This letter was written by Ezra High (1816-1897), the son of Gen. William Penn High (1786-1851) and Catherine VanReed (1788-1822). William High earned his rank while serving as a Brigadier General in the Pennsylvania militia.
Ezra High owned 235 acres of land in Cumru Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, although he lived on a farm of seventy acres, the house upon which property he built in 1866. He also erected all of the buildings at the Poplar Neck bridge, and was an influential citizen of the lower end of the county and public-spirited to a large degree. In politics a Democrat, he was school director in 1861, when the special bounty tax was levied in Cumru township. He was an antiquarian of some note and possessed a valuable collection of Indian relics, which he donated to the Berks County Historical Society.
This letter, mailed from Danville, Illinois, was written while Ezra was on a tour of the western states. It appears that he traveled in company with his cousin, Jeremiah VanReed (b. 1814), as far as his brother Charles’ home in Warren County, Indiana, just west of the Wabash River. Charles D. High (1807-1864) and his wife, Elizabeth D. Hunter (1808-1884), were the parents of no less than five “stout hooshier” sons (Daniel, Alvin, Austin, Anson, and Ezra), and one daughter (Catharine) at the time of Ezra’s visit in April 1838. The last son mentioned, Ezra High (1838-1850) was born in April during Ezra’s visit, as mentioned in the letter. One of the other sons, Anson High (1834-1863) died while a prisoner of war in Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, while serving in Co. D., 86th Indiana Infantry.
Addressed to Gen. William High, Reading Post Office, Berks County, Pennsylvania
Danville, Vermillion County, Illinois
May 28th 1838
I now take the opportunity to inform you that I am in a perfect state of health at present, hoping these lines may find you in the same situation.
I left brother Charles yesterday for this place, a distance of 25 miles — 21 miles across the prairie and four miles timber — to the Vermillion River. Charles’ family numbers five children — all stout hooshiers — the youngest (a boy) was born on the 24th of April, the day before Jeremiah VanReed left me. The oldest is about as tall as Franklin Boas. Charles is coming on as well as can be expected although he has sold all his horned cattle except four cows and about twenty-five calves. He sold 31 young cows and calves this spring for five hundred dollars. He has sown about 120 acres of wheat but the most of it does not look as i it would bring half a crop. He is putting about 135 acres in corn, and hundred acres of sod corn to one plough. They plough it only about three inches deep and the ploughs cut a furlough about twenty-six inches wide. The corn is dropt in the furloughs and the sod thrown on. He does not expect to finish planting corn until about the 10th of June.
I am now traveling westward to the Mississippi River and then I intend to see part of Missouri. My intention is to work a few months in the western part of Illinois or Missouri. It is a very fertile part of the country although winter grain does not do very well. But corn and oats comes good every season, which they feed into their stock. And stock raising is the most profitable busies they can follow.
I received a letter dated St. Louis May 6th from Jeremiah VanReed. He said he intended to start to [New] Orleans that evening and be back to St. Louis in about three weeks at which place I should meet him. But I do not suppose to meet him sooner than about the tenth of June. The season has been thus far unaccountable cold and much rain. The corn as little as is up is very yellow, and the prairie grass is very short yet.
I remain your son, Ezra High