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Joseph THOMSON Papers

For some time now I have had a copy of the Joseph Thomson Papers, 1818-1857, which are held in the Ohio Historical Society library. These consist of letters written to Joseph Thomson (b. 6 Feb 1780, grandson of Joseph Thomson and Mary Holbrook, son of Joseph Thomson and Lois Wheelock) of Bellingham MA and are to and from his brothers Eli, Seth, Dan and Ziba as well as some friends who had all moved on to Wilkesville (Vinton County) OH and Elkhart County, IN. [Family Group]

It occurred to me that some of the newer Tommies may be interested in this correspondence which discusses family affairs and daily life in 19th Century Ohio and Indiana. If any of you have an interest in the Papers, please contact me. There are VERY lengthy, but I'd be happy to share more. They offer priceless insights on frontier life.

Nancy Thomson nancy@funnybusiness.com 


Wilkesville May the 20 1818

Brother Joseph Thomson....

We are all very much engaged in work I have got nine or ten Acres of land cleared which I Shall plant About five acres and sow the Rest to Oats I am about (unclear) I have got timber hewed for it from which I shall raise (unclear) 30 by 40 and 16 foot posts. We had A very hard winter here last winter and A verry backward Spring for this country but it appeared verry moderate to me I received your letter the 22 of this month which I received with pleasure and read the deaths of A number of people which I little Thought of hearing of being Dead. I want you should rite to me how....

signed Eli Thomson


Wilkesville May 28 1818

Brother Dan Thomson

 I receved your letter 22 last I can with pleasure wirte a few lines to you and will inform you we are all in good health I have Don planting and am going to Galioppolis this Day with Bunnets I have Cleared Eight acres Built a log house and planted 4 1/2 with Corn I have ... Six more Cleared to Sow with wheat I am going to build Mills this Summer if posable provisions is was plenty last fall But Scarce know wheat 1 Dollar per Bushel Corn 50 Cents Bacon 10 I want you to write to me as Soon as you Can and Inform me about your and my Business and let me now the price of Cotton goods also provision I wrote to Doctor Scameul last winter I want to know if he received the letter I think this would be a good place for your Business in Some of our towns. I am going to Chillacothe in about two weeks with Business My horse got Mired in a place when the water run ...ground and Died I am in ... and will write more next time my wife and Children remember their love to Mother Thomson and all their uncles and aunts ...to your wife and will write as soon and they can have room give my Compliments to all enquiring friend.....tell him to Call up and Smoke a pipe tell Laba(n?) the Deer and turkey are Damd thick my wife says she never felt more Contented in her life the Children are all well ...I have no wear to sell Money is very Scarse and much wanted So I remain your friend and Brother in law

Job Phetteplace


May 29 1818

Brother Joseph I will write a few Lines with the rest we are all well and well suited with the land and I wish the rest of my brothers was here and my mother too but she is too old for the journey I shant write but a few Lines this time I shall in the Corse of the Sumer write to Some of you and fill it up with the Cituation of our farms and Small affairs that will give you some more knowledge and Satisfaction about this Country I send my Respects to all you all my two boys is a great help to my work I believe none of us has ben homesick I have three acres of wheat Growing and it Looks well I have planted three acres of Corn Arthur Brown my wifes Brother Come here Last fall from Johnson he is very well Suited he works for Phetteplace Eli and myself we have had a backward Spring here this spring but now is a very growing time I have 1 1/2 acres of oats soad and 1/2 acres of flax and it Looks beautiful I have two acres of Grass....

Your brother

Seth Thomson

My wife Sends her Compliments to mother and Abigail


These following two letters, one from Eli Thomson and one from Job Phetteplace, the husband of Eli's sister, Nancy Thomson, were sent to Bellingham together, about six months after the Letters1. The settlers had spent their first summer in Ohio and made headway with farming and business. Both letters discuss family business issues and the pressing need to send money, a topic of many of the early letters in the Joseph Thomson Papers. Money was scarce in Ohio and the mail was uncertain. The writers never knew if their relatives back home hadn't sent the money they owed them...or if it had been lost in the mail. Note: The mark .... indicates illegible word/s.

