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FLINT Brothers


In the early 1840s Robert G Flint Jr, son of Robert Sr and Hannah, then in his mid-to-late 20s moved to Valparaiso, Indiana, where he operated a store. Valparaiso had first been settled as recently as the 1830s.1 In 1850 the population was 520.2 About 1844 his youngest brother Pirney, perhaps 19, joined him. Apparently Pirney went first to Chicago. I don’t know how he got there, perhaps by lake steamer, perhaps by train. The following, in a letter to his parents, is apparently a description of the beginning of his journey from Chicago to Valparaiso, a distance of a little over 40 miles.

“if you rember I promised to write when I got to chicago and wrote the same night I arrived at chicago. . . . I started from chicago the next day with a man that was in thare with a one horse waggon & he took me out about 30 miles from chicago. the roads ware very bad. it has been a very rainy season here and the slewes ware all full—that is low places in the praries—wich made it very unpleasant traveling, so when we got pretty near whare the man lived I called into a man house by the nam mackeldowny to light my pipe and his house was lathed and I was prtty short of mony so I made a bargain to plaster his house for 6 dollars. I done it in about week.”3

Pirney does not say how he got the rest of the way to Valparaiso. At some point after he got there he bought out Robert’s share of the store and ran it with a partner named Warner, while Robert established a brickworks. Several letters have been preserved—from the brothers to their parents and from the parents (obviously written by their mother) to the boys. In Hannah’s letters she scolds the boys for not writing sooner and urges them to be more religious. In the brothers’ letters they promise to come home soon and declare (not too convincingly) that they are religious.

Hannah (Pirney) Flint's handwriting Flint, H (1851)

Hannah (Pirney) Flint's handwriting
"My dear Pirney, If ever this reaches you pray do write to us for I have not had a line from you since last March"

In 1848 Robert was a charter member and treasurer of the Valparaiso Odd Fellows lodge.4 Later “Great Register” or registered voter lists for San Luis Obispo County in California say that Robert had been naturalized by the circuit court in Indiana. By that year Robert and Pirney were apparently thinking of traveling west, to Oregon (spelled various ways), and they tried to assure their mother that the danger from Indians on the way is minimal.

“. . . we got a letter from Squire affer he got into oragan. . . . he sent it By a small Party of horsemen that they met on the way. thare is not so much danger going to Oregon from the Indians as you imagine. if there was you know that a small Body of hor[s]e men with thare provisions and led horses could not pass throught. I am now reading a Book wrote By a man who traveled to Oregon in 1843. he say that thare are not more than one or two trbes of Indians hostile; the Sioux are the most formidable of all the tribes.”5

Apparently Robert continued to own property at Valparaiso for a number of years, though he had difficulty administering it after he moved to California.

Parents to Pirney, 30 May 1852—

“. . . we received a letter from some gentleman in Indiana wishing to purchase some town lots of Robt, but we know’d nothing about them so I inclosd his letter and sent it to Volcano. . . .”6

Robert Jr to Pirney, 30 Mar 1856—

“. . . I see by you letter that Dugall has sold out and gon to Milwakie. the Notes I hold against him, after getting different opinions Conserning them, I sent on to you. If you recd them and Still have them, either go to Milwakie and try to Colect them or Send them to Sam Anthoney7 if you have Not all ready done it. Dugall is a thourer paced Scowndrile as far as he knows and he contracted these debts under agarrevated circumstances. I Shall take pains to hunt him as soon as I get time. If you Can get it settled for Me, do. . . . Compremise the Mater with Dugall if no better can be done.”8

Robert Jr to Pirney, 24 Jun 1862—

“. . . As regard My buisness in Indianna, if all the written I have done ffails to convey My wishes to Mr Anthony, More would onely add to it’s confusion. I cannot stop his riten to Me, Nor can you stop his written to you, but Pirney do Me the favour of Not answering his letters. it will Not be any injury to you and will and will be of great service to Me in settling up the buisness. in fact I fear something that has allready been written have given him some power over the property, or he would Not have gon so far as to dispose of My property contrary to my wishes and instructions. . . .”9


1 Goodspeed and Blanchard (1882), p 105.

2 Ibid, p 124.

3 Flint, P (1844). In this and all subsequent letters, the writers' spellings are for the most part preserved, but some punctuation is added.

4 Goodspeed and Blanchard (1882), p 125; The Valparaiso, IN, Vidette-Messenger, 18 Aug 1936, p 18, "Odd Fellowship in Porter County Dates back to 1848".

5 Flint, P (1848).

6 Flint, H (1854).

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7 Samuel I Anthony, Valparaiso lawyer, admitted to the bar Oct 1839 [Goodspeed and Blanchard (1882), p 126].

8 Flint, R (1856).

9 Flint, R (1862).

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