Dan Spilman in America



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Letters from America to England

Daniel Spilman
Nov 24, 1848 Whitton, England - Feb 6, 1915 Burchinal, Iowa, USA
Emigration 1870

We have yet to learn the Ship, Port and date of Daniel's arrival in the United States of America.  Because of the letters that Ann (Spilman) Wood kept we were able to determine some of his journey and his thoughts.  I visited with the Woods in Barnetby from February 2nd - 4th 1979. They were good enough to allow me to copy these letters and provide me with many of the details about the English Spilmans.  It is interesting that Ann also had a letter written by her Grandfather back home which described Dan and his farm in 1889 when he came to visit (Letter #9).

The wording of the letters is intact.  In some cases punctuation was added in order to clarify the message. The symbol ______ indicates an illegible word. The original letters were written and then turned sideways and written over again no doubt to save paper and postage. Other than that these letters remain as written over 100 years ago.

Letter #1 - Oct 2, 1870.  Arrived in Beaver Dam, WI and took a job working on the Mason Farm.
Letter #2 - Nov 4, 1870.  Letter Ann Wood gave to Irene/Judy Nichols. Description of Wisc. Farm
Copy of original letter

Letter #3 - Feb 21, 1871. Considering land in Nebraska, has 7 more mo. to work for Mr. Mason.
Letter #4 - July 23, 1871. Speaks about information from Texas, farming, worker from Canada.
Letter #5 - Sept 37, 1871. Leaving Calamus for Mason City, IA, destination Palo Alta Co?  Visit to a 'Spirit'
Letter #6 - Jan 8, 1872.  Letter from Mason City, IA. Plans to buy land in Clear Lake, IA.  Father sent money
Letter #7 - Aug 5, 1877. Letter to his mother about farming, neighbor sent to an asylum.
Letter #8 - Part of a letter after 1880.  Already married to Thea (marriage was 1879) and he has more than one child.  He speaks about the hardship of many immigrants and how he originally thought to return to England after a few yrs.
Letter #9 - July 16th 1889.  Written by Dan's brother Tom to their mother in England.  Tom visited and apparently was shocked by the hardship and difficulties Dan was dealing with.  See copy of original.


Letter #1

Calamus Beaver Dam
Oct. 2nd (18)70
Dear Brother,

I have changed my residence so I must let you know something of the sport of the world. In the first place I will let you know what I am doing. When I got to Beaver Dam I started to work by day but I thought it would be my best way to hire out for the year. So Mr. Johnson the Presbyterian minister of Beaver Dam recommended me to a Mr. Mason of Calamus who came and offered me 150 dollars and meat and working for the year. So I came on trial for a week and they made a bargain with him for 160 dollars. I could have got a little more I think if I had tried at other places but we live well and have not to work very hard so that on the whole I don't think I could have mended myself much.

The family consists of the master and mistress, a aunt of Mr. Mason's and 3 children. Edward 13, Martha 13, and Albert 9. Eddie, Molly and Happy as we call them. When I was at Ferriby you said you thought I could not earn my meat and clothes and as much pocket money as I was getting with working. We live 1st rate, have coffee to breakfast every morning with cream and sugar to it, and hot cakes and butter for something else as good. We do not get so much mutton as you do, it being an odd farm house and fresh meat will not keep good above 2 or 3 days.

Meat of all sorts is much cheaper than in England. Beef and mutton 8 to 10 cents per pound, wheat is $1.00 a bushel, barley 40 cents, Indian corn 20 and oats 50 cents. There are 100 cents in a dollar and a dollar is worth 4 shillings English money.

It is hardly like being a servant. I am made just like one of the family and have all the privileges which they have got. We all rise about six in the morning and have breakfast about eight, dinner at 12:30 and tea about 6:30. Nothing to do but read or what ever we have a mind to after tea.

I cannot say that I admire the way of farming they have here. One field they will have for wheat, another for Indian corn and another for oats and sow each field with the same crop for a number of years in succession. Mr. Mason's farm contains about 270 acres ___ of grass and 70 under the plough. The land is a fine black looking soil and the grass seems very good indeed. Some of it they have mown twice and the pasture fields are up to the knees in grass.

