Category Archives: Antebellum Missouri

1849: Bela Metcalf Hughes to James William Denver

This lengthy letter was written by Bela Metcalf Hughes (1817-1902), the son of Andrew S. Hughes and Rhoda Dent of Carlisle, Kentucky. Bela came to Liberty, Missouri, with his parents in 1829. While attending Augusta College in Kentucky in the late 1830s, Bela dropped his studies for a short time to participate in the Black Hawk War with the Missouri Volunteers. After graduation in 1838, he returned to Missouri and was elected as Platte county’s representative to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1844. He later resigned his seat to to take the office as Receiver of Public Monies at the US Land Office in Plattsburg. “After resigning as Receiver at Plattsburg in 1849, Hughes moved to St. Joseph, Missouri to practice law there. In St. Joseph, he formed the law firm Woodson & Hughes together with Silas Woodson, a fellow Kentucky-born lawyer involved in the local Democratic party, who was later in 1872 elected to serve as 21st Governor of Missouri.

Hughes and Woodson were alleged to be involved in electoral irregularities in the Kansas Territory at the beginning of the violent civil confrontations called Bleeding Kansas. In May 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act had organized the Kansas and Nebraska Territories in the lands west of the Mississippi River. Congressional proponents of the act had assumed that Kansas would permit slavery while Nebraska would prohibit it and therefore preserve the balance between slave and free states. Immediately, immigrants supporting both sides of the slavery question arrived in the Kansas Territory to establish residency and gain the right to vote. In November 1854, thousands of armed pro-slavery men known as “Border Ruffians,” mostly from Missouri, poured into the Kansas Territory and swayed the vote in the election for a non-voting delegate to Congress in favor of pro-slavery Democratic candidate John Wilkins Whitfield.

On March 30, 1855, the Kansas Territory held the election for its first territorial legislature. Crucially, this legislature would decide whether the territory would allow slavery. Just as had happened in the election of November 1854, “Border Ruffians” from Missouri again streamed into the territory to vote, and pro-slavery delegates were elected to 37 of the 39 seats. Bela Hughes and Silas Woodson were both mentioned in multiple testimonies in front of the congressional committee investigating the elections as well-known public figures from Missouri who were present at the election at Burr Oak precinct in 14th district of the Kansas Territorial legislature. Hughes or Woodson were not witnessed actually participating in the illegitimate voting on that day. Hughes personal stance on slavery is unclear [and he does not show his hand in this letter either]. Silas Woodson, on the other hand, was actually well known as an abolitionist. At the 1849 Kentucky Constitutional Convention, Woodson was the only member to introduce language for the gradual emancipation of the state’s slaves. During the Civil War, both Hughes and Woodson were Unionists.

On April 26, 1861, Bela Hughes was chosen as president and general counsel of the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. He was at the time still a resident of St. Joseph, which was the eastern terminus of the company’s Pony Express stagecoach line. In the years prior, the company had successfully operated the Pony Express as the fastest way to transmit information from east to west before the advent of the first transcontinental telegraph in October 1861.

Hughes wrote this letter to his friend, Capt. James William Denver (1817-1892) who moved to Platte City, Missouri in 1845 after completing law school in Cincinnati and beginning a practice in Xenia, Ohio. In 1847 he recruited a company for the 12th US Volunteer Infantry and served under General Winfield Scott in the War with Mexico. We learn from this letter that Denver returned to Platte City after the war where he apparently tried his hand as a newspaper editor which did not appeal to him. Shortly after receiving this letter, he relocated to California where he found employment as a trader. While there he killed newspaper editor Edward Gilbert in a duel in August 1852 and then was elected to the California State Senate. In 1854, he was elected as a US Representative from California. In 1857, President Buchanan appointed Denver as the Territorial Governor of Kansas Territory.” [Wikipedia]

St. Joseph, Missouri


Addressed to Capt. James W. Denver, Platte City, Platte county, MO.

St. Joseph, [Missouri]
3rd August 1849

Dear Capt.,

Your letter was most welcome. It is just as kind and friendly as I should have expected an epistle from you to be. You must not think that because I have thought proper to extend the area of my enjoyments in life by annexation I have ceased to regard my old friends of the harsher sex. Far from it, dear Sir! I am unchanged and unchangeable. It is not infrequently the case that men when married are “civilized mortems” to the world outside of their matrimonial cage, but for me, I have so long lived in the indulgence of warm friendships with me fellow men and have so great a weight of obligation resting on me for their partiality and kind offices, that I should have to undergo an organic change and become a ch___, and an ingrate, before the warm attachments subsisting of years between us can be cast aside and forgotten.

I thank you for the proof of your remembrance which lies on my table. Our friendship was begotten by no motive of a base nature; was founded on no mean object. It has grown uninterruptedly for years in strength. Mutual confidence has restrained it, and not any slight circumstance shall ever shake it.

With regard to the change in my domestic affairs, I am wholly persuaded it was the wisest step of my late years. I needed a wife—not a sickly sentiment and ninny without health, sense, or capacity for the duties of wife. I have one, selected by my cool judgement and endorsed or course by my heart’s fullest approval. I have one who can make her own clothes, bake bread, spin and weave, and like the mother of the men of ’76, it not ashamed to labor for the independence of herself & her husband. Such are the kind of women to raise men from. Enough of myself and my wife, or you will charge me with being too uxorious for an “old body.”

