This letter was written by Lot Hazelton Skinner (1817-1885), the son of Samuel B. Skinner (1789-1853) and Elizabeth Hazelton (1793-1867) of Perry county, Ohio. In 1860, Lot resided in Salem, Dent county, Missouri, where he worked as a blacksmith. In 1843 he was married to Martha J. Wilson and they had several children before she died in the mid 1860s. In 1866, he remarried to Sarah Lavina Holliday (1833-1925) of Montgomery county, Illinois.
Skinner did not indicate the town from which he wrote this letter but the envelope is postmarked Blandinsville, McDonough county, Illinois. Perhaps he relocated from Missouri back to Illinois once the Civil War erupted. Hewrote the letter to George Q. Baker (1816-1896) and his wife, Sarah Ann Carmean (1822-1909) of Butler, Montgomery county, Illinois. George was the son of Dr. Calvin Baker (1790-1830) and Roxanna Mayo of Roxbury, Suffolk county, Massachusetts.
Addressed to Mr. George Baker, Butler, Montgomery County, Illinois
[Blandinsville, McDonough county, Illinois]
September 6th 1863
Mr. George Baker
After an elapse of time, I take the opportunity to acknowledge my negligence in not writing you sooner and to ask you to excuse me fo this time & I’ll try to do better for time to come for you have to work so [ ] that I did not have time only on Sunday. Then I have to attend to Sabbath School & meeting & being tired that I have left off until the present. I must say that through the goodness of our Heavenly Father, we are all enjoying good health & trust we are enjoying ourselves spiritually tolerably well considering the constant political excitement. But religion is at a low ebb here. These surely are the times to try the souls of children of men. We have all classes of men here—Republicans and Abolitionists, Copperheads & War Democrats, & at times great excitement. O, how I wish these troubles would close. But I still hold the same opinion I did at the commencement of the war—that it would last as long as the Revolution did. And sometimes I think it will not close until the whole world will be engaged in it, but hope for the better.
Well I must let you know how the crops is here. They are light. We have had a very dry summer. The wheat crop will not yield more than 12 bushels per acre take spring & fall wheat together. Oats & rye are good. Corn promises to be a moderate crop. But on the night of th 29th of August, we had a very heavy frost. It has bit nearly all the corn but I hope it is not as bad as a great many thinks. But time will tell what will be the result. For my part, I have never been afraid to trust in Providence for bread although I have seen some dark times in my life—darker than ever I want to see again.
I must let you know how we are a getting along. I have bought 1 acre of land for 20 dollars & built a log house on it. I have a year to pay for the land but my house is paid for & nearly half the land debt is now paid for by working in blacksmith shop. We have 12 acres of tolerable [ ] but have to [ ] of it but I think I will [ ] a shop [ ] & bought a set of [ ] costing 48 dollars. They are not all paid yet. I have got 2 good cows & 2 calves. They are not paid for yet. I have some time yet to pay for them. I have 9 head of hogs to fatten this fall & 12 to keep over if the cholera and other diseases lets them alone. They are paid for and I have one hundred and forty dollars on book besides keeping my family. I have cut & set 120 wagon tire this summer besides a power of other work. I have worked so hard that I did not take time to eat dinner a many a day this summer.
I did not harvest any this harvest but I made often three dollars a day in the shop & some times I could make as high as 5 dollars per day. This looks like boasting but I do not feel that way. I desire to be thankful that Providence has arranged things as well as he has for me. I keep my prices below the other shops with a few exceptions so that I feel that I am not extorting on my fellow being.
Now you wished me to let you know how I thought a man could do here with limited means. I will just say that land here is higher than it is there but I have seen several of my old acquaintances that has been through South Iowa and they say that a man can buy good land with tolerable good improvements for two dollars & 50 cents per acre and handy to market. If I had the means to do anything with, I would go there or in North Missouri.
I must now tender my best wishes to the Cherry Grove Sabbath School. My mind has been drawn towards Cherry Grove every Sabbath morning this summer. We have a said to be a Methodist Sabbath School here. It is different than any that ever I have been to before…. a dry school… I hope Cherry Grove school is still prosperous and prospering all the members & both officers & scholars have my warmest affections & good wishes. I would be pleased to see them all in school but circumstances rather directs otherwise & I suppose it is all well. I will just say that I do not like this settlement as well as I did in Montgomery but here is the place for my business & I think that it is best for me to stay where I can do the nest. I would like to see you all but I do not know whether that will be or not. But I hope to live so as to meet you all in Heaven.
We have heard that you are looking for trouble there with the Copperheads. I hope not. The children talks of coming down this fall but from the appearances here and the probability of trouble on the road that I fear to let them start unless the sign of the times changes.
I understand that Brother Walker & Camp & families have moved to Kansas. I wish you to write to me & let me know their post office address, if you know. Please let me know how you are all getting along and how things is in general. I have written to Chenoweth & others in Montgomery ¹ & have got no answer & the family has writ to different ones there but we get no answer to any. Please write soon. I remain yours as ever, — L. H. Skinner
To Geo. Baker & Family
¹ Nancy Skinner (1845-1931), born in Indiana, married Jasper P Chenoweth (1836-1920) on 22 June 1864 in Montgomery county, Illinois.