1862: Newel Carpenter to Jason Waters

Nevel Carpenter in 1880s

Newel Carpenter in 1880s

These two letters were written by Newel Carpenter (1823-1904), a 39 year-old millwright in Adams County, Wisconsin. He was the son of John and Abigail (Healey) Carpenter of Sutton, Worchester, Massachusetts. In 1844, Newall was married to Charlotte Temple Arnold (1824-1845). After her death, he married Mary Elizabeth Butler (1828-1908) in 1847.

A biography for Newel Carpenter reads as follows (in part):

Until eighteen years of age Newel Carpenter resided at home, attending school and assisting his father, and was then apprenticed to V. C. Hooker, of Sutton, to learn the trade of millwright. He received for the first year’s work forty dollars in money and three months’ schooling, and the contract was for three years. However, his employer accepted a contract in Mexico and gave our subject his time and set of tools, most of which he still has in his possession. He was apt and showed such competency after one years’ work, that the well known contractor and millwright of Sutton, Jonathan Dudley, engaged him as overseer of his workmen. He then continued thus three yaers, and then, at the age of twenty-two years, worked for himself, and was engaged on mill work for the woolen and cotton mills in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was also engaged in the car shops of the railway company of that place. He went to Skowhegan Falls, Maine, at the age of thirty years, and was employed in a number of factories, and was proprietor of a sash and blind factory in that city, and was the builder of several starch factories. He also employed a number of hands in the manufacture of pill boxes, and Brown Thompson, of Boston, bought their entire output. In the spring of 1850 Mr. Carpenter went to White Creek, Adams county, Wisconsin, and took land on section thirty-five, where he has since resided. He has a good residence on the estate, and modern conveniences and good barns. He built a saw-mill on the farm in 1862, which he operated continuously until the present year, when in February the mill burned, and was a total loss, including planing mill, shingle machine and feed mill. He contemplates erecting another sawmill at once. He removed to Ableman, Sauk county, in 1893, where he built a flour and grist-mill, which he owned for four years, and afterward returned to White Creek. He has built a number of mills around the country, including those at Poynette, Elroy, Sumner, and Easton. [Memorial and Biographical Record and Illustrated Compendium of Biography of Citizens of Columbia, Sauk and Adams Counties, Wisconsin, published 1901 by G. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1901, Pages 299 – 300]

Newel wrote the letters to his cousin, Jason Waters (1824-1908), the son of Stephen Waters (1797-1850) and Matilda Carpenter (1800-1891).

Newel’s first letter speaks extensively of the Thomas Rich (1808-1888) family whom he visited in Portage, Wisconsin. Thomas was the son of Elijah Rich (1764-1829) and Abigail Hicks (1770-1845). He was married to Prudence S. Kenney (1809-1887) and had at least eight children — three of whom are mentioned in the letter: Elijah (“Lige”) Rich (1830-1905) and Thomas Franklin Rich (1838-1929).

1862 Letter

1862 Letter

Addressed to Mr. Jason Waters, West Sutton P.O., Worcester County, Massachusetts

White Creek [Wisconsin]
March the 20, 1862

Dear Cousin,

I take this opportunity of inquiring of you — how do you do? how do you get along? and John? and whether you have gone to the war or not? and if you have, write me and let me know.

I live as before at White Creek, Wisconsin, and follow my trade. We are all well and haven’t called in a doctor for over 9 years although it has been very sickly all around us for this country.

Mr. T. Rich’s family are all well that is at home. Lige and his brother younger has gone to Washington Territory and are a digging gold as I hear. I probably shall see Mr. Rich this week a Tuesday. I am a going to Portage and shall go that way on purpose to see him. There is some 5 or 6 families a going from here or of a short distance from here to Oregon.

It has been a great while since I have heard from you. I have written you several times that I have had no answer. Perhaps you will not hear or receive this but if you should, give my love to your mother if she is a living. Tell her that I have not forgotten her nor her kindness to me. But I have done well since I have been here. I have no reason to complain. I get my 3 dollars per day and no less. You write me when you receive this a long letter to tell me all about Hooker and my old friends. N.B. tell me how you get along a being old bachelor. But I heard you was married and then our communication stopped and we not start it again. If so, let’s try.

Tell John he must write me and I would like to hear from any of my friends. Tell them to write and I will answer them. Give them my address, which is White Creek, Adams County, Wisconsin. I think of nothing more at present but I will tell you more when I return from Portage and have seen S. Rich.

