Category Archives: Antebellum Illinois

1855: Clarissa Dwight Marsh to Sarah (Whitney) Marsh

How Clara might have looked in 1855

These letters were written by Clarissa (“Clara”) Dwight Marsh (1834-1899), the daughter of Henry Marsh, Jr. (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883). Clara’s father was an 1815 graduate of Williams College and lived in Dalton, Massachusetts from 1821 to 1840 where he was a lawyer, a merchant, a farmer and wool grower, and a wool dealer and manufacturer. In 1840 he moved with his family to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he lost his savings with the failure of the Ashuelot Manufacturing Company. In 1843 he went to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1846 to Sandusky City, Ohio, and in 1850 to St. Louis, Missouri, engaging in the mercantile and produce business. He died of cholera in June 1852 but had managed to put three sons through Williams College and afforded his daughters, Clara, and Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Willard Marsh (1829-1882), some outstanding educational advantages as well. 

Lizzie “was educated at Maplewood, Pittsfield, Mt. Holyoke and Bradford Seminaries, and spent her life in teaching. She had a school in St. Louis and at Batavia, Illinois, and afterwards taught in private families in Pittsfield, Mass., Batavia, N. Y., and Hudson, Wisconsin. At the latter place on Lake St. Croix she made her home with her life-long friend, Susan (“Sue”) Ellen Lockwood (1830-1915), the wife Charles Wendell Porter and the daughter of Judge [Samuel Drake] Lockwood of Batavia, Illinois. She died at Hudson, Wisconsin, on 23 April 1882.”

Clara attended the Cooper Female Academy in Dayton, Ohio, in the early 1850s. She married Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1857.

From these letters we learn that Clara and her older sister Lizzie were teachers at the newly opened Batavia Institute—a private academy that was chartered on 12 February 1853 by 13 men, including Rev. Stephen Peet, the Congregational minister, Elijah Shumway Town, Joel McKee, John Van Nortwick, Dennison K. Town, and Isaac G. Wilson of Batavia, Illinois The building’s central part, which still stands in Batavia at 333 South Jefferson Street, at Union Avenue, was constructed in 1853–1854 of locally quarried limestone at a cost of $20,000. The architect Elijah Shumway Town designed the building in a Greek Revival style.

The Batavia Institute as it looked in 1864.

Letter 1

Batavia, [Illinois]
September 11th 1855

My dearest Mother,

It is just two o’clock & therefore I imagine you are now seated at the dinner table. Do the vacant places remind you of your wandering children? I told “Sue” [Lockwood] a few minutes ago that I would like very much to see my dear mother.

I have no doubt that Henry gave you our “few lines” written in the cars so that you know of our journey so far. We soon after reached Sandoval where Mr. Spooner rechecked our baggage and introduced us to Mr. DeWolf, the conductor of the train coming north. There was very little to see except boundless prairie and the road was straight and level and not particularly smooth. At Decatur we saw Mr. Hawley a moment. Lizzie had the sick headache all the afternoon but read all the time.

We got to Wapella about seven o’clock and got a very good supper, and I was hungry enough to do it justice. Lizzie’s tea did her good and she felt much better. We changed cars there and Mr. DeWolf put us in the care of Mr. Johns (a Decatur man) who was very polite to us. And now what a road we had, jolting and bouncing till I thought there would be not one breath left me, and really I never was so well shapen. I got quite out of patience and was glad enough to reach Mendota and change to a smooth, delightful track.

Presumably the same “forlorn…little old depot” at Batavia where the Marsh sisters arrived and waited for wagon transportation to the Lockwood residence on the west side of the Fox River. This Depot was built in 1854 and was moved to its current location in the 20th Century.

We got here about four o’clock and it was not light, and it seemed rather forlorn in the little old depot but we sat down and laughed and made the best of it for a half an hour when the man got a buggy-wagon and a driver from the “tavern” and we rode up here and roused them up a little before five. I had slept “more or less” in the night but have been sleepy ever since (Lizzie is sleeping now). We left all but two trunks at the depot and they will be sent tomorrow, I suppose, to where we are to board.

About nine this morn, we went with “Sue” to see about board and also went into the school building [Batavia Institute] which seems very pleasant. We expect to go to Mr. Town’s to board and hope to like it. The room is upstairs & has two windows and a good sized closet and bed, washstand, table and chairs, and an ugly carpet compose the furniture. But it looked clean and comfortable. We shall pay each $3 a week and have lights & towels furnished and have to get our washing done somewhere else. It will be cheap I imagine, however. The room is heated by a furnace. We could have had the parlor and a bedrom off it by paying $4 (each) but we cannot afford it.

The walk to school will be short (about as much as one square in the city—perhaps two) and we shall come to our dinner, I suppose. I imagine we shall have plenty of time to sew and read, and I do mean to improve it. With the prospect of seeing you in Chicago, I do not mean to be homesick. The family here are as cordial and pleasant as ever and it is worth everything to have nice people to visit. “Sue” is a real good friend.

Yesterday was very warm indeed and today would be were there not so much air stirring. Lizzie will write tonight or tomorrow, I guess. One of the teachers—Mr. Horton [Norton?] has just come to see us. Goodbye dearest mother. Love to all. From Clara


Letter 2

[Batavia, Illinois]
Wednesday morning [10 October 1855]

Mr. Norton was here in the afternoon so that Lizzie could not write & she was too sleepy in the evening. She is just ready to start for school & I do not have to go this morning.

