Falling for a Freeman_ The Love Letters of the primary Homesteader

An instance of a Civil Warfare period piece of mail. Daniel and Agnes would have been on the lookout for envelopes like this from one another at their respective publish places of work. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

GREENWICH, N.Y. — Valentine’s Day is subsequent week which implies many individuals possible have love on their minds. Each couple has a singular story of how they ended up collectively. That is true for the case of Daniel Freeman, the primary individual to file a declare below the Homestead Act, and his spouse Agnes. In the summertime and fall of 1864, the couple exchanged a collection of affection letters which painting the bond they constructed with each other completely by mail.

The Homestead Act of 1862 opened up hundreds of acres of presidency owned land for settlement. Below the Homestead Act any U.S. citizen, or supposed U.S. citizen, might file an software and lay declare to 160 acres of land. Candidates have been required to stay on and work the land for 5 years earlier than they may file a deed of title and formally declare it as their very own. The Act led to the migration of hundreds of Individuals westward, the immigration of individuals to start out a brand new life in the USA, and the enlargement of farming into the westward elements of the USA.

Daniel Freeman is taken into account to be the primary individual to file a declare when the Homestead Act when it went into impact. Initially from Illinois, Freeman was serving as a scout within the Union Military and was stationed for a time within the Nebraska territory. Whereas there he took a liking to the world and sought a selected plot of land close to Beatrice, Nebraska. Legend has it that whereas attending a New Yr’s Eve Social gathering in Brownville, Nebraska on December 31, 1862, Freeman met some native Land Workplace officers. With the Homestead Act set to enter impact on January 1, 1863, he was capable of persuade the clerk of the workplace to open the workplace for him shortly after midnight and he filed a declare for the land making him the primary official homesteader.

The small print of Freeman’s adolescence are considerably scattered, however it’s identified that he was married to a lady named Elizabeth Wilber in 1852. Nevertheless, Elizabeth abandoned him in 1860 and so they formally divorced in 1863. By 1864 Daniel was 38 years previous and it seems he had completed his navy service and had moved to Nebraska and started farming on his land. It’s throughout this time that he started a correspondence of letters with a former good friend of the household, a 20-year previous lady named Agnes Suiter.

Agnes Suiter was a faculty instructor who lived in Le Claire, Iowa. Suiter attended faculty in Abingdon, Illinois, the Freemans’ hometown, which is probably going the place she first met the household. Later she was engaged to Daniel’s youthful brother, James. Sadly, James died serving throughout the Civil Warfare earlier than they have been capable of be married. Since she was near the household, Daniel and Agnes had positively met earlier than and Agnes remained near household even after James’ demise.

On July 4, 1864 Daniel despatched a letter to Agnes checking in to see how she was doing because it had been some time since he had final seen her. He instructed her that he was residing on his land close to Beatrice and was working to ascertain his farm. It seems she was on his thoughts, or there had been earlier correspondence as he wrote, “I’ve simply come house from a visit on the Plains looking buffalo and discover a number of letters from completely different elements of the world and amongst them I want to have had one from you…”

Agnes obtained his letter and wrote again telling him of an occasion of serendipity wherein she wrote a letter to him on July 4th as properly saying, “…I can not account for it from no different motive than this: we should have been pondering of writing and got here to the conclusion to jot down on the identical time.” Referring to him as “Brother Dan” she went on to jot down about spending time along with his mother and father in Abingdon, updates on different members of her household and her preparations for instructing.

Their subsequent set of letters in August and September start to get deeper. Daniel instructed Agnes how he was adjusting to life within the West. By this level he had livestock of some kind and in addition talked about there being a big harvest of wheat, oats, and corn that yr. But he additionally shared some internal emotions of disappointment after dropping his brother. “…Nobody can inform my emotions except they’ve misplaced an solely Brother. Earlier than his demise I by no means was lonesome or homesick no distinction the place I used to be. However now I’m lonesome whether or not in firm or alone, in a metropolis or on the Plains,” wrote Daniel.

Agnes shared in these emotions of grief writing, “Tis unhappy certainly to lose an solely brother. I misplaced my solely sister final Spring. She was younger. Had not attained to the age to share my joys and sorrows and I do know I really feel misplaced with out her. However when James died it was greater than a good friend. It’s unusual how we study to like some one individual greater than a brother or sister. However Nature’s legal guidelines are such and we can not keep away from it.”

