1836 – Letter regarding the disputed ownership of a Schuylkill Canal boat
Philadelphia to New Troy, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. 1836. Envelope or Cover.
This three-page stampless folded letter measures 15½” x 10” unfolded. It was sent by Isaac Koons of Philadelphia on April 14, 1836 to William Swetland in New Troy, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The letter bears an octagonal red Philadelphia postmark dated “14 Apr” and a “12½” rate mark (indicating postage up to a distance of 150 miles). In nice shape.
Koons was a Philadelphia sugar merchant, and Swetland was a farmer-merchant in Kinston. By some undisclosed transaction both claimed a share of a canal boat on the Schuylkill Canal. At some time, both lost control of the boat and it ended up in the possession of another man. In this letter, Koons informs Swetland of his attempt to regain the boat or compensation and requests advice on how to proceed.
“You are aware that the Canal Boat of Derrick Birds was sold part paid and I think at 75 or 50 Dollars remain unpaid for which I took a bill of sale on the Boat in 1832, [however one of the former owner’s] creditors seized the Boat & Cargo somewhere between Reading & Pottersville and Sold the Boat at Constable or Sheriff’s Sale. . .. I had given up all hope of ever getting any think more out of the concern. Two or three days since I had been told that the old Boat was at Schuylkill loaded for Hollodaysburg. . .. I then went to an attorney and took out a writ of replevin . . . before the sherif would do anythink [and take] possession of Boat. The Cargo on Board all dry goods was valued at 25 to 30 Thousand Dollars, the Boat was detained . . . and the person who had the Boat appeared as owner. I told him of our claim and told him we . . . would see the end off it. . .. I finally told him if he would pay 50$ I would be satisfied he told me he was desirous of proceeding on with the Cargo as his [delivery] time was stipulated. . .. I left him proceed by his given me bail to pay the 50$ or Stand a lawsuit when he returned. . .. I would like you to say what I shall do in case he refuses to pay the 50$ and will stand a trial about it. I am enclined he does not like the business more than I do. . .. I want to hear from you before I act any further I would recommend a complimise if possible. . ..”. Very good. Item #010024
The Schuylkill Canal was opened in 1825. At the time, eastern seaboard cities were experiencing an energy crisis due to deforestation, and the canal expedited the transfer of anthracite to fuel industries east of Pottsville.
A writ of replevin is a prejudgment process ordering the seizure or attachment of alleged illegally taken or wrongfully withheld property to be held in the U.S. Marshal's custody or that of another designated official, under order and supervision of the court, until the court determines otherwise.
(For more information, see “A Look Back . . . Canals Played Key Role In Developing Region” at the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader website, “Schuylkill Canal” at Wikipedia, online genealogical records for Koons and Swetland, and the U.S. Marshal’s Service website.).