Lizzie will write so it will go tomorrow and you must wait for her letter that is to go in the box she says. She forgot all about the steel clasp to be put on the work box for Julia, and will you get one or get Mrs. Topping to do it, and while you are about it, please get one for me.

Lizzie thinks it would be a good plan for you to let us have your bureau as it is so inconvenient to get along without one; if Waldo thinks it is worthwhile to send it up. I suppose the freight on it would not be very much.

It is rainy this morning and seems dull enough. They are waiting for this letter and so I must stop. We feel much better for a good nights sleep. Goodbye with love from us both. Your affectionate Clara


Letter 3

Batavia, [Illinois]
October 12th 1855

My own dear Mother,

I got up this morning before Lizzie went to school and dressed myself & after she had gone, I combed my hair through (sitting in the rocking chair) and fixed it up so it would do.

The Doctor has just been here and says unless I get worse, I shall not need him anymore. He says I must be very careful. Lizzie has come home from school & is writing too.

I read some this morning & since sinner, Alice [Mason] has been sitting here with her sewing.

I was disappointed that you did not tell us you were settled in your letter. I hope all will “end well.”

Dear Mother, I have been very thankful that I have had patience given me to bear my sickness as well as I could. It has been very trying to be out of school so long. But I think I can submit cheerfully to the will of my Heavenly Father and I trust He will give me strength to endure all.

I must stop for I am getting tired & the doctor told me not to write today.

My best love to dear Waldo. I hope he will enjoy “Rackensack.” 1 Yesterday was Charlie’s birthday. I wish I could have written him. Goodbye dear, dear Mother. With love now and ever, from your affectionate, — Clara

1 Waldo Marsh apparently was a member of the Rackensack Club in St. Louis. “Rackensack” was an old Indian name for the Arkansas River. I’m not sure what the club’s purpose was.


Letter 4

Batavia, [Illinois]
October 15, 1855

My own dear Mother,

You will rejoice with me that I am so much better. I came down stairs yesterday afternoon and stayed to prayers, having my tea in Miss Mason’s room while the rest had theirs. I have taken a little walk in the yard this morning and it seemed delightful to breath the fresh air once more. How grateful I am to be gaining my strength though it comes rather slowly. I am going to have a ride after dinner if Lizzie does not change her mind at noon. The wind blows much more than it did yesterday, but it is very pleasant & sunny.

I am writing down in Miss Mason’s parlor and Alice has been here with her sewing till now she has gone to dress. I dressed myself entirely this morning though I had to sit down between times & to comb my hair. If I am as well, I shall try to go to school tomorrow. I shall be so happy when I am strong and feel bright again. My head aches a little but I think it will pass off. I do hope we shall have pleasant weather yet for some time. I am glad to have Lizzie relieved from the weight of care she has had. She has been a very kind & excellent nurse, but I have often thought how nice it would be to have Mother here. I shall be greatly disappointed if we do not hear from you early this week. It seems so long to have to wait till friday. Can you not possibly find or take time to write twice a week at least occasionally to do so?

I hope you are settled by this time and pleasantly situated. Have you heard from Racine at all. We wrote to Clara long ago and got no answer.

Dear Mother, I am very anxious to hear about my class in Sabbath School. Will you find out for me who has taught them & whether Fannie Post has then now? I would like to know too if the school is filling up. How very much I should like to hear dear Mr. Post preach again. 1 Give much love to them all.

I was exceedingly sorry to hear of the death of. Mrs. Wheelock Allen of Sheboygan. What a severe affliction it must be to the Rice’s. Mr. Blackford told Sue Lockwood in Chicago. I suppose you will hear particulars from Mrs. Studley. She did not hear much & I did not remember exactly what she did hear.

Lue and Anna [Lockwood] called here Saturday and Lizzie went with them to see Miss Stowe. They enjoyed their trip to Chicago very much.

I am anticipating a great deal of pleasure in going with Lizzie to visit Miss Mason. She says she is coming out after us so as to make sure of having the visit. If I am well enough, we shall probably go. I shall hope to see Aunt & Maggie & Uncle Robert.

Miss Mason and Alice have been exceedingly kind to me & have materially helped Lizzie in her watchful care. Indeed, Hattie and Rossy have done their share of kindnesses and I am sure I shall never forget them. I hope you will meet them this winter.

Mrs. Town too has been very kind and all have been willing to do. Warner Town 2 went five miles to get me some ice last Wednesday and it has not all melted yet. You cannot think how much ice has been to me; meat and drink and comfirt. The few days I could not get any were enough to make me prize it doubly when I did have it.

I ha a little cold chicken (or rather a little piece of one) & a very nice baked potato with thick cream on it and a little toasted bread for my dinner yesterday; and it tasted very good. I have not much appetite & am to be kept on rather low diet for awhile, I suppose.

Warner [Town] has just brought me a letter from Cousin Robert which being unexpected was most truly welcome. Do thank him very much and tell him it shall be remembered among the ten I now have on hand which have accumulated in my illness. I got Mary Peck’s daguerreotype on Saturday and as it is a very good one, it is a very great pleasure. I did not expect to write so long a letter but I guess it won’t tire me.