When I saw you last, it was my intention to remove to St. Louis. On careful examination of the propriety of the step, I gave it up and determined to locate here believing that this place must ultimately become a place of great importance, comparatively speaking, and that in time it would be a good point for law business.

You are right, I have thought much and with great anxiety in regard to the events of this day: the agitation of that great question, which, I fear will at some future period make an end of the Union of these States, unless providentially prevented. I have somehow a confidence that the Divine Wisdom which brought the Republic into being for purposes which to us seem apparent; as glorious, as beneficial for man—that that Divine Wisdom which has guided us to such greatness, such true greatness, in the happy condition of so many millions of mankind under a mild and efficient system of social union, that it will protect the ship of our State through years of tempest and fury, as dark and threatening as the gloomiest hours of the Revolution, and guide it into an harbor of eternal security. It would seem that the work of the hands of God could not be moored with his consent and this home of the exiles of oppression made the worst of despotisms. It cannot be!

“I have thought much and with great anxiety in regard to the events of this day: the agitation of that great question, which, I fear will at some future period make an end of the Union of these States, unless providentially prevented…I can only pray that the toil and blood of our gallant lives of ’76 may not have been uselessly given for a posterity it was their design to elevate in the scale of humanity and bless with equality and liberty.”

— Bela M. Hughes, 3 August 1849

But how it is to be avoided, if passion and fanaticism rule the ascendant, it is not mine to foresee. I can only pray that the toil and blood of our gallant lives of ’76 may not have been uselessly given for a posterity it was their design to elevate in the scale of humanity and bless with equality and liberty. May it not be said of America and her people by the historian and post of another and even far distant age, “Fuit Hium et ingens gloria Dardainidusa!” [This was the great glory of Dardsnidusa!]

The limits of a letter are too small to give you my opinion at length in regard to the question referred to, and indeed that expression of it, or any other of a nature less extended, would be of little consequence to you. I am withdrawn from a active political life; have no consequence or very little even as a citizen, but if I were in a high place, and my position was of the smallest consequence to my friends and the public, it would be made known without fear or stint even if I shook hands with my political prospects forever.

We have talked this Slave Question over often and our views have been freely made known to each other. I have but little to say about it at any time for I know my disposition to excitement in the discussion of political subjects and the liability one encounters of misconstruction and misrepresentation also, when in the habit of shouting in crowds of persons on the streets, part of which understand perhaps correctly but a portion thereof, either cannot comprehend or seek to prevent what they hear. I have no ends to cure. I have no hope or wish to enter a field of political discussion, or to waste my life in the vain struggles for power and place which so many of my fellow mortals thirst to obtain and in the pursuit drop all considerations of a higher and more important nature: the ties of friendship, the endearments of home, the good of their fellow citizens, and in sort, everything which man is formed to desire and enjoy on earth, and this too to be the pet of popular favor for an hour or a day!

See my dear fellow! How many men you know who were yesterday the happy (?) recipients of popular applause who were followed, caressed, quoted. whose words were sucked in like honey by bus. Lo! what a change hath an hour wrought! “The friends once so linked together,” have fallen away, from the side of the favorite of the fickle people. and the victim of a senseless ambition is left to cheer the cad of bitter retrospection and ponder the mutability of human affairs. “But yesterday Cesar might have stood against the world,” &c. Man fore warned is thrice armed. I hope I shall never be induced to leave my great fireside and mingle in the battles of mere men at any future period. I am not however any the less ready to serve my fellow citizens when they demand it and I think that they need my feeble services in a capacity not beyond my ability, but I shall certainly not meet the luck or fate of this Roman Cincinnatus and shall just as surely stay at home and pour over my law books.

Col. Benton speaks here in a few days, it is rumored. It is not improbable that Birch will speak here at the same time. He has constituted himself (perhaps he may have been chosen) the champion and leader of all who differ with Senator Benton in this region. You know as well as I that the opposition of that man, to Col. Benton, will be a most happy division in his favor; for the people only look to see which way Birch goes to decide them, which path to take themselves. He cannot muster the people under his standard in any cause. I marvel exceedingly that he can be tolerated by leading men in this State; a leper whom the Jordon could not cleanse—a creature whom no man who has any self respect or regard for public opinion will consort with. But it seems indeed that this skunk who has annoyed the olfactories of the people of this State so long, this breathing ulcer whose purulence has insulted the stomachs of the honest of all parties for near a quarter century, hath of a sudden become as pleasant to the nose as the spice of Araby, and as desirable to the palate of our [ ] at least, as the honey of far famed Hymethos…

I have trespassed on your time and will desist. Much have I to say to you. Much for your good, I hope, and mine too. But here I cannot find time to lay it before you. I refer not to anything connected with politics or politicians, You went into that paper with half my approval. I would see you out of it….Work out of it, my dear Denver. Be the part of other men, a warning. Leave before the iron enters your soul, the dangerous vicinity. There are men fitted to the task of fighting through life with pen and tongue, born with the epidermis of a rhinoceros, to encounter all the ills of an Editor’s life. You are not. Your nature is gentle, warm, and humane, tender, sympathizing…I would not discourage you—far from it—but would warn you to seek a more genial employment either at your profession or whatever with aid of friends you might choose.

I have some plans for the future and I would like to see you included. I will discuss them anon when we meet. I have resolved to make a competence if my health is spared me, and place myself above the frowns of men or fear of power. If my Creator is kind to me, I shall do it and endeavor to deserve it. The first case of us all should be to make ourselves independent. Think of it.

