The following letter, written from (Mt. Pleasant) away back in 1843, opens up life of pioneer days in an intimate and authentic manner. The letter was written by Dr. Charles S. Clarke, who came here as a practicing physician in August 1843, and lived here for many years. His home stood where the Public Library now stands (Note: Carnegie Library building, 200 N. Main). Dr. Clarke, the writer of this interesting letter to relatives back in Ohio, was the father of the well-known Dr. J. Fred Clarke of Fairfield. The letter is worth preserving as an historical document. It follows:

Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Dec. 10, 1843.
Dear Brother, Sister and Friends:

I cannot ask you to excuse my negligence in not writing to you long, long ago, I can, however, ask you to forgive. Owing to pecuniary disappointments, with the uncertainty of success, without money and friends, my feelings have been so depressed, that I have not felt like writing to any of our kindred and friends. All have alike been neglected, not forgotten. I have in fact been very homesick since I came here, and I have not had the courage, nor could bear the idea of telling you of it.

A new country is not as completely perfect as many have imagined. As age gives wisdom and experience as (and?) it will take time and toll to make this country equal to Ohio.

This town is west of the Mississippi River, about thirty miles, perhaps the nearest point is twenty miles. Burlington, on the river, is 30 miles SE and is a place of much importance, the best market for the products of the country. It contains some heavy capitalists, who are doing a fair business. The farmers of this region here find a market for their pork and wheat. Heavy hogs sell readily for $2.00 per 100 lbs. Wheat from 40 to 50 cents.

This is a splendid town to the eye, containing a population of 600 or 700- all kinds of mechanics- 5 stores, having a good assortment of merchandise, selling at reasonable prices- very little credit business is done. We have a valuation law that has destroyed credit. There are two groceries and one drug store, 4 regular old school physicians, two steamers and one root-ist, and one compound of steam and roots, beside(s) every other man and every other woman in town professes to know what ought and what ought not to be done for the sick.

We have a Methodist church and minister, also a Campbellite, also a Cumberland Presbyterian, in all three churches; one Presbyterian and one Baptist minister- five preachers. The mass of the community is moral and intelligent. No school house, but 2 male and one female school. A Methodist college is begun. A brick court house; a hewed log jail empty, empty. To count all finished and unfinished.

We have eleven attorneys at law, J. C. Hall, from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, is at the head of the bar. He has an extensive reputation and a lucrative practice. This town has grown up in the time of four or five years, five brick, and as many as 300 frame buildings- small frame and log cabins.

This county sends 3 members to one branch and one to the other of the territorial legislature. William Thompson, formerly of Bloomfield, Ohio, is a member.

Mt. Pleasant is on the prairie near the timber. There is a small stream skirted by timber, distant two to four miles, running around the town. The prairie included in the circle is mostly improved- under cultivation. This Big Creek is not durable, but affords water power spring and fall for saw mills. There is any quantity of good land in all directions about the town- not only here but there a house, a farm.

Neighbors and towns are in sight even to 10 miles apart. The Manitow (well-known here by the name of Skunk river) is distant from here 4 ½ miles. It is an excellent mill stream and has on it a number of fine mills in operation. It is about the size of the Olentangy at Delaware, but more durable and rapid.

We are 60 miles southwest of Iowa City; fifty miles north of the Missouri line, 40 miles from the Indian Prairie, Van Buren county, 40 miles east of New Parchall; 25 or 30 miles from Washington; 25 miles from Fairfield, 10 miles northeast from Salem, the Quaker town; 8 miles west of New London.

There is an abundance of good water to be obtained by digging 12 to 25 feet. Rock and marble in any quantity. We have a stage and mail tri-weekly from and to Burlington. The rivers here are of no importance for navigation, unless it be by slack water by dams. I have seen the Red Cedar, Iowa, Manitow and Des Moines. I would compare them with the Sciota at Columbus. The Iowa is the deepest and full of sand bars. The Des Moines is broad and shallow, a beautiful clear stream of uniform depth. The Manitow is best for mills. Fish are less plenty than snakes. The prairie lands are high and very rolling- good excellent soil. The timber is found on the small streams and rivers, principally oak. To me there appears a scarcity. Improved farms sell from $5 to $16 per acre. Spring wheat does better than fall. It is the general opinion that timothy and clover will not do well in this soil.

My own opinion is that it has not been fairly tried yet. Oats yield from 60 to 80 bushels to the acre. Corn about the same as in Ohio. Wild fruit is plenty- very few orchards set out. Green apples from Illinois sell here at 75 cents per bushel, dry apples $1 to $1.50. Peaches $1.50 to $2.00 etc., etc., etc.

There are here people from all parts of the Union. Ohioans outnumber all others. Many from Ind., Ill., Ky., Tenn. and not a few from Yankeeland. Some of our citizens have very strange names, Vanoskans, Lazenbees, Lindemaths, Doublebowers, Umphinhours, Hightowers, and the like, or shorter as Ore, Dart, Caulk, and Rork. The whole family of Smiths have left the United States, I guess, and have settled in this territory. It is supposed that every man and a half one meets is a Smith, and John Smith at that.

I never lived in a place where money was so scarce, thanks to the protective genius of modern Democracy. We have no rascally banks here. Pity that the hard money locos cannot all immigrate to this bankless region, with some of the statesmen, Allen, Benton and Van- The neighborhood business is done by barter- trade for trade.

Perhaps a little about my own affairs would interest you. We settled in this town the 8th day of August- had a call the 12th, attended to the case to the amount of $10.00. On the same day formed a partnership with Dr. J. D. Payne, four months ago tomorrow. In that time, we have charge on our book $992.00, one half, about $500.00, is due to me, the other half to my partner. We have not taken in enough money to pay for 1/2 of our medicine, which cannot be bought for trade. I have really groaned and sweat for a little money. I feel well satisfied with the amount of custom and business done. So far, I have constantly been gaining friends. I have been fortunate and successful. There has been more sickness than is usual the past season in this section. The cause is mainly attributed to the large immigration and to want and exposure. If people had had plenty with comfortable dwellings, they would be as sure of good health as in the older countries. An observer and judge of cause and effect would not think strange if sickness prevailed in floorless, open log cabins. The practice of medicine is not so easy here as in an old settled country. Proper rooms, diet and nursing are not at command. I expect to continue here and hope to do well. Will make some property, if no money.

All that Iowa wants is age, to make it a splendid and delightful country. Only 7 or 8 years old, and even now, fields, flocks, herds and people swarm in every valley and on every mountain.

("Mount Pleasant News", Thursday, January 16, 1936)

NOTE: Resource provided by Henry County Heritage Trust; transcription done by Hayley A. Hopper, University of Northern Iowa Public History Field Experience Class, February 2022.

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