Lizzie has just come from school. I have been watching for her this half hour & find she stayed to “correct compositions.” Goodbye dear, dear Mother. Do write to us often. Your letters are so much comfort. Love, love ever from your own affectionate, — Clara

After dinner, my dear brother Waldo,

I thought I must write a few words to you so that you will be sure I have prized your parts of the letters. I had some codfish fixed with cream and potato for my dinner like all the rest & went out to the table to get it. You can imagine how glad I am to be up and about though if I am not careful, I stagger when I walk alone. I feel quite encouraged & if I do not have a relapse, think I shall do bravely.

I am glad you are fixed at “the rooms” and hope you will find it very agreeable all winter. Where do you eat now? I wish you and Mother could have meals together. I am very glad that Charlie is looking better & hope he will learn a great deal. Are you any more busy now?

I think Hattie Naylor had quite a narrow escape. Give my love to her and Sophy. I hope you will call there frequently & will you go occasionally to see my friend Ginnie Stephenson? Have you been to see Fannie Post? You will I hope.

Please tell Henry my next letter shall be addressed to his lordship. Remember me to each member of the “Rackensack Club” and dear Waldo, accept ever the warm love of your affectionate sister, — Clara

Lizzie sent a quantity of love to all as she hurried off to school.

1 Rev. Truman Marcellus Post (1810-1886) was invited to take charge of the Third Presbyterian Church in St, Louis in 1847. He was “unwilling to live in a community in which slavery existed. He finally accepted the invitation on the express condition that his letter of acceptance should be read publicly, and then the question of renewing the call be submitted to the people. In this letter he stated that he regarded holding human beings as property as a violation of the first principles of the Christian religion, and that while he did not require the church to adopt his views, he thought every Christian should be alive to the question of slavery; and as for himself, he must be guaranteed perfect liberty of opinion and speech on the subject, otherwise he did not think God called him to add to the number of slaves already in Missouri. The church heard the letter and unanimously renewed the invitation, where upon Professor Post, in the fall of 1847, became the pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, limiting the engagement to four years, in the hope he might be able to return to the college at the expiration of that period. But at the close of the alloted term, the church with great unanimity voted to become a Congregational Church, and chose Rev. Mr. Post as its pastor, a position which under the circumstances he was constrained to accept, and which he held uninterruptedly until his resignation, which took effect January 1, 1882. Under his pastorate the church prospered, and became the rallying-point for opinions that later became potential in the great Civil War. During that period Mr. Post did not forbear to assert the supremacy of those principles of personal liberty and responsibility which he had brought with him from New England, but did so with so much courtesy as well as courage, the he commanded the entire respect of a congregation and community of widely differing opinions.” Rev. Posts’s daughter was Frances (“Fanny”) Henshaw Post (1836-1916). She married Jacob Van Norstand (1830-1895).

2 Ebenezer Warner Towne, Jr. (1839-1907), was the son of Ebenezer Warner Towne (1802-1892) and Sophia A. Hawkes (1813-1874) of Batavia, Kane county, Illinois.


Letter 5

[This letter was written by Clara Marsh to Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. (her future husband)]

Batavia [Illinois]
November 22, 1855

My very dear Sam,

It is late but I cannot help writing a short time. I received the paper you sent since tea, & was struck with one idea in the notice of Bishop Hopkin’s lecture, for it is one of which you have often spoken—viz: “mutual confidence.” I have no fear that you, dearest, will fail in that respect, or indeed in any other; and I shall strive not to be found wanting. I often feel what I cannot express, but it seems to me now that I never shall again find it impossible to speak to you my various thoughts. Help me to become worthy of your love and I cannot but be happy. Are you sure I can add to your happiness after all my errors?

I have been writing to Henry & probably you ill see the letter. Would you rather I had not said what I did? Tell me truly now. I had a letter from Sarah Hunter on Monday and she urges me to visit them soon and I may go in next week. You will love her a little for my sake, won’t you? You pity us in our disappointment that Mother is not here this evening.

It was some time before I could really feel submissive and I almost cried, but that would not do in the cars; still I feel that infinite love and wisdom cannot err and I can “trust a Father’s love.” God is good. My dear Sam, will you not use your influence with Henry that the solemn warning conveyed by the awful scenes of November 1st may be heeded. I am sure he must feel deeply. Still I fear he may seem to treat the matter with indifference. Oh! it is my earnest prayer that dear Waldo and Henry may by this mysterious Providence be brought back into the fold of the Good Shepherds; that they may be once more the professed followers of the Savior.

And for cousin John, must we give up all hope? Can he not be saved? To you I speak thus. When we can do nothing to rescue (apparently) we can pray. Blessed privilege. Let us improve it. I have enjoyed so much the last two Sabbaths in reading the “course of Faith” that I hope to read it again with you some of these days that may come.

Lizzie has fallen asleep over her book and we must retire. Good night love.

Friday eve. Ten o’clock. Dear Mother is here safely and I am very thankful. A few moments since I finished reading the long, long precious letter which she brought. I cannot sleep without thanking you for it. I cannot possibly “burn it.” You did not mean that, did you? And more than that, Lizzie is now reading it with my permission. I could not refuse, and if at first you think I might, you will in the end say I did right to show it to so good a sister (I hope so at least). I shall not say anything I wish tonight for I may disturb dear Mother if I sit up late. I have been quite excited and my thoughts jostle one another too often to be recorded.

I have asked our Heavenly Father to bless us and help us to love one another, adding an earnest petition for entire submission to the divine will. God bless you this night, dearest. The moon is most beautiful and truly “the Heavens declare the glory of God.” He watcheth over all, however distant from those they love. He will keep you and me and us all I trust in His care. Dear, dear Sam, I am yours when He permits. Good night love!


