Letter From William Geddes to John Geddes, January 28, 1840

Author: William Geddes

Date: January 28, 1840

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Palmyra Jan 28th 1840

Dear Brother, [John Geddes] Yours of the 16th inst. was received yesterday. The winter is not quite so severe as with you, but still more cold than we are used to. Since the middle of Dec. it has been real winter weather but the mercury did not sink lower than within 8 deg. of Zero unto [until] the 3rd inst when it went to Zero and on the 16th to 5 deg. below & on the 17th 10 deg. below which was the coldest. On Friday it was 8 deg. below Zero. The Sunday before Christmas we had a very severe snow storm. It fell about 15 inches deep but drifted very much, since we have had several light snows & there is about 20 inches on the ground at present. We are in the minority in both houses [government] here and the Porterites talk strongly of repealing the Charter of the United States Bank. Bill for that purpose have been reported in both branches and the Whigs urge them to go on in doing so. Promising them that if the Bonus paid by the Bank and the debt due by the state to it is paid back, the Charter shall be laid at the Governors feet in thirty days. The paper that you directed me to send you was not sent. I knew nothing about the names of the Editors or where they [worked] in Philadelphia and had to direct a letter with, “To the Editors of the North American” on, an answer to which has not been rec’d. I concluded to wait your next letter and then if you insisted on having it I would take another plan to get it. Since I saw a number at a public house and entered the names of the Editors in my Pocket and Book. You may now expect it shortly. Times are bad very bad but not so bad as with you. We calculate for worse. Wheat is 90 cents, Rye 45 cents, Corn 37 1/2 cents, Oats 25 cents, Buckwheat 55 cts. Beef 7 1/2 cts, Pork 8 cts. Every thing is plenty except Beef & Pork & they are very scarce. Your tax bill is monstrous. The County tax on our old place is $21.34, & Road tax $9.52 which is thought high, but is a mere song to your taxation. I am Collector and have collected all to $230 the main part of which 6 or 7 persons owe. The Whole Amount of County tax $1400 & Road tax $590. I did not commence till the beginning of Dec. and go along with specie for change better than last year.

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[an embossed stamp] The taxes here are 28 cents on the $100 for County purposes and [Dr James ?] 12 1/2 cents for Roads. And those in Pittsfield $1.25 on the $100 nearly 4 1/2 times as much for County uses & 62 12 cts for Roads = to 5 times as much. That is taxing with a vengeance. And all this on unimproved land, what in the world must it be on your improved property. Enough nearly to turn them out of house & home if it is in proportion to mine. I think I will have to put a house on them 240 acres and send a Pennsylvania Tenant on in order to raise as much rent as will pay the taxes. In your next let me know what it would likely cost to have a Frame house put up there, such as we have here for Tenant houses. The Gov. recommends a state tax here and I see no other way of the state getting along, but it cannot be as bad as with yours. I wish you had mentioned how many votes were polld in Pittsfield township so that I could judge how thickly it is settled. If you have an old paper with the Election returns of the several townships of your county please send it. Our Tax warrants are good for two years and can be renewed at any time by the Commifsioners. There is a Rail Road from Reading to Philadelphia and the Company have a grant to extend it from Reading to Harrisburg and we expect to go on this summer. It is thought it will be located either along the face of the Gravel Hill or on the hill behind Campbellstown. The taking off the school tax is surely wrong, at least I would rather pay it than any other. We have not excepted [accepted] the school system in our Township. It has been adopted by 3/4 of the townships in the state and will eventually be so by all, but in our County by one only, East Hanover. In Dauphin one half have. I have supported the cause of its adoption in ours and we have worked them hard but as yet have not succeeded. They rallyed all their force against me last fall and succeeded in defeating me for Afsefsor by 3 votes. Our Constitution says every poor man’s child shall be taught gratis – the Afsefsor is required to return all those that he thinks are entitled to the Commifsioners, who are obliged to pay for them. For these 3 years I have kept up the schools in this way to the satisfaction of the poor but was Scursed by the Antischoolmen. Sawyer’s last spring borrowed $1000 for to meet matters. Gruber had refused payment. They then got another release from one more of Joe Sawyer’s heir’s and then Gruber made a payment

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A few days ago Gruber told me that one or two of the releases were good for nothing. He was wishing he could see Samuel but he never comes near him. By the way Gruber talks they will stand no chance of getting money this spring and to borrow will be out of the question. Samuel keeps store on his fathers mountain place and I seldom see him, the rest have all left the state. Robt. Snodgrafs sold out last fall and so did one of the Todd’s and they intend moving west next summer. The Jones’ have also sold. I have heard nothing from Brothers in Illinois nor from Newville folks. You forgot to write what Mr Ewer’s was doing or whether their family had increased or not. It is snowing and pretty cold. The Sawyer suit is lying in the Supreme Court and will undoubtedly be tried in July next. If I defeat them again there they will no doubt let me alone and that matter will rest forever. But if I am to account to them for our shares of the ballance decreed against I will be obliged to file a Guardian account in fathers name for Robert, John, William, Sarah, Jane and Isabel Geddes minor children of Jane Geddes one of the daughters of John Sawyer dec’d. and charge $70 or $80 each which will cover our whole shares, and more. When their claim will be fully tried. The debt of our state is 34. million and will increase to 40 in two years if the money can be had. 11/2 millions will have to be raised yearly by taxation to pay interest. I am in favor of a yearly distribution of the proceeds of the public lands amongst the states, which would I am persuaded be a fund sufficient to pay our state debt and in fact all the state debts in the union in 25 years. And raise the Tariff high enough to support government. The present Presidential campaign will be the hotest that has ever yet been. Union seem to prevail in the Antimasonic and Whig ranks and if the[y] remain so the day will be our own. Robert ought to be more careful of his health, for he surely can save himself if he will. Health only make any thing worth enjoyment in this world. That young wife is perhaps too hard for him and he is too spunky to yield. There is nothing which reduces a man so much as too much exertion to please the fair. Ask any medical man and he will tell you to take that of all things in moderation. All are well


Mr John Geddes William Geddes

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