Send my paper here. Don’t fail. Shall I see you here ever? I shall hope to be in your town in a few weeks. I am, dear Capt., as ever yours sincerely, — B. M. Hughes

to Capt Jas. M. Denver

1849: Benjamin Franklin Wallace to William Hervey Lamme Wallace

Benjamin F. Wallace (ca. 1865)

This letter was written in 1849 from Independence, Jackson county, Missouri, by Benjamin Franklin Wallace (1817-1877). Benjamin was the son of Thomas Wallace (1777-1858) and Mary J. Percy (1785-1874) who came from Virginia to Missouri in 1833 by way of interim residency in Kentucky. Benjamin married Virginia Johnston Willock (1824-1908) at Independence on 1 August 1847 and their first child, mentioned in this letter, was Mary Albina Wallace (1848-1854) who was born on 2 May 1848. Their second child, David Willock Wallace was born on 15 June 1860. [I should mention here that when David W. Wallace grew up, he married Madge Gates in 1883 and their first child was Elizabeth Virginia (“Bess”) Wallace—the future wife of Harry S. Truman—Bess Truman!]

In the 1850 Slave Schedules, Benjamin was enumerated among the slaveholders. He owned three slaves—a female aged 22 and two young children, ages 5 and 2. In the 1860 US Census, Benjamin was identified as a “Bank Clerk” in Independence. In 1869, Benjamin served as the Mayor of Independence. By 1870, he was employed as a dry goods merchant.

Col. William H. L. Wallace, 11th Illinois Infantry

Benjamin wrote the letter to William Hervey Lamme Wallace (1821-1862) of Ottawa, LaSalle county, Illinois. William’s obituary on Find-A-Grave informs us that prior to the Civil War, he served as the District Attorney for LaSalle County. When he entered the service, in 1861, he was commissioned the Colonel of the 11th Illinois Infantry. For his gallantry at the February 1862 Battle of Fort Donelson, he was promoted to Brigadier General and placed in command of the Army of Tennessee’s 2nd Division. Though he was a new division commander, yet he managed to withstand six hours of assaults by the Confederates, directly next to the famous Hornet’s Nest, or Sunken Road. When his division was finally surrounded, he ordered a withdrawal and many escaped, but he was wounded in the head by a shell fragment and only later found barely alive on the battlefield by his troops. He died three days later in his wife’s arms in a hospital near Savannah, Tennessee. [See “The Death of General W. H. L. Wallace at the Battle of Shiloh,” Iron Brigader.]

William’s younger brother, Martin Reuben Merritt Wallace (1829-1902) was also a Brigadier General during the Civil War, having begun as Colonel of the 4th Illinois Cavalry.

Trails leaving Independence, Missouri in 1849, Charles Goslin


City of Independence, Missouri
August 9th 1849

W. H. L. Wallace
Dear Cousin,

Altho I may have written last, still I do not intend you shall forget me. I trouble you with another letter by way of reminding you that your unknown cousin has not forgotten you.

I have nothing of any great interest to write about, but feel quite grateful that I am alive and still able to correspond with my old friends & relatives whilst death has been abroad & taken many—very many—of my acquaintances. Still myself & mine still live altho death has spread quite a gloom over our beautiful city. Myself & family have remained well. None of your relatives here have been sick with the scourge (the cholera). Altho our next door neighbors have been taken of [it] in a few hours, we have been preserved. Our beautiful city has suffered to a greater degree than even the ill-fated St. Louis according to the amount of population. At present, we have but little I have heard of but one case in the last four days which occurred today and proved fatal in about eight hours (t’was that of a child).

We have had one continual excitement the present year. First the California emigrants & secondly the cholera. These were quite different. The first was pleasant & the last terrifying. A vast number of gold seekers have passed through our place during the last spring & present summer & among the number who have passed recently was some of our old friends from Illinois—Thomas Bassney & others. Bassney told me he knew you well & said you was to have been one of their party 1 but from some cause or other, you had not come on. I told him I suspected Old Zack [Zachery Taylor] had given you an office for I see he appointed W. H. Wallace to be “Register of Lands from Illinois” and suspected it was you (if you have gone to Iway [Iowa], you may never get this). I have but one fault to find to Old Zack’s Administration—I.E., he don’t turn out Locofoco’s fast enough [from such appointed offices] & fill the same with decent Whigs.

I went down our river the first of June to St. Louis in company with Mr. Fisher from Ottoway [Ottawa]. He told me you was as one of his own sons, you having studied law with a son of his [see George Smith Fisher (1823-1895)]. He seemed to be very much of a gentleman. If you are indeed an officer of Uncle Sam & your time not too much taken up in your official duties, I should like to hear from you. Cousin Sarah too has not written to [us] for several months. My little family are well & in conclusion, permit me to say that my little daughter 15 months old is a charmer. I never knew domestic happiness until she became of sufficient age to notice & become a favorite [to] me and all who knows her. Her mother is indeed proud of her.

Shouldn’t be surprised if I went to California this winter. My father-in-law has gone & if he reports favorable, I expect to go. Yours respectfully, — Benjamin F. Wallace

Postmaster Ottoway: Should Wallace have left your place, please forward so soon as this comes to hand.

1 This “California Party” was probably the “Dayton Party” formed at Dayton (near Ottawa) under the command of Captain Jesse Greene. Their rendezvous was to be at St. Joseph on the Missouri in April 1849. One of the party, a store clerk in Ottawa named Alonzo Delano (1806-1874) and his record of the journey can be found at “Life on the plains and among the diggings.” See also “Dayton and the Greens.”