Letter 6

[This partially transcribed letter was written by Clara Marsh to Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. (her future husband)]

Saturday eve., 7:30 o’clock
November 24, 1855

All the day, dearest Sam, my thoughts have been with you and many of them would have been penned could I have done so consistently.

Now it is eight o’clock and I have been downstairs singing the last half hour as I had promised Mr. French at tea to that effect. Charles Town played the melodeon and we all sang a few set pieces. Mr. French is very fond of it and is a good bass singer. We often sing after prayers on Sabbath evening. And as I am upon the subject, I may as well say that I often wish we had a piano in our room & especially now that Mother is here. I can only practice by going up to the Institute on Saturday, so my poor books are unopened from week to week. Yes indeed, I do like “Katy darling” and I would sing it for you tonight, dearest, with a great deal of pleasure were I permitted though I am quite hoarse having a very sore throat which I hope to cure with a cold water bandage.

I am so glad that you have thought you would like to hear me play once more. we will hope to sing together many a song of praise.

Mother and Lizzie are in the other room and I have come in here by myself to have a talk with you; and if I jump from one subject to another, you will excuse for I really cannot arrange my ideas they come in such crowds.

Mother has just left me and as she kissed me at my request, the tears came welling up, but I cannot permit them to fall anymore—to hinder me. I have been reading some parts of your dear little letter (do send me word I may keep it) and have been talking with her. She says we have her entire approval and sees no reason why we cannot make each other happy if we make up our minds to strive to do so. She says we need to exercise great forbearance each toward the other for neither of us are perfect. Let us pray each day for a gentle forgiving spirit, for lowliness of mind, for the “charity that thinketh no evil.”

Mother sends a particular remembrance to you and be assured, dearest, she thinks very highly of you as she always has.

I feel that after a stormy and weary tossing on the billows, I have reached a peaceful haven. I am calm and trustful and happy and we will remember that often. The bitter draught has healing power. Shall not the bitter experience teach us a useful lesson and will not the memory of the bright hour cast more joy over present happiness. Let us have no fear of the days to come for now to distrust the love and kindness of our Heavenly Father would be sin, as indeed in any event, for the promises are sure and God cannot err. It is my desire to love Him supremely but you must not tell me I have attainedm for I too often wander far away and oh! how many times I tremble lest I should be but a child of God in name.

Oh for faith! Faith to believe that our names will be written in “The Lamb’s book of life.”

Dearest, will you get your Testament now (before you finish this letter( and read the 4th Chapter of Hebrews, marking the 1st, 11th, & 16th verses. The first verse came so vividly to mind that I have just found and read the whole chapter….

I hope for a letter from you tomorrow. Shall I really see you in the Holidays? I can hardly believe they are coming so soon. May we have the pleasure of meeting one another then. I must go to school. God bless thee dearest, now and ever, prays your loving, — Clara

1855: Elizabeth Willard Marsh to Sarah (Whitney) Marsh

How Lizzie might have looked in 1855

These letters were written by Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Willard Marsh (1829-1882), the daughter of Henry Marsh, Jr. (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883). Lizzie’s father was an 1815 graduate of Williams College and lived in Dalton, Massachusetts from 1821 to 1840 where he was a lawyer, a merchant, a farmer and wool grower, and a wool dealer and manufacturer. In 1840 he moved with his family to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he lost his savings with the failure of the Ashuelot Manufacturing Company. In 1843 he went to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1846 to Sandusky City, Ohio, and in 1850 to St. Louis, Missouri, engaging in the mercantile and produce business. He died of cholera in June 1852 but had managed to put three sons through Williams College and afforded his daughters educational advantages as well.

Lizzie “was educated at Maplewood, Pittsfield, Mt. Holyoke and Bradford Seminaries, and spent her life in teaching. She had a school in St. Louis and at Batavia, Illinois, and afterwards taught in private families in Pittsfield, Mass., Batavia, N. Y., and Hudson, Wisconsin. At the latter place on Lake St. Croix she made her home with her life-long friend, Susan Ellen Lockwood (1830-1915), the wife Charles Wendell Porter and the daughter of Judge [Samuel Drake] Lockwood of Batavia, Illinois. She died at Hudson, Wisconsin, on 23 April 1882.”

From these letters we learn that Lizzie and her younger sister Clarissa (“Clara”) Dwight Marsh (1834-1899) were teachers at the newly opened Batavia Institute—a private academy that was chartered on 12 February 1853 by 13 men, including Rev. Stephen Peet, the Congregational minister, Elijah Shumway Town, Joel McKee, John Van Nortwick, Dennison K. Town, and Isaac G. Wilson of Batavia, Illinois The building’s central part, which still stands in Batavia at 333 South Jefferson Street, at Union Avenue, was constructed in 1853–1854 of locally quarried limestone at a cost of $20,000. The architect Elijah Shumway Town designed the building in a Greek Revival style.

Clara attended the Cooper Female Academy in Dayton, Ohio, in the early 1850s. She married Samuel Watkins Eager, Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1857. Three months prior to her marriage, Clara received the following Valentine from Samuel:

I am dead in love, I’ll flee with thee
By night or day, by land or sea
Then come along, but just to prove the matter
Tie a white ribbon, to your window shutter
Which shall by me be that fair warning
As I pass by, tomorrow morning
In haste, your Valentine.

