[Editor’s Note: The following letter was from Augusta Griffing, Ralph’s sister. She and her husband, Rev. James S. Griffing, lived on a farm about three miles east of Topeka, Kansas, with their two young boys, John and Willie. At the time this letter was written, Kansans were experiencing a severe drought.]
April 21. 1861 Topeka, Kansas
Dear brother Ralph. Yours of March 26th was received in due time and was sorry to hear you had been sick, though I should not wonder if you did have some fever this summer & fall. But I hope you are where you will have good care. You must take good care of yourself too. Keep [your] feet dry & do not be out in the night air or get wet if you can help it. And a sponge bath every day will prevent much sickness. We are in about usual health. The boys have the whooping cough & cough pretty hard, but so far have got along very well. Johnny says he has the hooking cough & caughs “ite stait along” and often asks if we don’t feel sorry for him.
It is quite warm & has been for a day or two, & the wheat & grass look green & nice. We have had fine rains this spring, but we need a shower now. [The] grass would come on faster. The wind is blowing hard & that generally brings rain excepting in time of drouth.
The last news from [Owego] all were well. Conference was to commence the week the letter was written.
Our [Methodist Annual] conference here was at Atchison & while there, James received two boxes – one from [Owego] & one smaller from his relatives in Illinois. Both contained a great many garden seeds & some dried apples & currants & black & raspberries. The one from Illinois [contained] a cheese (excellent) & both had some dried beef in. All were very nice here where we have no vegetables yet. All have put in plenty of garden & some of the seeds are coming up which they did not do last year. The prospect for living is quite encouraging. But the sad news of war has reached us. We hoped the difficulties would be settled without shedding of blood & now there is no knowing where it will end.
You speak of sending us money. I had rather you would keep it yourself and thank you just the same as if you had sent it. We shall get along. Our friends have been very kind indeed or we could not have done as well. I think the hardest is over if we continue to have rain.
You must use your own judgment in regards to buying land. Living there you would know more about it than we, although for myself I should prefer to be free from debt first. But I am one of the kind like Pa, I guess, that hate debt & would be glad to get out & keep out and never owe a penny. I think land must be very cheap there. Are the taxes high & can you get good title deeds? Arkansas is said to be a very rich country.
I suppose it’s your vacation now and how I wish you were nearer us so as to spend it here. I think it would do you good. What shall you be doing?
James Goodrich [our brother] is still in Topeka. [He] talks of going to Pike’s Peak. Jacob Orcutt has had an attack of fever, but is getting better. Nancy & children keep well. Have you heard from Uncle [Elizur Goodrich] lately? The last I heard they were intending to leave Hartford & go to where his mill is & board there this summer thinking it would be better for his business. Several large business firms in Hartford have failed lately. Thatcher & Stillman, the one’s Uncle was with [previously] have failed too.
James is writing to you also, so if there is any news, you will probably get it all. The Legislature is in session at Topeka & have elected the Senators – Pomeroy & Lane – and they have gone to Washington. Write often as you can and take good care of yourself. With much love, I am ever your affectionate sister, — J. Augusta Griffing
[Editor’s Note: The following letter from James Griffing was enclosed in the same envelope:]
April 21, 1861 Topeka, [Kansas]
Dear Bro. Ralph. I don’t know why you should insist upon me personally & individually writing to you for since Cutie [Augusta] & I twain become one, I have always trusted her as my spokesman in matters of this kind knowing that she could always generally tell what I wanted to say better than I could myself. And then she always keeps posted in just those matters you would be glad to hear about so that I have always thought it the [better] part of wisdom to keep mum myself.
I notice there is quite a difference in the price of land here & there. And also quite a difference between there & in some parts of Florida. Here it is held at two cents an acre. What should make all the difference? Is it because white labor is considered degrading and poor whites are banished from the country from the nature of circumstances and this making a surplus of unimproved land? Or is it from inducements held out to attract settlers thitherward? Or is it because the land has become on the account of taxation a burden to the present owners and they glad to rid themselves of it at some rate? I should think the land up and down those river bottoms must be as rich as land here. But along the Kansas valley you have to pay more by the acre than for your whole 160.
Does the Palmetto flag wave over Little Rock? In case of war, will Arkansas stand by the Union? Is a man allowed to speak his mind? When are you coming to see us? I wrote another sheet but concluded not to send it as it might be received incendiary. [Your brother] Jim would be glad to see you before he goes to the Peak. Crops are looking finely now. We are looking for better times. Write often. Ever yours, — James [Griffing]
Letter: to Ralph Goodrich from J. Augusta Griffing of Topeka, KS. Source: Box 1, Item 56, Ralph L. Goodrich Collection, Arkansas History Commission