A LETTER WRITTEN
BY JAMES B. ALTOM

TO THE "MARION COUNTY DEMOCRAT"

Vol. 10 Salem, Illinois, Friday, March 4, 1898 No. 4

Front Page Article Titled

"SCENES OF MY CHILDHOOD"

While alone my mind runs back to my boyhood days of 40 years ago, when in Old Marion County, for it was about that time I landed there. I lived there about 19 years. My father, Spencer ALTOM, bought a farm 5 miles east of Patoka, on the road running to Salem. It was there that I lived and passed the happiest days of my life among relatives and friends, going to the Chance school house to school, but where are now my school-mates of those days?

There are but few left to tell the tale. Some sleep beneath the sod to await the final judgement, others have done as I have done, gone to remote places. It was in Marion County that I took unto myself a wife. September 27th, 1874, I wedded Miss A. B. Bassett, and in the spring of 1876, in company with my father, brother and brother-in-law, I departed for Texas, leaving behind many friends whom I have not since seen. We landed in Sherman, Texas on the first day of April and there took wagons for the far West. We located in Stevens county and remained there till August. It being very dry there, we returned to Cook county and settled in Cross-Timbers. In August 1877, my brother-in-law, Fenton G. Caldwell, died. March 17, 1882 my father departed this life, and on the 7th of September 1883, my mother, Hannah Altom, crossed Jordan's river. January 1892, my brother, John P. Altom, was called hence.

[NOTE: Hannah Harrell married Spencer when James was three years old. She was the only mother he knew, but his birth mother was Melvina Parks.]

And so half of the older ones have crossed the chilly waters of death. After the departure of these dear relatives, I sold my little farm in the timber and moved to the prairie and there lived 7 years, forming many new acquaintances and friends. In June 1897, I sold my property there and moved to Indian Territory, where I now am. Here I find people who formerly lived in the various states of the Union, they are generally poor, and I have found this section the best in the land for such people. We have an abundance of grass, wood and water, and the soil very fertile and productive. It produces well, wheat, oats, corn, cotton, vegetables and melons. One can purchase land here on time payments. I don't mean that one can actually own land here, but in the near future such will be the case. We have a good market, Moore is our nearest railroad point, from it 48,000 bales of cotton will be shipped. It has a flour mill, electric plant, 2 national banks, population about 4,000, good schools and churches. It had a commodious courthouse, but it was burned last fall. The jail is large and just now has 90 inmates, hence all are not obeyors of the law. I will be pleased to hear from any of my old Marion County friends. My postoffice address is, Hewitt, Indian Territory.

James B. Altom