The Batavia Institute in Batavia, Illinois, as it looked about 1864

Letter 1

Addressed to Mr. Waldo Marsh, Care of Leach and Goodrich, Saint Louis, Missouri

Batavia [Illinois]
Wednesday evening, September 19, 1855

My very dear mother,

This is the first time I have seated myself in “peace and quietness” to write to you. I wrote you a few words on the cars and again a half a sheet before school in the morning when I was expecting every moment to hear the bell ring for school. We are sitting in our room but we both have shawls on as tis very chilly. I have on my merino dress and my thick hose.

We had a tremendous storm yesterday and last night which I think must be the equinoctial. I got very wet coming home from school but put on dry clothes immediately and it did me no harm. Clara has not very much to do as yet. Today she only gave our lessons so she has been quite a lady of leisure. I have to go up to school (that is start) about half past eight—come home at twelve—go back at one and get home again about half past four.

Thursday morn. I do hope we shall have either warmer weather or a fire soon. I am afraid we shall make the Mason’s twice glash [?] This is really gloomy and chilly. What are you doing this morning? Have you heard anything from Charlie? I think I must work a pair of slippers for him before Christmas. Would it not be a good idea? I am intending to be very industrious and hope to accomplish very much. I have not made much of a beginning yet but intend on Saturday to make my arrangements.

Last Saturday I went up to Sue’s early in the morning and fitted two dresses for Miss Eddy! What do you think of that? She could not get anyone here and had been twice to Aurora and been disappointed in one who promised to come. I was very glad to be able to be of service in that way and was very thankful to succeed in making them fit nicely. Miss Eddy left on Monday for Jacksonville. We will miss her very much. She is very lovely, I think.

I think I shall not send this letter till we hear from you. You must write us very often without waiting for our letters.

Twice “we teachers” have had to stay to arrange recitations and rules &c. and I did not get home till after tea. We have breakfast at seven, dinner at half past twelve, and tea at six. I get up about six. Is that early enough?

Lizzie’s Sketch of their boarding room

I will give you a little plan of our room. The house fronts the north. From the east window we can see the cars pass on the other side of the river which runs nearly south. 1 is the washstand, 2 the table, 3 and 4 trunks, 5 the register which does not warm our room as yet, 6 our couch whereon we court “tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep.” Before you visit us, we will have a rocking chair for your benefit. The Institute is directly west of us about half a square’s distance. My pet Dick hangs by this east window on the side next the table and over the table my little colored engraving. The table is pretty much covered with books. We want a stand for our work. A bureau would be very comfortable but I think we can get along very well without.

Miss Mason continues as charming as ever. She has just been up here to tell us we must not stay in the cold but come down to their room. There is a thumping big apple on the window [sill] Miss Alice gave me. Miss Sadie is very pretty. She has such an animated face—very bright eyes and curls that are particularly pretty. I hope you will see her some day. We are already beginning to say what shall we do when they go away. Clara went up to Judy Lockwood’s after school. They are sick there still. Anna and the baby are quite sick. The Judge better. Sue says there is some prospect of their getting a girl tomorrow. I do hope they may.

I have not seen any of the Batavia ladies yet. I don’t know as they ever make any calls. It will save us the trouble of returning them if they do not. How I wish, dear mother, I could come in and sit with you this eve. What have you been doing all this time? How often have you seen Henry and Robert? If they don’t come to see you often, I shall not own them. Letters are very apt to be delayed at Chicago. You will, I hope, get ours more regularly than we do yours. Is the box fairly off yet? I hope it will go safely.

How is Waldo? Did Mrs. Topping finish my tidy? Do you see her often? Love to all my friends. Remember me to Mr. O. P. Best love ever from your own, — Lizzie


Letter 2

Batavia [Illinois]
September 28, 1855

My very dear brother [Waldo],

Yours and mother’s letters came to us yesterday as I just remember I told you they shortened our faces several degrees and made me feel finely. What should we do when away from home without letters—they are real feasts to us.

Well, I have just come up from dinner and a very good boiled dinner too. We are certainly very fortunate in having so good and pleasant a boarding place. I intended writing you this morning but did not ever make a beginning as I have been nearly all this time waiting on Clara. She is not any better today though I don’t know as she is any worse. I sent for the doctor this morning but he had gone to Geneva—was to be back at noon so I shall expect to see him here before long. I think Clara has some sort of a fever though I am not able to tell whether it is chill fever or not. She seemed to feel somewhat better yesterday though her head ached and went up to school and gave our Music lesson. When I came home from school, she had gone to bed again and seemed to have a little fever. Still she did not feel any worse.

I dressed and went up to see her a little while and found her on the sofa with a chill or rather the fever after a chill. When I came home, I thought some of sending for a doctor but we finally concluded to wait till morning. Mrs. Town and I have given her medicine and as Mrs. Town has used Homeopathy a long time and been in the habit of administering this medicine herself. I think we have done pretty well for her. I thought early this morning that she was better for she seemed to sleep so nicely all night but about nine the fever came on her again and she has gelt pretty badly all day. I can’t discover that she had really had a chill at all but I remember when I was sick the chills were hardly discoverable at first and I am inclined to think that Clara has chill fever. I do hope she won’t be sick long for she can hardly spare the time and ’tis quite unfortunate to be sick away from home.

She seems to feel a little “blue” though she does not mean to. You know she has had such a horror of chills and thus in naturally somewhat easily depressed. I do hope she will soon feel better. If we were at home, I should not feel so anxious.

