Submitted by: David Forney
Martin Wirt 1760 - 1815 father of Samuel Wirt b. Abt 1793
Samuel and his wife Clarissa Brown would become the parents of 10 children believed to have all been born in Willoughby Ohio. Of these 10 children 2 are of particular interest, brothers Martin Wirt and Noah Wirt. Martin Wirt from whom my mothers family is descended moved away from Willoughby by the year 1851 to Mercer County, IL. Martin's brother Noah Wirt with his wife would remain longer in Willoughby but would also move away to Mercer County by 1862 where they would stay till about 1865. Noah was married to Angeline Caldwell and was often called Adaline. Noah and Adaline were married in Lake County, Ohio October 08, 1855. Adaline was born Abt 1833 at Concord, Lake County, Ohio. Adaline had a neighbor and good friend in Willoughby, Lake County, Ohio her name was Mrs. Mary Reeves. Mary also had at least two children named Emma & Oscar.
From the period of July 13, 1862 to March 29, 1869 Adaline wrote seven letters to Mary Reeves, the letters are immensely fascinating and informative. The first three letters are written from Keathsburg, they give a fabulous account of pioneer life for a two year period of 1862 to 1864. The 1862 letter refers to the coming outbreak of the Civil War.
Martin Wirt, Samuel's older brother would remain in Keathsburg many more years until his death on August 05, 1879.
Keithsburg (Mercer County, Illinois) July 13, 1862
My Dear Friend It is a long time since I received your very welcome letter and which I have been so negligent about answering. I will not plead excuse, for it will not remedy the fault at this late day. Suffices it to say I have resolved to be more punctual in the future. We are all enjoying that inestimable blessing good health and hope you and yours are blest with the same. Harvesting commenced about the first of the month. Fall wheat and rye is nearly all in the shock. Spring wheat is not ready yet - but few raises oats as corn is used mostly for feed. Our spring was very cold and dry, but since June we have had a plenty of rain and warm weather. We commenced digging new potatoes the fourth, have some quite nice ones, have had a plenty of peas and beans and shall have corn by next Sunday I think. The most of our garden is late owing to the cold dry weather - There has been considerable excitement about the war at times and a great many have gone from here - Some that were killed at Ft. Donnelson were brought home in March and buried in soldier form. It has made a great many abolitionists here but they want the Negroes colonized South. I think we will do very well without any sugar molasses from Dixie as most everyone has their acre or two of sugar cane and many are raising their own tobacco. Since coffee has been so dear every one, almost uses a substitute for it. Some use sweet potatoes, some rye, some wheat, others corn meal and molasses dried and prepared like other varieties - Sweet potatoes are the nearest like the real beverage of anything we have tried. We raised all we could use and some to drink and sold several bushel every year. We have not quite as many this year. There is a great deal of corn bread used in this country and almost every one if they can possibly get, thinks they must have a pitcher of molasses on the table three times a day - it seems a virtual necessity almost. Many have from ten to a hundred hogs and corn by the cribs full, yet go with out meat half of the year but molasses is almost or quite a military necessity if not home made it must be bought. We are quite suckers yet as we prefer meat before sweet. We have a piece of cane planted and a little broom corn and tobacco, so we shall not buy much but saleratus and a few clothes this year.
We hope to get our house finished this fall as we have lived in it two winters with out plastering. Mosquitoes are very bad nights during hot weather generally. This summer they have not troubled us. We use mosquito bars around our beds at night but have had no use for them this season. We received a letter from R-B Wirt a week ago announcing the death of sister Rebeca White who left a young son six days old. Poor motherless babe. She also left a little boy about eight years old. Hannah Wirt's husband died last April of consumption. I received a letter from home last Tuesday all well there and expect to come West about the first of September. My brother is still in Iowa he is thinking of visiting us this fall. I have not seen him (since) we moved to Willoughby. Oh how I would like to visit you again and have some of those old friendly chats we used to have. I have missed you very much since I left Willoughby. I must bid you good bye as I must write to Emma and Oscar. Kiss all your little ones for me. I want to see them all very very much. Noah sends his best respects and likes to hear often from you. Adaline Wirt
Emma & Oscar Dear little friends We received your letters with much pleasure and would be very glad to see you both. I intended to have wrote to you both separately but Noah forgot to get me any paper last night. So I will finish this to you both. Mattie and Louisie are well and have grown so you would hardly know them. They do not go to school. They have learned the letters and can spell quite well in words of two letters. We have got nearly fifty young chickens some large enough to eat. We have eight nice hogs all but one fat as you often see. I think you both would like to come West and have some skiff rides.
