[Editors Note: The letter numbering as presented on this page coincides with the numbering scheme assigned to the letters housed in the Archives of the Arkansas History Commission. Only selected letters appear here which explains why some numbers are skipped. Some letters were only partially dated but I have been able to date them based upon the contents. As a result, some of the numbering is out of sequence but I felt it was important to present the letters in chronological order.]
Letter Number 85
Ralph Goodrich writes his German-born friend Ernest Wiedemann asking for assistance. Wiedemann vacated Little Rock in 1863 prior to the Union occupation and relocated to Washington AR.
Little Rock [Arkansas]
January 11, 1867
Prof. E. Wiedemann
I take this opportunity, through Morgan, to write to you. I am sorry that I did not see you when you were up here. In the first place, as far as I am concerned in this town, I am played out. Having been in a saloon has irretrievably disgraced me, it seems, & people say that I will never be able to do anything here again as a school teacher. Since I resumed teaching I have been very abstemious in my habits, but it is no go; while Sauter, who shut up his school & went on a three month’s [drinking] spree is not thought the worse of.
I have five pupils only – not enough to pay the rent of the school room. And being flat broke, & not knowing whence my subsistence is coming, I have come to the conclusion to let the over pious people of Little Rock go and be damned, & leave, if I can get anything to do anywhere else. If it be in your power to render me any assistance, I shall be doubly thankful, such as finding me something to do in Washington [Arkansas] either as a clerk or teaching. If you can find me a place, please write by Morgan when he comes up again.
With my respects to Mrs. Wiedemann. I am ever,
Yours respectfully, — R. L. Goodrich
Letter Number 86
Ralph Goodrich writes to his former acquaintance William A. Austin with whom he studied law in the Owego office of Nathaniel Davis and Willoughby Babcock during 1858-59. Austin passed the bar in 1860 and was practicing law in Trumansburgh NY at the time of this letter. Johnson, mentioned in Goodrich’s letter, also studied law with Austin & Goodrich in Owego NY. This letter is a good summary of Goodrich’s travels and experiences between 1860 and 1867.
Little Rock, Arkansas
January 15, 1867
I am pleased to think that notwithstanding the almost chaotic confusion that has existed for the past few years, the memory of each other has not been entirely obliterated. I did not know for certain whether you were in Trumansburg or not, or else I had written to you before.
[My cousin] Lucy Fiddis has ceased to correspond with me for some reason of which I am not aware. When she wrote formerly to me if you had been to Owego, she would mention it. Otherwise I hear nothing of you except when mother writes that you have been at my Aunt Lucy’s.
You ask me to give you a summary of my adventures in the land once of waffles, hoe-cake and hominy, but now snarlingly belligerent as a whipped cur. I was out in the Rebel army because I could not help myself. Served as a private for seven months [and] was in the retreat from Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Nashville and Corinth, and was discharged a few days before the Shiloh battles. Before I got my discharge, I saw with dissatisfaction that I was on the wrong side and I made haste to get out. It would be tedious to relate the subterfuges I practiced and the lies I told in order to get a discharge. I could not move without the aid of crutches and I believe they would have liked to keep me had I no legs at all.
I returned to this place and resumed my business of teaching. From that time I managed to keep almost clear of the army, but one time when conscription was getting too general and rigid, I was compelled to take shelter under a Lieutenant’s commission in the Engineer’s Corps which had been previously conferred upon me though I still kept on with my school. I was here when the town was taken by the Union Army [in September 1863] and have been here ever since except a month’s visit to Washington in this state.
I received a letter from [Willoughby] Babcock when he was at New Orleans and with it was an “order” or something else for me to report there for examination for the position of a line officer in the Engineer Corps d’ Afrique. He wrote that considering my education, & what he could do, it was the same as my commission for a first Lieutenancy in that Corps. I was unwell and could not accept.
School teaching got dull and I went into the mercantile business, made money, speculated as all did, and lost it, as all did not. [I] bought cotton and did not get for it what it cost and many other such idiotic speculations. Last summer I was a clerk in the Freedman’s Bureau and I threw up my situation in September to commence teaching again, flat broke and in debt. I have learned to my sorrow and chagrin that I am no business man. Not the least of its qualifications are my inheritance. Sometimes I regret that I did not accept the offer of Babcock’s but I was so broken down by chills & rheumatism, the legacies of confederate service, that I could not have stood camp life.
The same mail that brought your letter, brought one from Johnson. He had just got his ticket to practice law from the Albany Law School. He wanted to know if Arkansas would be a good theatre for a rising & young genius to display his abilities in. He says he has learned something in the last six years. I hope he has profited by it.
As for myself, I have met with more success in teaching than I possibly could hope for in the practice of law, and I have begun to think that I am not fitted for that honorable calling, but much better for something else. And what that something else is, for the life of me, I am unable to surmise. The professions are now crowded by a set of ignorant interlopers who by a sort of uncertain success are neither an ornament or a base disgrace to them. In this country, a man’s learning and ability are measured by his success & if by quacking & pettiforgery he can gain credit, it matters little whether he has sound learning to back him. It is the knaves in every profession that has put their learning down to the capacity of every fool. It is said that Tamerlane, when disappointed and defeated, he retired to a secluded ruin. While there he saw an ant endeavoring to carry its load up a wall, but before it could reach the summit, the load dropped from its hold. Tamerlane counted 70 of these efforts but at the last time the ant succeeded. The sight infused Tamerlane with courage and resolution.
Johnson, by digging away at law for the past six years – rejected here, repulsed & laughed at there – has shown resolution to get within the honorable precincts of the bar, if nothing further; enough resolution for a greater man than he. But has he ability enough to carry him through? It is well enough to talk of iron will. By beating a mule you can make him pull more, but it does not do the mule any good. Quod erat demonstrandum quoad Johnson. He may do tolerably well in the backwoods, but an illiterate woodchopper may have solid sense enough to see the bottom of his well & how little there is in it.
I have been a tolerably diligent student since I left home, but nary page of law have I dipped into lately. I have read a great deal in languages. I have posted myself a little. I could get along quite well in a settlement where nothing but German was spoken, or French, or in Mexico without an interpreter. Several subjugated Rebs who got recommendations from Senor Romero at Washington [AR] for employment in the Mexican service have solicited my service to translate their letters for them. They [hope to] get a situation in a foreign country, then learn the language afterwards. In Hebrew I have just got so far as to be able to decipher its goose-track alphabet. Latin & Greek I am beating into young skulls everyday. But I see my short letter is extending beyond proper bounds & hoping that you will not be offended with this egotistic letter & that I will hear from you soon.
I remain as ever, your sincere friend, — R. L. Goodrich
Letter Number 88
Goodrich writes again to his friend William A. Austin of Trumansburgh NY. This letter provides a good summary of Goodrich’s pecuniary circumstances during the preceding six months.
Little Rock [Arkansas]
June 16, 1867
I received your letter some time ago, but have put off answering it until I had more time, for that now is pretty well occupied. You may indeed accuse me of fickleness, but I am – I believe – in the right this time. The school that I have had here for nearly a year has scarcely supported me, scarcely furnished in a decent manner my grub, and I began to be somewhat discouraged. I have been looking out for several places in the State and corresponded with persons I knew to see if I could get up a school this fall. I can get in two or three places a permanent and a paying school. In order to keep me up, I have been copying for lawyers and other persons – sometimes paid well, and sometimes otherwise. Some nights I have made five & six dollars, but more often nothing. I got up the city tax book for the Recorder. The total value of property being over three million dollars in city, school, & railroad tax had [been] assessed & carried out separately. It took me over a month to do it after school hours, working all day Saturday & Sundays, & I received only ten dollars for the job, which does well enough when we consider the giver was but a Dutchman. Well it takes me a long time to come to my story.
