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Pioneer Lives

Documenting Iowa’s early settlers, the Pioneer Lives collection lends immediacy to this historic period through the first-hand accounts of ordinary citizens. The correspondence of the Bryan and Harriet Ward Bartholomew family, the Ward family, Mel L. Webster, Salina Saltsgiver, F.H. Wyrick. and others brings to light descriptions of new lives written for loved ones left behind:

“Dear Father, I am in a place which at my coming here was very strange, but I have got acquainted and very contented, much more than I expected. I will give you a short sketch of what life I live here…” – Henry Eno letter, 1813
“My Dear Cousin, I thought I would write to you as it is my birthday. I am 11 years old… I go to school now… We have three boarders. I am going to learn to scate [sic] this winter…” –Emma Ward letter, 1866
“Dear Brother McCormick, Yours received, some time since, asking a sketch of my career as an M.D. during the past year, which… I must admit has far exceeded my hopes…” – Dr. Mila Sharp letter, 1885

These letters and diaries offer us a glimpse into the shaping of the Midwest and the personal stakes and daily routines connected with that endeavor.