Mostly Indiana: 1857-1921. Fifty-Nine letters, appx. 100 pages total. Minimal wear, fine condition. Item #List1813
The Milhous family were midwestern merchants who were active in Indiana and Ohio in the middle part of the nineteenth century. William Milhous was a Midwestern general store manager who was born in Ohio and operated stores in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois during the 1860s onward. His father Vickers operated a store in Dupont, Indiana. Both would eventually relocate to Salem, Ohio, with William and his wife settling in California later. Offered here is a collection of correspondence written to William and his wife Frances, the bulk written during the Civil War period, that offers a detailed look at the personal dealings, family life and political views, with two letters covering the Morgan Raid in great detail. Many of the letters are from the period from 1860-1863 when William operated a store in Hartsville, Indiana. Additional material from before and after the conflict provides details, mostly on family life.
Twenty-eight letters are dated during the war years, and as a group they provide a great amount of detail of a fairly agnostic mercantile existence. Two letters describe Morgan’s Raid. When the war begins, William’s father Vickers Milhaus writes from Dupont on April 21, 1861: “We have a great excitement here. We held a meeting today and appointed men to procure home defense…” He goes into detail on the procurement of arms and adds that he “stopped at Vernon Co. to hear a great war speech by Henry Ward Beecher.” He then adds, “I look for awful times - don’t try to sell any goods except for cash and to undoubted men - cut off 3 or 4 you have trusted.” He adds that a night guard is necessary, and ends by imploting William to avoid service: “There are plenty of students and others to form a home guard without you - your duty in the store will be enough for you + good excuse.”
A letter from his mother late in the year is quite dire in tone, and gives insight to the state of Dupont during the period: “I can write you nothing great of this town, it close seems we are on the eave of destruction… Frank Mafield has rented the hall and they have a dance…. They go there drunk and come away hooting and yelling like indeanes [sic] men make beast of themselves dancing and drinking all ways.” She refers to some gossip being spread but it is unclear the origin. “Frankie Jennett tells me you can purchase troop skirts cheaply in Columbus.” Molasses and sugar cannot be bought at the prices you speak of.” Vickers writes in June of 1861 and advises to “not buy any goods while the hard times last.” Vickers writes in Sept of 1861 and implores him not to join the army, “to bind yourself for three years in the greatest hardship and deprivation - the risk of health and life and the greater risk of the total loss of moral principal… nearly all that are going are those who are thrown out of employment.”
A two page letter from Vickers discusses General Morgan’s raid on Indiana in great detail: “they may rob your stores and steal all your good horses, but you must quietly submit and it will be much better for you any other course will result in death. I fear Morgan will outrun [the regiments following him]... for their horses are faded and Morgan’s fresh, he steals from 200 to 300 a day… if Morgan gets to your place be very careful and don’t resist in any way…” A second letter details the raid as well, detailing the theft of 2,000 hams and “every good horse this place and vicinity.” Vickers relates in detail an episode involving a group of soldiers entering his house and demanding food: “I said, a run my horses all off out of your reach, and my money, and any other valuables I send this morning to Chicago (a justifiable lie), they said ‘you did right; I laught [sic] and joked with them and got them in first rate humor…” The group eventually agrees to guard his house in exchange for food. Another group comes for breakfast: “I was very sociable with them, joked with them, told them they would be killed or taken and would not get across the river - they said they supposed I would be glad to hear that was the case - I replied that it be the best news I could ever hear - the yoke man says ‘I like your honesty…’ they curse the Southern sympathizers… why don’t the damn cowardly traitors come fight with us?” The subject then changes to the prices of wool. The difficulties of family life are on display, with one letter going into great negative detail about a man who is interested in marrying William’s sister: “I have fully decided in my mind he is a villain.” William intervenes in the matter according to another letter. A long and very sad letter from his father informs him of the death of his mother. Another letter from his father informs him that his father has traded his land in Dupont for land in Salem, Ohio, where William will eventually move with his wife Frances.
The other letters in the group cover the periods before and after the war, with a large gap between 1880 and 1917. The letters and documents from before the conflict include a letter to his father describing the costs of goods including sheep, a letter of introduction from the Baptist church at Dupont, early deeds and receipts, a legal document regarding the inventory of Milhous and Co.’s following the death of a business partner, a detailed account of travel by boat and railroad to Dupont in 1855 with complaints about the agricultural conditions “the soil is not so good…,” a descriptive letter of a trip to a city from a female friend, a long letter from a cousin, and various other receipts that provide insight into the logistics and challenges of moving around the the Midwest during the period. The later letters are mostly written between William and Frances, some while Frances is visiting relatives in the midwest, and others between the two while she is being treated at Loma Linda. These letters mostly cover family matters, with one being a reflection by Frances on their fifty-nine years of marriage.
Overall the group describes wartime life for a mercantile family in Indiana in great detail, with the additional material providing context.