The Clerk of the U.S. District & Circuit Courts for the Eastern District of Arkansas is a New Yorker and Chas. P. Redmond by name. He needed a clerk and took me. I have boys to recite to me in Latin in the morning before going to the office and a young lady with more good lucks than brains to teach of any evening, a middle-aged Italian to teach bookkeeping, and a bald-headed Irishman, a stage struck youth, a would-be modern Rascins – the rival of the gnat of the English & the American stage – to teach elocution; in other words, to have him read Shakespeare with some degree of propriety. And out of the whole I shall make enough to live and something besides I hope. So you see that I am pretty busy and when Sunday comes, I feel like resting all day. Mr. Redmond said he wanted me all the time and he thought he could be able to give me a better salary after awhile. You know U.S. Clerks are permanent situations, and this of mine may be. I have every opportunity to become acquainted with the practice in these courts; treason, confiscation, admiralty, &c. Redmond has an office printing press and we do all our printing ourselves. In time, I think I will make a good type setter or compositor. I am glad I got into this clerk’s office. H. C. Caldwell is the District Judge. He was a Colonel in the Union Army [3rd Iowa Cavalry] and formerly from Iowa. There has been a great deal of business in these courts since re-established, and there will be more when this bankrupt law gets agoing.
Johnson was digging away from last accounts in Elmira [New York], I believe. He is learning something about law for in his last letter he speaks of “Estates in expecktency.” He also says, “It’s true, I have masturd a part & parcel of my ambition.” Quite legal, if not orthographical. He wants me to resume the study of law and go into a partnership with him. He says he could do the shouting in the courts, and I would make a good office lawyer. So much for Johnson, Esq.
My loving eyes have not as yet lit upon any of those delectable prizes of the softer humanity in uncontrolled admiration. I did see a woman once I liked probably well enough to marry, providin’ Burke’s was willin’, but I discovered she was already married. Dipping is carried on extensively. Thin carpets cut up into strips would make good plugs of chewing tobacco and could be sold as such. I never yet got so far as to picture that earthly paradise you speak of. In contemplation I never got beyond the terrible first question which was to be answered either yes or no, and consequently never peeped in upon the transcendent joys of the voluptuous or otherwise honeymoon. We are getting old to be shure as the Irishman says, and it is high time to be thinking of our own flesh and blood who are to come after us. It is true that man in his middle age, when his strength, intellectual, and physical is in its prime, can rear hardier and better children than in his youth or in his older age. And this reflection satisfies me. If I live, I intended to make a visit home next summer and I will see if I can persuade some one of the fair [sex] to link her fate with mine. I would not have any of them here. Those I could get, I would not have. And probably those I might want, I couldn’t get.
Write soon and believe me as ever your sincere friend. – Ralph L. Goodrich
What has become of that young man from Geneva [Lewis Halsey] that enclosed a letter to me with yours? I wrote to him & requested him to send me a catalogue, but catalogue nor answer have I got.
Charles P. Redmond was born about 1833 in Matinecock, Queens County, New York. His parents were James F. Redmond and Ann Browne. His wife’s name was Amy, born about 1844 in Pennsylvania. In June 1860, Charles was working as a lawyer in Dubuque, Iowa; residing in the household of his father, a 60 year-old banker in Dubuque. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Charles served three months as a private in Company I, 1st Iowa Infantry — a regiment that saw significant action at Wilson’s Creek in Missouri. He is mentioned briefly in Banasik’s book, “Missouri in 1861” (The Civil War Letters of Franc Bangs Wilkie) on page 15 wherein Wilkie writes on April 27, 1861 from Davenport, Iowa, “Yesterday our men had the pleasure of a visit from a large number of Dubuque gentlemen: Messrs. David S. Wilson, William B. Allison, D. N. Cooley, John David, Charley Redmond, J. L. Harvey, Col. Wilste, and others. It seemed almost like being home again…”
Charles Redmond’s arrival in Little Rock is explained in the book, “The Southern States of America, Chapter III – Arkansas from 1861-1909.” It reads, “In the year 1864, the Federal court was reestablished at Little Rock through the appointment, by President Lincoln, of Henry C. Caldwell, of Ot-tumwa, Iowa, as United States district judge for the eastern district of Arkansas, with Charles P. Redmond, of Dubuque, Iowa, as district attorney, Robert J. T. White, of Virginia, clerk, and W. O. Stoddard, of Missouri, marshal.
Letter Number 89
Theta Delta Chi Fraternity brother Lewis Halsey wrote to Goodrich of the chapter in New York.
Trumansburgh, New York
July 27, 1867
R. L. Goodrich, Theta Delta Chi
Your short but welcome letter was received a few months ago and I forwarded you a catalogue as per request. I will now endeavor to give you a little news concerning Theta Delta Chi. You enquired about Mr. [Henry] Handerson. I understand that he is now in New York City studying medicine. He with Robert Williams, T. I . Randolph, McKnew, Anisten, Hunter, and quite a number of men of [Theta Delta Chi] was in the Confederate army. Chester Roy died several years ago. Fred Tremaine was killed at [the Battle of Hatcher’s Run] at the head of his regiment [– the 10th New York Cavalry].
At commencement two weeks ago, although only two or three of the graduates honored us with their presence, we had a pleasant reunion. T. James Rundle was on to see us. I believe his residence is Albany. George Yost was up from Waterloo. Doug Cornell was on hand from Buffalo. We established a chapter of Theta Delta Chi at the University of Rochester last spring and half a dozen of the boys from there were down to attend our commencement. We have now in college (at Hobart) 2 seniors, 2 juniors, and 4 sophomores, who with the men we shall probably get in the freshman class just entered will make a large enough charge.
President [Abner] Jackson has resigned the presidency [of Hobart College] and accepted an election to the same office at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. Dr. Wilson will act as president until a new one is chosen. Our officers are: President Lewis Halsey, Trumansburgh; Vice President, C. D, Eastman, Ovid, New York; Secretary, M. N. Gilbert, Morris, New York; Treasurer, H. B. Cone, Batavia, New York; W. G. Raines, Geneva, New York. The catalogue is now in the hands of the publisher and we hope will soon come out. It is in the hands of a committee of which W. L. Stone, Theta, Delta Chi of the New York Journal of Commerce is chairman. George W. Smith of ’57 is now Chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Lew Moss of your class is a lumber dealer at Sandusky, Ohio and I hear is doing very well. Ben F. Lee is also in Sandusky. The records of the Nu Charge, University of Virginia, were destroyed during the war. If you ever meet any men of this charge, try to obtain information concerning it. We shall be glad to hear from you at any time.
Yours in [the brotherhood] – Lewis Halsey
Letter Number 90
Mary Ann Goodrich writes her son Ralph L. Goodrich from Owego NY giving all the hometown news. At the time of this letter, Ralph Goodrich resided in Little Rock AR and was employed as a clerk in a law office.
Owego [New York]
December 8, 1867
My dear Ralph,
I was very glad to hear from you and that you were well and I hope doing well. Do you make more than your support? I think your clothes that we sent will be needed by you now if it is as cold with you as with us. But you are so much farther south that it cannot be such a winter day as it is here. It is Sunday. [Your sister] Sarah and I are keeping near the stove to keep warm. [Your brother] Stephen has gone on foot to Church. The ground is nearly covered with snow and it is blowing hard. And once in awhile, a snow squall, and then the sun shines.