1857: Howard Everett Seeks Runaway Slave

Portrait of Howard Everett from a 1977 Liberty, MO. Newspaper

This Runaway Slave Notice was penned by 64 year-old Howard W. Everett (1793-1877), a native of Halifax county, Virginia, moved to Kentucky when he was young and then relocated again to Clay county, Missouri, in 1818 with his wife of three years, Sarah Ann Waltrip. In addition to being a farmer, Howard was ordained a Cambellite Preacher and started numerous churches in Northern Missouri.

It does not appear that Howard was always a slave holder. In the 1830 US Census, he held no slaves. In the 1860 US Census, he held only two middle-aged slaves. Howard wrote this notice from Richland which is now Missouri City—a consolidation of three villages, St. Bernard, Richfield, and Atchison. From 1850 to 1861, Richfield was probably the largest hemp market above Lexington.

Most likely this notice was a draft handed to the publisher of a local newspaper.


Runaway from Richfield

About the first inst., a negro man named Granville, 24 years old, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high, rather heavy set, square shoulders, not very dark complexion, weighs about 165, had on when he left a blue blanket coat, brown [ ] pants, otter cap flat top lined with silk stuffed with cotton, boots with grain side out, perhaps an old cotton vest. Limps a little. I will pay any person who will bring him to me at Richfield, Clay county, Mo. February 5th 1857

— Howard Everett

1850: Calvin Waldo Marsh to Clarissa Dwight Marsh

This letter was written by Calvin Waldo Marsh (1825-1873), the son of Henry Marsh (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883) of Berkshire county, Massachusetts. Calvin’s father, Henry, died of cholera at LaSalle, Illinois in 1852 when he was 55 years old. By that time, Calvin had already graduated from Williams College (1844) and was working as a commission merchant in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Calvin write the letter to his sister Clarissa (“Clara”) Dwight Marsh (1834-1899) who was attending the Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, at the time of this 1850 letter.

One large paragraph of the letter is devoted to a discussion of journals kept by Calvin’s older brother, Rev. Dwight Whitney Marsh (1823-1896), an 1842 graduate of Williams College and the Andover Theological Seminary who traveled as a missionary to Turkey in 1849. As mentioned is young “Charlie,” (Charles Francis Marsh) the thirteen year-old brother of Calvin’s.


Addressed to Miss Clara D. Marsh, Cooper Female Seminary, Dayton, Ohio

Saint Louis, [Missouri]
June 1, 1850

My Dear Sister,

Although I am not indebted to you by way of correspondence, still as I have leisure this morning, I thought t’would be pleasant to spend it in holding a little chat with you. I presume ‘ere this you are having there as here delightful warm weather. For four or five days it has been charming here & except last Monday, none too warm for comfort.

An early Saint Louis fire pump apparatus

On Monday the firemen had their annual “Parade” and of course Charlie was half crazy to see it all. T’was a beautiful sight and the bright colored uniforms of the men and the highly polished engines gaily trimmed with flowers and the streets in front of the different engine houses filled with flags suspended by ropes from one side to the other, the beautiful horses drawing the “machines” & the inspiriting music of six or eight different bands all tended to excite & please the multitude of citizens of all ages which thronged the sidewalks, church steps, balconies & windows of each street they passed. 1

The Butchers, each mounted & in a beautiful white shirt with blue scarfs paraded with the firemen. They were quite half an hour passing where I stood. They marched from eleven till three or four, &c., then dined at different hotels. T’was the warmest day of the season—the thermometer standing at 90 degrees in the shade.

I have had one or two letters from Sandusky from Jim Peck and John Massey. Kate spends the summer in Rochester & also her father & mother. We have not heard very recently from Racine but they were all well when we last heard. Lizzie seems quite anxious that you should remain at Dayton another year & I am also decidedly of the same opinion & when father returns from Illinois, shall talk with him about it. Should you do so, can you spend part of your vacation in Sandusky, pleasantly. If you should, I should think & advise that Lizzie meet you there & make a visit and then father or myself would meet here at Cincinnati or Dayton. It would be too hot for you to think of spending the vacation here & would cost too much besides.

I wish you would write me in your next what your expenses have been for the last year & what they probably will be for the year to come.

Monday, the 3rd. I stopped writing on Saturday to go to the post office & there found a letter from Julia to me together with Dwight’s journal “No. 4.” No. 3 we received a month since & after all reading it, I copied it and sent it to Henry with instructions to forward to you. As soon as you receive it & have read it, you must remail to “Julia” in New York. With the last journal came a letter addressed to the “family” & in it he says, “return the journal as soon as possible to New York to her.” His journal Nos. 1 & 2 have not been received as yet and I begin to fear they are lost. No. 1 contains his trip across the ocean & No. 2 his stay at Smyrna & journey to Beirut & stay there. “No. 3” is description of a week’s sojourn at Scanderoon & his journey from there to Aleppo. The last one, No. 4. contains description of Aleppo & journey from there to Aintab. & his reception there. I copied on Saturday about one half of the last journal, some four sheets (16 pages) and was quite tired before night. Journal No. 3 is 11 sheets—44 days—and it was quite a job but a pleasant one. I shall copy the balance today & tomorrow and send to Henry next day.

