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Searching for Charles

The Untold Legacy of an Immigrant's American Adventure


Website(s) Searching for Charles Website 
Genres Non-Fiction
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Searching for Charles provides full transcriptions of the correspondence, on file in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, of a nineteenth-century English immigrant prairie pioneer. For nearly two decades, Charles Watts tried to persuade his brother Edward to leave London with his family and join Charles in the United States.

By the time Edward made the journey, he had been preceded by the brothers’ step-nephew. In all, thirteen relatives followed Charles to America; some of their descendants continued farming in and around Bureau County, Illinois, into the twenty-first century.

Watts’s articulate, eloquent, and impassioned letters provide remarkably vivid descriptions of his experiences, thoughts on world political events, hopes for the future, and the despair he felt over the years as he received news of the loss of one friend or family member after another. Readers of Charles Watts’s letters will feel as though they know the man and are present in his time and place.

Searching for Charles provides the background and context of these letters, describes his legacy in the form of his descendants and those of other family members who followed him, and documents the five-decade genealogical investigation by subsequent generations to piece together Watts’s story and to find his final resting place.

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