I believe I wrote you about the rain last Spring when we had so much rain. Since June, we have had but very little rain, and now we are suffering for the want of water. Our well is nearly dry. We can get about two quarts at a time, and that is muddy, and our cistern is dry. We have to draw water from the brick yard to use. And people think that winter has really set in, and if so, there will be a great deal of suffering here and all over the country for it is dry everywhere, we hear. The creeks are very low, but I believe the mills can grind yet here. But we hear that the mills have had to stop grinding in some places for [lack of] water.
My foot has not got well yet but I go on it a good deal. We are going to butcher our hogs and a beef this week that will make work for us. I shall be glad when it is done as I always am.
Do you keep hours and do the black women work for you? Black Lucy is very sick. Sarah went down to see her one day last week. She has the asthma consumption and they think she will not live long. Do they do any mending for you? How is your overcoat? Do you wear your woolen stockins?
I am glad that times are better there. Did that Mr. [Charles H.] Cole know anything about your Uncle [Beach] in Cincinnati? Sister Mary writes that they do not like it there. Charles and Willie Johnson are sons of that Mr. Johnson that lived across from your Uncle Rutts and that used to get hickery nutts of us. Now the family have gone to Maryland to spend the winter. We hear that Willie is to be married there soon. Rupert says that John Goodrich and Jane Goodrich are to be married soon. Jane is Esquire Noah Goodrich’s daughter. John can have Esquire [Judge] Noah marry them and he will not have to pay the minister. Jack and John are getting richer and tighter every year. Uncle Aner is failing, tiring his senses, and nearly helpless. Leland [Goodrich] and his wife work hard and are making something. They keep 12 or 14 cows and make butter. They have no children. They had one but she died.
That farm of Mr. D. Taylors is sold again. Mr. George Truman has bought it for his second son William. Mr. William Stratton and wife have been down visiting. He called here but his wife did not. They staid the most of the time at Mr. Lyman Truman’s in the village. It is nearly Christmas again and who will make you a Christmas present?
Do you remember Fred Fox? He is dead. He was a telegraph operator in Ohio. He was brought home. I believe Mr. John Park is Mayor. He is in some city office and has a great salary. I do not know where James Fiddis is. [Your sister] Mary, [her daughter] Fanny, and [husband] Gurd [Horton] was up here yesterday. All send love. Goodbye. Write soon.
Every your affectionate Mother
[P. S.] Tom Page who used to be in G. B. Goodrich’s store is sick with consumption.
Black Lucy probably refers to Lucy Miller, the only Black woman named Lucy who lived in Tioga, Tioga County, New York at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census. Lucy was born around 1810 in New York State.
Letter Number 91
Augusta Griffing writes her brother Ralph L. Goodrich from her temporary home in Circleville, KS. From this location, her husband Rev. James Griffing rode his Methodist circuit. At the time of this letter, Ralph Goodrich resided in Little Rock AR and worked as a clerk for a law office.
Circleville, Jackson County, [Kansas]
December 15, 1867
My dear brother Ralph,
It has been some time since I received your last letter and I have been waiting for more time to answer it, but it does no good. I keep just as busy as ever — increasing cares take all my time. My family of six and company keep me very busy. But I want to hear from you and wish you would not wait so long for me.
Ma wrote in her last that she had just heard from you. I was glad to hear you were well & hope you will have better health than formerly and better success in business. That will make you feel better I know. Ma had also heard from [our brother] James Goodrich. He was at Ellsworth a ways west of here on the railroad, cooking for a train and getting good wages. He was in Topeka the first of November and James was there awhile after he left so did not see him.
Ma writes that Aunt Sarah Goodrich died at Stella’s in November. She has been feeble for some time. Steve & Mary went to the funeral; none of the rest could go. Frank Platt is able to ride out but cannot walk. She is very feeble. She rides out often and calls on Ma. You know, I suppose, that Ma sprained her ankle some time ago & could not bear any weight on it for a long time. She is able to be about now. John Goodrich is waiting on Jane Goodrich, Noah’s daughter. Ella Griffing is married to a Mr. Blackman.
Mr. Crater died very suddenly. Mrs. Crater is also dead & Lonica too, and Sam is frail. William Taylor has a strange disease some of the time. He is a raving maniac. I do not know what they call it. He was conductor on the railroad. I see that Rev. Washington Gladden is a correspondent of the New York Independent. Who did he marry? Was it that Miss Cohoon?
We all went to our place near Topeka in September during peach time. There were some fifteen or twenty bushels, I think. Can you find Topeka on your map? It is about twenty-five miles west of Lawrence on the south side of the Kansas River. Well we now live in Circleville, Jackson County — about forty miles nearly north of Topeka and in the county adjoining Shawnee in which Topeka is. Lincoln [where we lived in 1864-6] & Seneca are about twenty-five north of here in Nemaha County, which county is one of the northern two bordering on Nebraska. There are but few maps that I have seen that anyone can find out anything about the towns. But they have sprung up so fast that maps cannot keep up with them. Topeka is growing very fast and they are improving it very much.
It is bed time and [our son] John is teasing to go to bed & does not like very well to go alone. [My husband] James is gone & will be for a few days on his circuit. Write as often as you can. With much love.
Ever your affectionate sister, — J. A. Griffing
[P. S.] James went into Missouri in November & brought some nice apples so it seems like old times. We have had a very pleasant fall & winter thus far.
Letter Number 98
Sixty-four year-old Mary Ann Goodrich writes her son Ralph Goodrich from Owego NY giving all the hometown news.
Owego [New York]
May 31, 1868
My dear Ralph,
We were glad to hear that you was well and doing something. We are usually well. Stephen and Sarah have gone to church. We have a new minister; his name is Wheeler. We think he is a good minister & I think all like him. The Methodists are going to build a new church [in] another year. They have bought a lot up near where Lawyer Tracy built his house and have given $3,500 for it. Tracy, Esq. could not live in Owego after he got moonstruck by moonlight in the army and he has sold out and gone to Brooklyn. And one of Taylor Ellis’s sons who married a railroad conductor’s daughter has bought it and lives there.
You would not hardly know Owego now. They put up a great many buildings last summer and have commenced a good many this spring. [Your brother] Stephen furnishes nearly all the sand. He has 4 horses and two wagons with sand boxes, and he drew and had drawn last week over one hundred loads. Our teams draw 4 and 5 loads a day apiece and he hired 3 other teams part of the time. He has several big jobs of drawing and he gas to get it when they want it. And if his two teams cannot get [it] fast enough, he has to hire teams. He has to keep 2 or 3 men in the bank to screen sand and one team to scrape a good deal. We have had 3 men in our family the last week besides Steve. Some of his men board themselves. Houk and Keeler are masons and they have a good many of the big jobs. They get sand of Stephen. Keeler has bought that lot where Levi Barns used to live and they made brick there last summer and are making [it] now. They have commenced burning a kiln. They have two machines on the lot. One is a two horse machine – they grind with 2 horses. And one is a one horse machine. They employ a good many men. They get there sand of Stephen.
[Your sister] Mary and [her husband] Gurd [Horton] was up yesterday. How do you like [their daughter] Fanny’s photograph? [Your sister] Augusta and her family have been sick since they went to Junction City [Kansas]. They like it there very well. [Your brother] James Goodrich called there on his way to Topeka from Ellsworth. He is near Ellsworth doing business with a Mr. Light. They own about 80 mules and draw goods or wood – anything they get to draw. They keep up with the railroad and are going to Denver or to New Mexico to draw goods.
I was reading in a paper that at Memphis the peach trees were in blossom some [time] ago and that they had radishes, lettuce, and peas in market. Our apple trees are just in bloom. We have had a backward spring. Write soon.