I received six letters this morning, one from Henry, one from you, from Thornton, from Henry Boardman, and two on business—one for Father however. Henry has just received the journal and will I presume forward it to you. Edward Smith has been dangerously sick & when he wrote, they had scarcely any hopes of his recovery. Maria & Clara had taken almost the entire care of him. His complaint is pneumonia & hemorrhage of the lungs. His father Canfield & John were both absent and he was very busy. All the rest well.

Thornton says Mr. L. S. Hubbard is to be married 25th of this month & he expects to be Mr. Hubbard’s right hand man & thinks they will take a trip to Falls of Saint Anthony by way of this city. He says also that Mr. A. M. Porter has bought the Hollister place where we lived. He speaks of “Ella,” Converse little child being sick or having been of which I believe you wrote. In regard to “Lizzie’s” going there with you, I like the idea myself but this morning Father did not concur at all. We had not time to discuss the matter but shall today or soon & then pressure Father & Mother will both write you. I still take my meals at the “Munroe” and room up on Fourth Street & Father & Mother with Charlie are at Mrs. Douthitt’s on Sixth Street. As to my business, cannot say much as in this business I have to first make the acquaintance of the men who send produce here to sell and then to get their confidence, all of which takes time, & it is both a dull season and near the close of the spring business season.

I see cousin Robert every day or two although I have not seen a great deal of him as he is pretty closely confined by his banking duties. Mother has written to Aunt Clara once or twice & I think I will soon. I am pretty confident I sent the paper you speak of & cannot now get another. I send you now the Republican with two quite pretty stories & a very interesting letter from France by their correspondent in Paris who is a lady & the suggestions in regard to dress I think exceedingly good. I like Mrs. Peters much. Of Belle I cannot judge but she appears well for what I have seen of her.

Charlie is happy as a cricket & is perfectly well. He goes to Mr. Wyman’s school & finds his way about the city without much trouble. I sent him from my office up home alone the other day, seven blocks off.

LSE4313117 Adam and Eve. Painting by Claude Marie Dubufe (1790-1864), Oil On Canvas, 1827. Museum of Fine Arts of Nantes. by Dubufe, Claude-Marie (1790-1864); Musee des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France; ( Adam and Eve. Painting by Claude Marie Dubufe (1790-1864), Oil On Canvas, 1827. Museum of Fine Arts of Nantes.); Photo © Leonard de Selva.

The painting of Adam & Eve by [Claude Marie] Dubufes has been on exhibition here for four weeks & leaves today for Louisville. Strawberries are getting quite plenty & will soon be cheap and abundant.

I went to ride with Mother a week ago down towards “Vide Pochí” pronounced Veed Poshe & called first at a Mr. Williams whose acquaintance I had made & who very politely took me out to tea with him one evening sometime ago & although his wife (a lady of twenty-two or three & very agreeable( was not at hot house, her house keeper showed us over the garden and gave us flowers and took us up on the back piazza where there is a most beautiful view down the river twenty-five miles & the river appearing to come out of the ground at the foot of the long descent from the house.

We called at Mr. Thomas Allen’s as came along back and there had a pleasant chat with Mrs. A., a romp with “Lillie” & “Russell,” and were refreshed with some nice cake. Lilla showed me her chickens & ducks & young Guinea hens, her flower bed in the garden, & found me one or two ripe strawberries, then into the house & up in the library to see her young canaries two weeks old, five of them in one next—little beauties. Russell showed “his” birds, four little young “catbirds” in a nest built in a evergreen bush not so high as my head near the gate & about ten rods from the house. Is Miss Claflin still your roommate & how does the Misses Osborn? Remember me to them should they enquire. With much love from Father & Mother, & from your own brother, — C. W. Marsh

Hubbard marries a Miss Livingston of Gainsville who spent part of last winter in Sandusky. I knew her very intelligent and quite handsome. A good match.

Father returned from Illinois Saturday night & will write you before he leaves again, I think. Write when you have leisure. I shall not be able to write you as often as I do after the [ ] commences. — Waldo

1 The city of Saint Louis had 12 volunteer fire companies by the 1850s.

1861: James C. Gosseline to Thurston J. Gosseline

James’ headstone in Scotch Grove Cemetery, Jones county, Iowa

This letter was written by James C. Gosseline (1836-1863), the son of millwright Thurston J. Gosseline (1796-1878) and Mary (“Polly”) A. Cole (1807-1893) of New Bedford, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. James mentions both of his younger sisters in the letter—Florence (“Flory”), born 1852; and May, born 1855.

Two months after he wrote the following letter, James enlisted at Caseyville, Illinois, as a private in Co. E, 22nd Illinois Infantry. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as standing 5′ 11″ tall, with light colored hair and blue eyes. He gave Pocahontas, Illinois, as his residence and his occupation as “painter.” Sadly, James did not survive the war. He was killed in action at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia on 19 September 1863. I don’t know if James’ body was sent home or not but there is a marker for him in the Scotch Grove Cemetery in Jones county, Iowa, next to his parents’ graves. Most likely he is not actually buried there as they did not move to Iowa until the 1870s.

This letter is remarkable for capturing the anxiety and chaos within the State of Missouri in the weeks leading up to the firing on Fort Sumter. In his letter, James informs his father, “all I can say now is that my life, and the life of every Republican, is in danger every moment. They (the disunionists) threaten to drive us out of the country….I have not went to bed a night for a long time without a Colt’s revolver under my head and in the daytime I am armed to the teeth and so are all of our party.”

