Apr 14, 2015 - Sale 2380

Sale 2380 - Lot 250

Price Realized: $ 6,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(TRAVEL.) Weeks, Levi. Four letters describing his travels and adventures in the Old West. Autograph Letters Signed (as "L. Weeks") to friend Epaphras Hoyt of Deerfield, MA. 21 pages total plus integral address leaves; minor wear. (MRS) Cincinnati, OH and Natchez, MS, 1807-09

Additional Details

Levi Weeks (1776-1819) was a significant early American architect, but probably best known as an accused murderer. The body of his sweetheart was found in a Manhattan well in 1800, and Weeks was widely suspected to have killed her. After a sensational trial, Weeks was acquitted in court, but convicted in the court of public opinion and soon forced to leave New York. He spent several years drifting from Deerfield, MA to Cincinnati, OH to Lexington, KY before finally settling in Natchez, MS. These four letters were written to a Deerfield friend during his travels (see also lot 161).
The first letter describes his travels by stagecoach from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and through Ohio to Cincinnati. One of his fellow passengers was Joseph B. Varnum, off to become one of the earliest settlers of Chicago "where he is to reside and keep the public store for trading with the Indians." Also in the coach were three "fierce and desperate" veterans of Aaron Burr's independent military excursion to New Orleans. Weeks called the small towns of western Pennsylvania "full of filth and debauchery, desperadoes, bullies and swindlers." The second letter describes excursions from Cincinnati to St. Louis and Vincennes. The last two were written in Natchez, MS. In April 1808, Weeks reviewed the first book on the Lewis and Clark expedition: "Now the subject of the travels of Lewis and Clark is in mind I cannot but caution you and your friends against the impositions of a book called Gass' Journal. It is pretended to be a correct account of their travels to the Pacific Ocean. There is nothing in it worthy the attention of an old woman. I saw it last summer at Pittsburgh. It is patched up by some catchpenny scribbler from the miserable minutes of an ignorant fellow." The final letter describes the launch of Weeks' notable career as a Natchez architect: he was hired to design and build a theater, "the first edifice of its kind ever fitted up here, or ever seen by most of the inhabitants." Its success drew jealousy from the existing housewrights of Natchez, who "have reported that I ran away from my native country, that I am an impostor." He asks his friend for a letter to serve as a character reference, probably hoping that the letter would avoid any mention of that distasteful murder trial.