A View of Stevens Point 1854

A View of Stevens Point 1854
Appeared in the Pinery Nov. 1969

While reading through a typescript entitled “Potter-Crosby Letters 1843-1898” prepared by Ralph Kimball Potter, Dennis R. Bodem, State Archivist of Michigan, came upon two letters written in 1854 to Mr. Potter’s grandfather by a cousin living in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Knowing that this material would be of great interest to the president of our Society, Mr. Bodem offered copies of the letters and enough explanation from Mr. Ralph Potter’s family story to establish the relationship between the Potter family and David C. Bailey of Stevens Point.

Samuel Potter had come to America from England in 1843, and in 1854 was living near White Lake, Michigan. In his attempts to learn the whereabouts of whatever relatives he had in the United States, he had been given the address of the cousin, David C. Bailey, and had written to him to inquire about other members of that branch of the family. Mr. Bailey replied, furnishing some information on his sister and others. Included were some comments on his location in Wisconsin:

“I am in good health only a slight cold and that every one has in this changeable climate.. Mary lives in Chicago. I cannot come there for I think times are better here than there. The price of land is some thing here to what it is there.. .“ Closing with “Please write again”, the letter was dated April 16/54. (April 16, 1854)

When Samuel Potter received this letter, he did write again to David, saying that he would like to hear more about Stevens Point. The following is David’s reply:
“Stevens Point May 26/54

Respected Cousins It is with pleasure that I sit down to answer your letter hoping these few lines will find you in as good health as they have me. Though they do not leave me in as good health as I wish for. I have a cold and have had ever since I came to Wisconsin and shall have if I was to stay here for ten years for the weather is so changeable. It changes very sudden though it is generally healthy. There is no fever nor ague here. Now about the country, it is level and very beautiful. The timber is principally Pine but we have all kinds of hard wood that grows in this part of the country, except Beech. There is over 70,000,000 of sawn lumber run and to run down the river Wisconsin this season which brings from 15 to 20 per 14, and wages on the river is $1.25 to 2.00 per day and pilots get from 3 to 5 per day just according to how hard they work. I live in this little village which 5 years ago there was 2 dwellings and now there is 200 acres nearly that is laid Out in village lots. There is 4 taverns, 14 or 15 stores, 2 saloons, a printing office, brokers office and lawyers offices any quantity and the land office here to, 2 blacksmith shops and 3 or 4 carpenter shops. One is a steam shop. Cabinet shop and 2 or 3 shoe shops, 3 saw mills, a lath mill. o yes and a bakery. And there is a steam saw mill going to be put up in this summer and there is a steam boat building now. There is not much prairie land here or none very near here. Though there is some openings the soil is very sandy. But there is heavy timbered land and there is plenty of land not far from here to be taken up yet. There is such a noise in the shop that I cant write anything scarcely. I work at the Carpenters trade for 1.37½ per day and if I was master of the trade I could get 25¢ more a day. I would write this sheet all over if I could write in such a noise. There is one church and another building and 3 schools and plenty of other things accordingly. David C. Bailey”

“Well I have got rid of the boys and I will give you a little more history. There is a plank road coming in to town from Green Bay. It is nearly compleated and there is a rail road surveyed here from Milwaukee and 2/3 of the stock taken up and one of the contractors are here now. And there is steamboats run up the river in 80 miles of here and they run up from Green Bay up the fox river about 40 miles from here and a daily line of stages come in here. There is any quantity of sawmills but the sawyers are abused by the nuisances coming in here and sticking them selves up that they are good sawyers when they are not. All read and all write, yours Etc. D.C. Bailey”

The xerography from which the above material was excerpted may be seen in Nelis Kampenga’ s office at the University.

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