S.M. Spencer



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Spencer laments his circumstances-- his bad health upon arriving in Illinois has made him unable to work and consequently pay off his debts. He also describes a dispute with the local ministers regarding the establishment of a Sunday School.




S.M. Spencer, Philander Chase, Illinois, health


Chicago August 26, 1836

Rt Rev & Dear Sir

Although this letter will come uncalled for still I take the liberty to write. You probably have seen the letter I addressed to Mrs. Chase in the spring.

I had then come into this place to obtain if possible some pecuniary assistance, that I might make some necessary improvements upon a quarter section of land which I had claimed near Milwaukee, and to live upon it, until I should have an opportunity of selling it to advantage. When I wrote I had hopes of realising my wishes.

But of how little worth are friendly professions, unless they bring assistance in time of need. I came here because I knew of no other resource, and when my wants were made known I was told in plain words “that I had come to the wrong place”! Local interest was in the way- I had given offence by stepping over the Illinois-line, notwithstanding I declared my intention was to finish my education in Illinois and that I went to Milwaukee because I saw no other way open in which I would save myself from indigence, and resume my studies.

And if I had been assisted with the use of 100 dollars when I asked for it, I could have repaid it before now with 50 per ct. interest besides being in comfortable circumstances- but instead of that, I had to give up my claim, and go to work in town, weak as I was, so much so, that if I tried to do an ordinary days work in one day, perhaps would not be able to do as [much] again the two succeeding days- so I have lingered along [much] now, I am $40 in debt in spite of all my efforts, and cannot promise that I shall be able to pay my way in my present state of health.

You may now ask why I need to have reduced my self to these circumstances? I will endeavour to apologise, if my apology can be received, although I have no hopes of being justified. The circumstance of my not remaining at [Joliet] at first was peculiarly unfortunate, although I consider no one to blame, because it was impossible to foresee the consequences. When the Bishop first consulted me about remaining in the presence of a [nurse] if I had been allowed to answer I should forthwith have accepted the proposal, and still thought, that was the arrangement.

The Bishop will perhaps recollect, that after the benediction was pronounced after morning service I inquired if it would not be the best opportunity left, for notifying the people, that a Sunday School was to be organized, as I have calculated to proceed immediately to the task, as the most favourable time when the attention of so many was arrested, and I attributed the omission of giving notice, to the multiplicity of other duties.

It is true I had not before spoken about giving notice, but as a Sunday School was to be formed, I concluded that it would be done as a matter of course.-- And when the parishioners asked me about staying I should have told them decidedly in the [?] if no other plans had interfered.

But as I [?] well assured that the Bishop wished me to pursue that course which would be productive of the greatest good, I did not wish to complain although discouragements and difficulties sometimes drew forth unguarded expressions--

I have always defended the Bishop’s management, even when assailed by those who ought to know better. When I returned to [Joliet] I was informed that on the Sunday succeeding the Methodists made strenuous exertions, and had collected all the children far and near into a sunday school, and the friends of the church who had already given up all hopes of having anything more done were quite disheartened, so that my subsequent endeavours seemed of little use after the loss of my health, convinced that my labour would not support me, and having had no assurance of any other means of getting along, I did not [recieve] the Bishop’s letter [?] at Philadelphia until I thought it too late to accept of the conditions, especially as I have seen no place since leaving Ohio where my opportunities for labouring in the capacity which was proposed, would justify me in receiving the promised stipend. However I may heretofore have expressed myself with regard to my wishes, I do not choose at present to appear before the public in any capacity, but I sincerely desire to be fitting myself for usefulness that when I have the proper qualifications I can stand before those who require & expect as much, as in any part of the country.

Whatever impressions the Bishop has formed concerning me, from what I have myself expressed, or others have said, I can sincerely say that the purpose which I have [?] for years I still cherish, and if I could be supplied with the means* I would use my first endeavours to make it good. I do not think my constitution is essentially injured, and by proper treatment and care of myself, I shall soon regain my strength & spirits. I presume you are as yet unsettled, though I have [?] heard that you will probably settle near Peoria, to which place I shall direct this letter, hoping to receive an answer when convenient.

*of removing my present difficulties

Yours in sincerity,

S.M. Spencer

Letter to Philander Chase



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