Their letters within the fall of 1864 deal usually with the Civil Warfare. The conflict had been going since 1861 however was coming into its waning levels earlier than lastly ending in April 1865. The conflict had touched most each individual in America in some kind or one other together with Daniel and Agnes. Daniel requested Agnes in regards to the newest draft in Iowa and the way troopers he knew from the world have been doing. Daniel himself was known as away from farm work in August 1864 to assist in conflicts with Native Individuals occurring within the Nebraska territory. He wrote that the Native Individuals have been inspired by Confederates to assault settlements in his space. Agnes equally wrote of a few of her family who have been combating on the time. A few of them she knew have been doing properly, however one other she knew was taken prisoner and was not sure on his well-being.

Their letters additionally cowl extra “mundane” subjects and facets of “regular life.” Agnes wrote usually of her plans to show college. She was happy to jot down of a horse driving journey to Rock Island, Illinois wherein she lead a gaggle of 30 people for a lot of the journey. At one level she additionally felt it necessary to inform Daniel of her father and brother’s efforts to seek for helpful objects hidden on the underside of a neighborhood river which was low that yr. She reported they didn’t discover something of worth aside from a copper bar weighing 1 ½ kilos.

But all through the autumn the letters present a rising curiosity in and admiration for each other. In a letter dated October 25, 1864 Daniel included {a photograph} of himself which Agnes had been asking for. In writing again to him Agnes, playfully says that many Iowa ladies might fall in love with the image, however doubts they may have the prospect to fall in love with “the Authentic.” Later in a letter from late November 1864 Agnes wrote, “… if perchance some Iowa woman ought to fall in love with you whose likelihood is pretty much as good as her inclination if not higher you say—might she be worthy of your love is my want.” Nevertheless, Agnes remained dedicated to her former fiancée James saying that she wouldn’t love anybody she deemed inferior to him.

In mid-December 1864 Daniel pondering he had an actual likelihood with Agnes determined to show his full affections and intentions and proposed to her. Writing in a letter saying, “I feel the girl that took the Premium Driving on horseback (a reference to Agnes and her journey to Rock Island) if disposed to marry wouldn’t object to turn into a farmers spouse. What do you suppose? I’m actually grateful in your good needs in regard to that Iowa woman (one other nickname for Agnes) who might need an opportunity to fall in love…I really like you and can be completely satisfied in attempting to make you content for those who can love me in return. I want to make you Mrs. Freeman someday this Winter.”

On Christmas Day Agnes responded to him with a solution he was on the lookout for. “The Girl you communicate of would haven’t any objection to changing into a farmer’s spouse,” wrote Agnes. “Farming is certainly a noble occupation. I can communicate for myself I used to be at all times a fan of farmers I have to admit from the truth that I used to be introduced up within the Nation the daughter of a farmer.” She defined her emotions additional saying that she would at all times cherish James and think about him her “old flame.” Nevertheless, by means of her correspondence with Daniel she realized that she might love once more. “… since I used to be mysteriously induced to deal with a couple of strains to you final fourth of July, I’ve felt that maybe I used to be destined to cheer the guts of one other. As true hearted maybe as his brother had been I’ve certainly realized to like you. The kindness exhibited by you within the love of your letters has received my affections. I as soon as gave my coronary heart to a Mr. Freeman and I discover that I’m doing the identical factor once more…, wrote Agnes.

With the engagement safe, the couple made preparations to satisfy in Abingdon, Illinois throughout the winter. They did lastly see one another in individual and Daniel and Agnes have been married February 8, 1865 at her mother and father’ house in Le Claire. They then headed again to Nebraska to start their life collectively. The couple finally had eight kids and labored a worthwhile homestead. The Freemans and tenant farmers on their land grew corn, wheat, and oats, and had orchards of apple and peach bushes. The household finally grew to become affluent sufficient to construct a two-story brick home to stay in, an improve from their authentic log cabin. Daniel and Agnes remained collectively till his demise in 1908. Agnes remained in Nebraska residing together with her kids and their households till she handed away in 1931.

Given their particular person circumstances and huge age-gap Daniel and Agnes Freeman’s marriage was unconventional judging by at the moment’s requirements. Nevertheless, relationships of that sort might have been extra frequent at the moment. Regardless, there seems to have been real love for each other between the Freemans as they confronted the challenges of the frontier and constructed a life collectively on the prairie.

To learn Daniel & Agnes Freeman’s letters and see footage of them, try the Homestead Nationwide Historic Park web site right here.

Writer’s Be aware: Spelling and grammar within the quotations on this article have been tailored to replicate the spellings and punctuation of at the moment’s language.