ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
LETTER FROM IRA HARTSON TO THE CANAL TRUSTEES CONCERNING PAST DUE LAND PAYMENTS
May 16, 1851
The eighty acres in question are located near the western boundary of La Salle County and near the northeast corner of Putnam County. Sickness often ruined settlers who were living on the edge. If a crop could not be produced and sold or if wages could not be earned, appealing for sympathy to those with means often was the only alternative available.
California had been ceded to the U.S. in 1848 as part of the spoils of the war with Mexico. In that year gold first was discovered there and by February of 1849 the rush was on. Besides the fastest route which is outlined in the explanation for document 37, there were two alternatives: 1) by ship from New York, around Tierra del Fuego, and up to San Francisco, and 2) overland across unsettled plains and torturous mountains. Of those who made the journey some died in the process, others failed and returned bitter or wiser, and still others went on to settle in the West. A few returned home wealthy or set themselves up elsewhere.
Points to Consider
Describe the circumstance in which Ira Hartson's son found himself?
Who was offering to make the late payments? Why might he have waited so long to offer his help?
Had Ira Hartson's son or James Blakemore assumed the greater risk in their attempts to succeed?
How should the canal trustees have responded to this communication?