There is a stream that runs through the farm. Something like what the river Don is at Doncaster when there are lots of wild ducks come to within 100 yards of the house. Yesterday morning one of the boys was a large drove just behind the house and there was three got up just against me today. Mr. Mason has not got a gun and so they never shoot any. They are only worth about 10 cents each at Beaver Dam. Powder is 50 cents per ___ shot 15. I had a gun offered me this morning for 4 dollars but I think she could not have been a very good one.

We have had beautiful weather so far just warm enough to work comfortably strapped in our shirts. I suppose they generally have it pretty cold in Winter but from what I have heard not so cold as I expected to find it.

Mr. Mason's farm is about 6 miles from Beaver Dam where we attend the Presbyterian chapel every Sunday all that wish to go. We take a pair of horses in a light spring wagon. It takes about an hour to go.

Land is rather dear here but I think at present prices of grain and stocks which are considered low, farming would pay better than it does in England if they were to change their cropping a little more and manure the land. I have not time to say any more at present it will try your patience I doubt to struggle it out.
From your affectionate Brother,

Daniel Spilman

Daniel Spilman
Beaver Dam
Dodge County

United States

Ann Wood letter copied 3/20/1979 L.M.S.

(The last line of the letter is referring to the difficulty in reading the original letter. Once the sheet of paper was completed, the paper was turned sideways. The rest of the message was then written over the first, cutting in a perpendicular fashion.)

Calamus, outside of Beaver Dam, WI in Dodge County is noted with the Red Star just NE of Madison.

Wisconsin is in the Midwestern United States and is bordered by the Great Lakes of Michigan to the East.  The Mississippi River Starts in the Northern section of Wisconsin and runs down to New Orleans, LA.

Dan would eventually settle in Clear Lake, Iowa.  Clear Lake is along Highway 18 in the SW corner of the map.  It would be located right about where the number 18 is printed on the map.

To the right is a closer view of Calamus and Beaver Dam, WI. 

In 1980 members of the Mason family still owned the Farm Daniel worked on.  Eugene and Mary Mason were Dairy Farming at the time. 

The family had many immigrant families work for them and had some mementos of other workers who had stayed with them.  It appears Dan was there only about 1 year and then moved on to Iowa to start his own farm.

The red mark along Salem Road at the bottom of the map notes the location of the Mason Farm Dan worked on 1870-1871.


Letter #2

THE NEXT LETTER WAS PROVIDED BY IRENE NICHOLS. Anne Wood indicated she had given an original letter to one of the American Spilmans she had visited prior to my arrival in 1979. I believe this is the letter. My father Deane Spilman gave me a typed copy prior to my visit. Here is the letter in the sequence it would have been.
See copy of the original.

Nov. 4th/70
Dear Brother,

I received your letter a few days ago, was glad to hear a little news from the old Country as all the English in America call England.

I think J. Barley might have found some more useful occupation than keeping the Public house. I know he likes to take a glass occasionally and I think it will be a great temptation to him to take more than will do him good. I hope you will not patronise it too much.

You will see by the heading of this that I have changed my residence again since I last wrote you but I have not gone far this time. I hired to Mr. Mason 7 weeks since for a year for 160 dollars. I thought it would be my best way. I should be more comfortable with some respectable farmer than living at lodgings working first for one man then another and should learn more about the way they manage their farms in this part of the world. Of course, I have to do all kinds of farming work but I find it much easier than I expected.

An average strength boy of 16 years can do all sorts of work there is on a farm here, they cut all the corn with a reaper and grass with a mower, deliver their grain in120 lb. bags and do not grow more potatoes than they want to use on the farm, no turnips. In winter they feed the cattle on Indian Corn and hay.

We have had very pleasant weather so far neither uncomfortably warm nor too cold to work. I suppose they have it very cold occasionally in Winter and also very warm in summer.

They do not sow anything at the backend of the year, wheat, oats and Indian corn are the principle crops grown here. They do not work the land much just plough, sow and reap. There are no wicks grow here.

There is one thing I noticed very much that is the way in which they use wood for nearly everything, wooden houses, wooden barns, wooden stables, zig zag fences made of rails just simply laid one on top of the other - they make very good fences too. They do not burn coal, nothing but wood, wood, wood - go where you will.

The plough is very simple affair just a breast (the front part of the moldboard) made of steel running to a point with side strake on the land side, no share, no coulter, nothing to give them more hold when they get worn slape (?). Still they seem to answer very well for this kind of land. It does not wear them up like your sand land in England.

