Philander Chase



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Philander Chase gives his nephew Intrepid Morse a brief history of his experience acquiring land in Illinois.




Philander Chase, Intrepid Morse, Illinois, Seminary


Dear Nephew

I re’d this morning my grand Daughter’s letter dated about Christmas with your P.S. for which containing as they do the goodness of Mrs. Wells good health and of Alexander’s complete recovery from his late indisposition I am truly thankful.

You make some anxious inequities about the contemplated Seminary in Illinois and urge its commencement without delta.

Instead of stating my own feelings on the same subject, which are of course very tender as well as profound, I will give you something of a history of my proceedings.

I set out on a principle the reasonableness of which I think can not be doubted that if the doors of the intended Institution are to be open to the publick for pupils in common learning the Publick ought in some way to contribute at least a moity of the expense in founding it. Indeed the justice of this principle was not only allowed but contended for by all the intelligent Donors in Englands, so that my hands were tied to it by a kind of compact. What is to say. If I opened the Seminary the money to found which I obtained abroad to students other than Candidates for the ministry, the sum should at least be doubled; and even in that case the government of the institution never to be alienated from the Church whose friends were its founders.

When I came to Peoria in the summer of 1836 several of the principal men met me and having pointed out a Township land surveyed but not as yet brought into market in their county urged me to locate my Seminary thereon pledging themselves that all the lands therein not patented and as yet unclaimed should stand as claimed by one for the Seminary. I went to see this Township being ten North, six east of the Meridian line of the survey: and liked it well both for the goodness of the soil and the facilities of building and beauty of site for the Seminary. I found that about one third of the Township was patented about one third clammed & settled and about out third (of course after the twice culling the less valuable) left for my objects. This last third could be obtained either by an immediate grant of preemption right from Congress or by waiting till it were brought into market & then buying it as all other lands will be bought at the minimum price $8 25/100 per acre. We petitioned Congress to grant me the preemption right. This you know was not acted on. It then was left for the County of Peoria to see that I was sustained in my claim of the lands guaranteed to me & actually surveyed by me for the Seminary. This they failed to do-- the squatters came on and “jumped” the claims wherever they please especially those lots which were most valuable for timber. I need not tell you how this distressed me. I tried to bear it with patience. To contend was out of the question. One thing was in my favour I was used to disappointment injury and ingratitude & want of all faith in others; so God helped me to bear what I could not remedy. Of one thing I was very thankful viz.-- that I had not, by reason of my peculiar position of [Expectancy], involved myself in debt and deep engagements in building: This was indeed a mercy at that article period of the public distress which proved the ruin of so many in our dear Country in money matters.

It was a sufficient proof of my sincerity, integrity, and full reliance on the public pledge given me that I had in the commencement come on to the land with my family and my means and had begin to raise my bread out of the soil in the immediate vicinity of the Seminary lands the claims or little to which I had purchased of others on the premises to the amount of $1100 which I had paid of my own little means.

After this project had been given up I declared my case open for the offer of others among the Land Holders and Companies: and when I was on my diocesan travels many propositions were made to fix my Seminary in various places. All acknowledged the great benefit which its location would be to their property but few seemed willing to give even half of that benefit to its foundation-- to large land holders and Companies my offer has been on the following terms. If you will give four of the Sections of land one of which shall be entire i.e. 540 acres in a body, and the other three in the vicinity I will listen to your offer and all other things beings agreeable to my wish and for the furtherance of the object in view the Seminary shall be located thereon.

Whether these terms will be complied with or not it remains for time to shew: by time I mean a reasonable period embracing this winter and part of next spring. If nothing be done at the commencement of Summer I think I shall give up all thoughts of having anything like a public school but for Theological pupils or aspirants for the ministry. And perhaps after all this is the best way: for to educate persons not religiously inclined in a thankless office at best.

You see by the above history of my affairs that I am not willingly inert. God’s providence I must follow-- not [?] before it. I would gladly pursue where the good God may see fit to direct my paths. That this may be to his glory in the salvation of my own soul & those of my beloved charge I hope for your prayers. I am getting old & hard work has bent my frame and I fear enfeebled my mind. The Church in the deliberations at Baltimore by the Missy. Board has behaved strangely with me. From you and others I learn that they refused my salary not for the “Reasons given” but for others which they did not think fit to assign. Viz. that I had a farm-- a very valuable farm in Michigan and was a Rich Man. I have a farm there which was entered in a wilderness state by the money which my Brother Dudley gave me for the benefit of my Children & which I improved by my own hands. I wish I could sell it now & pay my expense in visiting my diocese without asking any one to assist me as I did for many years in Ohio.

I wish you to be apprised of the facts of which you may make such use as you please when communicating with friends or enemies. First: that all the funds collected for the Illinois Seminary remain in good and safe hands Untouched except the interest which all goes to help in the support of the teacher whom I keep in my house to instruct my own children & to be ready to commence the Seminary which I hoped to begin long before this but have been prevented for the reasons above. Second. 2. This Teacher is the Rev. Samuel Chase to whom I promised if he would devote himself to the intended School, a Salary of $800 per ann:; if he lived entirely by himself. But that if he lived with me while preparing himself a dwelling I would charge him $300 per ann: for the support of himself wife and children in all but his clothing & working.

The interest of the fund does not amount to enough to pay him $500 per year: of course I have all his support in my family to struggle with: & this since my Salary is gone is more than I can do: yet my favourite Motto as you call it comes in here to my aid “Jehovah Jireh” God will provide. with this I close my letter: begging God also to bless you

P. Chase

Letter to Intrepid Morse



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