1817 - 1853. 66 letters and 23 documents, including a folded indenture on vellum. All items in manuscript, often folded to form their own mailer, with address/ postmark/ seal to the verso of the final leaf. Includes many bifolia and/or multiple pages of text; total word count conservatively estimated at 10,000. Divers dimensions, ranging from 3" x 6" to 14" x 8". Occasional loss or tearing to some leaves, usually as a result of breaking the wax seal, affecting text in a few cases; some splits and/or tenderness at folds; corner of one letter detached but present. Overall, a VG collection. Item #30281
An extensive archive of material documenting a Juniata County, PA man's purchases and sales of land in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio between 1842 and 1852, as well as correspondence sent to him from friends and family members who emigrated west. The material provides a wealth of practical information about newly-formed towns and settlements, including the need for particular skilled labor (e.g., blacksmiths, mechanics, etc.) and the cost of goods (exhorbitant), as well as personal accounts of daily hardships and tragedies, news about those who have continued to travel further west, and the continuing progress of the railroad and its affect on land prices.
Of particular note are a number of documents pertaining to Atkinson’s attempts to locate surviving Revolutionary War soldiers or their descendants in order to purchase unclaimed Revolutionary War bounty land grants.Tracking down the owners of these grants seems to have been a long, difficult, and, in at least one instance, apparently futile endeavor, likely aided by the fact that both state and national officials kept records. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties and the not infrequent appearance in the correspondence of someone explaining the circumstances that have led to their being unable to pay their bill, Atkinson seems to have done well for himself and gained/maintained high standing in the community. A considerable portion of his land deals are with or in some fashion for fellow family members and friends.
The letters from family and former Pennsylvanians, ranging from Ohio to Iowa, provide a unique view of western expansion, charting the quite literal western expansion of a single community. An 1848 letter from a J. Atkinson, presumably Adam’s brother, describes going to Burlington to buy horses, and riding “across the Country Home by way of Peorie [I]lanoy [sic] and [L]afayette I will not pretend to give you enny [sic] account of our adventures and escapes untill [sic] I see you” (Nov. 29, 1848). At least two items reference the railroad, both favorably, noting the nearby rise in land values and future ease of transportation; nearly all note which crops and/or livestock do well in which areas, and the prices each is able to fetch at market, etc. Also included is the tale of a local resident who journeyed to California during the Gold Rush, Michael Simmons [??], a Newton Hamilton, PA, citizen who initially met with failure to such an extent that he is reported as heading out of Oregon “almost naked and barefootted [sic]”; Simmons eventually opened a shop somewhere in the San Francisco area, and quickly made over $10K. His story is recounted by Adam’s brother, A. J. Atkinson, a surgeon who has been offered the chance to return with Simmons to Oregon, though it is highly unlikely that he did so.
Atkinson died of cholera in 1852. The final letter in the archive is from his son Louis, 12 years old and away at boarding school, to his mother, who may have remarried by this time. Louis would later serve as an assistant surgeon during the Civil War, and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1883.