I suppose the land is made up of decomposed vegetable matter. It is kind of black mould in which all kinds of root crops which you grow in England will yield a large produce if they would only be at the trouble to manure it well.

I believe everything you can grow in England will grow about this neighbourhood. I think it is somewhere toward the north of Wisconsin.

Wild ducks are as plentiful here as pigeons were at Asselby but I have not got a gun so I do not trouble myself about them.. I have no doubt that I could shoot half a dozen large ones in about an hour if I was to try. We have a stream runs through the farm in which they abound. Mr. Mason has not got a gun so he never disturbs them.

Wages are very good in this part of the country, the farmers will give as much as 2 1/2 dollars and board per day for a man in harvest time and if they want a man occasionally, they never give him less than a dollar and his board.

I was surprised to see that old Tommy was going to be so foolish as to get married. You do not say where he is going to live. Of course, they will not stay in the house with you.

I see we are to have grand doings here on the 24th. of this month (my birthday). The president appoints a day every year called a thanksgiving day which they make festival of. All the shops are closed. Everybody makes it a holiday through the state. It is something like Christmas with you. This year he has appointed the 24th . November.

Calamus is 6 miles from Beaver Dam so I do not often go except on Sunday when those that have a mind to may go in the Spring Wagon and pair of horses.

As we go along the road we see people of all nations making their way to their different churches and chapels. Yankees, English, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, Germans, French, Poles, and Scotch dressed in all kinds of costumes. It is impossible to be out of fashion here with regards to dress. One will be driving a pair of horses in a wagon, another has a yoke of Oxen, a third a horse and gig, making a very funny show when they get to their church outside of which they fasten their teams until they want to go home again.

I have about written till it is time for me to go to bed so must now conclude. You might send me a newspaper occasionally so that I should see how affairs were going with you. I have got plenty of books to read here but still I should find time to look them over as we have rather long evenings to spend in the house at this time of year.

With love to all I am your affectionate brother.

Daniel S.


Letter #3

Beaver Dam
Feby 21/71
My Dear Brother,

You have formed about the same opinion of Isaac that I always had of him. If he pays Uncle for all the ____ that he gets I shall be very much deceived. I think nearly everybody in (Cuselby?) have an old score against him. I should have thought he would have been the last man you would have sold to.

I have not got the Howden papers yet you spoke of sending. If you get one with any interesting local news in hope you will send me one sometime. Charlie sent me one from Doncaster a few weeks since and I get one from home every week. I had a short letter from Joe yesterday I suppose I shall have to send him one as soon as I have the opportunity. I doubt he will think it is a long time in crossing the Atlantic.

I see you make dreadful execution amongst the pigeons with the gun. You are worse to them than I used to be. It is almost like massacring them, shooting so many at once. We have not got a gun but we had a fat bull 6 years old Mr. Mason wanted killing. So he thought he would shoot the bull. Well we chained the poor beast to a big oak tree and he stood about 6 paces off. The ball entered fair between his eyes but did not seem to make the least impression on the bull, unless it was to make him more savage. So he loaded the rifle again and told me I was to shoot him. So I took hold and hit him about an inch and a half higher up and dropped him senseless.

The farmers here mostly do their own butchering. We have killed 6 or 7 fat beasts this winter. The carrots ___ on the marsh will come in very useful if you can get them home soon enough. I thought the turnips did not frame like being much. We ____ some rapeseed on the broatch next time you write I shall want to hear a little more particulars about the farm. How the wheat yields and the peas and ____ and which fields you have sown with winter crops. We do not sow anything in autumn here. Get the land all ploughed if we can before the frost sets in.

I have written to a land commissioner in Nebraska for some information of that state. It is not very far from here and is not all taken up yet. Although it is being settled up very fast now. The Government will allow 80 acres of land to every able bodied man that will make a house or hut on and in other ways improve it. Mr. Smith of Asselby used to give it a very good word. I suppose it will be a rather lonely life for the first year but there will plenty of game to shoot and fishing in the streams for pastime and they are building a good many railroads through the country now. So before many years I expect it will be pretty thickly settled up. As the white men advance the game and Indians retire further west. They are building a Northern Pacific Railroad now to connect ___sound on the Pacific coast with the cities on the eastern side. I have a very good account of the fertility of the country which it passes through, but I have other 7 months to stay with Mr. Mason. I have enough to make up my own mind.

