1863: Lavinia M. Snow to Nancy (Snow) Stackpole

The following letter was written by 37 year-old Lavinia M. Snow (1826-1917), the unwed daughter of Capt. Israel Snow (1801-1875), founder of the Snow Shipyard on Mechanic Street in the south end (Snow’s “Point”) of Rockland, Maine. Snow’s Point Shipyard was begun by Captain Israel Snow during the height of the Civil War, 1863. Captain Snow passed the business on to his son and that process continued until 1946, when Snow’s Point Shipyard became the property of General Seafood. Then, in 1957, General Seafood changed hands and the place was taken over by National Sea Products. Finally, in 1991, the yard became property of Rockland Marine, which still operates on the site of the old Snow’s Shipyard.

A biographical sketch of Lavinia was written by Angela M. Keith which states (in part) that, “though Lavinia Snow remained unmarried and childless in her adult life (indeed, she was long referred to by all as “Aunt Lavinia”), she found adventure aplenty prior to her crusade for women’s suffrage, sailing around the world with her family in the 1850s to locales including San Francisco, Panama, London, the Mariana Islands, and China. In August of 1916, at the age of 90, Lavinia asked a reporter from the mid-coast Courier-Gazette to write her obituary and recounted her adventures, along with her doorstep-view of Rockland’s metamorphosis from small fishing village to an industrially-modern hub of ship and rail. Though she received little in the way of formal education, Lavinia loved poetry, news and politics, and was a “staunch supporter of the things that make for individual and natural righteousness.” She greatly admired Abraham Lincoln and was fortunate enough to attend one of his speeches in Illinois in 1857. That she could not vote for him in the 1860 election was a sore spot for her. Lavinia outlived many of her siblings, and died [of pneumonia] on January 12, 1917 in St. Petersburg, Florida.” [See Biographical Sketch of Lavinia M. Snow.]

Lavinia wrote the letter to her Aunt Nancy (Snow) Stackpole (1799-1877), the widow of William Stackpole (1787-1836) of Pekin, Tazewell county, Illinois. Nancy’s husband died in 1836, just four years after the family relocated from Maine to Illinois, leaving her to raise six children. One of her children, William (b. 1827) went to California in the gold rush of 1849 and actually struck it rich. When he returned home to Pekin, he bought up apple orchards and a coal mine and eventually settled in Fairbury. William did not support the war and probably joined the ranks of the Copperheads, as feared in the last sentence of Lavinia’s letter. See William T. Stackpole’s 1849 Journey from Illinois to the California Gold Fields by Dale C. Maley, 2018.

The Capt. Israel Snow home in Rockland where Lavinia probably wrote his letter.


Addressed to Mrs. Nancy Stackpole, Pekin, Illinois

Rockland [formerly East Thomaston, Maine]
September 8th 1863

Dear Aunt,

I hear nothing from you directly now & but little any other way. Mrs. Wightman mentioned in one of her letters that she had heard through Mrs. Mans that you were sick. This was some time in the summer. I hope you are well & prosperous now. I wrote you last in April and have sent you papers occasionally since when anything of special interest occurred in our town. I write today hoping to get an answer for we are anxious to hear from you.

“The [Copperhead] party in Rockland is made up of a few unprincipled leaders and the ignorant and degraded whom they can control. About six weeks ago, Dr. Rouse—a furious Copperhead—shot a Union man in the street. The excitement was intense for a few minutes & the crowd could hardly be restrained from taking vengeance upon him at once.”

—Name, 8 September 1863

I sent you a paper with the news of the drafted. [My brother] Israel & [brother-in-law] Hiram Hall were drafted but ’twas a mistake about Charlie. The person drafted was Charles W. Stone. The mistake was made at the telegraph Office here. Hiram arrived at Salem the 20th July and got home in season to be drafted. Rockland voted to pay each drafted man who went, or his substitute, $300. Israel & Hiram got substitutes by paying $416 apiece which exempts them for the term of service, three years.

The Maine Farmer, Thursday, 6 Aug., 1863

Have you any patience with this Copperhead Party that has spring up in the North & West to assist the rebels? Were it not for them, I think the rebellion would soon be crushed. The party in Rockland is made up of a few unprincipled leaders and the ignorant and degraded whom they can control. About six weeks ago [on 28 July 1863], Dr. [James] Rouse 1—a furious Copperhead—shot a Union man in the street. The excitement was intense for a few minutes & the crowd could hardly be restrained from taking vengeance upon him at once. He was rescued and taken to the lockup. On his way to Wiscasset the next day, he made his escape from the officer and is over in the British Provinces. Mr. [Cornelius] Hanrahan [1822-1893], though severely wounded, [has] recovered. Some of the Copperheads stood surety for Rouse in the sum of $3,000. They are sure to lose it for he will never dare to come back.