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


Addressed to Col. T. J. Gosseline, New Bedford, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania

Ironton, Missouri
April 14th 1861

Dear Father,

I have waited a long time to get something of importance to write but about all I can say now is that my life, and the life of every Republican, is in danger every moment. They (the disunionists) threaten to drive us out of the country. But rest assured that if any such diabolical attempt should be made, I will stand alongside of those that oppose them, ready to fight and die in the cause of. freedom, and I will not give one inch though I die by it.

I have not went to bed a night for a long time without a Colt’s revolver under my head and in the daytime I am armed to the teeth and so are all of our party. This evening I got word that at Pilot Knob 1 mile above here where there are a great many Republicans, that they were all engaged making cartridges and running balls ready for firm resistance.

The news of the bombardment of Fort Sumter has just reached here and caused some excitement. We shall have fun here soon—especially if they try to drive any Republicans out. If they do, it will cost a great deal of blood for we intend to fight to the last.

You need not write to me here for I do not know how how long I shall stay in this state for I want to go to some free state where I can join the Federal army. I am bound to fight for my country if the war continues. Give my love to all friends, — J. C. Gosseline

To Flory and May—dear sisters. I should be glad to hear from you but I cannot now. But when I leave here, you can write to me. I should be glad to see you dear girls. But now I have little hope that I ever shall—although I may see you soon. Everything is so uncertain with me now but you will hear from me again if nothing happens soon. So farewell. — J. C. G.

Dear mother—it is late in the night and I am very much fatigued and sleepy so please excuse my brief scratch. All of importance is addressed to father. All I can say is that I have done very little work for six months and am consequently pretty hard up. But it is a long road that has no turn. When I get into the army, I hope to make some money. Still hoping and praying for your comfort and happiness, I bid you farewell. Affectionately, — James

1860: John Fulkerson Tyler to Samuel Vance Fulkerson

This letter was written by John Fulkerson Tyler (1838-1911), the son of Henry C. Tyler (1807-1850) and Jane E. Fulkerson (1813-1850) of Jonesville, Lee county, Virginia. When his parents died in 1850 within days of each other, 12 year-old Tyler went to live with his Uncle Fulkerson in the same county. After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1859, Tyler relocated to Lexington, Missouri, where he studied law.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Tyler enlisted as a private in the 14th Missouri Infantry but, due to his prior military training, he was rapidly promoted to Major of his regiment and appointed as the aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. John McAllister Schofield, a West Pointer who commanded the Missouri State Militia and was state adjutant general. When he was only twenty-five years old, Missouri Governor Hamilton R. Gamble selected Tyler to be Lieutenant-Colonel of the First Regiment Infantry, Missouri State Militia, with date of rank in mid-June 1862.

“For most of the next year, Tyler was on detached service away from the regiment. One assignment in August 1862 was to take command of the gunboat John Warner on the Missouri River. His orders were to ‘seize or destroy all ferry boats, skiffs, rafts or other means of crossing the river, which are in position to be used by the rebels.’ In October he was assigned as commanding officer of the post at Pilot Knob on the Southwest Branch, Pacific Railroad, in charge of about 85 officers and fifteen hundred men, and he had other assignments. On 18 March 1863, he was promoted to colonel of his regiment, replacing Col. John B. Gray.” [VMI Alumni Review]

From the time of his promotion to Colonel until the end of the war, however, things did not go well for Tyler. He was plagued with criticisms of his performance and threatened with a court martial which was finally ordered in January 1865. He did not return to Lexington, Missouri, after the war but settled in St. Joseph instead where he practiced law and traded in real estate.

Tyler wrote the letter to his cousin Samuel Vance Fulkerson (1822-1862). According to the book, History of Southwest Virginia 1746-1786 and Washington County 1777-1870 by Lewis Preston Summers, Samuel was born on his father’s farm in the southern part of Washington County, Virginia, but he was principally raised in Grainger county, Tennessee. He enlisted as a private in Colonel McClelland’s regiment during the Mexican war, and served throughout the war. He studied law and began a law practice in Estillville, in 1846. He was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1850, and then elected judge in 1856. He served as judge until the spring of 1861, when he was elected and commissioned colonel of the 37th Virginia Regiment of Infantry, and commanded that regiment until June 27, 1862, when he was mortally wounded while leading the 3rd Brigade in a charge against a strong Northern position on the Chickahominy. He died the following day, and was interred in the Sinking Spring Cemetery, Abingdon, Virginia. Of his death, Stonewall Jackson wrote, “Col. S. V. Fulkerson was an officer of distinguished worth. I deeply felt his death. He rendered valuable service to his country, and had he lived, would probably have been recommended by me before this time for a brigadier generalcy. So far as my knowledge extends, he enjoyed the confidence of his regiment and all who knew him. I am, Sir, your obdt. servt, T. J. Jackson”

The letter is particularly interesting because the third paragraph refers to what has come to be called, “The Morgan Walker Raid.” It was this raid that took place on 10 December 1860 that marked the turning point in William Clarke Quantrill’s life when he chose to side with the pro-slavery forces in Missouri rather than remain with his anti-slavery friends in Kansas Territory. The following article by Ted W. Stillwell summarizes the incident:

William Quantrill, being from Kansas, was an abolitionist prior to becoming the leader of “The Bushwhackers” of Jackson County, Missouri. December 10,1860 was the turning point in his politics. On this date he joined five young Quaker abolitionists from Lawrence on a slave-stealing raid into Jackson County, Missouri, where they planned to “steal” the slaves of Morgan Walker, who lived near Blue Springs. The 1900 acre Walker farm was located where Pink Hill Park is today just west of Highway 7.