The water was very high last spring so we could go to town in a boat from our door yard. Our house stands upon a hill so it does not trouble us, only it looks gloomy to see so much water so near. The road to town is a cross a flat and ___ Tasse?? Creek passes through it to the river and almost every spring for a few weeks the flat is covered with water but it is a fine place to live. I hope someday I shall see you all again you must both write often to us. Good bye A. Wirt.
(Keithsburg, Mercer County,Illinois)
March 1, 1863
Mrs. Mary Reeves Dear friend
Not having received any answer to my last letter we thought we would send you a paper and put you all in rememberence of our existence. We are all well at present and soon hope to hear the same from you. We have had a very mild winter. The river has not been frozen enough to cross, only on foot and only a few days then. They have crossed with skiffs all winter. Although there has been large cakes of ice laying on the river or since Christmas. Esther came the first of Sept(ember) and is much heartier and has grown quite fleshy. She was quite thin and dainty at first but in a months time she commenced
mushrooming and hardly looks like the same child. She likes living here best he says. When she gets naughty Noah tells her he is going to send her back to Ohio. She tells him he can't. My brother Henry is in the Army. He enlisted last August. He came to see us about the first of November and stayed two days and nights then his regiment came along their way down the river. He is now in camp near Vicksburg. He has been unwell since Christmas not able for duty at all but feeling some better when he wrote the second of February. He is 31st Iowa Regiment Co. B Capt. R_g_?? Speers Comd. Several have come
home discharged from the hospital and from future service within a few days. One company from his county was badly used up in the battle at Murfreesboro (Tennessee). Many from Keithsburg were killed. Oh what a dreadful time. How many hearts and homes are made desolate. But I must close as I only intended to write a short note when I commenced. I am afraid the Post Master would think I was sending contraband news if they should open this. Please write soon. No don't delay and tell all that has transpired since your last letter which was nearly a year ago.
Emma and Oscar must write often.
At Mrs. Mary Reeves
Willoughby (Cuyahoga County, Ohio)
Keathsburg (Mercer County, Illinois) Jan(uary 1864)
Well remembered friend I will now attempt to answer your letter lately received although it was sometime a coming yet it was gratefully joyfully received. For nine days there was no mail through from Chicago and yours was detained with the rest. We are all well except bad colds. We are all victims to said disease at present. Etty and Louise were quite bad last night with a high fever but are both better today. We have only our three girls (with no prospect of more) all so near of a size that one suite of clothes except shoes & stocking fits each. Etty is obliged to have shoes one size larger. Ain't it convenient sometimes
when one is in a hurry. They will all go to school next summer. Etty has a third reader. The others have never been to school but can read quite well in reading. We have had some of the coldest weather I ever saw. A great many hogs on the prairie were frozen to death some lost over hundred each some in town were frozen also. One morning it was so cold in our house that I did not set the table for breakfast but each filled their plate and sat by the stove to eat. The snow was about one foot deep on the level and piled four feet along the side of every fence. We have good sleighing since Christmas until a couple of days past it has thawed very fast and the ground is quite bare in places. People that owned wood across the river on the Iowa shore have been very busy getting over wood during the cold weather while it was safe to cross on the ice. The Keathsburg Thespian Club gave an entertainment a week ago and the proceeds were used to purchase two acres of woodland. Then they made a bee and one day cut and hauled across the river over 70 loads of wood which was generously distributed to soldier families. We are to
have no draft here as we have more than filled our last quota. There are two Soldiers Aid Societies in town which do a good deal for the families of volunteers besides sending a good many things to the hospitals for the use of the sick and wounded. The club to often donates all its proceeds for the same charitable purposes. I've not heard from brother Henry since the last of November (1863). He was then at Union Hospital Memphis but hoped to be sent to St Louis early in December. He has been sick and unfit for field service since the fight at Vicksburg. He was in the taking of Jackson. Mis(sissippi) and ten days in the fighting at Vicksburg but sometime in June was sent sick to Memphis where he was until the 12 of July. He was placed at Fort Piekering where part of the time he was able to do half duty, guarding commissary stores and in September was pronounced unfit for field service any more and was transferred to the invalid corps and was ordered to St. Louis as soon as the papers necessary were received, but was kept at FT P- until the 11 of Nov(ember 1863) was again sent to the hospital for treatment. He has the Neuralgia in his breast and legs and the aggrieve and chills visited him every day for a long time before he went to the hospital. Was not able to go out doors the last letter and thought he should apply for a discharge if he ever got to St Louis. I hope to get a letter from him tomorrow when
the Southern mail comes up. Martin Wirt's family are well. They have another little son nearly four months old named Sammy. Little Willie says now he has no Ma but his aunt Adaline for Sammy got his Ma. He is three years old. I would like to see your children very much. Emma and Oscar. I suppose have grown too so I would hardly recognize them. And the other little ones I would like to see also. You did not say whether your babe was a son or daughter so I can't even suggest a name. What is your next youngest name? Ask Oscar if he remembers asking me to mend his pants one day as he said his Ma has no time to. Tell him if he gets ragged now days, to come and see me and I will mend his clothes any time as I
have nothing much to do this winter. Noah would like to have him come out and hunt coons with him as soon as it gets a little warmer as we have got a good coon dog. Emma and Oscar must write when you receive this. We should be very glad to have them answer it. I must close as Noah is waiting to take it to the office.