Have you heard from Charlie since we left home and has he been sick anymore? It must be four weeks since he went out to Kirkwood. Perhaps he is at home today. You must write us how he gets along there and what you think of the school. I am glad Henry, Robert, and the others have the prospect of such pleasant quarters for the winter. I think it will be very pleasant for all hands. I am very glad you called on the Naylors. I wish there were more pleasant ladies to call on. You must call on Fanny Post when she comes.

I received a St. Louis paper from Mr. Eager today and Miss Mason brought me up two Republicans that were sent to her from Chicago. I have only glanced at them yet as I have been so busy. Shall enjoy them by and by. They look very natural.

The latest Chicago papers say that Sebastopol is taken. Shall I believe it or not? Have you written to Dwight lately? If you have not, will you not write hm a good long letter while you are having so little to do? Tell mother my canary does not sing though he chirps a great deal.

I hope mother will not get lonely anymore than she can help. She must go out every day and see her friends. I am glad Cousin Mary is coming home so soon. How are they all at Mrs. Allen’s now? How comes on the railroad? Has Mr. Goodrich given up going East this fall? Have you called on Mrs. Field ever? I think you ought as you have been invited there two or three times. If you call, give her my love and tell her there is a baby here just as old as hers but not one half as pretty. That seems quite like flattering, does it not, but it was not intended as such.

I’ve had a letter from Miss Eddy the other day. She gave quite an account of putting her jaw out of joint gaping. She said the suffering was dreadful for a few minutes till a gentleman had sufficient presence of mind to pull it into its place. I will write again on Monday how Clara is. Best love to mother and for yourself. From your sister, — Lizzie


Letter 3

Batavia [Illinois]
Monday morn., October 1, 1855

My dear mother,

I am taking time in school to write to you as promised for I am sure I cannot finish any out. I told Miss Mason this morning that I should like to be able to divide myself into three parts and distribute myself around where I was needed as I wanted to fill my usual place in school, give lessons to Clara’s scholars, and take care of her besides. I gave one Music lesson—rather a brief one as you can guess—at recess and shall give one after school this noon.

And now for Clara. The doctor came Saturday afternoon and again Sunday afternoon. He said Saturday he thought she had an irregularly intermittent fever and that she must be content to be quiet several days. Sunday she seemed to feel better in the morning and I bathed her in tepid water and rubbed her well. About noon she seemed to feel worse and had some chill symptoms though I could not discover that she really had a chill but she had fever again all the afternoon. Dr. Lord said yesterday that he thought there were chills there and he hoped they would come out and shew themselves as there seemed to be now a tendency to low fever. This morn Clara seems rather better. Says her head aches less than it has at any time since last Tuesday.

I stayed at home with her all day yesterday but went to church in the evening leaving her with Alice Mason. Miss Sarah Mason is with her this morning. I think she won’t be able to be in school again this week certainly but hope she will next week. Dr. Lord said he wanted to cure her as quick as possible as she was such an important personage. I like what I have seen of him very much.

Noon. At home. Clara wants me to tell you to tell Henry that she was so much obliged to him for his letter and the pamphlet and will write as soon as she is well enough. You must all write often for letters seem to do Clara so much good. She says tell mother I was very thankful to get some ice yesterday as I couldn’t get any Saturday. Miss Mason says she has been lying very quietly all this morning. She seemed to have considerable fever this noon but has not had anything like a chill today. She sat up about an hour last evening ad rather more than that Saturday afternoon.

Dr. Lord said he would be here soon after dinner. Clara sends love to you all and hopes you won’t any of you get sick.

If I don’t write tomorrow you may conclude she is improving. I will write at any rate if I have time but I am kept pretty busy as you can guess. Best love to all from your own, — Lizzie


Letter 4

Batavia [Illinois]
October 3, 1855

My dear mother,

I am writing once more in school as I can’t find any other time very well. I wish I could get a letter from you this noon but I shall not begin to expect one till tomorrow and shall not be very much disappointed if I do not get one till Friday, I think Clara is better today than yesterday….She sits up every morning long enough for me to make the bed…I give her a bath and a good rubbing as often as she feels inclined ad have taken a great deal of pains to keep the air in the room pure and not too warm.

I had quite a headache yesterday and the latter part of the afternoon felt quite sick and could hardly stay in the schoolroom. When i went home, I lay down a little while and then I got up again. I felt so uncomfortable I lay down a second time and dropped asleep and felt much better for it. I did not go down to supper at all and went to bed as soon as I got Clara fixed for the night. My head aches considerably today but I hope I shan’t feel as badly as yesterday afternoon. I leave Clara in the care of the Masons while I am at school. They are very kind and she gets along very well…

Clara wants me to ask you, mother, to go to Balmes [?] and Webers and pay $1.25 for some books he sent to her last winter. She sent to Chicago for them and could not get them and so sent to St. Louis. She will send you the money as son as she is able to give the girls their books and collect the money. Waldo will, I dare say, give you this amount…

At home. Noon. The Dr. had been here when I came home. He told Clara he thought she was getting along but she must be very careful. She is sitting up now for the first time in the day since last Friday. It really seems right pleasant to see her up. One of the girls brought her a beautiful bouquet this morning. I brought it down to Clara at recess but after admiring it a little, she sent it out of the room. She said the [ ] was so fragrant. So Miss Alice is enjoying it for us both. Miss Sarah Mason went to Chicago last night. Will come back again tonight. She is going to get a [ ] and make over her bonnet and so I sent ffor [ ] for Clara and I and intend bringing our [ ].

