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Old Hand Written Letter

How do you let friends and relatives know the latest news? How did people communicate before modern technology? Are there similarities in the contents of a letter written in the 1800s with an email or phone call today? What clues can you find in a letter that will lead to more information?

Let’s look at an old letter and see what we can learn about the author, his plans, travel, transportation, and the time period during the expansion of the United States. Look for clues in the letter to answer these questions.

1. Who wrote the letter?
2. To whom was the letter written?
3. Why did the author go to Illinois?
4. What area of Illinois does he name?
5. What kind of fever did the writer encounter?
6. Who else does he mention in the letter?
7. Why does he quote the prices for wheat, corn, beef, pork, and milk cows?
8. Where did he live at the time the letter was written?
9. How did he travel home?
10, How long did it take him?

Bonus: When was the letter written?
Use family information and the history of the United States Postal Service to determine the date the letter was written.

Transcript of Letter

Pages 1-3 of Letter plus lesson questions \




1. Examine the letter in the document.

2. Answer the first ten questions by reading the letter.

3. Explore these Websites for more information to answer the bonus question.

Family History

1850 Ogle County Census Mt. Morris Twp.

Look for Philip and Catherine Eby.

1850 Ogle County Census Pinecreek Twp.

Look for Isaac and Catherine Grush (Grosh).

A Biographical History of the Eby Family

Read about Benjamin and Joel Eby.

Descendants of Theodorus Aebi (December 2008)

Read the information under 112. Joel Eby.

Descendants of Theodorus Aebi (December 2008) Continued

Read the information under 350. Philip Eby.


Historical Maps of Illinois

Historical Maps of Pennsylvania

Postage History and Rates

United States Postal Service

Look under Stamps and Postcards to learn when the first authorized postage stamp was issued.

Look under Postage rates and Historical statistics for 1792 to 1863 to find the rate of postage.

Click to view larger image
Courtesy of The Library of Congress

Choice farm lands for sale! The Illinois Central rail road company is now prepared to sell about 1,500,000 acres of choice farming lands in tracts of 40 acres and upwards, on long credits and at low rates of interest ... [Chicago? Ill. 1857].

National History Standards

Contents of Historical Thinking Standards for Grades 5-12


A. Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative and assess its credibility.
B. Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage.
C. Identify the central question(s) the historical narrative addresses.
D. Differentiate between historical facts and historical interpretations.
E. Read historical narratives imaginatively.
F. Appreciate historical perspectives.
G. Draw upon data in historical maps.
H. Utilize visual, mathematical, and quatitative data

May 16, 2021
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