Letter From John Geddes to James Geddes, January, 1829

Author: John Geddes

Date: January, 1829

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[Images from a Xerox copy made by Stuart Goldman (an antiques dealer in Boston, MA) from among the letters written by John Geddes’ uncle James, the canal engineer]

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Should be John to James Geddes.

John January 1829 Geddes

Their has been considerable many sick in Washtenaw last summer and fall though not so sickly as the first season we were here; in some portions of the country more sickly than others. Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti were both considered sickly Ypsilanti more so than Ann Arbour It is the first [?] at Ypsilanti was considered sickly. There is a marsh bordering on the Chicago road about 100 rods from the bank of the Huron and but a short distance from the Public square of Ypsalanti. There is probably an hundred acres in this marsh It is principally owned by Judge Lazelere. This marsh lies in a southern direction from the Chicago which probably has some effect on the health of Ypsalanti. The diseases in this country is generally the Fever and Ague. Intermittant Fever and Remittant Fevers. More cases of Fever and Ague than all the rest. The Fever & Ague I consider a trifling disorder and if attended to is easily discharged, and as easily kept away: but notwithstanding this it has driven some pusilanimous persons from Michigan. We three have had our health as usual. And the settlement to which we belong was considered healthy.

The rains in the beginning of June and last of May were considered as the principal cause of the sicknefs by the medical faculty. We have had a fine fall for businefs and it was quite an advantage to us as our dam hung on our hands beyond all calculation. October was an excellent month for work being dry and pleasant. We have built a frame dam, and filld the frame with stone They are an oval or mishapen kind of stone called hard-heads, which are very plenty in places on the banks of the Huron. we had but a short distance to draw them. Two hands with a waggon and a yoke of cattle, would dig them out with a crowbar, and haul from twenty to twenty four loads a day. There is probably about 400 tons of stone in the dam. The wings of the dam were first built. they middle sills were next placed they were fastened in a log decending down stream from the middle of the dam. the ends of these sills when they came in contact is 14 feet higher up stream than the ends, that were fastened to the wings. There is willow brush placed

under these sills so as to prevent the gravel from washing from under them as little as possible. The logs that the frame was to [be] raised upon and apron built up on were dovetailed in to the sill and wedge the down stream end resting on the bed of the river in each of these logs there is a brace Viz on top of them to support the upper log of the dam from the foot of these braces to the sill is filld with stone, (which is probably twelve feet) Our plank being but 10 feet long besides the stump shot It was thought best not to extend them further than the sill, so as to lay them as flat as possible, we raise about 9••• feet by the dam, calculating to raise one foot more by placing plank on the comb of the dam, these plank to be thrown off in high water

It is absolutely necefsary to have an apron to the dams built on this stream

To gravel the dam we built a scow and brought it half a mile down the river, at first when the water was shallow we dug and shoveled gravel out of the Huron and hauld it on a waggon at least ••• of the river gravel was what we call, bog limestone

There is a law now in force passed in June or July last allowing any person the privilege of daming the Huron on the condition of making and keeping in good repair a lock 14 feet wide and 75 feet long. any person injuring any dam where there is a good and sufficent lock is liable to damages. They Council Governor has repealed at the same sefsion the law relative to flowing lands according to this repealed law any person suing for damages on account of water being raised on his premises could recover nothing more than the actual worth on the land flowed, or damage done him one suit was all that could be brought against the person offending. It is now said that a law similar to the N. york law on this subject is in force where a person is liable to be sued every 24 hours for trefspafs

