Benjamin Washington Foster (1817-Aft1880) was barely literate but at the urging of his wife, he wrote this letter to his father, Benjamin Foster (1785-1874) and his mother, Anna (Farr) Foster (1785-1858), of Mount Holly, Rutland, Vermont. Benjamin was married in 1848 to Julia Ann Burner (1827-Aft1880) in DuPage County, Illinois and their son, John William Foster, was born the following year. It appears from census records that Benjamin and Julia Ann lived in Hendersonville, Knox, Sparta, and then Wataga — all villages in Knox County, Illinois, where Benjamin’s occupation varied from teamster to laborer to “Works in Grist Mill.”
Benjamin had at least four other brothers; Alvin Wood Foster (1812-1899), Marshall Farr Foster (b. 1814), William Watson Foster (1821-1897), and Joseph Foster (mentioned in this letter).
Addressed to Benjamin Foster, Mount Holly, Rutland County, Vermont
May the 25, 1854
I now take this opportunity to let you know that we are all alive yet and have not forgotten you yet and hope that you have not forgotten us yet for I know it has been a long time since you have heard from us. I have to make some apology for not writing to you before. It is such hard work for me to write. I commenced a letter some time ago to send to you but I think I will try to finish this and send it to let you know where we are and how we do. Our health is tolerable good at present.
We have got a fine boy and he runs everywhere and he can jabber everything and I would like to have you come out and see him and us for Juliann wants to see you very much and talks about you most every day. She has talked to me for not writing to you. She said it was not right but I will not be so neglect again. I will write oftener and you must write as soon as you get this and let us know how you all do and all the folks in Massachusetts too. I want them all to write to us and we would like to see them all.
Tell Joseph to come out here and see the country. Tell him to have a little more spunk than the rest of his brothers than to stay there and climb over them hills and mountains and never see anything. Tell him to come out and you and Mother come with him for the rest of them are afraid they will get lost if they come. It is a good country for a poor man to get a living in. But he must work hard as well as those to get it but he does not have to work so hard for the same to support his family and wages is very high at the present time. But I have had a hard time to get along. I worked in company with a fellow and lost a part of two summers work but I guess I will try to live by myself now and see how I can get along. I am a teaming this summer for a living. I have got a good team as the next fellow when I get them paid for. I am getting at the rate of forty-two dollars and a quarter a month and be a boarded. I think I can pay for them.
I must tell you what our boys name is for I know grandmother will want to know. His name is John William. Tell her that he is as noisy as I ever was and his mother and he has ____ every day about it and tells him that she will have to cut a piece of his tongue off, she guesses, so he can’t talk so much.
I don’t know as I can think of anything more to write. I want you to write as soon as you get this and write all the news you can think of and write to me whether Joseph is a coming out here or not. But I would be glad to have some of my friends come out and see me. I think they would be as well off here as there. It is a very healthy place here now. But if they do not want to come, I do not want to urge them to come and have them dissatisfied. But I would like to have them come and see the country and you and Mother too. I want you should tell all the folks to write to us not because I do not write to all. I should like to hear from them all. Tell grandmother that we send our love & respect to her. We send our best respects to you and all the rest of the folks. So good night.
This from your absent children, — Benjamin W. Foster & Juliann Foster
Direct your letter to Knoxville, Knox County, Illinois
Come one, come all. There is room a plenty and to spare.