All of the following letters were written by my great-grandfather James Francis Tillotson to his mother Jane Ann Sexton Tillotson. I do not have any of the responses she sent to him.
James was the oldest child of Jane Ann and Franklin James Tillotson. James comes across as a simple hard-working man devoted to his wife and child with few diversions. He always asks his mother for news of his sisters and requests they write him or come to visit. I get the feeling that James missed not having his family at hand. At this time James's parents lived in Crete, Will County, Illinois about thirty miles south of downtown Chicago. James and Clara also have a great deal of trouble finding a reliable baby-sitter. Clara always had difficulty having children and was sick for long spells after giving birth. Her last two children both died at a young age.
I've added punctuation in a few places to make the letters easier to read. I've left unaltered James's unorthodox spelling, phraseology, and capitalization. James infrequently created paragraph divisions, so I have added these too at appropriate points. Some of the letters written in pencil have faded badly. I found the text of some very difficult to make out. I've place "(?)" after words I could not make out.
I do not know all of the individuals James mentions. I have identified the following members of his immediate family which appear a number of times:
The letters appear in the order in which they were written.
Chicago Aug 31st 1877
It is Red Hot this afternoon but I have nothing to do so will try and write a few lines to you. I am well and feel first rate nowadays but was quite Sick for a few Days this Month.
You must excuse my Pencil for I have no ink out here in the Scale House 1. I was very busy this fore noon but we have done only a very little this month.
I am going away about the 10th of September. I don't know for Certain where I shall go but think I shall go up to the Northern Part of Michigan. I expect to be gone two or three weeks.
I don't think I shall go to Elsie 2 but perhaps I may. I did think of going to Kansas3, gave that up.
I won't be home before I go but thought I would write and let you know that I was going. I will take the Boat across the Lake but don't know yet what Port I shall strike.
I had a letter from Celia4 since I wrote you. She seems to be getting along well and I should think if she likes it she had better stay but of course she knows best.
We have been having plenty of Rain lately and it looks as if we would have some more. I saw Frank Dewey last Monday. He said he had been out to Crete and evrything (sic) seemed to be Dead as usual.
Charlie Pease 5 was up here last week but it was too much trouble to come and see me and I sent him word that I wanted to see him.
How is things up at Goodenow?6 But I don't expect there is much change.
Well I must stop and I don't know as you can read what I have wrote.
So good bye.
James F. Tillotson
Chicago March 13th 1878
I suppose you are getting anxious to hear from me and to know if I am married. I was married the 4th 1 of this month in the Evening and myself and Wife came right home where we found a good supper all ready for us and four of our friends here. We were married private except a couple to stand up with us. 2
We are fixed quite nice and comfortable. I think it seems very odd to me to be keeping house but I suppose I will get used to it after a while.
I am very well pleased with Clara3 for she does real well. She has good luck cooking so far. We have got the Boss Cook Stove. It is a No. 9 Range.
We are living at no. 1890 South Dearborn St. 4th door north of 37th Street.
I walk up to the Yards and back. Most of the time it takes me about 25 or 30 Minutes.
I hope some of you will come and see us before long. We haven't got but one Bed yet but hope to get another sometime.
The Girls at the Transit House4 made us a present of a set of dishes. They were nice China with a Gold Band. We think they are splendid.
We were looking for Company but none came to night.
Well it is most nine o'clock and I will stop for this time but will try and write again.
Please answer as soon as you can.
Direct to 1890 South Dearborn Street.
Clara sends her love and respects.
And I think you will like her when you know her.
Chicago May 19th 1878
As it is Sunday after noon and I have got plenty of time I will try and answer your letter.
In the first place about Hattie. 1 I don't want you to think that I asked for one of the Girls to come here to work for I don't. I thought that if they were not going to School perhaps one of them would like to come and stay for a Week or two and we would be real glad to have Hattie come if it is agreeable.
I think Clara and I will be out there some time the first of next Month but can't tell for certain.
If you are making any Butter to sell I wish you would pack a small Jar for us and I will pay you more than you can get at the Store and if you do not please see if Mrs. Pease or someone else that makes good Butter will put one up for me. I am in no great hurry.
I got a letter from Eva 2 not long ago. She said she had been very sick and the Dr. said she must not do any work this summer.
We are getting along House Keeping first rate and I have got to be a so one 1 Cook (?).
To day is very windy and disagreeable and it rained this morning and looks like more to night. I suppose it is so wet the Farmers can't plant Corn.
Write when you can. And if you get Hattie ready to come you can send her up on the Train and I will meet her if you will let me know when she is coming.