The weather here is very agreeable now beautiful ____ the snow is packed solid and smooth on the roads. All kinds of team work are done with sleighs now. They are so much handier than carts and wagons. You must remember not to take all your pocket money to Mr. Smith's store. But I think you are nearly as careful about it as I am. Do you like your (ra_e) gathering and collecting she bull money? I sometimes used to have to go 3 or four times for as many shillings. You must remind T. Foster of his church (Ra_e) 9-11 I think it was which I laid down for him. I would like your Carde de Visite when you get it taken. I have got Father's and Mother's wishing be remembered to all enquiring friends.

With love to Uncle and yourself I
remain your Affectionate brother

Daniel S.

Ann  Wood letter copied 3/20/1979 L.M.S.

Letter #4

July 23/71
My Dear Brother,

As it is Sunday I shall have sufficient time to write you a few lines. I have not heard anything of cousin Joe lately. I had one letter from him some time since giving me a letter information about Texas but I sent an account of that but when I got it.

I am glad to hear that you are so fond of your new home. Mine suits me very well. It being harvest with us of course we have to work pretty hard just now but I don't think it will last more than a fortnight. Mason runs a Kirby reaper four of us bind after it, it is tight work for some of the binders but I can do my station easy enough. We keep the machine going all the time. It was easier to bind here than I thought it would be. When they told me 3 men could keep out of the way in a good piece of wheat I did not believe them but I think I could do a third myself now. They say we have had a cooler summer than usual but the wheat was ripe in good season. We commenced to cut wheat on the 17th. We shall probably finish cutting our grain in other 3 days but we have got some to cut for another small farmer who is helping us.

We have had rather a wet Summer but for the last few weeks the weather has been good. Wool is a good price here now from 50 to 60 cents the lb. at the Beaver Dam factories. Farmers are giving from 2 1/2 to 3 dollars a day for binders with their board. Corn looks uncommonly well. Ours stands from eight to ten feet high now and looks like growing another foot or two yet it does not get ripe until the latter end of September. I suppose we shall thrash the wheat as soon as we get it stacked. That is the custom in this country. Mason is a first rate fellow to work for always cheerful and good natured, never finds fault and full of fun.

We have a young Fenian helping us this harvest. He is a Yankee of Irish decent. He says he was in that mob that were going to make a raid in Canada. Mason told him they all run as soon as the Canadians fired their first volley. But he wouldn't have it he said they should conquered Canada, Ireland next then England if the United States had not interfered with them. But he is like his brethren in the old country a better hand at talking than working. He asked me if I bound old country fashion, I told him I did, oh he said I should be no use on side of him then but I find I am as good or a little better than he is when the days work is over.

There are going to be bushels of wild plums this year. They are about as big now as pear plums get but are not ripe yet. I understand they are very nice eating. Some of them are red, some yellow, and some black when they are ripe. Folds preserve as many as they want for Winter use. The woods are all full of nuts small ones Hickory nuts in shape like walnuts but a little less wild grapes in abundance about as large as those of Mr. Langtons or a trifle bigger. There have been lots of wild raspberries and strawberries but they are over now. Peaches won't grow in Wisconsin, the Winters are too severe but in some of the states they are as plentiful as nuts and plums here. Our folks are just going off to church to Beaver Dam so I must conclude or else it will have to stay another week before it gets posted.

I am your affectionate brother,

Daniel Spilman

Ann Wood letter - copied 3/22/1979 L.M.S.

Letter #5

                                                                                                                Beaver Dam
Sept. 27, 1871
My Dear Brother,

I have been having a good time lately. I thought as I had worked a year I could spare a week to recreation so I went and Bought a gun for 6 1/2 dollars that I could have good sport. When my year was up Mason wanted to hire me again but I thought I could do better at something than with hiring out. So I declined to stay. He then asked me to stay as a visitor for a week before going off which I accepted during which time I thoroughly enjoyed my self shooting pigeons.

Yesterday I thought I had got fairly under way for Iowa. Mason City. Brought my trunks down to the station but there was not a train going west for 2 or 3 hours so I went back to the city. I found some friends who would not let me go without spending at least one day with them. So finally I agreed to do so but expect to be on my journey by 2 o'clock to day. I did think I would call at Sabula and see friends of another that came from Alkborough but as I have had such a long holiday I have changed my mind and shall get a ticket through to Palo Alto county and see what I can do there.