Sue Lockwood was here a little while day before yesterday. They are all better up there. Monday was a real rainy day. Yesterday and today have been beautiful. Clara got a Springfield paper this noon. I wish Waldo would send me some papers occasionally. I have read Harper’s for October. I think I must make some arrangements for getting the monthlies regularly. I am sure I can’t be without them all winter…

Love to all friends. You must write very often. Best love to Waldo and Charlie. Clara sends love to all. Thank Mrs. Topping for doing my tidy. Love ever, from Lizzie


Letter 5

Batavia [Illinois]
Friday afternoon, October 12th 1855

My very dear mother,

Your letter and Waldo’s came this noon. I have been sure I should get one every day this week and have been everyday disappointed. I took so much pains to write you every other day last week. I am sure you might have written once extra, And in your letters you do not say anything about more than one letter from me.

you see I am quite out of sorts and must give vent to any ill humor, but I had expected so much sympathy from your home letters and had to so without. I don’t think you realize what a time Clara has had or how sick she has been and how much I have had on my hands. I hope Clara is going to get along, but it is very slowly as yet. I do hop she will be able to go up to school early in te week. It is very unfortunate for the Music scholars but I am very thankful things are not worse and that she has not had typhoid fever.

You do not say why you did not go to Mrs. Stalling’s. Mr. Eager in his last letter said you were going to Mrs. Norris’. Did you think of it? I think it would be very nice idea for you to come up here for a time if you did not stay all winter. I think it would be a very good idea for you to board a month in St. Louis. By that time you could finish fixing up Charlie for his winter. Then you might come up here and stay till the holidays, go with Clara to Racine, and if it was best, stay there a while or come back here or go to St. Louis as you and Waldo thought best. It seems too much to pay $35 a month when you could board here or at Racine for so much less. I wish Waldo would write what he thinks of it. I was afraid it would have been quite lonely here for you but then we would have some nice times. I don’t doubt you would find it pleasanter at Racine than here.

You did not say whether you went out to Mr. Post’s or not. Have you seen Miss Fanny? You have not said one work of Mrs. Topping in either of your last letters. I hope you will send Dwight’s letters soon. How is cousin Mary? Was there any particular reason for Mrs. Allen’s and Mattie’s return? Does Mary bring any Pittsfield news? Have you heard at all from Northampton?

The Mason’s are expecting to go into Chicago next week. We shall miss them very much indeed. Miss Mason says as soon as they are fully settled, she is coming out some Thursday to take us back on Friday to spend the Sabbath. I can’t stay over the Sabbath but Clara might. It is very pleasant to have them so cordial and kind. I am sure I don’t know what Clara would have done without them for they have taken the whole care of her in school hours.

The State Fair at Chicago came off this week and very many people went in to attend it. The weather has been most lovely. Mr. and Mrs. Town went in on the four o’clock train Wednesday morning and came home on the eleven o’clock train at night but it did not get here till one, making quite a long day, was it not? Sue and Anna Lockwood went in Thursday with Mr. Merinden [?]. Mr. M has not been at his [church] to preach yet but hopes to in a few weeks. How I should love to hear Mr. Post. Is he well and looking well? How comes on his chapel?

You do not say anything about the box. Has it gone?

I must tell you how Miss Mason had her English straw fixed this fall. It is [ ] and trimmed with bombazines. There are five or six narrow folds around the front and twice as many over the center of the bonnet. The cape has three or four of the same narrow folds. It is very pretty and I thought you might like yours fixed so. I have not touched mine yet. Indeed, I have not done any sewing since I have been here. I have not done any thing for the last three weeks hardly.

Give much love to Mary and to all my friends. Seems to me it is very strange that Charlie should have been at home and you not mention it. Who is Perry? Do you think he is improving any? Best love to Waldo, to cousin Robert and Henry. Tell Robert I enjoyed his letter very much and shall answer soon. Love ever from your own, — Lizzie


1843: Romulus Barnes to Lucien Farnum

This letter was written by Rev. Romulus Barnes (1800-1846), the son of Daniel Giles Barnes (1752-1814) and Sarah Webster (1767-1830). Romulus was married to Olivia Denham (1807-1887).

Romulus was born in Bristol, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale College in 1828. After graduating from the Yale Theological Seminary in 1831, he moved to Illinois where he began to preach. His wife was from Conway, Massachusetts, and she attended Holyoke Seminary under the tutelage of Mary Lyons.

Olivia (Denham) Barnes in later years

Romulus and Olivia were partners in their ministry on the Illinois frontier. Under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society, the couple faced danger together as they carried the message of anti-slavery into a land that was largely inhabited by pro-slavery (or at least anti-Black) settlers. They were ostracized by neighbors and by many of the churches. On one occasion Olivia was severely wounded by a stone thrown at her by a pro-slavery mob while her husband delivered an anti-slavery sermon. After the death of her husband in 1846 leaving her with eight children, Olivia carried on her work alone.

Romulus wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Rev. Lucien Farnham (1799-1874), the first pastor of the Congregational Church in Batavia, Illinois, who was married to Louisa Denham (1804-1833). Louisa’s brother, Butler Denham (1805-1841) was married to a woman named Eunice Storrs (1809-1899). When Butler died in 1841, Eunice took Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864) as her second husband.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Roy Gallup and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Transcription

Addressed to Rev. Lucien Farnum, Batavia, Kane county, Illinois

Washington, Tazewell county, Illinois
January 23, 1843

Dear Bro. Farnum,

Not long after you was here I made up my mind to leave this place. The church generally appear friendly to me & the Elders have frequently expressed the opinion that no more can be raised in this community without the sacrifice of principle, for any man that can be obtained, than for me. However this may be, one thing is certain—they do not do enough for me to justify me in continuing my labors under such a variety of discouragements.