Wilks Ville November the 15 1818

Brother Joseph Thomson I am under the necessity of riting to you that we are all well and enjoying our Selfs verry much in our new Country I received A Letter from you the Last of May Last and you rote to me that Dan has paid Some money to you and that you would Send it on if I requested if I rote to you in may to Send it as soon as possible but have not Seen any Letter yet I had made grate Calculation on the money which I have ben grately disappointed in not haveing it I thought it the Strangest thing on earth that you have not rote I hope you will not fail of riting to me as soon as you get this Letter and if you have got the money to Send it on I have not got much news to rite There is grate crop of corn raised in this country Wilks Ville is flourishing verry fast and will be a popular place one Large Brick house Built this Summer and A number of other buildings going up I have not raised my barn yet I got my Logs into Raccoon to be Sawed and there came A freshet and Caried them over the Dam and Lost I am waiting to get them Sawed to Jobes (Job's?) Mill as Soon as he gets A .... I want Ziba Should come here for I think there is A grate Chance for him in building mils and as soon as he can we had election in town Last week on Saturday to Choose A Justice of the peace and made Choice of Job for our Justice I want you should rite all the news A .... we raised good crops of corn this year I want to hear from mother and brothers and sisters Seth and his family is all well

Your Brother Eli Thomson

Job and I raised as much .... Loads of pumkins direct all you letters to Wilks Ville the mail comes through town to morrow for the first time


Brother Ziba Thomson I take this opportunity to write to you and inform you that we are all well I received a letter from Dan the Last of October Stating the Division of his land that he wanted to redeem it I Shall therefore write to him I want you to go and see him and if he redeems it to write to me you informed me By your letter that he had Delivered Some Boards and Slay into your hands the time has run out that the Land was to be redeemed and if it wont Sell for so much as he owe me you must be accountable to me for what you have received I want you to attend to this buesness as quick as posable and I will sattisfy you for the same if Dan does not redeem the land I want you to Sell it as quick as you can I understand you have Sold your farm I want you to Come and build Mills on my farm for I have more buesness then I can attend to I have Bought one half of a Still wich is now running and all of a Sawmill in town which Cost me twelve hundred Dollar we run Six Bushel of Grain per Day and expect to run 18 after new year we find reddy market for all the whisky we make Mills is wanted the most of anything in this place we have to go four Miles to Mill with ...our grain if there could be Mills erected on my farm thare .... be five of Six thousand bushels Ground every year as much Saving in propoteon we have haf a Dollar ... hundred for Sawing this Country looks a little prosperous then it Did last fall five familys come in with a Month and three or four more coming all Settled within a Mile of Seths Eight years ago not a house in the township and now about Six hundred inhabitants a post road through the town the Mail to Start to morrow here the great ??ding road from Kentucky to Pheledelphia Croses the State road from Virginia to Columbus there are one Store in town and one fraimed house one large Brick house a Cabinet makers shop and post office besides my Distillery and Saw Mill a tan house and School house going up this fall know if you think of Coming the Sooner you Come the better I wrote to Doctor Scammel last winter and have not received his answer I paid some Money for him I want you to get it and if you have Sold the Boards and Slays Send the Money in a letter Dont fail to attend to my buesness and let me know in one week so I remain yours 

Job Phettleplace
Wilksvill November the 15 1818


Wilkesville February the 6 1825 

Brother Joseph Thomson...

Seth has swaped his farm for Town Lots in Wilkesville he is now building him a house on them to move in soon he has found a hill of stone or sea coal on his lots in town but unbenown to any but his family and myself the way he found it was by a small brook or spring that comes out of the hills and runs to (unclear) that had washed the ground about as deep as my head off of the coal it being not cleared land George one day hunting along the Brook he discovered something black jumping down he began to dig out the coal with his fingers I expect the coal will be valuable in the place Job has ben to work four or five months about eightly miles in Virginia on mills I dont expect him home soon till he finished his job of work....I expect there is a grate many lead mines in this country but the Indians sais White man cant find them but the Indians dont know there is some white man so much indian they can find out their secrets I shant say any thing more about this at present we have had a verry moderate winter this winter we had some snow last week it is not quite all gone yet it is nearly all the winter weather we have but this day is like the days of April in Massachusetts if you was here you would call it no winter at all....

Your brother and friend Eli Thomson

The documents are direct quotes and should not be taken and used as one's own work without identifying the source.

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Updated: 16 Jan 2017 12:51 PM