Our fall election takes place soon. We are having mass meetings often. Gen. [O. O.] Howard—the man with the “empty sleeve”—has spoken here. Gen. [Richard] Busteed of New York spoke at Thomaston last week. Thomaston is a Copperhead hole & has been from the first. They voted to pay $300 for each drafted man and keep them at home. Palintic [?] are they not?

You remember the Luman family at the “Point.” Their youngest son Charles has lately been brought home dead. He left here last fall a member of the 28th [Maine] Regiment which went south with Gen. Banks. After the fall of Port Hudson, his time having expired, they came home up the river. Charles was left at Cleveland, Ohio, sick. His father went on to see him but found him dead. Many of the men have died on their return. One was buried yesterday, Morton Snow got through the late battles unhurt. At last account he was in New York to help keep the Copperheads in check during the draft. What a fearful time they had there while the riot lasted! Mrs. Wrightman says they expected worse at Yonkers. The men stood guard day and night at the Armory for two weeks.

Enclosed I send you a photograph of Uncle Israel [Snow]. 2 He had a dozen taken. Himself & daughter Sophia spent ten days with us in June. His health was failing and the doctor thought the trip would benefit him but he grew weaker every day. He went to Thomaston with Capt. Oliver Jordan 3 one day & returned the next but with that exception, not one or two short rides with father, he did not go out. After his return home, he still grew worse until now he keeps his bed all of the time. He will be 92 on the 14th of October but Sophia says he will not live to see it. He takes great interest in the war & seems to want to live to see the end of it. When here he read his paper every morning & nothing escaped his notice or memory. His youngest son Charles has a family in Alabama. They have not heard from them since the war broke out. Sophia spent two years with her brother once and was under Hombs care one day’s journey in going there.

Rockland, Knox county, Maine

I have filled one sheet and have hardly written a word I thought to when I began. we are all as well as usual. I have a boil on my right arm which is very painful. I can do but little with it. It troubles me in writing but I can do that better than anything else so will not mind a little pain.

The “Point” folks are well. I was at Aunt Betsy’s a week ago but didn’t see her. Mary & herself were on the ledge berrying. William calls their baby Emmarella for Emarella Thorncliff. Emmarella was there. She taught their school this summer. She is small like her father. Aunt Betsy is looking for Lizzie to visit her. Uncle Clark cannot do much now & he does not go from home.

Father’s health is good. He is busy all the time. He is agent for the Maine Railway & they are building a schooner & repairing the Jenny Pitts. Charlie has gone to Bangor now to buy timber for her. He will probably go in her when she is done. Hiram will take the Fanny Keating in two weeks. Susan and I think of going the first trip with him. They are keeping house just across the street in the same house they had at first. I hope we shall go to Washington. A. C. Spalding & wife are here on a visit now.

Mrs. Keating is quite sick. She goes out but seldom. Helen is here now. I do not think Mrs. Keating will live through the winter. Her cough is very bad. Luella has a beautiful boy six months old. It has black hair and eyes and white skin & is large and fat. They call it Israel. Uncle Israel saw him when he was here & was pleased with the name.

This has been the warmest summer we have had in some years. Tis now quite cool and fall like. I see by the papers you have had a heavy frost in Illinois. We have had none as yet. We have news frequently from California. They are all well. [Sister] Eliza is teaching yet. Aidella Thorndike they say will be married in the course of a year & come East on a bridal tour. Her intended husband is a native of New York. I knew him in California. Joshua [Thorndike] is in China. He went there with Ebin. I understand that Mr. John Kinnes is in California. Did you give him letters to our folks there? I would like them to see him. I hope you will write soon & tell me all the news. Where is William Kellogg & Henry Wilkey? What is [your son] William doing? I hope he is not a Copperhead.

Your niece, — L. M. Snow

1 Dr. James Rouse (1821-1878) was enumerated as a physician in Rockland at the time of the 1860 US Census. He was a native of Virginia. He was married to Mary Jane Titus. Though he may have fled to Canada to avoid trial, James apparently returned to the States for he was enumerated as a physician in Calais, Washington county, Maine, in the 1870 US Census. A newspaper clipping from the Portland Press indicates that Dr. Rouse was indicted at the October term of the S. J. Court for Knox county for an assault with intent to kill.

2 Capt. Israel Snow (1771-1863) was the son of Elisha Snow (1739-1832) and Betsy Jordan (1740-1834). Israel died on 15 September 1863 in Bangor, Penobscot, Maine, just a week after this letter was written. His daughter Sophia Maria Snow (1799-1881) appears to have never married.

3 Capt. Oliver Jordan (1790-1879) of Thomaston, Knox County, Maine.

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