Last night we went down to see a spirit (Walish?) in the city and as luck would have it there happened to be a noted medium there, a Mrs. Kelly by name. An old woman, a widow of about seventy. So after a sitting and talking a while she fell into a trance or perhaps the better word would be pretended to fall into one during which she made various silly motions with hands tapping of the spirits and such like nonsense. She then made a motion for one of us to go sit down beside her so I went.

The lamp was then put behind a shade and she commenced to feel with her hands all over my face and put it close to hers. I thought once she was going to give me a kiss, but she did not know much of my affairs and I would not give her much information. She could not tell me anything. So in my case she was quite a failure. I suppose she would console herself with the excuse that I was an infidel to her creed. The other party that was there she had considerable information about before the trance come upon her. So in their case was declared to be a decided success. She then (wafled?) the Spirits away. The light was brought and conversation renewed as if nothing occurred. She pretended not to know anything she had done or said during her pretended trance. But as they do not charge anything for their trouble it was a harmless evening's amusement to me.

The weather lately has been such as is usual in England at this season of the year. 1/4 dollar per bushel potatoes, the same price wheat 107 to 110 cents per bushel, barley 65 to 70, oats 50, corn 21 to 25 in the ear, 55 to 60 shelled. Grapes are good and plentiful and consequently cheap this year, peas do not thrive well but there are plenty of them and peaches to be bought in town. Beaver Dam is a great place for its cider they are making considerable quantity this year. Pigeons and ducks have been very numerous the past two weeks but they have gone further south now. Prairie chickens are almost a novelty this year. In Dodge county I hear they are very plentiful. Where I am going, Palo Alto county, is pretty near the North West of Iowa. Emmetsburg the largest town is on the ___Desmoores river. It is not settled up around ____yet but the land is good. Cattle do well on the wild grass. Both Winter and Summer the climate there resembles Wisconsin, hot in Summer cold in Winter.

Cannot tell you at present what will be my directions but shall write again as soon as I am in a spot where I am likely to stay any length of time.

Your Affectionate Brother,

Daniel Spilman
Ann Wood's letter copied 3/21/1979 Lori M. Spilman

Letter #6

                                                                                                                                                Mason City (Iowa)
Jan 8th/72

My Dear Brother,

I duly received your letter on Saturday the week after I got the draft from Father. I took it to the ___ on Saturday and had it exchanged (but?) I could not get so much (premium?) on it as I had calculated on. The premium at New York was 8 1/2 per cent and Mr. Lytle charges me one per cent for exchange so that brought it down to 7 1/2 per cent. An English sovereign is worth 4.84 cents here, 7 1/2 per cent premium brings it to 5.20 cents. 3/10 so for the 150 pounds I got 780 Dol 45 cents. I left 400 at 6 per cent per annum for 3 months, the balance I can get anytime. He would not give any interest for less time than 3 months.

I'm intending buying 3 or 4 acres of wood at Clear Lake in a few days as I can be working up some fencing, then when the snow goes off I can look out for some land. I expect I shall have to give about 20 an acre to get good timber. There is not any to be bought round Mason City at any price. Besides the money I got from home I have another 150 dollars in the Bank which I am getting 6 percent on, it has been there over 3 months so I can draw that any time when I have a mind. I suppose it is safe enough, he does a good business. If I had been going to ___ it for a year or more I should have preferred a mortgage on a farm and could have got 10 per cent.