Rosco (Davis County, Iowa) March 25th 1866
My dear friend
I now sit down to answer your very welcome letter received on Thursday last. Words cannot express how glad we were to hear from you again and to hear that you are well. We have passed through great trials and much sorrow since I last wrote to you. It was very sickly all through the West last fall and we did not escape it. Mother was the first to take her bed with a fever and before the week was over Esther was obliged to go to bed also and the children all had the aggrieve but were able to be up about half the time and wait on themselves. My babe was born on the 17th of Sept(ember, 1865) and Mother was taken sick
the 18th. So you see we had a very hard time of it. But Henry was there so they made out to get along as he took it upon himself to do the most of the cooking and took a good deal of care of the sick ones. When my baby was eight days old I put on my dress and went to work helping what I could. Noah washed for the baby and Henry for the rest and when baby ten days old I washed some for myself. Mother and Ett soon got better and Ett went with Henry to Ceder Falls and then came fathers sickness. Doctor Kelly pronounced it typhoid fever but he soon brook it up and he got quite smart although he complained of his limbs feeling very weak. But soon he took a relapse again and was much worse than at first. But again he
got able to walk out and everything seemed favorable to his recovery. But in less than two weeks he begin to complain of his limbs aching and he kept his bed more and more every day. Coming out only to his meals and on the eleventh day after the pain commenced in his limbs he died. He suffered no pain other ways that he complained of. The Dr said it was a case of dibilty and the cause of it was want of assimilation in his food. It did not digest and nourish him and nothing he gave him could regulate it. He died November 15 (1865) and was buried beside our little one. Mother was taken sick again and was unable to do but little for him during her illness and confined to her bed a greater part of the time and was so sick the night he died as not to know anything about it till morning. She was better the next day and we ascertained as near as we could her wishes but at times her mind was not clear enough to realize anything. On the morning of the burial she was assisted by Noah and Martin to leave her bed and walk into the other room and take a last farewell of all that was left of one we loved so well, one whom
we had watched and cared for, for six weary weeks with all the solitude hearts can feel as we feel that slowly but surely they are drifting away from us and our love and care cannot keep them here. Henry and Et were both taken sick and were unable to get home until after he was buried. We were blest with a skillful physician and in him we found a true friend amidst our great sorrow. May God bless him for his kindness and sympathy for he is one that carries sunshine in his dear old face and a heart full of love and sympathy for all his fellow creatures. I was the only one that was not obliged to take more or less
medicine. At one time there was five of the family sick Mother Father Noah and two of the children. Mother was very sick from the day Father was buried for several days and did not seem to realize anything suffering no pain that she was sensible of, but she commenced getting better about the time Henry and Et Started for home stopping in Ohio visiting our friends in Lake Co(unty) there going to Mahoning County and visiting relatives there and reached Keithsburg on the 22nd of August. About the second week in Sept(ember) he & Father went in search of a new home and selected one in Davis Co(unty) Iowa
and was to take possession about the first of November and we sold our place and prepared to come with them but did not get here till December. Mother had not left her bed and was unable to walk alone across the room when we started but she gained rapidly on the road but Ett kept growing worse and quite bad when we got here and was very sick for several weeks and has had very poor health all winter. Mother kept well for a short time but has been sick a good deal of the time and many times I feared she might never get well. She has bad chills and fever and dysphoria. I think I never saw anyone suffer more
than she has a good (deal) of the time. But she is getting quite smart now and rides out every pleasant day. Ett is better too. We live in a part of Mothers house. It is a double log house. They manage to do the greater part of their work with what Henry and Etty helps them and when they are sick I do for them so they get along very well. Henry's health is improving but I don't think he will ever be very well again. We have not bought yet, shall stay here this summer as Noah is going to help Henry. I don't know yet how I shall like living here as I have not been anywhere but once I came here. I have very good health except a lame back caused by working so hard when my baby was so young. You thought we had better trade one of our girls for one of your boys so that we might have a son. Well I wouldn't object to it if all parties was agreed. But we have a nice boy six months old weighs 15 pounds. The girls thought they should like a girl better at first but now they think he is the finest baby known. He looks much as Etty used to. His name is Milo Caldwell we call him Milie. In my next (letter), I'll tell you about the country and how I like it. I (will) send you a curl of babies hair. Now will you trade your girl for my boy.