It was daylight when they arrived in the neighborhood. Quantrill left his boys hidden in the bush while he rode on into the Walker farm to survey the situation. At this point he became a turncoat and sold out his “friends.” He informed Morgan Walker’s son, young Andrew, what was about to take place, and that they should be prepared. Quantrill returned to his troop to await nightfall to begin the raid.

The Walkers rounded up a few neighbors to assist them and setup an ambush as the abolitionists came riding in that evening. One Quaker was killed on the spot, two were wounded and ran for cover and two more escaped back to Lawrence, Quantrill hung back out of harms way during the ambush. The neighbors tracked down the two wounded men and shot them on the spot.

A sketch depicting Antislavery guerrillas or “Jawhawkers” attacking civilians in Missouri (LOC)

The presentation sword of Lt. Col. John F. Tyler sold recently for $2,400.

[This letter is from the personal collection of my friend Rob Morgan and has been published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Napoleon City [Missouri]
December 23rd 1860

Dear Cousin,

When I was younger I felt like the sands in the hour glass ran too slow, and I wished to shake the tardy thing to make them faster go. Now I have let this feeble but constant stream run on, and I have listlessly gazed until I am warned that I must act ere it everlastingly too late. I thank you for your good advice as regards my choice of a pursuit. And this together with my own desire shall cause me to decide. At the same time that I make this decision contrary to my Uncle’s wishes; yet it is not, nor shall it be, through any disregard for his feelings. But I do think the will is rather harsh, and that he puts too strong a construction on that very portion of it—so much so that he says he will not spend another dollar towards helping me acquire more education. And if it is not too much trouble, you can confer a great favor on me by examining the will and giving me your opinion with regard to it. I think I would rather have everything in my own hands. My father designed it should be for my benefit and in no other way will I ever get the real “benefit” of it. Certainly I can not; if do not come into full possession ere I have passed the average longevity of the human race, which perhaps I may never do. This is the only restriction in the will from which I at present wish to be relieved, and by this being removed whatever beside I wish removed is immediately done also.

What are you going to do in Virginia when South Carolina shall have seceded? Will Old Virginia go too? God grant that she may not. May she, as she has ever done, in times of trouble furnish from her own prolific womb, some compromising genius who may induce even the Palmetto State to retrace her steps and take more solemnly her vow in the sight of heaven and at the alter of our country to support the Constitution and the Union, thus making us more truly one people engaged in the grand work of disseminating the great principles of freedom among the human family.

Missouri more than all the other states has cause to ask that her wrongs should be avenged. Yet she stands preeminent for her conservatism. There is no other cause left for her to pursue. For some time, the people just west of us have been alarmed by scouts from a body of men under [James] Montgomery. The main army or body is somewhere in Kansas and these little parties are sent out into our state to murder and to plunder. Three of this party attacked a gentleman in Jackson about twenty miles from here. Fortunately there were some other white persons at the house besides the occupant and they killed one of the attacking party and wounded the others, both of whom they killed next day. It was then rumored that “Mont” had come to this place for vengeance. We immediately made up a company to go and drive him back or take him right there. We went within two or three miles of where the main army was said to be encamped when messengers told us that the report was a mistake. Then of course we could but return in peace.

James Montgomery or “Mont” (1814-1871). Montgomery came to Linn County, Kansas Territory, early in the territorial period after living in Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri. He was active in the free state cause and was involved in most of the conflicts between pro-slavery and free state forces in that area. He raised a militia troop that was active in 1857. [Kansas Memory]

Notwithstanding all this trouble, Missouri is still for the Union. But whenever the constitutional rights of the South are trampled upon by Federal officers or with the sanctions of Federal Authorities, then will her voice be heard for redress. And if civil war should follow her just demands, then will her sons be found flocking to the standard of southern rights under which, if need be, they will,

“Strike for their altars & their fires,
For the green graves of their sires,
For God & their native land.” 1

If our rights are touched, I know what course you will pursue. I remember well when you told my mother and me farewell, and started by yourself from Jonesville for Mexico. The others mustered around & Old Dr. Stubblefield made speeches considerably for show, [yet] they remained at home and you went to do the work it required. The case is now different. The battle has not begun.

Do Virginians believe a state has the right to secede when she thinks proper? Has the President a right to force a state [back into the Union] when she does secede? And will Virginia uphold Lincoln if he administers the laws with equal justice to all parties?

I went to Lexington [Mo.] a few days ago to see cousin Ellen. She enjoyed her trip very much and speaks very highly of you all of which I was very proud. I had given her a glowing description of you all before and am glad she found you as I had said. I did not have time to hear much from her but am going again soon when I shall endeavor to hear all about her trip. All our relations are well and doing well. Give my love to Aunt & Cousin Kate. Tell cousin Kate I am looking for a letter from her every mail. If I do not get one soon, I will not look any longer.

Where is Isaac now? Still in N. Y. and in the same firm? When are you going to get married? Please give me an invitation and perhaps or probably I may deceive you by coming. Remember me very kindly and respectfully to all my friends in and around A[bingdon]. Write soon to your cousin, — Jno. F. Taylor

P. S. My paper is not scarce but I am economizing. — J. F. T.

1 These lines are from a poem authored by Fitz-Greene Halleck entitled, “Marco Bozzaris” (a Greek chieftain).

1857: Daniel Sanderson Lamson to Henry Elias Howland

I can’t be certain of this author’s identity but I think it may have beenDaniel Sanderson (“San”) Lamson (1828-1912), an 1853 graduate of the Harvard Law School. The letter only bears the signature “San.”

