This letter was written by Rev. Washington Leverett, a professor and acting President of Shurtleff College in Upper Alton, Illinois to Rev. Robert Simerwell (1796-1868). It concerns the boarding and school expenses of Robert’s eldest son, 19 year-old William Allen Simerwell (1826-1875).
Robert Simerwell [spelled variously Simerwell or Simmerwell] was a Baptist preacher who came to the United States from Ireland with his parents, his four brothers, and his sister, arriving in Philadelphia in the spring of 1812. All the members of his family died from ship fever except Robert, leaving him a 16 year-old orphan. He found employment as a blacksmith apprentice, receiving his food, lodging, and clothing, while he attended school at night. “He had then served as a missionary among the Pottawatomie Indians in Michigan Territory and later at the Baptist Shawnee Mission on Pottawatomie Creek in eastern Kansas. In 1848 the government set up a new mission a few miles west of Topeka. In a three-story stone building with twelve rooms, boys and girls were given instruction in the manual arts, as well as in reading, writing, arithmetic, and religious subjects.” In the fall of 1854, he and his wife, the former Fanny Goodrich (1789-1855), retired from active work in the Pottawatomie Mission, to homestead on 160 acres southwest of Auburn, Kansas Territory.
Addressed to Robert Simerwell, Esq., Potawatomie, via Westport, Jackson County, Missouri
Upper Alton [Illinois]
July 28th 1845
Mr. William Simerwell [he meant Robert Simerwell]
In accordance with your request, I forward you a line relating to the Institution of which your son is now a member, & to the probable expenses of your son per annum. The character of the Institution you have doubtless already learned from its catalogue & from friends acquainted with the Institution. The studies embrace a pretty extensive range, from the branches of a common English Education up to the completion of a collegiate & a theological course. Few of our students remain long enough to pursue the entire course — many of them enter the Institution to qualify themselves for other business than the learned professions.
In these times when industry & economy are requisite to enable most people to “keep above water,” our number is small. The expenses of a student depend much upon his economical or want of economical habits. Your son’s Term Bill will be increased hereafter for tuition $1.67 per Term. He will also be charged for fuel two terms in the year 75 cents per Term. Boarding will probably remain as it now is from $1.25 to $1.50 per week — or — including room, washing, &c. from $1.50 to $2 per week.
Your son, like all young men of his age, feels desirous to have his dress equal to that of his associates & equals. I do not say he is extravagant, but if left entirely to his own judgement & fancy, he might be so. However, he is in relation to most things desirous to act agreeably to the judgement & suggestions of more mature & experienced persons. An estimate of his expenses for clothing & incidentals cannot with accuracy be stated. He has probably informed you on this subject more particularly than I can. His books will not be so expensive for the coming year as afterwards.
He is now somewhat in debt for board & for clothes. Could you arrange to give a draft on the Agent or Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis — say semiannually? If not, you might give a draft on any [banking] house in St. Louis or Alton. I think it would be well soon after the reception of this, if convenient, to forward a draft — say of $50 — payable to your son, to me or to someone in this place. This sum would square up for the past & unless he needs a considerable quantity of clothing for the next winter, would suffice till near the close of the year.
Your son appears desirous to improve his time & opportunities for obtaining an education & all from good motives. He has now become somewhat acquainted with his teachers & accustomed to regular hours of study. And though his progress the past term has been commendable, yet we hope he will accomplish more if life & health be preserved during each succeeding term. In his deportment, he is correct. In his habits — industrious. In his aims, I trust — pure.
Knowing your parental solicitude, I have been more particular in speaking of your son than I otherwise should have been. His lack of experience & want of mature deliberation require the suggestions of some competent friend to direct his course. May he improve the privileges which parental kindness furnishes for him & be abundantly useful in the service of truth & holiness.
Supposing he informs you minutely respecting his boarding place, manner of passing the time during the vacation, &c., I need add no more, but remain with sentiments of high regard.
Yours truly, — W. Leverett
P. S. I should be pleased to hear from you soon & often. If you see Bro. Pratt, please remember me affectionately to him. May the Lord prosper the good cause in which you & he are engaged. — W. L.