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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Gambling on the Frontier

Editor's Note:

Marsh stopped this day across the river in Illinois, opposite modern Montrose, Iowa (map), to visit with Isaac Galland.

Galland: Dr. Isaac Galland practiced medicine in the area from 1833-1839, and gave his name to Galland, Iowa. He helped the early Mormons settle across the river near Nauvoo, Ill., and served as a private secretary to Joseph Smith. He also wrote a short history of Iowa and an emigrants' guide, helped found the city of Keokuk. -- Annals of Iowa III (April-July, 1898); Fairchild, David S. History of Medicine in Iowa (Des Moines, 1927).

[July] 25th


About 9 o'clock A.M. left this place, the Indns. having become in a measure sobered, as what of their whiskey remained until morning was thrown away. Called at Mr. Fergusons [?] and purchased a small quantity of meal...


A little along, the Indians stopped on account of the heat and stayed until late in the P.M. Called at Mr. Gallands, living on the S.E. side of the river. Mr. G. was raised in the state of O[hio] & served in the last war with Gr. Br. A very sensible man and possessing considerable information upon general subjects. Both himself and wife once members of the Christian Church, and she is still, but considers himself to have fallen away. I urged upon him the importance of immediate repentence and humbling himself before God etc. Appeared sensible of his situation but little disposed to return.


He informed me that the week before they crossed the river expecting there would be a meeting, but the preacher, a Methodist, did not arrive. Those who had collected for to hear the gospel soon formed a party and went to pitching dollars upon betting. They betted for whiskey and one won 2 pints and another 3 pints, I believe. Thus they employed their time, and in gambling much is employed.


One of these men who formed this party, Mr. Fretwell, whom I have often mentioned, said at that time, that in order to get along well in gambling, at which he is said to be well adept, it is necessary in the first place that a man know how to play well, 2) to cheat well, 3) to lie well, 4th to swear to it, and fifthly, provided one is very hardly pushed, to fight well.


This is the morality of gambling and this the horrid effects upon morals when a person becomes a finished hand in the art...


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