What will be my duty, I know not. I cannot feel it to be my duty to go into a log cabin with my family as we did when our family was small. I cannot consider it to be duty to place my wife where her labors will be greater than they are at present. If you know of any place where we could be useful, please inform me. We should be glad to move early in the spring.

I am happy to inform you that we are at present in the midst of a very inter-revival in the neighborhood of Mr. [Moses] Morse‘s. For several weeks past, I have preached there every Sabbath & for the last three of four weeks. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the congregation has been very manifest. Some five or six have expressed hope in Christ & last evening ten or twelve new cases of seriousness were manifest—all youth from the age 12 to 23 or 24 years. Our prayer is may the work be carried on with great power.

Last week we received a letter from our friend in Conway [Mass.]. Their health was good as usual. They said that they wrote to you some time last summer but had received no answer. They were anxious to hear from you. My wife unites with me in love to you & yours. The children also wished to be remembered to their cousin Louisa. Please write soon.

Very affectionately yours, &c., — R. Barnes

1837: Charles Smith Hempstead to William Hempstead

Charles Smith Hempstead

This letter was written by Charles Smith Hempstead (1794-1874), the son of Stephen Hempstead (1754-1831) and Mary Lewis (1757-1820) of St. Louis, Missouri. Charles was married in 1838 to Eliza Barnes (1799-1880). He wrote the letter to his younger brother, William Hempstead (1800-1854) who lived in St. Louis with his wife Sarah Augusta Bouton (1815-1844). Charles & William had a sister named Sarah Hempstead (1789-1858) who was married to Elijah Stuart Beebe (1785-1822)—a saddler & harness maker in St. Louis. An older brother, Edward Hempstead (1780-1817) was a delegate to the US Congress as a representative from Missouri Territory from 1812 to 1814. The Hempstead family were close friends with the Thomas Hart Benton family of St. Louis.

Charles was an early resident of Galena, Jo Daviess county, Illinois, where he had a law practice with U. S. Congressman Elihu Benjamin Washburne. He came to Galena in 1829. He was elected the city’s first mayor in 1841. He partnered with Washburne from 1845 until 1852. Described as “a quiet, dignified, urbane man, and an able lawyer,” Charles practiced his profession until past middle life, when “he devoted his entire attention to his private affairs. He was a promoter of the Galena and Chicago railroad, the first road to be constructed west of Lake Michigan, and was one of its board of directors for many years. He served in the civil war as a paymaster and was one of Galena’s early mayors. His two sons, Edward and Charles, became prominent citizens of Galena, and both moved to Chicago and engaged, the first named in the lumber business, and the second in the practice of his profession as a physician, in which he became distinguished.”

In his letter, Charles speaks of his slave Tom and of his desire to see him placed in a free black community in the country somewhere. That Charles was a slave holder is certain. Cornell University Library houses a Certificate of Manumission for a mulatto woman named Mary and her ten year-old son Augustus who came into his possession in 1836 and were manumitted in 1845.

Charles S. Hempstead’s Brick Home at 611 South Bench Street in Galena, Illinois

Transcription

Galena [Illinois]
February 23rd 1837

Dear William,

Charles S. Hempstead served as one of the commissioners appointed by the Illinois General Assembly selling shares for the Mississippi & Rock River Canal Company in 1838

I received your favor 13th inst. by due course of mail. Respecting your interest in Milan, I will write to [John] McNeil to try and sell one or two shares of interest at the rate he sold & to clear myself of H. S. B. & one or two other liabilities. I would sell a part of my interest also although now is not the time to sell for Mr. [Charles] Oakly & partner in that place are waiting for some other [ ] before they will offer lots in the place for sale—such as a canal to unite Rock river with the Mississippi to terminate in [ ] below the town. Those men have been all winter at Vandalia to effect a law for that purpose.

I will attend to the estate matter you have set up and I am pushing my town lots & other business to be [ ] to leave by 15th or 20th next month for St. Louis. Edw. Beebe has not arrived here yet. Our rivers are yet firmly frozen & in probability of a breakup to await boat before 4 or 5 weeks.

We have nothing new here. Times [are] dull. Nothing stirring. No speculation this winter. All of our speculating citizens are East, operating there. The Iowa Copper Mines 1 of Aubry & Mills have been sold to a C. in Philadelphia 3/4th for $75,000, Dr. Miller, one of the purchasers, but we hear poor Mills will not live to enjoy any of it.

You ask what is to be done with my Tom. I wish you would send him to the country somewhere. Are there no free black men with whom he could live? If you cannot do anything with him till I come down, let him be and I will attend to him. As to family matters on this side of the river, we all are well—and also on the other, and the fear of her husband & others have been happily relieved. Dr. McKnight’s wife—who has a fine daughter, & mother & child doing well—at my home. We are all as usual, and among yous and your wife’s friend in town. I believe we are all well.

Please remember us affectionately to all the family & believe me ever & affectionately yours, — Chas. S. Hempstead

1 The Iowa Copper Mines were located about one mile from Mineral Point in Wisconsin Territory, and about 35 miles from Galena.