To Emma This week prices here are about the same as at Keathsburg. What do you call your girl and you may kiss her for
me. I am partial to girl babies. Yet give our best respects to Marirns?? family and all that inquire after us. I want you to write oftener and Emma too and Oscar
Grove (Davis County, Iowa) February 19, 1867
It is some weeks since I received your mothers letter stating you had written to me and wondered why I did not reply. I am sorry to say your letter never reached me from some cause but will try to write a few lines to you and hope your next will reach its destination. It is so many years since I saw you I suppose I should not recognize you at first but I will remember the features of curly headed Emma that used to come so often to see me, and Oscar too. How glad I would be to see you both now. Noah often speaks of you both and would really enjoy a visit from you. We are all well at present except bad colds. Have had a very pleasant winter with but little snow. One week of sleighing was all & Noah and Henry wore that all out hauling some logs to mill. We have had very pleasant weather during the two winter seasons we've been here. No one I think need find fault with the climate but for many reasons I do not like it as well as I did Illinois. It is more uneven and hilly and brushy and during the spring and fall we have so much more mud and that is too much like Ohio mud. The ground does not dry off as soon as the Illinois land. We are not as well situated for enjoying schools meeting and many other things as we were there but I suppose it will be much better here after a while. This is called a church going community but how that can be proved I don't know. There is meetings held in almost every school house and sometimes a series of evening
meetings at private houses yet some yes nearly all of these same make a practice of Sunday visiting and most their friends on Sunday to return it on that day. Almost every other man or his brother is a preacher too. I don't think they have but nine commandments in their bibles else they must ignore one at least. Yet Sunday visiting is not all buying & selling horses, engaging workmen, playing __ and burning prairies too are found among some church loving people, Methodist, United Brethren, Camolites and Catholic I believe are the principal denominations holding meetings here. You don't think we are among barbarians for there are really some kind hearted people here but their customs are so different from any people that
profess to be Christian people that I can not get used to some of them. There was oddity enough in Illinois but the customs were not so absurd. We have not got moved yet but hope to as soon as next week at least mother and I are very busy making a carpet, we intend to sell it. Rather an amusing event occurred here this morning. Yesterday we hung a skein of fancy colored rags all prepared on the line to dry and left them over night. This morning a yearling calf came into the yard thrust her horns through it and shook it down on her neck and went off with it. I soon discovered it but it was impossible for us to catch
the thief. So Peggy went off triumphant to the stalk field with her necklace on. A little while ago the children went down in the meadow and found Peggy had been there before them and tired of her ornament had deposited it on the grass much the worse for wear. I must close. Write again soon.
