1868: Charles Roswell Hine to Roswell C. Hine

This letter was written by Charles Roswell Hine (1832-1919) who came to Kent county, Michigan in the mid 1840s with his parents, Demas and Sally (Noble) Hine from Delaware county, New York. Charles was married to Emeline Whitney (1838-1892) in the mid 1850s and the boy mentioned in his letter was their son, Fred Benton Hine (1856-1922).

In the 1863 Draft Registration Records, 30 year-old Charles was enumerated as a resident of Lowell, Kent county, Michigan, and his occupation was given as grocer. He had not, as of that date, served in the military, and I can find no record that he did subsequently either. In this letter, written in 1868, he indicates that he engaged in the “drug trade” which was a common adjunct business to the grocery business. By 1870 he was identified simply as a “druggist.”

Roswell Hine and his daughter Sarah Elizabeth Hine (1839-1874)

Charles wrote the letter to his uncle, Roswell C. Hine (1811-1878), a grocer in Athens, Limestone county, Alabama. Rosewell was the son of Silas Hine (1764-1841) and Betsy Tyrell (1767-1834). Roswell’s wife, Mary (Malone) died in 1841 after only three years of marriage but gave birth to their daughter Sarah in 1839.

This letter reminds us of the challenge before the Nation regarding Black suffrage. Former Confederate states were required to form new governments in their respective states that would enfranchise all male citizens 21 years and older of “whatever race, color, or previous condition” before they could be readmitted into the Union. Ironically, it the North and West that objected to Black male suffrage and there were numerous state-level referendums—such as that described in this letter—that proved the road to the Fifteenth Amendment would not be an easy one.


Addressed to R. Hine, Esqr., Athens, Georgia

Lowell [Michigan]
April 11, 1868

Dear Uncle,

I have been waiting for a long time for matter of sufficient interest to make up a letter of, and at last, write more for the purpose of hearing from you than of communicating news—the best and most glorious of all is the result of our recent elections. Michigan has repudiated “Negro Suffrage” by at least 30,000 majority; while Conn. elects her Democratic Governor. 1 I think we have reason to hope for the “dawning of a better day” politically and we hope that the strength of the “Radicals” is growing less in Michigan but next fall will tell the story.

There has been no important changes with us since I wrote you last—no deaths, no births, although I am expecting the latter event to occur soon in my own family. My wife’s health is very poor but hope for an improvement soon. Milton’s wife has also been very poorly for the last year. The rest are in good health. Father and mother are thinking of removing to Lowell if they can sell where they are. Jimmy Hine has ben with me since last October with the intention of remaining permanently.

Business has been very good with us for the last year, although money has been somewhat tight. I still continue the drug trade and Martin the dry goods trade Martin started last Wednesday for New York to purchase goods accompanied by Fannie, a daughter of Charles Noble of Franklin who has been spending the winter here. A son of Charles Noble is clerking for Martin’s firm.

We have had some cold winter and the weather still continues cold. It is freezing some today.

Can you take Bettie and come North and make a visit this summer? If so, we will try and make it agreeable to you. I am in hopes of being able to visit you next year if I can arrange to leave home which I think I can after Jimmie has become more familiar with the business. I purpose giving him an interest in the business after awhile so as to enable me to get away from it myself in order to visit some of my friends. I have never been East since I left there with you which was 23 years ago. I now have a boy nearly as old as I was at that time and I now am about as old as you were then. So times flies.

Give my love to all the friends and in writing, please give particulars concerning them as well as yourself. It is some time since I have heard from any of you South. Your nephew, — C. R. Hine

1 In the 1868 Connecticut gubernatorial election, Democratic nominee James E. English defeated Republican nominee Marshall Jewell by a majority of only 1,700 votes. English was one of the members of Congress who broke ranks with the Democratic Party and voted for the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. He feared it would ruin him politically but Connecticut voters rewarded him with the Governor’s chair twice in subsequent years.

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