Well Clara is bothering me to go out for a walk so I will have to stop. She is feeling better and sends her Regards and sayes (sic) she would like to see the Girls.
I am feeling better than I have for three years and am getting Fat.
Chicago Oct 13th 1878
I suppose you have been looking for a Letter from me and now I will try and write a few lines to let you know that we are as well as Common and hope you and all the rest at home are the same. Clara feels pretty well some of the time and some she don't and that is about all I can say for her.
Have you heard from Eva since she went home and did Hattie and Carrie1 have the measles.
I went down to the Exposi(?) last Saturday to see those folks but could not find them and went to the Depot but perhaps I went to the wrong one. I was very sorry that I couldn't see them. Have they gone home or where are they going but I suppose I won't have another Chance to see them.
We have not moved yet and I can't find a House that suits us exactly for there is such a demand for small Places that it is hard to find one but I want to get moved this month if we possibly can.
When is Celia coming home. If I knew just when she was coming she could get off the train when she comes within two blocks of us.
I thought perhaps you and Pa would come to see us last week it was so pleasant and Clara says ask you to bring us some Butter and I wish we could get some of your fresh eggs but I know it is too far to bring any but if you could get some Butter with out much trouble I should be very thankful.
Well it most bed time so I will bring this to an end and try and do better next time. Write soon if you are not coming in soon. Tell Hattie we would like to get a letter from her and when you come maybe I can get another rabbit for her.
Good night and come when you can.
J F Tillotson
Clara sends her Respects and hopes she will be well sometime.
Oct 27th 1878
Well it is Sunday Eve and I will write to let you know that we have moved near to the Stock Yards. We moved last Monday. We are living on Wilson or 44th Street. It is the second street south of 43d and is two blocks east of Halstead (sic). There is no number on the House but is the first House east of the Brick Church that stands on Winter St. We have 4 rooms. There is two Bed Rooms and three Closets. The front room is the same size of the one we lived in on Dearborn St and the Kitchen is a foot longer. We have got the Kitchen carpeted. The Woman that owns the House lives in the Back Part. She has one Boy. We pay Twelve 12 Dollars a month but we have got nice rooms.
We have bought a new Bed so you can come and stay all night with out any trouble. I want to get a new stove this week if I can.
Tell Hattie I am glad she is pleased with her Rabbit and if he don't make friends with the other ones she ought to shut them up in a box together. Does his Ear stand up straight?
I was glad to see that Eva and the children got home so well and when you write to her tell her to direct her letters to the Stock Yards and you can do the same.
I wish you could come and see us again before it gets to be Cold Weather but it looks quite Wintery to day. The ground is coverd (sic) with snow. It was two inches deep this morning.
Clara is feeling pretty well after all the Work she had to do this week. I forgot to tell you our house is the first one on the North Side of the Street.
Well I don't know as you will be able to read what I have wrote so I will stop. Tell Hattie to write again and how did Carrie like her visit here?
I was sorry Clara was so miserable when you were here but it couldn't be helped.
Good night and write as soon as you can.
If Pa should come up to the City have him come and see us.
Jan 26th 1879
Dear Mother and the rest of you
It is Sunday evening and I will write to let you know how we are getting along.
Clara is getting pretty smart and the Baby 1 is growing real fast and is getting awful strong for such a little thing. She don't sleep much better at night than she did when Celia was here and she must be attended to nearly every minute that she is awake or else there is a Row.
Clara sent that Girl we had when Celia was here away the next Thursday after Celia went home so you see we have not had any one to help us but we have got along so far pretty well. We are expecting a Girl evry (sic) day that said she would comeas soon as her sister that is sick gets better. We must have some one this Week if possible for we will have to have some Washing done.
We weighed the Baby the day before she was six weeks and she weighed the enormous sum of Seven Pounds.
We haven't named her yet and I don't know as we ever will. 2
Clara and the Nibs is on the Lounge taking a Snooze now so it is very quiet here.
The snow has gone off so much that I suppose we may give up looking for you. I was in hopes you could come up while the roads were good but I suppose Pa got such as freezing out when he was here the last time that he won't want to come until warm weather.
Tell Celia we found her Apron and other things where the girl had laid them away and Clara has got her apron on tonight but she says I musnt tell so I won't.
I don't know as you will be able to read what I have wrote so I will stop. The Baby just woke up and is yelling all kinds of murder.
We have been very busy in the yards lately. I never saw so many Hogs before and I don't know if they are ever going to stop coming or not. Well I will close for this time and write as soon as you can. James
Come and see us when you can and Celia must come before she goes back to Ohio.
Union Stock Yards Feb 25 1879
Dear Mother and all the rest,
I suppose you are getting tired of waiting for a letter from me and so I won't keep you looking any longer.