From your ever affectionate mother, — Mary A. Goodrich
I met Editor [William] Smyth in town one day last week. He enquired about my runaway son. He said he would like to see you and wondered why you did not come home.
Letter Number 99
Ralph Goodrich writes a brief note to his friend Mike Egan, informing him that he has shipped his trunk.
Little Rock [Arkansas]
July 1, 1868
Friend Mike [Egan]
The cars came down yesterday and left. I shipped your trunk Sunday. The Captain said it was not necessary to give a receipt for it and that it would go safely to you. I succeeded in getting all your things in the trunk except a paper box. I have tried again to get your books together, but it has been impossible. I can’t find out anything from Lee or his wife – both are drunk & fighting most of the time. I hope your books will go safely. I should have liked to read some of your books but I have been so busy that I have had no time to open a book. I don’t know what to think of your case in bankruptcy. I can’t, from my position, attend to it as you desire. If I did meddle in that way, I would get a cussing from the judge. No news about town.
Hoping to hear soon. I am as ever your sincere friend, — R. L. Goodrich
Letter Number 100
Goodrich writes to his employer, Charles P. Redmond who, in partnership with Pullen (I believe) were attorneys in Little Rock and specialized in bankruptcy cases. Redmond would eventually become a judge in the District Circuit Court and Goodrich would be its clerk.
Little Rock [Arkansas]
July 12, 1868
Charles P. Redmond, Esq.
My dear friend:
I received your letter Thursday night which had long been expected. I was glad to hear that you were getting along so well in respect to your health. I have been depositing all the money that has been coming in, and when your letter was received my bank was completely drained, though I have partly paid Pullan & myself, probably shall be able to do so this week. Bishop started yesterday for New York & Yale to be gone several weeks. An involuntary case in bankruptcy came in from Helena. I sent the lawyer to the Springs to see the judge for the order. He wanted the order to show cause “warrant to Marshal” and “Injunction” issued at the same time. I did so & took them to Judge Rose. He said they were right & Chief Justice Chase couldn’t do better.”
We have been hammering away at bankruptcy – almost enough of it to keep Pullan busy all the time. I have the judgment dockets nearly completed. I haven’t had to print anything. I cut up the manila paper except ten sheets & had them printed, divided amongst the different blanks. We were only 390. I think you had better get some more. Send me some ribbon. The last monthly account of Bliss was $93.02. I have deposited in bank to your credit $315.67. Do you get the Little Rock papers I sent you?
…Cole and Mills went to the [Hot] Springs last week [but] haven’t returned yet. I am going to put up a palacio-shanty on my suburban farm which a fellow says he will do and take my time to pay him in 2, 3 or five years. Pullan was ailing all last week & I wasn’t in the best physical condition either. You saw the notice of Sauter’s death – cut down in his youth overwhelmed by the weight of family troubles & the spirited gravity of 2 quarts whiskey.
Yours sincerely, — R. L. G.
Letter Number 111
Mary Ann Goodrich writes her son Ralph Goodrich from Owego NY giving all the hometown news. Seven months prior to this letter, Ralph’s brother James J. Goodrich was killed in Kansas — trampled by run-away mules. The first paragraph mentions that James Griffing, Ralph’s brother-in-law, sold James Goodrich’s land near Topeka. The second paragraph also mentions “Jenny” who would become Ralph’s first wife later in the year.
Owego [New York]
July 18, 1869
My dear Ralph,
I received yours yesterday. I also received one from [your sister] Augusta yesterday and one from [her husband] James Griffing last week. He has sold your brother’s land [in Kansas] for $1,000. I have to send him power of attorney to sell it. He thinks that a good price for it. It is not the best land there. The man that he sold it to pays $100 down and all in 2 years.
Ralph, you know I do not want you to go to New Orleans or Texas and have always said so to you. I do not want you to go any farther south. You know it was so long before you got into any paying business after you left teaching that I thought that when you had got into good business you would keep your place as long as you could. We all want to see you and Jenny but is it worth while to come on here and go back and spend so much money? If you was sure of getting into good business, I would want you to come by all means. I do not want you to stay where you are not well. I want to do all I can fer your good, and I want you to do so too. I do not want you to be offended at what I write. I am not worth minding. I do not intend to write anything to offend you.
Owego is getting to be a very bad place. We have a set of bad men or boys around us. Every week we have thieves and house burners around. Last week someone tried to burn Mr. Bristol’s new Foundry up. The fire was seen and put out before it did much damage. They have watchmen all over the village but almost every night we hear of someone’s house being broke into or trying to be. Last Friday night, Ike Willsey, a constable, and Tim Robertson, a police, were near Mr. [George] Fritcher’s [grocery] store. Ike caught a man trying to get into the store. Ike was heard to say, “I have caught you and I know you…give up,” but he did not, but shot Willsey and Willsey shot Bowers. They both shot twice & both died. Bowers is 18 years old. They took him to his father’s but they would not have him brought in and they took him to the Court House, and the town buried him yesterday afternoon. Willsey’s funeral is today at the Baptist Church at 3. They have taken up between 14 & 20 boys concerned in this business and they think this Bowers is the one that set fire to the Bridge Shop. And if he was the one and they had caught him, he would have been strung up in quick time. I believe I have written to you since the bridge shop was burned. It threw so many men out of employment.
Did I write you Mr. Charles Platt died? He died the 19th of June. William Platt has gone to New York [City] and is clerk in the same store that his father was part owner of. Francis Platt is able to ride out but does not set up much and does not walk much. They ride over here quite often. Your Aunt Fanny has been quite unwell with rheumatism. She went home with Charlotte to Auburn and is some better. Your Aunt Lucy Berry fell and broke her arm 2 weeks ago.
I don’t know as I wrote you anything about Burr Pearsall. He married Sarah Taylor, only daughter of John J. Taylor. Burr’s father built him a nice house [in Hooper’s Valley] and they went down there to live. She had a baby and as soon as she was able to go home, Mr. & Mrs. Taylor went down and had her and ______________ brought home. She only lived a few weeks and her babe lived a week after its mother died. Her death was put in the paper. Sarah Taylor was only daughter, &c., &c.
[Affectionately, — Your Mother]
The description of the burglaries occurring in Owego NY are corroborated by the following newspaper articles:
1 The Evening Gazette, Port Jervis, NY, Saturday, July 17, 1869
BURGLARY AT OWEGO LAST NIGHT — ONE OF THE BURGLARS AND A POLICEMAN SHOT AND KILLED
Special Dispatch to the Evening Gazette.
Owego, NY, July 17, 1869
Last night about midnight, policeman Wilsey discovered a party of burglars, endeavoring to break into Pritchard’s [Fritcher’s] store, at the rear of the building. Wilsey rushed up to the party, and arrested one of the burglars, exclaiming, as he seized him, “I have got you now.” Just then he was shot, receiving two wounds, one in the head and the other in the shoulder. After he was himself shot he drew his revolver and fired at one of the burglars. He then came from behind the store out on Main Street, and met another policeman there, to whom he said, “I am shot.” His comrade took him by the arm and led him across the street to his house, where he fell dead on the door-step.
At daylight this morning the dead body of a young man named George Bowers, one of the burglars, was found about forty feet from the place of the encounter. Bowers lived in Owego, and was a well-known desperate character, having served one or two terms in prison at Rochester.
2 The Evening Gazette, Port Jervis, NY, Tuesday, July 20, 1869
THE OWEGO TRAGEDY — ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS — ARREST OF A GANG OF DESPERADOES
We have the following additional accounts in our exchanges of the tragedy at Owego on Friday night last.