I should not have mentioned this repealed or Obsolete law if it had not been to give you a chance to think if you dont give your opinion. whether it will bear in our case as we commenced digging the pit on the 28th of April and had it very near finished and the head race half when the law was repealed we have been threatened with prosecution by the person * owning above Botsford against whom we raise 21 inches he owning only one only to one side of the stream. The cause of his hatred towards us was owing to our taking part against him in difficulty between him and his nearest neighbor in which we said and say he acted in a mean, inhuman,

and savage manner we were not alone in condeming his conduct but the whole settlement was against him. a Presbeterian deacon excepted This savage man is a Baptist preacher. There is eight establshments, or families belonging to this settlement. It may be said if a person interferes in others disputes, he will have businefs and illwill on a large scale in a short time not disputing this. It may be askd, whether it is not the duty of every honest [man] to support the weak where they are in danger of being trampled upon by those of Brutal intellect

Our head race is 36 feet wide and four feet deep. We built a culvert under the upper end of the head race with plank as one of the two stream that flows into the pond has but little fall and runs through low land, the advantage to the meadow will be more than the expense in building the culvert and digging the race which will be about 100 rods We have a clay foundation for the saw mill in some places quite solid in other places rather loose to remedy this we sunk four logs 48 feet in length acrofs the pit & on which the sills of the saw mill were placed, acrofs which rather [?] Our head race is between 19 and 20 rods long we [made] it as short as we could: and built the dam below the island thinking it a cheaper and better plan. We have done nothing in the grist mill line except etc [?] and dont think we shall do much about it next summer. we shall endeavor to saw the lumber and have it seasoning and may possible raise the frame. The locks are to be built in the dams on the Huron and ready for use the first day of October 1829. Robert has a barn to build and well to dig next summer. This is businefs enough for one summer. Botsford dug a well last summer it was the third trial, and succeeded by building the wall of the well on a wheel and sinking the wheel by digging the gravel from under it; The first three feet of the well was the soil (a gravel soil) the next eleven feet was sand, except two stratum of Clay each about a foot thick; the next or remaining distance a pebble gravel so loose that Botsford could not sink a curb in it. The well is 32 feet deep. The water in this well (nor in any other that I have heard of here) neither oozes in nor flows up, but is found in the bottom stationary the gravel having to [be] thrown out for the purpose of giving depth to the water in the well. Botsfords well was dug in the beginning of July when the waters were tolerable high and the water in his well has sunk about eighteen inches. In the wells that are dug here the water is either found, in sand, or gravel. The Bog-limestone is found in layers which are of different sizes, in length, breadth, and thicknefs; the greatest length 20 feet in breadth not more than 2 feet in thicknefs six inches these are large layers, they are found of all sizes under this there is a kind of blueish substance betwixt

these layers that my informant supposes if it was workd, into brick and moulded like brick it might be burnt into lime. The Ypsalanti lime burner, dug a pit for the limekiln and quarryd or dug the hard-heads for the wall of the kiln, he then contracted with two Vermonters who agreed to give Botsford the 7 cents and him one cent per Bu for what he had done. They went to work and burnt a kiln, which yielded between two and three hundred bu. this they were not able to sell for cash after keeping the principal part of it three or four months which had so discouraging an effect as to induce them to give up the contract. They having the privilege of stoping when they thought proper. Botsford has agreed to deliver 1000 bu to a person in the village of Ann arbour for 25 cents pr bu in the coming summer Botsfords lime is good. When I last wrote to you Botsford and us had nearly a verbal bargain relative to our intended water works, which we confirmed by a written agreement a short time after ward. The people [in] Washtenaw continues to increase in number as well as improvement in 1827 cencus was taken in all the counties in Michigan for the purpose of regulating the delegation, there was 1500 hundred people in Washtenaw at that time if the cencus should be taken this year I shall let you know what the increase is. The members of our Legislative Council are elected for two years. Ann-arbour is still improving and is twice as large as Ypsalanti. Dexters village is does not grow up under his culture one cause is that he is too particular. Ann arbour has much the best society. There has been a jail erected in Ann-arbour last fall its my opinion it will retain the County seat. Ypsalanti and Dexters establishment have heretofore acted together against Ann-arbour

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On margin: Letter is from John Geddes to James Geddes. Stu