1887 Old West letter

Here is an interesting letter in the Chester Historical Society collection. This letter is an eyewitness account of life in the old West. I transcribed it years ago.

The connection to Ethan Allen I found interesting. Many Confederate soldiers went west after the Civil War to escape the Union. Our Ludlow boy accurately describes the dangers and challenges.

I also enjoyed his mention of Dead City. It is a subject of which I was aware. The west was settled mainly by people from the east. Years ago, I used to find 1849 gold rush letters. These letters were mailed home to family and friends, from Vermont prospectors in California. There is no better record.

The New England pioneer spirit was still alive in those days. I copied this letter as written, including errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar, which I believe add authenticity. The photo with this article is the headliner.


Temper, Arizona

Dec 18, 1887

Byron H Butterfield

Ludlow, Vermont

Dear father

I will now sit down and write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope you the same.

I am now all alon the Dr. has gon to Tucson to be gon about two weeks took the train last night he has a revolver that he caried with him that would be canon beside of those you have East.

I am left to look after things I have a revolver laying by my side that I should enjoy very much if I could show it to my Eastern Friends. I don’t think I shell like but dont know the country is fool of Indians and Mexicans Eastern people ar pretty scirse only fore or five in the place. We have one man living in the back of the Drug store from Main by the name of Allen he sez his Grandfather and Eathen Allen wer brothers he hasnt been East sence he came hear some 45 years ago. He sez that all of those that crossed the plaines with him in 1843 have been killed by the Indians and he has halfed to bury them all.

He will go out into the hot sun and work all day bair headed then go to bead and hollor all night Sunday hear isent much as it is in the east all the Mexicans go to their church in the morning and then they all begin to flock in to the village men and women and they spend the day drinking gambling horse resing shooting and every thing they can think of to pass away the time

I was some what surprised when I went to church and find as meney as their was their. Their ar lots of them who go and seam to tak an interest in what is sed but as soon as they get out side they forget it all and in less then an hour they ar as drunk as the rest.

In politics a man has to be all mity carful what he sez. Most of the people ar strong democrats and their ar lots of southern soldiers hear and they ar just as bitter against the North as they wer in war time

You may tell Stella that our school marm rides back and forth from school on horse back and that she carries her revolver just as regular as her dinner

The Dr. and I have visited the Ded City where they ar at work diging up the skeleton of bodies houses and crockery that has been soposed to have burried by an earthquack thousands of years ago.”

I have met many people through the antiques business. I think back on a few crazy ladies I have known. Just for fun, I will be telling some crazy lady stories in the near future.

To protect their identity, all will be known as the “Crazy Lady.” You’ll burst out laughing at some of their comments and antics!


This week’s old saying is from Groucho Marx: “Alimony is like buying hay for a dead horse.”

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