1864: Elmira Ann Bailey to Jane (Mateer) Henderson

This letter was written by 26 year-old Elmira (“Ellie”) Ann Bailey (1838-1926), the daughter of Daniel Bailey (1802-1868) and Christiana Mumper (1808-1897) of Dillsburg, York county, Pennsylvania. Ellie married Levi Brandt (1829-1905) in November 1866. In her letter, Ellie mentions her two brothers—Samuel Nelson Bailey (1841-1903), and Mumper John Bailey (1844-1915)—neither of whom enlisted or were apparently drafted in the service during the war.

I could not find an image of Ellie but here is a CDV of a young woman that dates to Pennsylvania in 1864 (eBay)

Ellie wrote the letter to her cousin “Jennie” who was Jane (Mateer) Henderson (1837-1926). The letter was addressed to Dunningsville, a small village in Washington county, Pennsylvania. We learn from the letter that Jennie had recently married Rev. Samuel McFarren Henderson (1839-1879) who was called to the pastorate of the Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church in June 1863 where he served until late April 1867. Samuel was born in New Hagerstown, Carroll county, Ohio, and an 1859 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College. After pursuing theological studies at the Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Steubenville. After leaving the Pigeon Creek church, he relocated to the church at Wilkinsburg, Presbytery of Pittsburgh. After Rev. Henderson died in 1879, Jennie remarried with University of Wooster teacher, Samuel J. Kirkwood (1840-1901) in 1882. Jennie was the daughter of John Mateer (1807-1875) and Mary Nelson Diven (1816-1896).

Though written six months after the Battle of Gettysburg, Ellie informs her cousin that Lee’s invasion into Pennsylvania the previous summer had caused “an exciting time” and resulted in her brother having three of his horses taken by the Confederates. She also claimed that the cannonading at Gettysburg could be heard quite distinctly at their home 24 miles away during the 3-day battle and that great crowds of curiosity seekers were observed passing their home in Dillsburg on their way to the battlefield immediately afterward.


Addressed to Mrs. Jennie M. Henderson, Dunningsville, Washington county, Pennsylvania

Home [Dillsburg, York county, Pa]
Monday afternoon, January 18th 1864

My dear Cousin Jennie,

After looking and waiting a letter from you for more than a year, I at last receive a very surprising one the 26th of November telling me of your marriage, “your husband,” &c. I am of the same opinion as you that such a step occasions deep interest, yet Jennie I have not yet been persuaded to commit the like act, (as you surmised in your letter) [and] do not know that I will permit myself to be, yet I do think it is much the happier way of living this life, or it would not have be instituted.

I presume you feel quite at home as Mrs. Henderson by this time—also naturalized as a pastor’s wife and to what the congregation will expect of you—it is generally perfection. I wish I could have seen you the first Sabbath you went to church after you were Mrs. Henderson. I can imagine the curiosity of the congregation to see their “Minister’s wife.” No doubt you impressed them very favorably with your humility, commendable dignity, &c. I should like to see you and your husband. You recommend matrimony as a capital institution, and of course there is something in having a nice husband. You no doubt, dear Jennie, are well suited. Hope I may be as fortunate.

Mumper is at Academia, Juniata county, at school—his second sessions. Says it was not “Cap year.” The evening you & I stayed out a little late & he had one horse to put up, I was very much worried that evening. Mr. L. was very kind to offer his services if you would only stay a little longer; but Jennie we must take the bitter with the sweet in this world. I am extremely sensitive; it is a failing.

Jennie, you should have been here last June and first of July to see our friends from the South, but we did have an exciting time in constant fear; though they were all very polite & gentlemanly that stopped here. You ask me how Sam got along with his black horse when the rebels were here. Jennie, they found him and two other young horses and gave in exchange an old worn-out U. S. horse. Father had them sent down to the river but government had taken charge of things and could not get over until they would wait a few hours, but the rebels being expected there hourly, they “flew to the mountain” with six of ours, where they remained two or three days, when the mountains were searched. Yes! Sam was very much distressed that his beautiful black horse got into their hands. the other two were very pretty bays.

I saw Logans at church yesterday. They are all about as usual. Their father was very ill a short time after you left. His sight is very bad.

Saw Ellie Dunlop at Mechanicsburg Church last Sabbath. Also Maggie Lusk & Ellen Mateer (you have heard her sister died of diphtheria in the summer very suddenly). She is looking very badly. Will hardly recover her former health. Saw Dr. Youngs too. I expect to go down to see them shortly—perhaps next week.

I spent an evening and afternoon at Wolford’s a few weeks before Christmas. Mr. B & I had a very pleasant time. Saw John A. W. & sister. They are looking very well; also [Mary] “Mollie” Myers [1841-1891]. I suppose you heard her sister Alice [Louise Myers] was married to Will[iam H.] Gardner a few months since [14 October 1863 in York Springs, Adams county]. I expect to see some of Adams County tomorrow as they will likely go over to Harrisburg to see [Andrew G. ] Curtin inaugurated. I fear they will have an unpleasant time as it has been raining real hard all day.

Where did you spend your holidays? I had the pleasure of spending mine in Philadelphia. Had a very pleasant time. Came home Tuesday after New Year. Spent two Sabbaths in the city [and] heard beautiful sermons. Cousin John Bailey goes down every few weeks. I went with him. Cousin Will has been one of the surgeons in the army of the Cumberland. His regiment lays at Chattanooga. Was there at the time of battle. Was home this fall on leave of absence on account of ill health. He started back week before last and only got as far as Huntingdon (where John was practicing). He would not let him go further as he was suffering with rheumatism too much for exposure on the field.

Jennie, I have come to the end of my paper, yet I have not all said. Stayman’s are all very well. They have had another addition to their family since you were here—a sweet little girl [named] “Ida,” about eight months old. Emma & Frank are as fussy as ever. James Clark’s family have been very weak or delicate. Lucinda’s mind was very weak during the summer and their father has been right ill with heart disease for some time.

Have you heard from Calvin lately or since they arrived at their destination? I have their photographs. They are very good. Jennie, you ask me for my photograph. I do not think it would be prudent for me to send it now as you have been so delinquent in writing me. I shall, however, reserve one for you at least six months if you can within that time send me yours, & your good husband’s for my benefit, and to aid in gracing my album. I have very good ones taken in the city. Now, Jennie, I will leave it to your husband if this proposition is not fair or equal. I am very anxious to have them. Shall look for them in you next letter & you shall have mine in return.

We have had only a few days sleighing.

Grandfather [John Mumper] & Mother [Christina “Jane” (Beelman)] Mumper are both dead. He died in August [8 August 1863] and she the 4th inst. [4 January 1864], both being eighty-two years. All join in sending much love to you and your husband. Hoping to hear from you soon, I am as ever your loving cousin, — Ellen A. Bailey

We could hear very distinctly the cannonading at Gettysburg during the three days battle. You should have been here to see the crowds go up to see the fields after the battle. One morning before breakfast, no less than thirty buggies & carriages passed. Thus you have an idea. And we are twenty-four miles from the point. — Ellie

One thought on “1864: Elmira Ann Bailey to Jane (Mateer) Henderson”

  1. What an amazing find!! Cousin Ellie Brandt is mentioned in a journal that I have of Jane ‘Jennie’ Mateer Henderson who was my great-great-great-grandmother in my maternal line. I am blown away by your massive work transcribing and researching. I have a collection of over 300 letters within the Mateer family plus journals, etc. I am also transcribing and researching. THANK YOU SO MUCH!


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