 Bus. Of wheat - The accounts they give of their crops are enormous and surpass any belief – In the Illinois valley 70, 80 and 90 Bushels of wheat to the Acre, and 100 & 120 bus- of corn they say is by no means uncommon - I never saw or ate finer potatoes, and the Pumpkins looked as they are somewhere described, “Great
for a pudding glorious for a pie” – As an offset to all this, I should think the winters were long and cold, and wood is not very plenty – The Prairies are large and extensive, approach near to the river and sometimes to the very Banks – On these are some beautiful farms in embryo especially where they are mixed in with woodlands – At some future day it must be a great Country, now it is a beautiful one - The inhabitants are rough and uncouth though well meaning, and have secured by squatting and their neighborhood- law all the finest positions & Indeed I believe all the Land along the river is laid claim to, as well as that on the Rock river, I imagine These claims though are to be bought for money, and if you and Rose have a fancy for the sport fill you pockets and come out – The land you know has not yet been brought into market, though you are hardly ever out of sight of a town (most of these are iffigy) – There are really some very pretty villages among them, and when you consider that it is not yet three years since the first white man arrived at many of the positions their growth is surprising - In ten years – hence there are many of them that must be much smaller than they are now, whereas others will have grown into cities - If you can only assist one to designate these last, I can assist you to become a rich man - But Cousin Anna the Wimming alone shew the only true heroism that is here exhibited – To see with what cheerfulness and even [‘cheerfulness’ lined through] pleasure they leave every thing behind and enter these forests – Subject themselves to every privation and drudgery, and with the oning [sic] toil patiently and constantly – They are always ready to offer kindness and relief, are frugal and attentive while their rough Consorts are careless unthrifty speculating lazaing or worse – I must defer till I see you any further accounts – When that will be I do not know – You need not fear any want of attention to my health – I have too great respect for Uncle Sam,s Lt – to neglect that – I have been quite well the whole time – Some of the party were occasionally sick and some of the men really quite so – others deserted but we struggled along with the rest – We arrived here last night or rather this morning beforeday and the Sisters of Charity have in their kindness taken charge of three of our men, who were greatly reduced and about whom I was quite uneasy – We shall commence at once the survey of this Harbor – I have written to Mary by this mail who will tell you other particulars – Present me in the kindest manner to Cousin Anna – Sis Nanie Rose My Splendiferous Nephews and all at R - As usual in haste and always.
[This letter is addressed to C. C. Lee, Esqr, Ravensworth, Near Alexandria, D. C - It is postmarked Washington City, D. C. Oct. 20. Written in pen on the envelope portion of the letter, but not in Lee’s handwriting, is R. E. Lee, October 8th 1837.]
Source: Lee Papers, Alderman Library, University of Virginia
Transcribed by Mary Roy Dawson Edwards, 2001. Uploaded by Colin Woodward, 2015 December 29