This letter was written by John Marshall Krum (1810-1883) to his law partner George Turnbull Moore Davis (1810-1888). “Krum attended Smith Academy at Albany, and later, Fairfield Academy in New York City. After graduation he was a tutor at the academy in Latin and mathematics for a year. Following attendance at Union College for one year Krum began the study of law privately.
In 1833 John Krum came to the St. Louis area as a practicing lawyer. In 1839 he married Miss Ophlia Harding and they raised a family of five children. Mr. Krum had settled at Alton, Illinois in 1835, and continued to live there for five years. His law practice covered a circuit of several different counties. The Governor of Illinois appointed him Probate Judge of Madison County in 1836. He was elected as the first Mayor of Alton in 1837. During that administration, occurred the ‘Alton riot’;, in which Elizah P. Lovejoy, anti-slavery publisher, was killed. In 1840 Krum moved to St. Louis. In 1843 he was made Judge of the St. Louis Circuit Court and held that office until being elected mayor of St. Louis. Krum was the third Democrat to be elected Mayor of St. Louis. The Whigs had dominated the City Government most of the time since it started in 1823.”
Davis came to Illinois from New York state in 1832, and formed a law partnership with John M. Krum in Alton, Illinois. The firm dissolved in 1837, during Krum’s tenure as mayor of Alton, after which Krum moved to St. Louis. Davis continued to practice law in Alton until 1848, when he served in the Mexican War. He later became associate editor of the Louisville Journal.
Krum’s purpose for traveling to Vandalia is not entirely revealed in this letter though it was clearly timed to coincide with the session of the State Legislature. Krum was not a member of that body but he may have hoped to influence or gain favor with those who were. Unfortunately, Krum’s brief letter does not take notice that the citizens of Vandalia had just completed the construction of a new Statehouse in an attempt to persuade the legislature to set aside their previous threats to relocate the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield — a proposal led by Abraham Lincoln and his cabal from Springfield. They were unsuccessful: the legislature voted in February 1837 to relocate the capital within two years.
Krum’s letter reveals that he is lodging at Robert K. McLaughlin’s residence in Vandalia. McLaughlin was the State Treasurer (1820-1823), a State Senator (1828-1832) and (1836-1837), and Register of the United States Land Office (1837-1845). McLaughlin’s home was often where the state governors resided when the legislature was in session at Vandalia. It was famous for being the social center of the city. The house sat on Main Street near Third Street.
Addressed to G. T. M. Davis, Esq., Alton, [Illinois]
December 8, 1836
I arrived here on Sunday in improved health & my health has continued to improve since I have been here. I am at McLaughlin! My quarters are good for Vandalia — which is now much crowded — more so perhaps than at any former session.
I meant to have written you more at length but I have not time as. W. Sloo is now nearly ready to start. There is but little news, however. The Senate is not yet organized for the reason that they cannot succeed in electing a speaker. They have balloted 12 times without success.
I wish you would send by the first opportunity the two letters of O Mclvany in reference to Hogan’s ¹ claim against Durint & Milton. They are in the packages in my book case. Also send the Note. I meant to have taken them but forgot it. Don’t fail to send them as they wish to pay the note.
In haste. Yours, — J. M. Krum
¹ John Hogan of Alton, Illinois, was an Irish immigrant and a former Methodist circuit rider turned merchant-banker and politician. He served in the lower House of the Illinois Legislature in 1836-37 at Vandalia. Hogan took the far more popular anti-abolition position among the citizens of Alton and became increasingly vexed by Elijah P. Lovejoy’s anti-slavery editorials. Still, Hogan did what he could to settle and seek compromise between Lovejoy and his enemies. The John Hogan & Co. of Alton advertised muslins, cloths, cashmeres, tobacco & segars, hats, bonnets, & umbrellas in the Illinois Weekly State Journal of 1836.