In the first place Clara and the Baby are getting along pretty well but Clara don't gain Strength as fast as I wish she would and the Doctor says she ought to wean the Baby and I guess she will have to. We have got it Bottle and are giving her milk from that part of the time. She seems to like it pretty well. I wish you could see how big and fat she is lying on the lounge now laughing and having lots of fun with herself. She is not so cross as she used to be but is bad enough now.
We are no having much to do in the Yards these Days and it seems good to get a little rest once more.
We have got the Best Girl that we have had. She is smart and went to work and is real good to the Baby. I hope we can keep her as long as we need anyone.
Did you get home all right and get your stove and how do you like it.
Have you heard from Eva lately. I am going to write to her soon.
When is Celia going to start for Ohio and is she coming to see us before she goes.
Clara says I didn't tell you half enough about the Baby. She says she is going to have teeth soon and I expect she will walk in a month or two more but she is as stout and sturdy as she can be.
Well I guess you have heard enough about the Nibs so I will stop for this time.
Write when you can. Clara sends her regards. She has just gone to bed and Maggie1 is Rocking the Baby and I will soon go myself so good night.
P. S. It is snowing very hard now so I expect we will have some more bad Weather. Tell the little girls to write.
Chicago March 10 1879
I intended to have written to you yesterday but put it off untill (sic) night and then we had company. There was three Boys in here tonight and they have just gone.
The Baby is laying on Clara's lap all undressed and she is laughing and crowing and having lots of fun. She is pretty good now most of the time. I wish you could see her kick and jump now. Clara takes her clothes off evry (sic) night and gives her a chance to play.
She weights Twelve Pounds and is real fat and plump.
Clara is getting a good deal better and Dr. Davis thinks that she will soon be all right and perhaps won't have to wean the Baby.
The Weather is very warm for the time of year but I suppose it is the same out there and probably the roads are as muddy as they are here and that is bad enough.
Tell Hattie we were glad to get her letter and to write again and tell Celia to write and come and see us if she can. I expect you are having more work than you can do getting her things ready.
I am glad you like your stove.
Our Girl stays with us yet and does as well as she did at first. If we had have got her at first it would have been much better for both Clara and I.
Well it is after Nine and I guess I will stop for this time. Write as soon as you can.
Clara sends her regards and says you all must come and see the Baby.
When is Sarah's1 school out?
James F. Tillotson
Mr. James F. Tillotson
Union Stock Yards
Chicago, March 23, 1879
Clara says I ought to write to you so here goes. In the first place the Baby has been quite sick for the last two or three Dayes (sic) with the Bowel Complaint but she is a good deal better this afternoon and evening so I guess she will get along all right. Clara has not been quite so well this last Week but I think that she will soon feel better.
I am having easy times now in the Yards. We get through about ten or eleven o'clock most evry (sic) day.
I saw Carl Smith and Ed Graham in the Yards last Week but they didn't have any news to tell.
We was glad to get Carrie's letter. I was surprised to find that she could write so good a one. Tell her to write again and the other Girls can do the same.
It is too bad that Hattie's Rabbit is Dead. I will get her another one if she wants one.
About the Butter we would like to have it very much for we have to buy at the store now but you had better. Keep it untill (sic) Pa is coming up for it is so much trouble to send it by Express but don't keep it for us if you want to sell it before that time.
Well it is most bed time so I will stop. Write when you can.
J. F. Tillotson
Monday Morning the Baby Slept all night and I guess she is better.
May 11th 1879
Well I suppose you have got tired of looking for a letter from me but last Sunday we had company and we were cleaning house all the week so I had no chance to write. And of all the mean Jobs that I ever got into it is the worst and to help the matter Maggie had to go home but by hard coaxing we got a woman Three Days to help us.
Clara and the Baby are well. Clara put short clothes on her to day. She is getting real big.
I was surprised to hear that Pa had sold his Horses. What is he going to do now for a Team? I guess he will miss them a good deal.
I don't think he could get anything to do here that would suit him this summer. Perhaps in the fall he might strike something to do this winter in the Yards.
Do you know where Myron1 is? He came to see me two weeks ago yesterday and started down town to see a man about a place and thought he would go to Blue Island to spend Suday (sic) and was coming to stay with us the next week. So I suppose he has found a place some where.
Mrs. Smith2 bought a Piano yesterday so we are having lots of music and perhaps to (sic) much of it.
Clara says she is going to get along without any Girl the rest of the time but I don't know how it will go.
I am in hopes that we will be able to go out to Crete and stay a week about the first of next month, but perhaps we can't.