About one o’clock Saturday morning, as officer Isaac Wilsey, of Owego, was patrolling his beat along North Avenue, Owego, he detected the operations of burglars about Fritche’s store. He boldly encountered them and used his revolver freely, in his endeavor to effect arrests. In turn he received two shots, and not knowing the extent of his injuries, he judged it best to go for help. Taking a few steps he met Chief-of-Police Robertson, and giving him the information, requested the Chief to assist him home, as he felt he was badly hurt. The Chief accompanied and supported him towards his residence, but upon reaching the door steps, he fainted and immediately died. From information soon gained, the police were able to make the following arrests — Kendall, Doty, Hyde, and a fourth man, name not known, and all employees, we believe, in the Bristol Iron Works.
These are now in the Owego jail. The evidence against these is ample to convict. The fifth accomplice, by the name of Bowers, was found partially hidden behind a dry goods box, at the back of A.D. Ellis’s garden. He had died from the effects of the shots of Policeman Wilsey.
It is supposed now, that the same gang were engaged in the attempt to burn the Bristol Iron Works during the present week. They had entered the oil cellar, sprinkled shavings over the barrels, opened a faucet from which oil was running and set fire to the shavings. This was timely discovered by the night watchman, who summoned assistance and put it out.
Such a gang of desperadoes has not infested Owego since the fires were set, that nearly consumed the business portion of the village. Of course the greatest feeling of indignation prevails among the people, who are almost ready to lynch the prisoners. The family of the murdered policeman receives the wide spread sympathies of all, in their sad and terrible bereavement.
Later accounts say that a coroner’s inquest was in session yesterday, and facts of great importance are being brought to light. Some ten or twelve arrests have been made, and without doubt the gang of incendiaries and burglars which has heretofore escaped detection, will be brought to speedy justice.
3 The Evening Gazette, Port Jervis, NY, Tuesday, July 27, 1869
THE OWEGO TRAGEDY — ARREST OF BURGLARS AND THIEVES
The judicial investigation into the affair of the murder of policeman Wilsey and the shooting of the burglar Bowers, has resulted in some important developments in regard to the operations of the gang of burglars and thieves who have been depredating in that village and vicinity to an alarming extent for more than a year past. The evidence brought out at the inquest implicate two young men named T. Baker and Wm. H. Kendall, and a woman named Mary Brink — the latter as a receiver of stolen property. A large amount of valuable goods — proceeds of the sundry burglaries and robberies in which the prisoners have been engaged — were found in their trunks. Among those who identified property which had been stolen from them were Hollenbach & Sons, A.B. Bissell, E. Andrews, John McNeil, and M. Hiersteiner.
Letter Number 112
Forty year-old Augusta Goodrich writes her brother Ralph Goodrich from her family’s temporary home in North Lawrence, Kansas. Her husband, Rev. James S. Griffing, was stationed there in 1869-70. By this time, she and James have four children.
North Lawrence [Kansas]
July 25, 1869
Dear Brother Ralph,
Your letter of June 28th reached me in due time. I was glad to hear from you again, but sorry to hear you were not feeling well – and also that I should not see you this summer [when I return home to Owego, New York]. I felt in hopes we could have a good visit together but I do not blame you for holding to the situation as long as you can have it at that salary if the climate &c. agrees with you. Your board is not any higher that would be here in the large towns of Kansas. But if you were housekeeping, it would not cost more than $30.00 a month. I do not think, with economy of course, for provisions for yourself and wife – which you say you now pay for board & washing – you ought to lay up money. With six of us in the family & considerable company, our expenditures for provisions, clothing, & all are not over $700.00 a year. But we are not extravagant. [We] have had to economize ever since we have been in Kansas and will have to awhile longer I expect.
Our farm [half-way between Topeka and Tecumseh] is rented for the next five years for improvements so that we get no benefit of it – only the improvements are increasing the value of the place. And if there is fruit, we get one third of it. The farm is now worth $6,000.00 but we do not wish to sell, although he has had a number of applications. If you had a few sections of land here & should get some improvements put on them, you could sell them well and make money. A great many hundreds have flocked into Kansas this season. I presume more than any other, and we are having railroads built & it will soon be a great state, we think.
We own a few acres of land near Manhattan College about 50 miles west of Topeka where we expect to build in a year or so & live to send the children to school. And James thinks of raising small fruits on the land for our support & stop preaching.
I think of starting for Owego about the 4th or 5th of August if we keep well. The children have all had the measles & been quite sick. And some of them are not very well now. Neither are James & myself well. He looks & feels bilious & I had a light chill yesterday. I think perhaps the change will do me good. We have had a great deal of rain & great floods destroying many lives & much property. And I think there will be a great deal of sickness before winter. James is not going with us and I fear he will get sick.
In my last letter from home, Ma wrote that all were usually well. They had rain very often making it bad for harvesting & haying. I presume Ma has written you that Charles Platt is dead. Aunt Lucy Berry fell just before the 4th inst. & broke her arm, but it is doing very well. There have been a great many fires & houses broken open in Owego of late & one of the gang was killed last week, but he killed the constable too. Ma says on some streets they dare not all go to bed.
But I must close, hoping to hear from you soon. If I felt quite sure of going, I would say direct [your next letter to me] to Owego, care of Ma to be put in Box 388. I hope you will not get sick. I hope [your wife] Jennie is better pleased with the country. That you will do well & both be happy is my wish for you.
With much love. Ever your affectionate sister, — Augusta
Letter Number 115
Harry E. Handerson writes his college chum and fraternity brother Ralph Goodrich summarizing his wartime experiences in the Confederate army. Following the war, Handerson studied medicine and began his practice in New York City.
374 2nd Avenue
New York [New York]
September 4, 1869
My Dear Ralph,
I am almost ashamed to answer your letter at this late date but for the past month I have been so busy that I have written to no one.
Your history during and since the war is very interesting, especially as showing how victorious Mars at last yields to the smiles of peaceful Venus. I suppose it is not too late to congratulate you on your silken chain and to wish you health, happiness, prosperity and posterity.
My own history may be summed up in few words. I enlisted in ’61 and served faithfully through the war, coming up from enlisted man to Captain & Asst. Adjutant Gen. of one of the Louisiana brigades (“Stafford’s”). I was wounded in the neck at Chancellorsville, and captured by Grant in the “Wilderness,” after which I spent thirteen months in Federal prisons, was bombarded by my friends [while prisoner] on Morris Island [near Charleston SC], and finally released June 17, ’65. I then came on to New York, studied medicine, and settled down quietly to practice in the great Gotham. I have not yet made myself wealthy, but of course expect to do so in due time. (For further particulars on Dicken’s novel entitled, “Great Expectations”).
As to domestic life, I have none. I am entirely single, poor, and rapidly growing old – these conditions which by no means favor domesticity. Fortunately I have a brother who is continuing the family name, or it would stand a fair chance to finish from off the face of the earth. But I keep up good courage, and hope when my hair is gray to have the memories of life. I read the classics occasionally, medicine semi-occasionally, and practice when an opportunity offers. Such is my life.
I don’t know but that you will have sold out and left for the North before this letter reaches you. If so, I hope to have a call from you ‘ere long. McDonald is practicing law in the city & is doing well. Harry Baldwin is also in the city, but I learn has become blasé and a confirmed drunkard. I have never met him since we graduated [from Hobart College].
“Harry Baldwin is in [N.Y.] City, but I learn he has become blasé and a confirmed drunkard.” — HEH
Barclay is practicing medicine in Minnesota, I believe. Cheney is in trouble at Chicago. Lew Moss is in business in Detroit.
“Barclay is practicing medicine in Minnesota, I believe.” — HEH
Hobart College seems in a rapid decline and expects a new President every year. The Theta Omega Chi fraternity, however, appears to be doing as well as to be expected and was quite prominent at the last convention. Let me hear from you and of your whereabouts and prospects. My kindest regards to “sister Jennie” of Ohio (my native state).