He wrote the letter to Henry Elias Howland (1835-1913), a graduate of Yale College and of the Harvard Law School in 1857. He was admitted to the bar in New York in October following and partnered with two associates in the firm of Anderson, Howland, & Murray; after Anderson’s death in 1896, the firm became Howland, Murray and Prentice.


Addressed to H. E. Howland, Care of John Sherwood, Esq., 142 Broadway, New York

Queen City of the West
June 13th [1857]

Dear Beloved

I am the man for your money. My spirits have taken a sudden rise since the mail came in. The 7th day brought the first tidings to me from those I hold most dear. You deserve & shall have my first letter. I should have been flat down with homesickness before this if such a thing been possible in such a glorious city. My eyes have been feasted ever since I arrived & then the cool breezes like those from a fan savor strong of Asiatic luxury. One connection was missed on the journey & Wednesday night found me disconsolate on a cot in the gentleman’s parlor at Cincinnati. (You were saved a rapid run down Broadway of 3 miles & half hours waiting by not walking.)

Our woe begone faces would have been mirrored in each others eyes. I wrote home a graphic account of the excursion train here & I will not repeat. Put after Sedgwick immediately a place to sleep to be found before night. Sedgewick gone to Europe to be married—German lady—back in October. Found Crane, 1 a modified French. He opened his heart to me for your sake & we have not broke yet. I am afraid he begins to tire of my importunities. All the lawyers here from the first to the last so all their own scrub work. No chance for pay. Crane says, out with your sign. The [Law] Code is only 50 pages long. He read it through in one night. Hawley’s letters not worth a damn. Edward Bates an imposter. Old Lord dances at the Dutch Ball nightly for patronage (Judge’s election). Persons are respectfully requested not to smoke in his court room (not so pointed as the placard of Commonwealth). Crane thinks I can be admitted [to the bar] by August. Perhaps I can bluff Old Lord as he has introduced me several times as a member of the bar and only pass on the code. At any rate, it is very easy. I actually saw a juror sitting with his feet cocked up on the judge’s bench before his face & eyes. One of them told me it was harder for him to sit with his coat and handkerchief on than to work in the field.

Such a scaly looking set and yet you will be astonished when you converse with them to find them so intelligent. They talk off like a newspaper. A fellow by the name of Hydyn run across me mighty seedy—has been in the Law School and saved me from scouring the city—is used to practice—been in our Russels office in Boston—offered to open with me. If his personal appearance was better, I should do it. Crane thinks I have a great chance from my connections here and the said if a plan of his does not mature in 2 or 3 months, will do so. I am trying to say 6 times too much at once but there is so much I wish you to know.

Sedgwick made 4,000 on money he borrowed from friends in land (not to be told of). You can easily loan money at 25 [percent]. Such temptations. If you had only come on with me I have no fears of your returning. There are several sound lawyers here—perhaps in all six—but not one brilliant pleader of any standing. To one who writes the [ ] & [ ] as yourself, what a chance for [missing page?]

Did you know that St. Louis was nearest alike New York of any city in the world? The value on money is perhaps more apparent than there even/ I never felt the want of it before. You can indulge every taste with it. Its theaters are fully equal to the Boston, Crane says. I have felt a peculiar pleasure in gratifying my longings. There is something that everybody remarks in the evening air as if it been expressly to cool. Howland, in ten years from now in St. Louis, you could not help being a rich man. I have perhaps written all really more than you will read but I want to tell you of 2 or 3 encounters I have had & I will do so if you will answer this immediately.

In a word, I shall probably next week go into an office & share the expense with some young man already in practice, try to scape up a case or two, & with Crane for a Godfather, commence putting out my shingle before admitted, if it is proper. I shall not deliver your letter to Crane. You did not say where you boarded. Fred Hall went East with my ticket. Mrs. S is terrific, I do believe. Snuggle in with the Hawley’s. If you were here there would be nothing left to be wished for. You had no more idea of it than I had. I shall do Holland Brydge & Co. in my next.

The climate is the most delicious in the world—only hot enough to make you understand [ ] and the water which looks about the color of your hand. Water is as good as a glass of grog. You will find that you can’t fool along across Broadway as in Cambridge. Tell me about your office business. How much you are likely to get. Fair board here—26 dollars. My table is good but the room—God’s is as broad as yours was high. Gas however, which now blazes away over my paper. Do you have many visitors & who are they? Write what you hear from Cambridge and home. I told them you would post up as far as New York. There is not a soul at my table I speak to.

The lager beer here is lager beer. I went last Sunday from a dance garden to a cafe where one glass staggers you. In the midst of strawberries and green peas. That key brought up old times afresh. [ ] will contain the dragonade of F. Holland. The girl who sleeps between me and a petition & Mynhew Schloss. That is Bella all over. She will be after my letters & I am not ready to write at her. Alas for Helen. I couldn’t have written her so far had I permission.

The levee here is sprinkled with U. S. wagons fitting out for Utah. Gen. [William S.] Harney lives right opposite. Mustang Bragg next door. The little indoor nigger boys & girls here are great. They amuse me mightily. Crane’s health has very much improved. He has knocked off everything. Sleeps at midday. I hear bands from 3 [beer] gardens every night. Goodbye. Don’t forget — San

1 Arba Nelson Crane was an 1856 graduate of the Harvard Law School. He died in St. Louis on 6 December 1904.