The heat of summer has made reading in a cool house very appealing, and between efforts to amuse very bored, young, coon hounds I have endeavored to focus on useful material.
The two books that have proved informative have been: Charlotte Erickson's Invisible Immigrants: The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in 19th Century America; and Robert Mazrim's The Sangamo Frontier: History & Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln.
Invisible Immigrants offers several sets of family letters that span the century, and they also span a wide range of social backgrounds and motivations. Charlotte Erickson also offers good overviews to the letters' contexts in terms of family history and economic background. While the book was published in 1972 it still is an excellent book to have if you are interested in hearing the "voices" from the past. The only thing I could have wished for would have been more women being represented, and maybe some of the responses from England and Scotland.
I have to consider The Sangamo Frontier a "gold mine" of information. Robert Mazrim has a gift for words, and weaves history and archaeology into a very readable book. However, beyond that, he offers one of the best overviews of the history of the area I have ever read.
What particularly fascinated me was his discussion of "Edwards Trace" (http://www.sancohis.org/OLDER%20FILES/trace.htm), and what is being learned of its long history. Robert Mazrim's commentary on the Trace truly brings its import to life.
He also offers such nuggets as the fact that "groceries" were blamed for luring young men to drink. He points out that while dry good stores and groceries both sold a range of goods, and liquor, but that it was to the groceries that the young bucks went for a wild time.
Other points of interest are such offerings as the fact that good tea cups and saucers often turn up in even the most rural and rustic site.
And I will fully admit that I am only half way through the book. So I am sure I will have more to add later.
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I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.