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Description: This small archive (17 letters plus ephemera) of the Haley family consists, most significantly, of a group of seven letters written May 1857 to May 1858 by Harrison Haley, a farmer, to his wife as he crosses the Plains . He travels from Lawrence County, Missouri to California selling cattle and claims. As Haley heads westward through Iowa and Nebraska to Michigan Bar, California, he yearns for his dear “Fanny” and children from whom he has never been apart. He writes that they saw “Indians for 220 miles back saw buffalo for the first time” [sic], that he has no space to describe all the perils and dangers but glad to “be [there] and alive with [their] scalps . . . thirty were killed in a day . . . [they] were not molested.” While he admires his brother-in-law Peyton’s growth into manhood, he sees Jo (a slave) “getting too big for his breeches,” adding “if he doesn’t not improve his manners and starts back with [him, he would] sell him on the way.” Five informative letters from Michigan Bar include his impressions of California where he is slowly selling his stock but has done little with his claims. He is amazed by its Missouri spring-like weather in December, where he can “look at the green prairie and turn around and cast [his] eyes on the everlasting snow.” He writes descriptively about his sparse windowless boarding room, the merry miners at play at the card tables, the same terrible “rancid” daily meals, and the high cost of living: “living is poor in California, we pay for this $7 a piece pr. Week.” He also surprised by the “educated” gold miners that work for a pittance; he thinks they are from wealthy families. He is both disgusted and stunned by the State which permits “the prostitute Ladies of Sacramento” to dine at the Sutter Hotel and has “has no laws” for runaway slaves. Regarding a case that is being heard, he writes “the supposition in the case now pending is that the Negro will be set free.” Haley decides to sell Jo, if he finds him, in New Orleans on his way home. In what seems his last letter before he boards a ship to return, he says, “I am scared when I look back at our danger on the plains of Indians and Mormons, the last trains are all said to be butchered by Mormons, they think there can be no more croping [sic] the plains until the Mormons are all killed or drove out of government.” He wants to return home “with God’s help a better man.”

Eight letters (written between 1879 and 1881) are from Taylor Rhea, a man in dire straits, addressed to Haley discussing an incorrectly drawn deed which is delaying land sale in Kentucky. This lot also includes a promissory note to Haley for $31.65 and a “true copy” of a Sheriff’s Deed for about 120 acres of land in Lawrence County, MO, sold to Harrison Haley.

There is an 1840 congratulatory letter from cousin I. A. Cooke to Maria Haley about her newborn daughter and mentions Haley’s disappointment of the sex of the child, he quips “I am sorry he is not man enough to get a boy.” Cooke names his own son after his cousin Peyton and asks Maria to tell her brother that “he owes [Cooke] a young negro” for having done so. There is also an 1845 letter in which Maria’s sister Elizabeth reflects upon the restraints that mothers face when they have too many children and is glad that that their cousin Nancy “does not want to have any more children. . .   and she is very wise in doing so.” Both are folded, stamp-less covers. Item #AM00266

Condition: Several letters have short separations at folds and staining, though all the letters are clear and legible. One letter (Jan 16, 1858) has a one-inch square cut out to remove a stamp with some loss of text on the verso, but the content is decipherable. Paper sizes vary, several transmittal envelopes included