Smyrna, N. Y., August 10, 1835. Stampless cover on foolscap bifolium, 13 x 8 inches, 2 pages of text plus integral address, approx. 1150 words. Hand-stamped in black ink, Smyrna, August 10. Loss of a couple of words from the original wax seal, but no loss of sense; a few holes along old folds; some toning and light soiling; in very good condition, quite legible. With a preliminary typescript. Item #19204
Leonard writes after returning to the Finger Lakes region after a trip west, an itinerary that included a boat from Erie to Detroit; a wagon to Mottville, Michigan, on the St. Joseph River; on foot to Lake Michigan, by schooner to Chicago, on foot back to Michigan City and "the south Bend of the St. Joseph," up the Chicago Road to the River Raisin, thence from Monroe into Ohio, and home via the Erie Canal. Leonard's letter has the formal aspects of a pitch for real estate investment; he dissuades Hamilton from cultivating an interest in Illinois land: "In the first place the timbered lands would not average more than one acre to 100 of Prairie 2dy. the water and climate is no better [than] that of Michigan. 3y. the Land in the North part is not for sale and it is uncertain when it will come for sale 4ly Squatters are already settled on all the Lots that have timber enough to fence them and many that have not enough to do it. And depend on the chance to purchase when the Land comes for sale because there has existed since the expiration of the year 1833 no presumption right in favor of settlers, as I supposed to be the case when I left home for that Country. These are the reasons why I went no further than Chicago." Michigan (where Leonard has already invested in land in an undisclosed location) he describes as "Considerable Prairie, But the country is mostly oak opening, or oak Barrens, but the best soiled is the heavy timbered land—and the 2d rate is the Prairie and last the openings, but there is no poor land in Michigan comparatively speaking—The soil generally is sand and varies in color from black to yellow. But the Prairies are taken first. The openings next and the heavy timbered land is left untill the last on account of the heavy clearing which makes it hard beginning—there is no timber on the Prairies. The openings contain Black, white, yellow, or red, and bur oak, and stand from one to 4 rods apart. The heavy time consists of beech, maple, Bass, white and Black ash, white wood, Elm, Black walnut, and some Butternut. I Bought 80 acres of this kind of land which I consider much the best land in Michigan and the best I ever saw." Grain is not grown, but fruit can be cultivated in abundance; the hunting and fishing is the best he has seen, but Leonard notes "some snakes but I saw none worse than our garter snake, but there are few of the Massasaugers [sic] (a species of rattle snake) but growing scarcer every year – Muskitoes [sic] are likewise plenty. I am this particular for the sake of doing the Country justice on both sides of the question." Leonard follows with plans, suggests Hamilton make some informal persuasive efforts on a mutual acquaintance, considers the possibility of cash sales, etc. In all, a fine letter promoting Michigan during the boom times of settlement just prior to statehood, suggesting quite clearly how commercial transportation had opened the area to settlement.