Believe me, your sincere friend, — Harry E. Handerson
Letter Number 244
The following letter was written by John Forrest Dillon from his home in Davenport, Iowa, while serving as a Federal Judge of the Eighth Circuit with jurisdiction over Arkansas. The letter was addressed to Charles P. Redmond who was serving, at the time, as Clerk of the U.S. Court of the Eastern District of Arkansas. Goodrich was his Deputy Clerk. The letter advises Redmond of Dillon’s decision to replace with Frank E. Wright as a personal favor to Wright’s father-in-law. Goodrich would eventually replace Wright as the chief clerk. It isn’t clear how Goodrich obtained the letter; it may be a copy that he found in the Clerk’s office.
August 25, 1870
Charles P. Redmond, Esq.
Little Rock, Arkansas
My Dear Sir:
Such strong appeals have been made to me by friends of long standing to whom I feel under many obligations, which I cannot disregard, that I have promised to appoint Frank E. Wright, Clerk of the U.S. Circuit Court for Arkansas to take effect on the first Monday of October next, he being represented to be in every way competent and a man worthy of the place. No person knows of this except one or two of his friends and I have fixed that future date so that you could, if you desired, send in your resignation and could the better put the business of the office in the shape you wish to leave it. I wish to assure you in the most decisive manner that this change is not made out of hostility towards you or any complaints that have been made of your official conduct.
I may add that Mr. Howell, the father-in-law of Mr. Wright, is an old friend of mine of 30 years standing and has often befriended me and he and his friends both in Iowa and to some extent in Arkansas have urged me to make the change, and I feel that I would be wanting in a due regard for the claims of friendship if I refused under the circumstances, to accede to their wishes. I wish to assure you that I have none but the kindest regards for you and hope you will appreciate the reasons which constrain me to make the change and feel that they can, as they do, consist with the kindliest sentiments towards you.
Very respectfully, — John F. Dillon
Letter (from Fred J. Herring Collection, Arkansas History Archives)
The following letter was written by Augusta [Goodrich] Griffing, Goodrich’s older sister, from her home in Manhattan, Kansas. In the letter, she mentions Goodrich’s infant daughter, Edith Goodrich, who is being raised by Goodrich’s mother and sister Sarah in Owego, New York. Their mother died in May 1871, a few months after this letter was written.
Jan 8th 1871
My dear brother Ralph,
Your letter was received in due time and I was glad that you did not put off writing as I have to. I heard from home [Owego, New York] friday. All were well then. The baby grows finely. They have sent me her picture & of course you have one to. She is a nice, plump baby & looks very healthy and will, I hope, keep well.
Ma writes that Mary Brink [domestic help] has left them. I do not know who they can get now but must have some one. I suppose Ma wrote you that Mr. [Horace] & Mrs. [Esther] Giles were burried in one grave. We feel a little anxious now. The scarlet fever has broken out here & a son of one of our nearest neighbors died friday with it. It is a terrible disease when it assumes a malignant form & frequently spreads so much. Our children have never had it but I hope may not take it.
We are having fine weather & the winter is slipping away very fast. I keep very busy & seldom go out of here.
A young Mr. Cox from southern Kansas has a married sister in Little Rock & he told mer her husband’s name but I have forgotten. Please excuse my short letter. I thought a short one to let you know I thought of you was better than none. Write often as you can. Hope this will find you well. All send love to you.
Ever your affectionate sister, — Augusta [Griffing]
[Note: Col. Horace Giles and his wife, Esther (Hobart) Giles, died in Spencer, Tioga County, New York on 16 and 18 December, 1870, respectively. They probably succumbed to the same unknown disease, prompting Augusta to express concern for epidemics.]
Letter Number 150
Thirty-two year-old Frank E. Wright writes his friend Ralph L. Goodrich from the Sargent’s Hotel in Denver, Colorado. Wright was Clerk of the U. S. District and Circuit Courts in Little Rock and Goodrich was deputy clerk. Wright was born in Ohio in 1839 and his wife, Mary E., was born in Iowa in 1844. They had two children, James H. & Lena Bell.
August 29, 1871
I have just got in from the mountains. At Georgetown, I had a terrible congestive chill and several days of burning fever which nearly used me up & swallowed all my finances. And I am here [in Denver] with no money. I wish you to send me $100, draft on N.Y. at this place immediately. Then I want you to send a draft for $100 to Mrs. Wright at Keokuk [IA] as soon as you can spare it from office expenses, or perhaps if your bank account will allow it. Send both to me at this place & I will write & send her. The latter is the best plan. But have it made in two drafts. Be a good boy & you will be happy,
Your friend, — Frank E. Wright
Letter Number 245
The author of this letter is believed to be Ed Pullan who was a law partner of Charles P. Redmond. It is addressed to Frank E. Wright, Clerk of the U. S. Court, Eastern District of Arkansas. (See Letter Number 150 above.) The claims referred to in the letter may be post-war claims of damages caused by Federal troops.
September 4, 1871
Goodrich showed me your letter sent from Denver informing us of your sickness which I regret to hear and hope it was only temporary and that you are now again improving. I received yours of August 15th in due time and am not certain whether I answered it or not.
You ask how many cases I will have to take in testimony in October. I have already 31 cases docketed amounting in the aggregate to upwards of $26,000. This is only the cases under the $3,ooo clause. I have none over that amount except those at Helena and amount to about $41,000. The petitions have all been filed with the Commission in Washington. Your protracted absence works a great hardship on me and I could have had all my cases disposed of by this time and in the hands of the Commission had you been here. I am fearful now that I can get none examined in time to get them before Congress this winter, as all the Special Committee’s in other states are hard at work rushing them through in order to get them in the hands of the Commission first while Arkansas is doing nothing.
[Thomas J.] Churchill is away and Benjamin (Chief Clerk) telegraphed here to you to know if you could go to Benton and Washington Counties as there was 200 or 300 cases there. Goodrich answered that you was absent sick. It is evident that Benjamin don’t know you are away [from Little Rock]. We try to pacify claimants attorneys (who wrote you to know when you will be ready to hear their cases) by telling them you are away sick but expected home soon. I don’t want to tell them that you will not return till October fearing they might make an effort to get someone in your place. I have nothing about my Washington cases as Judge Horner is away and thought I would leave them till late in the fall and then I will go on. I regard the most of my cases as good and I think I will have no trouble in making proof.
Judge Caldwell left here this morning for Iowa to be gone till the middle of October and you will doubtless see him before you return. Be careful how you talk to him. I have reason to believe that he don’t like me much and therefore you must be cautious how you talk to him about me. Don’t let him know that you know anything about my business and it may be he will make a confident of you. He has acted very strange of late and surprises all his former friends and a great many have gone back on him.
My wife is still in New Jersey and will remain till the middle of October or the first of November. She is improving in health and hopes to be restored before cool weather. She says she has written Mrs. Wright.
You of course see the papers. Politics is running high and nearly as much excitement here as if we were in the midst of a Presidential Campaign. We are organizing for City Election and propose to chase the Minstrels out. They want me to run for alderman of the 4th Ward. I don’t think that I shall take it.
Let me hear from you and know when you will be here so I can make my arrangements with claimants for taking testimony. Regards to Mrs. Wright when you see her. Write me soon.