Well tis most dark and I will stop. Tell all the Girls to write.
Clara says she wished Ma could see the Baby.
Good bye and write when you can.
Jas F Tillotson
Excuse a poor letter for I have wrote in a hurry and we had company.
Chicago July 13th 79
I suppose you expected a letter from me last week but it was too hot to write or do anything else with any comfort.
Well in the first place about our coming out there to see you, I don't hardly know what to say. We may be out there the last of this week or next but I can't tell for certain. Halligan 1 has gone away and I can't go anyway untill (sic) he gets back. We expect him some time this week and perhaps I can't come after he gets back.
The Baby and Clara are well as you could epect (sic) this hot weather. The Baby has got a tooth at last and another one almost through. She is broke out with the heat pretty bad to day but that is all that ails her.
I suppose the Farmers are all busy trying to make hay. It must have been pretty wet the fore part of the week and from the looks it will rain here in a half an hour.
What is Pa doing these hot days? I hope he is not doing much of anything for it is too hot to work with any comfort.
Are all the Girls at home?
I am not having much to do in the Yards now days for the Market is demoralized by the reports of Yellow fever from the South. 2.
I forgot to send you last Sundays Paper.
Clara and I did not go anywhere on the Fourth. 3
I saw a Young Man last week that said he saw you up at Goodenow at a Picnic. I suppose you had a good time.
I have to write with a pencil for I can't find a Pen so I hope you will be able to read this but is doubtful if you can.
If we don't come out soon don't think it is because we don't want to.
Write when you can if you don't see us before you get ready.
I guess it is time to let you know how we are getting along.
Clara and the Baby got home all right and the Baby has been as well as she can be. I wish you could have kept them there for another week longer but I suppose Clara was getting Homesick but she won't own it.
It is nice and cool this evening. We had a little rain this afternoon but not enough to do any good. It was very bad yesterday.
I saw Joe Rolla Friday. He said you had some Butter to sell but we don't want any for we are having a hard time to keep what we have got from spoiling. He is going to bring us some Potatoes and Mrs. Smith wants some Butter and Chickens.
How does Pa stand the hard work in Haying and Harvesting? I hope he won't get sick or lame. I wish Pa would see that Gray Mare of Lyman Adams1 that I was telling him about. I want him to take a good look at her and see if she is all right and sound evry (sic) way and about what she will weigh. If he thinks she would be likely to improve with good care for a little while and is fast I will come and try to buy her. Lorenzo2 thought he could get for a Hundred Dollars but maybe I could not buy her at all from Old Peculiar3 if I wanted her. I guess she is to (sic) small.
Eva and Clara are having a play spell now. I wish you could see how she teares (sic) things around but she don't want her mother to go and leave her alone anymore. I had a fine time with her the other evening for about an hour while Clara was gone out.
Pa can tell Dan Hewes4 for me, that I don't want to go into that speculation that he spoke to me about. It might be a good thing but the prospect is not very good at present and I haven't money enough anyway.
The Baby has got another tooth. Clara sends her love to all.
Well my paper is about full so I will say Good night. Write when you can.
Chicago Aug 17th 1879
As I have nothing else to do I will answer your letter which we were glad to get. In the first place we are well only Clara has been having the Head Ache all day. Mrs. De Rivera has been stopping with us for nearly a week but I guess She is going to leave this week. She and Mrs. Smith had a falling out so she wanted to stay with us for a few Days.
I wish you could see the Baby as She sits on the floor beside me playing with your last last letter. Her upper front teeth are coming so is rather fretful some of the time.
Clara and I were down to the Circus Tuesday evening. It is a splendid show. Mrs. De Rivera took care of the baby.
Does Celia and Sarah know where they are going to Teach this Winter? Tell Carrie I wish she was here to help Clara take care of the Baby. She will stand alone by holding on to something. Clara tells her she guesses Grandma don't think much of her for she never asks anything about her when she writes.
Did Pa see that Horse I wrote about? If he knows of another one that can be bought worth the money I will come out and buy it.
I think I shall be out there about the first of next month.
I saw Joe Rollo last Week and expect him here this week with some Butter and Potatoes.
We are having but very little to do in the Yards. I was weighing most of the time for the last two weeks. Mr. Halligan has been out to Colorado after his Brother that Died there two weeks ago.
Well I guess I will stop for this time. I can't find my Pen so have to use a pencil.
Come and see us when you can.
We have got a Cradle and a High Chair for the Baby.
Write soon and tell the girls to write.
