1838: George W. Hough to David A. James

This letter was written by George W. Hough (1808-1878) from Jefferson City, Missouri, in December 1838. George was a native of Virginia. He was married to Mary G. Shawen (1814-1876) in 1833 and settled in Jefferson City in 1838 where George engaged in merchandizing until 1854. He was a representative in the Missouri legislature and in 1854 was the candidate of the Democratic party for representation in congress, but was unsuccessful. He helped draft the famous Jackson resolutions introduced by Claiborne F. Jackson in 1849 which pledged Missouri to cooperation with the Southern states in the event of conflict between the North and the South.

George wrote the letter to David A. James (1814-Aft1880) — a native of Virginia residing in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the 1860 census, David was employed in a “lard oil factory.” In the 1880 census, David was employed as a “glue manufacturer.”

Addressed to Mr. David A. James, Broadway, Cincinnati, Ohio

City of Jefferson [Missouri]
21st December 1838

Dear David,

I have located in this place (the Capitol of the State). Jefferson is situated on the south side of the Missouri River about 120 miles from St. Louis.

It is said by those who reside here to be a very pleasant town to live in and I have no doubt but that I shall find as much to interest me here as I should in any town in the state. It contains about 1500 inhabitants and is considered very healthy. The public buildings will contribute much to its good appearance.

There is a statehouse being put up, the cost of which when completed is estimated at 350,000. It is thought that it will be but little inferior to any in the Union. In its plan, it is similar to that of Pennsylvania. ¹

The 1840 Missouri State Capitol Building
The 1840 Missouri State Capitol Building

The courthouse of this place is also a building that would not discredit any of the eastern states. It is now occupied by the legislature — and I am now writing at the table of one of its members — which is near as I have ever been able to arrive at the dignity of a Legislator. I was much disappointed in the appearance of the members. They are a well-dressed, good-looking body of men, possessing as much common sense as it is usual to find in a legislative assembly of the present day. Many of them are Virginians. The Virginians, you probably know, are an ambitious set of fellows. They are fond of talking about state matters and getting into office — and with all a first-rate sort of folks.

Cole County Courthouse (1836)
Cole County Courthouse (1836)

Through Charles’ letter I learn that you have joined Mr. Wheelwright in business. You will no doubt live very pleasantly in the Cincinnati, but I think you could live more profitably in this state. Were you not engaged in business, I should propose to you to come to Jefferson. I think you would be pleased here and I am sure you could do well.

In the spring, I shall wish to make an arrangement with some house in Cincinnati to send me whiskey, candies, cheese &c. If such an arrangement will suit your house, it will give me much pleasure to deal with it. If you think it will, please to inform me upon what time you make your sales and whatever is necessary for me to know in relation to it. If it will not suit you, I thank you to inform me what the usual mode of business is in Cincinnati. I would also like to know whether whiskey and salt can be purchased in large lots on time in your city. Also state whether there will in all probability be a large quantity of whiskey distilled this year.

I wrote to you last summer but you did not answer my letter. I should be glad that you would answer this immediately.

Tell Sarah & Eliza that I shall probably be in Cincinnati in the spring and shall expect one or both of them to come home with me.

They all send their love to you all. Your friend &c., — Geo. W. Hough

P. S. Please to state the point from which Uncle Saul wrote in Texas. I have not received a letter from him since I was in Cincinnati and do not know where to direct a letter to him. — G. W. H.

¹ The Missouri State Capitol building was completed in 1840, for approximately $350,000 with some claiming that there were bribes and kickbacks. This building burned on February 5, 1911 when it was struck by lightning. This building was approximately 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) and by 1911, was far too small to meet the needs of the legislators.

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