This letter was written by a woman named Maria who datelined her 1859 letter from “Big Woods” Illinois. Big Woods was an early-day (1836) settlement along Eola Road just east of a very large forest of trees (referred by locals as the “Big Woods”) east of the Fox River between present-day Batavia and Aurora, Illinois. Unfortunately, I have not been able to determine Maria’s identity from the clues she left in her letter.
Maria wrote the letter to her friend, “Mrs. Louisa Eldrige” of Reading, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In the 1860 Census Records, Louisa Eldridge (1840-18xx) was married to Truman Eldridge (1837-18xx), a carpenter residing in Stoneham, Massachusetts. An Illinois marriage record indicates that Louisa Rogers married Truman D. Eldridge on 11 September 1858 in Kane County, Illinois.
Maria’s letter indicates that a large number of the young men her age are getting ready to go to Pike’s Peak.
Addressed to Mrs. Louisa Eldrige, Reading, Massachusetts
Care of J. Baldwin
Postmarked Aurora, Illinois
March 19th 1859
Dear friend Louisa,
I humbly beg your pardon for not writing to you before. I don’t know that I can make any very reasonable excuses so I will have to confess that I have been very careless and very naughty too. We are all well.
I came home the 7th of February. I have enjoyed myself well since I came home. Everyone was glad to see me. Some laughed and some cried and such a time as we had. Had you been present, you would thought I had been gone five or six years. I have not heard from Iona in some time. I guess he has gone up. He is going to Pike’s Peak. Rufus & Levi are going also. Jeff Maxwell, Ed Cross, Ed Tobins, & King David are going. ¹ O what shall I do for a beau when King David takes his departure to the land of gold. But I must submit to the will of Providence.
O Louisa, I had such a good visit out to Empire. I wish I was there tonight. I don’t feel contented at all since I came back. It is a beautiful place. I was in hopes you would come out there before you went East. O Louisa, I smashed one feller’s heart while I was there. His name is Theodore Page — poor fellow. I felt sorry for him but I could not help it. He had no business to fall in love. He came to see me every Sunday night for 6 weeks. He asked me to have him. I then thought it about time to give him the mitten. He took it very hard. He ran away soon after. I heard he had gone to Pike’s Peak. Poor fellow. I sympathize deeply with him. I hope he will find consolation digging gold.
O Louisa, it is an awful thing to have your heart smashed. I know by experience. But mine has nearly growed together again. I don’t see what the fellers want to fall in love for. It is very foolish (don’t you think so?). There is Ira. He is poor fellow — nearly distracted. Louisa, I do honestly feel sorry for him for I know that he worshipped me and it will be the summation of him. But what can I do? I can never give my hand without my heart. I hope he will find someone else to love. But he says he can never love another and that his hopes are forever blasted. He cares not for anyone but me and he cares not what becomes of him. He wishes he had died before he ever saw me. O what can I do. I cannot bear to see a being this early crushed to earth all his happiness. But enough of this.
I am corresponding with a young gentleman at Empire. I expect he will be the next victim. Louisa, I do wish you were here. I am going to have such grand times this summer, riding on horseback, but Lo me, I shall have to ride alone for the young gents are all going to leave. O can it be that we must part with them all — yes all — excepting George and you know the old batch don’t go out much. But I will make him fly around now, I tell you. But I must quit this nonsense and try and write something.
I am very thankful, Louisa, for the silk patches you left me. I have not done much to my quilt yet but think I will get it done by the time I shall need it.
William Lincoln has moved back to Aurora. He has had the rheumatism this winter so that he has had to keep his bed the most of the time. He is getting better. I am in hopes when it comes warm settled weather that he will get entirely over it. He looks very miserable. Eben’s family are well. Their youngest child is a perfect little beauty He runs alone. His hair curls all over his head. He looks like his father.
I attended a ball the 22nd of February. I had a splendid time. They talk of having a sugar party at Charley Stolp’s next week. They will have a dance.²
Louisa I often think of the many happy hours we have spent together but I must close this hoping to hear from you soon. All join in sending love to you. Write soon. Goodbye for the present.
March 23, 1849
Just as I had finished my letter to you, Temperance came in and said there was someone coming with a satchel in hand. We all wondered who it could be. It was storming very hard. He came in and we found to our great surprise that it was your brother Charley. You can’t imagine how glad we were to see him and to hear so directly from you. I felt, dear Louisa, as though I must sit down and try to think you was not here. I feel so lost since you went away. O Louisa, you must come back next fall, won’t you? I know you are enjoying yourself first rate there among your folks but what will I do, Louisa, without you? You recollect, Louisa, you promised me that when you got married and set to keeping house, I might come and live with you. Now you must fulfill your promise. I begin to feel myself a real Old Maid. I am quite resigned to my fate.
O, Fred Lund is here tonight. He has been in Chicago all winter. He is just so pretty and sweet as ever. Little witch, I could put my arms about his neck and devour him with kisses — dear little creature. But enough of this. Jeff has been here today. Him and George have gone sparking tonight. It is raining and I hope they will have a good time coming home. Mr. Lund’s are going to have a dance next Friday night. I shall go. I wish you was going to be there but how useless it is to wish. If our wishes could be granted, it would be well to wish.
Write soon — Maria
¹ These young men from Kane County may have been among the number led to the Colorado gold fields by John Ellis. By the time they got to Pikes Peak, the golf fever had subsided and they were forced to find other employment before returning home to Illinois. Ellis eventually returned to Illinois and served as captain of Company G, 105th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War.
² Charles West Stolp (1831-1887) was the son of Frederick Stolp (1781-1873) and Janette Wilhelmina Pepper (1790-1837). He married Sarah D. Bristol (1831-1900) in Naperville, Illinois, in March 1855. The Stolp family settled in the area just north of Eola and North Aurora Road. Purportedly, they walked all the way from Pultneyville, New York.