April 28th 1862

Dear Cousin, I have returned from Portage and have seen Mr. Rich. His son Franklin is in Washington Territory a digging gold. He wrote Lige his brother — he received it the first of March — he wrote him that he had been in there a few months and was getting 5 dollars & board per day & a company of 4 wanted him to go a prospecting with them and would give him 5 and his board and he started with them. He said that he thought he was further in the mountains than any white man ever was but they came onto 2 men that had their pans full of gold. They said they had dug it in 24 hours and he should think by the date that they had. They found plenty that yielded 25 cts. to the pan. They went down after supplies thinking to return but when he got down there was a great cry in Fraser River ¹ and he said he packed off down there. He found them making from 10 to 50 dollars per day. He took him a claim and was a doing first rate. He told Lige to come as soon as possible and if he would be there by the first of April, he would find or keep him a claim that he would make $20,000 dollars during the summer. He started 3 days from the receipt of the letter & probably is now there or near there. He sailed from New York City. Mr. Thomas Rich says that he shall go next spring if the war proves favorable with the families — probably the overland route.

I think of nothing more except that I wish to conform Franklin Rich’s word. By all of his acquaintances not one will doubt it and some for so has gone on that letter that was acquainted with him. He told Lige to say nothing to anyone but come right along. The letter is now with his father here and open for perusal. I think of nothing more at present so I must close for this evening’s mail.

So goodbye. Yours truly, — Newel Carpenter

¹ The Fraser River Gold Rush began in 1858. About $500,000 worth of gold was mined in 1858 but it declined rapidly after that. In 1862, gold was discovered further north on the creek of the Cariboo. See Cariboo Gold Rush.


Addressed to Mr. Jason Waters, Esq., West Sutton, Worcester, Massachusetts

White Creek, Adams Co., Wisconsin
August 25, 1862

Dear Cousin,

Yours of the 18th was received last Friday and was glad to hear that you have some idea of coming West for here is the place to live. Any provisions of all kinds is very cheap, but labor is high and [there is] great chance here for making money if a man has a little to commence with. But I am doing nothing this summer. I have been lame with the rheumatism ever since the snow went off in the spring. But I am now some better and am cutting hay for my stock which consists of 1 cow, 1 yearling colt, one 2-year old which is the best in the county, one 6 year-old horse I value [at] 200 dollars. He now can trot his mile less than 3 minutes, 8 seconds when I tried him last spring and he has improved ever since. Before I commenced trotting him, he beat everything that he ran with and he has run over 50 times to my village and with the best….[more of his trotter that I can’t decipher because of the quality of the image]

…talk of something else. I doubt not but you will hear of the murders committed by the Minnesota Indians near St. Paul before this reaches you, some ___ hundred miles from here. The paper states that one hundred there opposed 1,000 men, women & children. Nut now do not worry of hearing any more for they will not ___ them till they are extinct. I will send you the paper if I can get it that will tell you better than I can.
There is a great deal of talk of drafting here but we think we are exempt for we have sent nearly 2/3 of our able-bodied men in this town and over ½ of all the males that is liable of the age so as we divide the county into towns, you see that we are exempt.
You spoke of Uncle Tyler living in Rochester [Minnesota]. Had I of known it, I should of seen him when I was there. I stopped in Rochester going & coming. Coming I was there on the 4th of July. We drove 50 miles that day to get there to a horse race but it was over before we reached there. We got there, however, at 4 o’clock. We tried to get up a race but could not for most of them were going. They have a track there and in fact, they have one in most every town in Minnesota. If you can give me Uncle Siles address, I will write him. I think if it is so that you can understand it, it is the most that I care.

We are all well at present and give our love to all. Tell John that I should like very much to have you drop in here some day and see us. We have a plenty to eat, drink, and to wear on hand for the next year and a little money. If you will come, we will try and entertain you the best we can. But we have no musical instrument to play on. But you know we can make or get one very soon. If you like hunting, we can have plenty of that so you see that I am a boy yet and like to hunt pigeons, partridges, quails, prairie chickens, and rabbits & dear — all without young far from home. Say you’ll come and if you cannot bring your family, bring yourself and then perhaps you will in some way bring your family for I think you will like the West. If you want a farm improved, you can buy it for a song almost and better land than you have. In your state, farms are worth nothing — they are so plenty.
Perhaps I wrote you of one that sold here this spring. He had 220 acres, 100 under the plow, clear from stumps, a good house, barn and good well of water and he give a clear, warranted deed for the sum of 150 dollars. What do you think of that? He wants to take the benefit of the new Homestead Act so you see that farms are worth but little or nothing. Say you’ll come and buy your ticket through to our station which is Kilburn City which is in Adams county, 16 miles from here, White Rock.

I think of nothing more at present. Yours truly, — N. Carpenter


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