Yours truly, — Ed
Letter Number 159
Little Rock [Arkansas]
December 13, 1871
My dear Redmond,
Since the receipt of your letter, I have been wondering what the speculation is in which you are about to embark, and in which you say you would like to have my company. You know full well how eagerly and for what reason I have desired to leave this place. I am as fully convinced as you are that Little Rock is the best place for making money, but there are reasons [like] a person’s health and happiness which must be taken into consideration and which, under my circumstances & surroundings I can not hope to obtain here. I write to hurry you up in perfecting your arrangements for I feel now more than ever that I ought — that I must — absolutely leave this city.
The reasons that move me to this conclusion are not my proclivities to insobriety only, but there are others of which I cannot write that render this change imperatively necessary. Although my last comedy on my drunken stage came very near resulting in a tragedy, I have been absolutely temperate now for some time, but I am unable to say how much longer I can resist. Absence may affect a cure, and that absence from scenes where I have encountered my heaviest grief’s and, in fact, suffer now, is the only means that I can see for an escape from more lasting afflictions to myself.
Excuse the querulous tone and desponding character of this letter. I know that you as well as Mrs. Redmond have sympathized with me and I feel that you will excuse me now.
With my respects to Mrs. Redmond, I am as ever sincerely, — R. L. Goodrich
Letter Number 181
Sarah Ann Goodrich writes her brother Ralph L. Goodrich from Owego NY giving all the hometown news.
Owego [New York]
Dear Brother Ralph,
I intended to write to you last week but did not get to do it. I have succeeded in having a good photograph taken of [your daughter] Jennie at last & having given them all away but two — I only had a half dozen taken but told them I should want more — how many do you want to have sent you? Mr. [Charles R.] Coburn always asks very particularly about you. He asked if you had written anything about the yellow fever [and] said it was bad at
Did you know that [our sister] Augusta was very much out of health? She had a disease of the kidneys & is in a dangerous situation. I have written to have her come & stay with me this winter & try out our physicians if she gets well enough to come, but she says she cannot come [and] that home is the best place for her. Miss Bates [our physician,] thinks it would be the best thing for her; the change would do her good. I am almost afraid to hear in every letter that she is not living, but hope she will get better. I cannot help but feel very anxious about her.
Since I wrote to you [last], little Mollie Horton — the Horton’s little girl died very suddenly. I suppose [our sister] Mary has written to you about it.
Aunt Lucy Fiddis started for Connecticut last Monday night. She could have company to New York [City] and they could help her on the cars for Hartford. She felt that she could not get through the city alone, and so she went rather sooner than she wanted to. She thinks of spending the winter there. When she went away from here, she would take your & your wife’s photographs, and now I have none of her. I did not want her to take them, but she said she wanted to take them to show to our friends in Connecticut & if you did not send me more, she would return them to me. But I am afraid she will not and I always want one of Jennie’s mother for her to look at. You will have another taken & send to me, won’t you? Do not forget it. She wanted one of [your daughter] Jennie to take & I gave her one of them.
[Our brother] Steve has just brought me over Miss Louise Platt’s wedding cards. She is to be married to Mr. Putnam Stairs, Jr. the eighth of October at seven o’clock in the evening. Steve had one too. A man came & brought them around & went up to Mr. Bristol’s — I suppose to leave one there. Of course we shall not go but I think it was real nice in them to send them. Jennie has been to Sunday School twice. She thinks it is very nice. I wish you could hear some of her talk. Very often she says there is Papa on the cars & she wonders why he does not come over & see us. I have got her a carriage with a top to it for her dolly and she thinks so much of it. When I bought it, I rode over with Mary & the children. [Mary’s son] Fred wanted it & said it was his, & Jennie said it wasn’t — it was hers — and we had quite a time with them. They both of them kept hold of it all the way home & Fred cried when I took it out. But Jennie lets him play with it when she comes up.
How do you get along with chewing tobacco? Have you quit it entirely?
Steve is going to make cider in a day or two for vinegar. It is early to make for winter use. Apples are quite plenty here. I am going to take part of a barrel to make vinegar. It seems a long time since I have heard from you. I wish you would feel like writing often & more than I do. Jennie sends a kiss to Papa. She says we are having beautiful autumn weather. With much love.
Ever your affectionate sister, — Sarah
Letter Number 190
Stephen Silas Goodrich writes his brother Ralph L. Goodrich from Owego NY where he has just put their sister Sarah [“Sed”] on the train to Manhattan KS to spend the winter with their sister Augusta [Goodrich] Griffing. Accompanying Sarah on the trip was 4 year-old Jennie Goodrich, Ralph’s daughter, whom she has been raising in Owego ever since Ralph’s wife died in 1870.
Owego [New York]
October 18, 1874
The babys are asleep and I will improve the time to write to you. We have had pleasant weather for three or four days, the first we have had in four weeks, and I have improved it by thrashing my buckwheat. It was a very good crop. [Our sister] Sed and [your daughter] Jennie started last Monday on the same train which you did. I went with them as far as Elmira [NY]. We met Stella there and a Col. Mason who was going to Denver, and I found a friend — a cousin of Hat Lee — who was going on the same train allmost to Chicago. I introduced him to the party and asked him to look after them. The cars were jamed full and I left Sed and Jennie standing in the aisle but hope they got a seat soon. They went by the way of Niagara and the Great Western through Canada.
Frank & Emma Platt were over yesterday and gathered chestnuts. I think they had a good time. [Our sister] Mary & the children were up this evening. [Her husband] Gurd was not very well and did not come. We got a chain for [our daughter] Nellie with that money you gave me and some more with it. I told her that Uncle Ralph gave it to her. She does not speak about you as much as she did. I think she is forgetting about you. I think she understands about Jennie’s going away as she does not ask to go over and see her nor ask to have her come and see her. There is no other news to write unless it is that I was elected trustee at the School meeting last week. We are all well. Write often.
From your brother, — Stephen Goodrich
Letter Number 191
Michael Egan writes his former Little Rock acquaintance Ralph L. Goodrich from his temporary quarters in Akron, Erie County, NY.
Akron, Erie County, NY
November 18, 1874
My Old Friend Goodrich,
What in the name of God has become of you? Are you still in the land of the living? Possibly political troubles in your State have caused you to leave. I have written you some four letters but have received no answers to any of them. I thought while I am still here I would write you another hoping possibly it might find you and not meet the fate of the previous ones. It would be a great satisfaction to me to know how you are geting along, whether politics has effected you any or been the means of driving you away.
I would like to know what you are doing and how you are geting along generally. I would like to know how the Burke family are coming on & whether thy are living there or not. Let me know if old Paddy Lee is alive yet. I presume he is. Give me what information you can. I suppose a good many old cocks are dead and left the place. Maybe you might not get this and it will be as well to make it brief until I hear from you.
I have been continually working at my [carriage-maker] trade. I came out here on account of business being dull in Buffalo. It is only 24 miles from there. Now Ralph, if you ever answered a letter, answer this one whatever else you do. Say nothing about where I am. It will be just as well if the Burks family thinks I am dead. Let them think so. I may like Rip Van winkle rise from my long sleep and surprise them.
I hope when these few lines will find you that you are enjoying nature Great Blessing. Here I do!
Your affectionate friend, — Michael Egan
Letter Number 192
Sarah Ann Goodrich writes her brother Ralph L. Goodrich from Manhattan KS while visiting their sister Augusta [Goodrich] Griffing. Accompanying her on the visit is Ralph’s four year-old daughter Jennie whom she has been raising since the death of Ralph’s wife. During the winter of 1874-75, James and Augusta Griffing’s oldest son John attended the Kansas State Agricultural College (KSAC) that was less than a quarter mile from the Griffing home on College Hill, two and a half miles northwest of Manhattan. In 1875, the college would relocate to the present-day campus closer to Manhattan.
