This letter was written by Ezra Wright Smith (1807-18xx), a son of Reuben Smith (1781-1842) and Pamela Wright (1784-1859) of Rodman, Jefferson County, New York. Ezra was married to Hannah Cochraine. Ezra wrote the letter to his younger brother, Orrin (or Oren) N. Smith (1818-18xx).
The letter was written in 1843 — three years after Ezra formed a partnership with Horace Button to start up a distillery in Terre Haute, Indiana. In July 1847, the steam flour mill and distillery burned to the ground (estimated loss between $10,000 to $12,000) but Smith rebuilt it and sold it to Alexander McGregor in 1850.
Addressed to Mr. O. N. Smith, Rodman, Jefferson County, New York
Terre Haute [Indiana]
July 19, 1843
Mr. O. N. Smith
I this day enclose the eight deeds belonging to the heirs of Reuben Smith signed by my wife Hannah to Esqr. Gilbert of East Rodman which I trust will come safe to hand. I should have sent them ‘ere this but the press of business has employed all my time since my return.
Had a very quick trip home from your place. Our goods arrived in a few days after me all in fine order, condition, &c. &c. Our anticipations will be fully realized as regards a good business the balance of the season both in our mill, distillery & store. For the last two weeks our house has been completely thronged with customers so much so that I am nearly used up by hard labor. Two of our clerks are sick with the prevailing disease called the Influenza which appears to be all through the country, which has thrown the labor of at least two good clerks upon myself. It is not often that I complain of doing too much business — particular when it is done by way of ready pay and good profits. But for the last two weeks, I have been glad when night closed in & stopped business.
“Madam Rumor” says we have decidedly the best stock of dry goods in town and judging from the mess of customers such is the case. We are able to undersell our neighbors and still make all the profit desired. In fact, our business never was better than at present in the store and at least 33 percent we expect to realize in our distillery — better profits than has been since she has belonged to S&B. For the last four weeks we have been overhauling our engines, putting in new timbers &c., which has been a heavy job. But it was what should have been done when we purchased the mill. Bored out both cylinders and put everything in complete order and runs like a top. You would be astonished to see how much difference it makes both in the quantity of steam and speed of the engines. Takes 1/3 less fuel to do the same business. We are putting down the third run stone and the sd mashing machine so as to mash 150 bushels per day soon as possible as we have at least 20,000 bushels of grain now on hand which will carry us through the season at 150 bushels per day.
We are now purchasing all the wheat, rye, corn &c. offered for goods or cash, together with bacon, lard, butter, feathers, &c. &c., all of which we consider better to us than cash the prices we are paying. Should nothing prevent, either by sickness or some unforeseen accident, I cannot see anything to prevent doing a good business the balance of the season. The wheat crop is very light all through this region of country; will not be 1/2 crop, not 1/3 in this county, but better in the adjoining county. Do not expect to get very much but there is still old wheat coming in. It is now becoming very dry and shall be thronged with custom wheat at our mill which will pay us very well at 30 ___ fine flour for 60 __ wheat. Shall not be able to send whiskey the Northern route at present as the Wabash River is very low — not over 14 inches on the bars.
Hope you are all getting along well in Rodman both in health, prosperity &c. Myself and family join in sending our kindest regard for all, hoping soon to hear from you by letter.
Respectfully your brother, — E. W. Smith