1839: Lorenzo Bevans to Thomas Haney

The Peoria and Warsaw Railroad was incorporated in 1838 as part of a massive internal improvements project funded by the Illinois Legislature. Unfortunately, it encountered financial problems and not a mile of railroad track was laid. Only surveying, grading and superstructure work (culverts & bridging) was accomplished. A railroad through this area was not finally completed until decades later.

This letter was written by Lorenzo Bevans (1804-1847), the son of John Bevans (1760-1839) and Hannah Owen (1763-1853) of Marietta, Fulton County, Illinois. At the time (1839), Lorenzo was serving as the Post Master of Marietta and, apparently, bidding on contracts for civil construction work. Lorenzo later moved to Grant County, Wisconsin where he unsuccessfully tried to make a living as a lawyer and as a shopkeeper. Bankrupt, living on credit, and with a family to feed, Lorenzo eventually decided to try mining in 1845. He found nothing for months but finally struck a lead vein near Plattville that yielded 2 million pounds of ore. He died in 1849 but his lead mine lives on as a tourist attraction.

Bevans wrote the letter to Thomas Haney who was apparently the editor of a Rushville newspaper in 1839.

Stampless Letter

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Mr. Thomas Haney, Rushville, Illinois
Free [postage], L. Bevans, Post Master, Marietta

Canton, Illinois
14 September 1839

Thomas Haney, Esq.
Dear Sir,

The Rushville paper giving an account of the lettings at Rushville are as follows:

Superstructure on the Peoria & Warsaw Railroad

Litener & Brother  — 12 sec[tions]
L. Bowins  — 7 sec[tions]

Now, as I do not know any such man, I am inclined to believe that it is my bid that has the 7 sections. Please learn at the Engineer’s Office and write me by the next mail at this place and also at Marietta.

Respectfully yours, — L. Bevins

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