Chicago Dec 22d 1879
I will write a few lines to let you know that there will be a Package at the express office for you containing a Couple of Cloaks for Hattie and Carrie and we hope you and they too will be pelased (sic: pleased) with them. Clara went down Town to day and got them. We did not hardly know what to get for them but thought we ought to make them a Christmas Present of some kind.
Did Pa get Home all right. Tell him I went back and bought myself a Fur Cap for $3.75 in the same place he got his.
Samuel Tillotson 1 has been visiting friends in the city since Thursday. He came to see me Saturday and again this fore noon. His wife is going to start for Ohio to night. He was sorry he came so near to seeing Pa and missed him.
Clara says those Potatoes she bought from Joe are nearly all froze.
Clara and the Baby are well but pretty tired to night.
I didn't send Pa any Paper for they left me a Tribune Sunday and I couldn't get a Times.
Well I guess I have wrote enough for this time so will wish you all a Merry Christmas and Stop.
I forgot to tell you I bought a doll for Eva and a Willow Rattle Box and today Cody bought her a Rubber Doll and another Rattle Box. She thinks they are very nice.
Write when you can.
James F Tillotson
The cloaks cost $1100 (sic: more likely $11.00) for the two. J
Chicago, April 11, 1880
I suppose you think it is time to hear from me and I guess it is. In the first place I am not very well. I was taken sick Wednesday and have not been in the yards since but will go tomorrow if I am not any worse. Clara is not feeling very well. She has over done herself taking care of Eva for she is awful cross with her Teeth. I don't know as they ever will come through.
I did not go after the Butter yesterday for it was so cold. I am sorry you have worried about it for we were in no great hurry for it. I will send you the money for it in a few days if I don't conclude to come out myself Saturday if it is pleasant I will.
If Pa wants to work at the Fence tell him to get Lumber and go ahead and I will pay all the Bills. I guess board Fence in Front such as Will Cook spoke about will be good enough.
I wish we could get a good Girl to help us for a while for I don't think Clara is going to be able to take care of the Baby 1. and do all the work too. She looks as if she was liable to be sick herself.
Well I guess you are tired trying to make out what I have scrawled so I will stop. If I should come Saturday night you might have Carrie ready and let her come back with me. Clara says she wishes she was here to play with Eva.
Hoping you are all well I will close for this time.
Chicago, November 21, 1880
Dear Mother and all the rest
It is Sunday Eve and I will write a few lines to let you know that we are all well and not froze up but it is awful cold.
I got home all right and have had lots of work to do ever since we had more hogs in the Yards last week than was ever recieved (sic) in the same time before. We weighed over 50,000 on our scales and I only had two Boys untill (sic) Friday I got a Man.
I hope Celia and Hattie are Better.
I received an invitation to a Ball at Woods Hotel on Thursday Eve but don't think I shall attend.
I guess those potatoes of yours are pretty well cooked now. It is too bad but I suppose it can't be helped now. I expect Pa laughed some when he saw the Pigs I sent him. The best one died and I didn't have time to look for any better ones. If they die I will get you a good one. Clara was real pleased to get the Chicken and it was very nice and good.
I don't know as you will be able to read this but we have no ink so have to use a pencil.
Clara says tell Celia she is much obliged for that article she sent.
Hoping you are all well I will stop for this time. Write as soon as you can.
J. F. Tillotson
Eva begins to talk a good deal now she says lots of Words.
Chicago Jan 22d 1882
I suppose you have looked for a letter from me before this but somehow I couldn't get at it.
We are well as common(?) except Clara and she has been sick for a week with a cold and came pretty near having a spell of sore throat but if she don't catch anymore cold will come out all right.
Eva and the Baby1 are well and Frankie has got 3 teeth and will have 2 or 3 more in a few days. He is getting awful big and fat.
We are not very busy in the Yards now days and it is pretty certain that we are not going to have any great run of Hogs this season.
Do you hear any news from the flks (sic) in Kansas? Hattie has been looking for a letter from Sarah2 but none came yet.
What is the news around Crete? I have not seen anyone from there since Pa was out here. I don't know whether I will be able to come out next month or not but would like to and perhaps I can.
Ask Pa if the Taxes are not due now. I wish Pa would see if he can't get that money from Rob Millar or enough to pay the Taxes with and if he can't get it of Bob I will send it out.
How is Celia this Winter and how does she get along with her school? I suppose she don't come home very often.
The Weather is quite cold to day and the streets are awful rough but probably it will be all mud tomorrow.
It is quite unhealthy here. This Winter a good many folks have bad Coughs and sore throat and there has been a few cases of small pox in the town but there is none around here now.
Well as I have no news to write I may as well stop untill (sic) some other time. Write when you can and tell Carrie to write too.
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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.