John W. Stevens Letter, Jan. 9, 1879

Jan 9, 1879

Dear Sir: After taking our timber to Cincinnati, we did not get any more for it than is now charged, for sawing after the logs are delivered to the mill.  We had to pay about four times as much for goods as at this day.  In the fall of 1818 I went to Missouri, where some men of this county had gone, who were in the lumber business.  This place was in St. Charles county, about fifteen miles from St. Charles.  There were four of us who went into partnership, and went onto a long island in the Missouri river.  We built a cabin where there was plenty of large cotton wood timber.  We did our own cooking, and whip sawed timber to fill bills which we shipped to St. Louis

The Missouri to its mouth was very dangerous to raftsmen, as there were so many rock heaps and sand bars.  Sometimes we lost our timber.  At one time, about five miles above the mouth of the Missouri we got into a suck, that went under a rock heap, where the water was so swift that it took the raft under, and we made our escape by jumping on the rock heap and from that we went to a sand bar where we staid nearly twenty-four hours, before assistance reached us.  This was in March, and we were without fire or shelter. 

Soon after this one of our partners got married and went to farming.  His name was Noah Donally; we were all Campbell county.  We three continued lumbering, boarding with settlers opposite the island when the weather got warm.  This was 1819, on the 4th of July, William Thompson got married and brought his wife to Campbell county that fall.  James Gallagher and myself continued on, and in August we were both taken with chills and fever, and were not able to work until the next spring.

This year two steamboats, the first that ever attempted to navigate the Missouri, tried to go to Council Bluffs.  These boats were loaded with supplies for the Garrison at that place, but they failed to get there and had to turn back.  I traveled some through the State in 1820, but came back to Kentucky that fall, and found the time harder here than when I left.  There was nothing much doing, some of the old settlers were selling their farms and going to Indiana, to what was then called the new purchase.  In the winter of 1821, I went into the coopering business with my brother-in-law James Youtsey, in Cincinnati. 

At this time the "Commonwealth Bank": of Kentucky was in full operation.  Many persons borrowed money from the bank, payable in installments, fifty cent on the dollar and many lost their farms.  Some sold their farms for this money, and had it shaved one-half as they went to purchase houses.  In March, 1831, I went with my Uncle James Stevens, who went to Indiana to purchase land, after looking around, he purchased in Rush County, where several of the old neighbors had purchased.  And in August, the same year, I went out and built him a house and put in turnips.

(to  be continued)


John Stevens


From the Newport Local, January 9, 1879