1858: John Lewis Orendorff to William J. Orendorff

This letter was written by John Lewis Orendorff (1825-1909), the son of William Orendorff (1792-1869) and Lovina Sayles (1799-1831). John was married to Susan R. Hoover (1835-1918) of Bloomington, McLean county, Illinois. He wrote the letter to his cousin, William J. Orendorff of Canton, Fulton county, Illinois. The letter was penned just four months before Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen A. Douglas in the courthouse square of the prairie town.

In this letter, John writes of his cousin James L. Sayle (1818-1860) who went to Kansas Territory with his family in time to participate as a delegate to the convention held in Topeka on 23 October 1855 to form a state constitution. Most likely James entered Kansas Territory with the hope of making Kansas a free state but after having his livestock stolen and his land and family threatened by what were probably the Kickapoo Rangers, he decided to relocate to Nebraska Territory. [See—1858: James L. Sayle to W. J. Orendorff]


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William J. Orendorff of Canton, Illinois

Bloomington, Illinois
March 14th 1858

Dear Cousin,

After a delay of some time, I sit down to write you a few lines. We are all well at this time & hope these will find you the same. Your letter arrived in due season. We were glad to hear from you once more. I had began to thin that we were about to forget each other since we were married. It is right to think of home. Our people are well as far as my knowledge extends.

Cousin Christopher Orendorff was up a few days ago. They were all well. Robert is in Texas, is hearty, [and] won’t come home until May. Times are moderately dull here. We will have to do like we used to do—wait for better [times].

Now a little about cousin James Sayles. James & Lovina got a letter from him some time last summer, I believe. He is in Nebraska [Territory]. Brownsville is the post office as nigh as I can recollect.Jim said he had saw hard times but never seen anything equal to his troubles in Kansas [Territory]. Poor fellow. I wish he was back here but we can’t all be together. We have had rather a mild winter here. This morning is like an April morning.

March 17th. I don’t know when this letter will get to the post office for it has been raining for the last two days.

Cousin W. J., you must soon as in convenient bring your wife over to see us. My woman wants to see her. I would like to come over and see you all again. Will, I wish you well. Tell [your brother] Washington to come & see us. It will do him good to get out from home. Tell [your brother] John W. O. success to [his] trade. Father has a house full of his wife’s people with him this winter. They talk of leaving pretty soon.

James Sayle’s letter was from Nemaha, Nebraska [Territory] but Moses Baker’s daughter wrote that Brownsville was their post office. I will close. Give my respects to all enquiring friends. Good bye for the present. — J. L. Orendorff


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