I will send you a Mason City Bulletin you will see plenty of land advertised for sale in it. A township contains 36 square miles. The boundaries of each section run North and South and East and West. The sections are again subdivided into 1/2 and 1/4 and __ quarters so that there position and quantity of any piece of ground for sale is easily ascertained. I send you these particulars so that you will be better able to understand the papers. When I was in Wisconsin I used to be sadly (put out?) about the situation of any described land but now it is simple enough. I have got a Sectional map of Iowa with each section marked, all rivers, creeks and railroads. I find it a very useful article to have when reading the newspapers. It required 1584 rails to 528 posts, rails 10 and posts 6 feet long to fence round a 40 acre. Which if I had them to buy would cost 110 dollars. 80 acres would cost twice as much nearly so that to buy prairie without timber it costs a good deal to enclose it for it has got to be fenced before a crop can be raised. As anybody is at liberty to let their stock run out on the Prairies. The first year the Prairies are broken they will not grow much anyway. It is very seldom anybody tries to. The land is not mellow enough but there is work enough all summer for the first year putting down fences and breaking up prairies after the grass commences to grow untill midsummer time, then making hay, help some of the neighbours to harvest then get up sheds for cattle and prepare for Winter. Cows are worth from 35 to 50 dollars each sheep are scarce I don't remember to have seen any. The Winters are too long to make sheep farming profitable in Northern Iowa. I have no doubt in a few years when they get artificial grass that they will pay as well as any other kind of stock. Horses cost from 75 to 150 dollars each. Pigs don't fetch much, 4 dollars to 4 1/2 per 100 lbs. dressed.

I think of going on to Clear Lake next week to see about buying some timber in the Spring. I intend buying a 1/2 quarter section round there for about 5 dollars an acre. I see there is some advertised for less but I presume it won't be worth near so much anyway. I can take my choice in the Spring.

Direct my mail as before until you hear from my again. Clear Lake is 8 or ten miles from Mason City. With love all at home.

I am your affectionate brother,


P.S. You must thank Mother for the newspapers. Tell her that I find it very interesting to read them these long Winter evenings.

Ann Wood's letter copied 3/22/1979 Lori Spilman

Letter #7

Clear Lake
Aug. 5th/77

My dear mother,

I know you will ___ me writing sooner when you know how much I have to do at this season. However I have got along pretty well with my work so far. We are just in the middle of harvest now. I have fully as much straw to the acre this year as I ever had. The heads of wheat are not so well filled as they might have been but it will be a good crop. Prices of wheat must certainly go down as soon as the crop can be marketed.

The camp meeting at the lake to which Missrs. Moody and Shankey were expected was, I understand, well attended. Although M. and I were not present. I went down one Sunday afternoon, I believe there were between four and five thousand persons in attendance on that day, a good congregation when one thinks how few years it is since when not a white man could be found for miles round here.

Jim and Charley Naylor managed to get cheated out of about $10.00 ten dollars by our last post master, money that Jim was sending to his cousin George Robinson in Oregon. As far as I can make out the money order was sent to the dead letter office and on Charley's making application for it Campbell, our postmaster, gave him a paper to sign informing him that the paper would be sent to Washington and the money returned instead of that when there affair was inquired into these papers turned out to be a receipt for the money signed by Charlie which Campbell had turned over to the post office department and pocketed the money. As he had left for parts unknown the boys did not pursue the affair further. There is little doubt but he had defrauded others in some way or other which has not come to light yet as her was a lawyer and the post office would bring him in a good salary. He is getting along in years and will have to conceal his identity amongst other news.

We had a crazy youth sent off to the asylum a few days ago. He did a good deal of work for me a year ago. Was a Norwegian. He would be about 25 years old. One of his peculiarities was running on a trof from one house to another and standing on the peak of the roof, if anyone asked him for a reason for anything he did he would say God told him to. One night he run off about a mile and opening a window made his way into a bedroom where a man and wife were in bed. Freightened them a good deal.

Beasts are not worth quite so much as they have been. I am offering mine for three cents per lb. all round to be delivered anytime between the latter part of Sept. and 1st of December. I have an offer of 3 cents for all that will weigh over 950 nine hundred and fifty pounds by the last of September. I don't think that would be more than seven or eight. If I can get 3 cents for all over eight hundred perhaps I should be inclined to let them go. I think I can get feed enough to keep them all through the Winter. I have already put up about 60 tons (sixty tons) of good hay. I am cutting my wheat quite green. If the straw gets nicely cured beasts will eat it and thrive well in Winter.

I am your affectionate son,

Daniel S.

Ann Wood's letter copied 3/22/1979 Lori Spilman

Letter #8

letter 7
(no date available-partial
letter from Clear Lake, IA

. . . vote to tax the district to build a new school house to cost ten thousand dollars. I suppose it is to be a town affair although they do not intend to tax outside farmers for the building. Our school taxes are high enough. I think I have paid over two hundred dollars school tax since I have been here. It is not likely we shall ever get much good from the schools nobody is to blame for that, we can't expect the district to furnish every farm house with a school on the farm. Perhaps when the babies get so they can handle a horse we shall be able to furnish them some kind of a rig so they can ride.