Fabius, (Knox County) Missouri Jan(uary) 31st (1868)
My dear friend
I received your welcome letter one week after date and was very glad to hear from you and yours. We are all well and enjoying the blessings given hoping this may find you with recovered health and spirits able to take up your daily burden of household cares feeling there is still a silver lining behind the? ____? life difficulties and troubles that falls to us all. So take courage dear friend and never borrow trouble. I think of the story mother used to tell me about one of her friends the days were often to short for her labors and she would comfort herself with the remark that Heaven was full of days and if they were given to her on earth she wouldn't need her work done. We have had some very cold weather it is said to have been
colder than at any time for many years past by several degrees but for a week past it has been quite pleasant except the mud in the middle of the day. Our winters here are generally very mild. We have no school in our district this winter. Matty is staying with mother. Henry has been very sick with congestion of the liver but is able to work some again. Mother and Esther are not very well but they have done a great deal of weaving this winter. I have but little to do at present I have been very busy all winter now I am going to have a holiday all the week. Noah and the children are all in bed. I have no baby any longer
Mily wears pants and say he is nobodies baby now only Ma's boy. He is learning his letters and can count ten, teases Pa for new gun says his wooden gun won't kill birds a bit. I would like to see your children very much particularly Emma and Oscar. It seems a long-long time indeed since I saw any of you. If ever I visit Ohio I shall come to see you and family. We have neighbors plenty. Some very good ones too but I do not visit them very much. Sunday is quite a visiting day here but I can not get in the habit of working all the week then steal the Lord's time Sunday to visit. Noah spent a week at Keathsburg last
October. Place has improved a great deal since we left. Land has risen in value so that it would require quite a sum to purchase a garden spot anywhere near town. Saturday Morning We have had quite a storm since I commenced this letter. It is quite good sleighing and more snow coming. The place is improving here. People are fencing up so much that there is considerable complaint about free pasture.
We have quite a large field fenced for our cows but living by the Fabby Creek there is so much timber we have no need to keep our stock up but a small portion of the year. Pork sold during Nov. & Dec. for 5.50? 6.00? 6.50 A great many are feeding cattle and have already marketed them to be delivered some time in March at 6.50 or 7.00 per hundred. Hogs and cattle are sold alive mostly and driven off. The railroad is so near us that we hear the whistle. On the road now in operation the depot is twelve miles from us, when finished it will connect at Ottumwa. On the other road it is expected we will have one within six or seven. But I must close by sending my love to all write soon again you say you had written before. Your letters
did not reach us good bye.
Fabius, (Knox County) Missouri March 29th 1869
My Dear Friend
I now sit down to reply to your letter in the last mail. I was glad to hear from you but sorry to hear of your sickness - but hope this may find you all improving in health and spirits. We are all well except Noah, his health has not been so good for several months. Although he has kept about and done considerable work. We have had no school in our district ___ distance is so great and the roads so bad our children cannot go. Matty stays with mother, was home yesterday and went back today. I saw mother and Esther yesterday both wish to be remembered to you. They are both enjoying their usual health. Henry's
health is very poor but he still does considerable work. There has not been much sickness in our neighborhood this winter but the doctors have been very busy ___ ____ believe the sickness quite severe but during January and February it was quite pleasant but the present month has balanced the account. For a few days past it has been quite warm and the roads have thawed up and now they are almost in passable. Today the wind has blown a perfect gale and everything that was loose felt its effects. Times are getting better here for farmers since the railroad has opened an outlet to St. Louis but the roads are so bad one half of the year it is a great inconvenience. According to the papers we are going to have railroads all around us some day. Noah wants to sell out and go back to Illinois where there is less brush to cut and grubs to dry out or else be obliged to carry his plow half of the day. We have no prairie land except a little on the creek bottom that is fit only for pasture. I wish I could have lived near you during your illness and your children's, I feel that I am very much indebted to you for your kindness to me and mine in days gone by. Believe me my dear friend your many acts of kindness were appreciated and
in my heart I shall never hear tender memories of you in my several new homes in this far west. I've never found as kind a friend as yourself. How I have longed to see you, you may never know. Noah often speaks of your kindness to me and is very grateful to you. He has me no rest hardly since we received your letter fearing I would not have one wrote to you when he should (go) to the office for the paper tomorrow. Our mail comes on Saturday and Thursdays from the North and goes North Mondays and Fridays. It goes on a wagon from Bloomfield to Memphis Missouri so we cannot always get fresh news from the busy world outside the brush. We take the Ledger it is the only recreation the children have and it is welcomed as a
valued friend and read and reread by them and laid away as choice as any valuable book. Henry takes two so ____ papers and they are eagerly handed over and everything they can understand read and tacked over. Noah and the children have gone to bed sometime ago and I must haste and close. I hope ____ this reached you yourself and family may again be enjoying the quiet homes of sleeping ____ cares away instead of lying in sick beds and suffering all the ____ for one another that loving hearts feel at such times.
With Love to all
I hope to hear from you all soon again I would much like to have Emma and Oscar write to us. Noah would be greatly
pleased to get a letter from Oscar. Our best love to all.