About the Dunlap Letters

The Dunlap Letters were written in 1841.  Both were written by Rachel Malone Dunlap of Greencastle, Indiana, and sent to her son, Ephraim Dunlap, of Liberty, Illinois.  The letters have been kept by the family for 160 years.  They are currently in the possession of Susan Ferguson.  Susan has photographed and transcribed the letters and has graciously offered to share them here on the Adams County ILGenWeb site.

Letter 1

This letter was written February 9, 1841. In this letter, Rachel expresses her sadness at being separated from her children and her sorrow at the news of the death of her son-in-law, James Tomlison. Her words are moving as she tells her son, Ephraim, that he must now take care of the little ones.  Rachel had little formal schooling, so her words were written phonetically. Reading her words aloud, just as they are spelled, one can almost hear her accent and the manner in which she spoke.

The letter raises many questions.  What disease was sickening the horses? What was the medicine they tried? Who is the Tompson who was hung on Friday in Greencastle [IN]? And what was his crime? (The letter mentions that the funeral service was to be given by the preacher from the cart before the hanging.)

Please read this wonderful old letter.

Letter 2

The second letter was written June 27, 1841. Things have gotten harder for the Dunlap family; their health is not as good, crops aren’t doing well, the horses are sick and money is scarce. Rachel is thinking about moving the family to Illinois and asks her children to sow turnip seeds for her.  She’s also concerned about her newly widowed daughter, Lucretia, and her financial welfare. There are legal issues involved and, again, Ephraim is put in charge of sorting things out.

A comic note, Narcissa fell off a horse while trying to jump on and hurt herself. She gets a dose of frontier medicine.

Rachel closes the letter by saying that she can’t express in writing all the feelings she has for her family and expresses her hope of seeing them once more.

This letter raises questions too.  What did Rachel mean when she asked her children to sow turnip seeds for her?

Letter One | Letter Two  | Back to Adams County

Census Images

Happily, by 1850, the Dunlap Family was together again, living in Adams County, Illinois.  The 1850 Census shows the following enumerations:

Family 135 Ephraim and Mary
Family 136 Rachael, James, LeGrand & John and
Family 137 Colatinus, Eliza and Andrew

Copyright © 1996 – 2003 Linda Lee. All Rights Reserved.