. . . We have been sadly pestered by dogs at night the past Winter. A liberal use of the shot gun has kept them from damaging us much.

Thea's brother's folks that she helped over appear not to be over well satisfied with the change. I can't understand their talk but imagine they thought they would live on the fat of the land. I believe they are having a hard time to get a living this Winter but think the lesson will be for their good. We shall have to see they do not starve. I would not be right to help them over here and then let them be burden on the town. One of their brothers had got some coffee and other supplies from the trustees for them but I had him pay it back. I think if they will try to get along they will be all right. If they won't try to live within their means we must send them back where they came from.

Well they are not the first ones that are disappointed with a new country, I know before I came here I thought it would not be many years before I would make enough money to give me a start in old England. The longer one stayed the more remote seemed the likelihood until finally the idea banished altogether. I think it far preferable to work hard in order to have a home of my own and make a little headway to renting a farm in England and the almost certainty of losing ground every year. I don't suppose you have a hired man and family on the farm that do more work in the year than we do. The only difference is we are working for ourselves and they work for pay. I believe no one to be happier or more contented than those who are profitably employed about all the time. Probably there is no one a miserable as those who have absolutely nothing to do if they have their health.

I hear poor father keeps about the same, sometimes a little better then not so well. Thea unites with me in best love to all. I was showing the babies all your photographs. I have got all except John and his wife and Annie's husband excepting the little folks of the next generation. I want to go to town today so must conclude.

I am your affectionate son,

copied 3/22/1979 Lori Spilman

Letter #9

This is a letter written by Daniel Spilman's brother, Thomas, to their mother in England.  He came to visit Dan in Clear Lake, Iowa)  See  original

Clear Lake
July 16th 1889
Dear Mother,

I arrived at Clear Lake all right about 5 am today inquired of the man in charge at the station my way out to Dan's place but he had only being a day or two so could give no information. On proceeding up into the town could not find a soul stirring. However on going down to the Lake with the intention of waiting an hour some one turning out I met with a cove loading water who directed me.

I had no difficulty in finding my way. Dan lives about 4 mile out from the town and a mile off the high road. On drawing up to the house and knocking the door was opened by a tall strapping woman who turned out to be Thea though I should not have known her at first from the photo you have. I enquired if there was a man called Spilman living hereabouts.

"I guess there is and he lives right here."
"Is he about?"
"He's right thar by the mill among the hay."

Being only a little way off I made my way down and found a man among the hay. But should have had no more idea it was a brother than the man in the moon. I think you mother would not have made him out at first. I must say the first glance I was thoroughly taken a back by his general appearance but knowing what belongs to things out West it was only for a minute. I'll guarantee he has had a very rough time of it out here than I had always understood but still did not realize what it meant until I got here.
It does not seem to have soured him or spoiled his disposition should think him a very nice, thoroughly unselfish fellow from the little I have seen of him. On the whole it has been rather a bigger job getting here than I had thought. Its a long long way from England. To day we have been among the hay, since dinner making what was cut this morning. They like it heaped as soon as possible as a little rain or heavy dew spoils it considerably. Minnie raking it  into winnow, Thea and I cocking, Dan and Ollo leading  some that has been done a little longer. They do not let it cost them more than they can help, the stuff is not worth it and they have not time as it will spoil as much uncut as any way if it stands too long.

I cannot say whether Dan will be able to get over, there is a big lot of work to do,  80 acres of hay those I have mentioned is the force available, then corn picking comes on, if he does not come it will be because he cannot see his way clear.

Well I will conclude. Its about supper time Wish love to all.

I remain your affect. son

Ann Wood's letter copied 3/22/1979 Lori Spilman (Dollevoet)

Daniel Spilman 1848-1915 - Life in England before going to the United States.
-Birth Certificate,   Sloop Walcot, Whitton Windmill, Map of North Lincolnshire to America 1870.
Letters from America back to England
-Dan's marriage to Thea Anderson and his farm in Clear Lake, IA
  Marriage Certificate, 1912 plat map, Photo of Thea, Thea's death certificate
-Dan and Thea Spilman's children  photos 1893, 1898, 1961





Daniel , Jr.




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