November 30, 1874
Dear Brother Ralph,
I received your letter Saturday and would have answered it yesterday if I had been at home. We went to Manhattan to church in the morning & stayed to the Sunday School & it was late when we got back. We went down again in the evening to a Sunday School Concert. It is quite good sleighing & has been for some days. They rigged up a sleigh by putting the wagon box onto some runners they have & we went down very comfortably. We have had some awful cold weather. About two weeks ago, we had a cold spell. Water froze solid in my room. The snow then was six or eight inches deep — as deep as it ever comes here, they say. I think it is as cold here as it is back home but it only lasts a day or two at a time. The weather changes the quickest here that I ever saw & the wind blows so cold from the north.
Where did you spend Thanksgiving? The day before we were invited to visit & eat turkey to one of the neighbors about two miles away. [On] Thanksgiving day, [our sister] Augusta invited Mrs. Pound, her best neighbor, & her children to eat dinner here. [Augusta’s 14 year-old son] Willie raised some ducks last summer & we had them for dinner Thanksgiving. The potatoes they bought that ____ from Iowa are not very good but better than none.
Mr. Naylor & boy from near Topeka stayed over Sunday here. They are carrying a load in a large covered wagon. [Your daughter] Jennie called them Gypsey waggons & she would not quit talking about them when we first came here.
Thursday. I have not finished my letter. The snow had all left & the weather has been delightful for a few days. Jennie went yesterday with her Aunt Augusta to call on Mrs. President [John A.] Anderson & had a nice time. Mrs. Anderson has a little boy two years old & they played nicely together. He has a rocking horse — the first that Jennie has ever rode on & she came home full of it & wants one too. Everyone here makes a great deal of her & she is having a nice time this winter. I think she is growing fleshy. We both have such enormous appetites that everything tastes good. When we first came, [Augusta’s son] Johnnie said to me, “Aunty, what makes me so hungry when I just eat my breakfast.”
I have not heard from [our sister] Mary or [our brother] Steve but once since I came. I answered both of their letters a long time ago. I wonder why they do not write. My paper comes regularly now [from Owego]. In the last one I saw the notice of Put Goodrich being killed by a horse kicking him. It is so dreadful.
James [Griffing] was out drawing wood the other day & in getting out of the wagon, his foot slipped & he fell & hurt himself very bad. But he started again today & taken Willie. He goes for the wood about five miles & had to cross the Blue River too. He gets the wood cheap & has only a short time to get it off.
We had a good letter from Stella the other day. Herbert had been sick ever since she had been there but was getting better. She thinks she shall like it there very much this winter [and] says Col. Mason comes in to see her often or enquires about us. He took a great fancy to Jeannie. He thinks she is very smart.
The college term will be out in about two weeks. [Augusta’s 17 year-old son] John is one of them that has got to speak. He has his paper learned already. I believe it is the “Dignity of Labor.” His father wanted him to write one but he did not have time to try. John is one of the best in school. It has been pretty hard for him to get up these cold mornings & go up to the college & build all the fires & he was a great mind to back out but he has concluded to stuff it out to the end. In vacation, he expects to get root grafting & can earn quite a sum that way. He is learning to sing & will make a good bass singer. [Augusta’s 11 year-old daughter] Mary is a little larger than [our sister Mary’s daughter] Fanny but does not help her mother half as much, but likes to run outdoors. She and Jennie get along very well together. Willie is a great boy with the gun. He can almost supply the family with meat. He has shot a number of prairie chickens & quails & rabbits. The farmers do not like to have the quails killed for they eat the insects that destroy the wheat.
Had I better write again to Mrs. [Christiana] Finch or do you think that she got my letter at last? When you write to Steve or Mary, tell Steven I would like to have them answer my letters. What do you hear from Frank Platt? Write me her news. I think it is too bad if they are not going to write me often. I like the neighbors here very much. They are very friendly & pleasant. Write often. Jennie sends a kiss & wants me to write to Papa to get her a rocking horse next summer.
Ever your affectionate sister, — Sarah
Letter Number 196
Sarah Ann Goodrich writes her brother Ralph L. Goodrich while staying the winter with their sister Augusta [Goodrich] Griffing in Manhattan KS. With her is Ralph’s 4 year-old daughter Jennie Goodrich whom Sarah has been raising since the death of Ralph’s wife in 1870.
January 5, 1875
Dear Brother Ralph,
I have got a miserable pen to commence with & have to exert myself so much to write that I am afraid it will not be much of a letter. [Augusta’s 17 year-old son] John is going down town this evening & I want to write & send by him. We do not have an opportunity of sending to the [post] office very often since school was out. It commenced again this week & then we can send every day. One of the students has the office or job of bringing and distributing the mail for the students & the people on College Hill who want it brought up. There has been some trouble & money lost & people do not think it is quite as nice an arrangement as it was.
John has been at work nearly everyday since vacation [started] at root grafting. He works in a warm room & had ten cents an hour. It is not much but helps to clothe him. His lady love gave him a very handsome Portemonie for Christmas & he gave her an Album. One of the peculiarities of the Kansasites is the boys must all have a girl to wait upon & our nephew John is not behind. He has a nice looking girl that he escorts around. The young people have been quite lively going to parties but when school commences again they will not have them as much. One of the Professors went to Michigan the first of the vacation & has brought back a wife.
We are having very cold weather. We heard this morning that it was 15 degrees below zero. The wind does not blow or it would be so cold we would nearly freeze. As it is, we have to keep close to the stove.
I received a letter from [our sister] Mary the other day. She wrote the neighbors have had a Christmas Tree at Steve’s. Mr. Stiles gave his wife a gold watch & chain [that] cost $150. Lee [Goodrich] gave his wife a gold watch [that] cost $72. What is “Goodrich Neighborhood” coming to? Herbert & Stella sent a sack of nice Colorado flour & in it a small sack of buckwheat flour & a can of California Salmon to Augusta for Christmas. We have eaten the salmon & buckwheat & had some of the flour made into biscuits for dinner today which were excellent. When we first came, they were using the darkest flour I ever saw. I suppose Stella felt sorry for them. The spring wheat is not good here this year & does not make good flour sometimes.
Santa Claus made us a visit & left us all something. [Your daughter] Jennie had quite a good many presents. We were all invited out to dinner Christmas to Mr. [Washington] Marlatt’s. We had roast turkey &c. We were invited out to spend the day last week at another of the neighbors. Augusta says thank you for your picture. She did not know she had such a good looking brother. It is such an improvement on the last one. I tell her it looks just as you did last summer. If you had it to spare, I would not care if I had another like it for I think it is the best one you ever had taken.
Do you hear from Frank Platt as often as ever? Mary wrote that Frank Barry was very sick & they did not think he would live. I have not heard from them in a long time. Jennie sends a kiss to you. She is enjoying herself I think this winter. She has got over her bashfulness in a measure & us not afraid to talk to the young men. Write a long letter & tell me what you hear from home. Augusta sends her love.
Your affectionate sister, — Sarah
Letter Number 204
Ralph L. Goodrich writes to the editor of an unknown Northern newspaper. It is likely the piece was prepared for publication in one of his hometown [Owego NY] newspapers — probably the Owego Gazette where his father-in-law Hiram A. Beebe served as the editor. Though Goodrich re-addressed the “letter” as shown below, he certainly did not intend the letter for his own mother who had passed away several years earlier. This letter was written during a period when Goodrich dabbled in writing compositions and he particularly enjoyed having his humorous musings published.
Little Rock, Arkansas
September 19, 1877
My dear Mother,
As time hangs heavily on my hands, I will [use] it & write you a letter.
…Time has no consideration whatever for our peaceful Sabbaths here. The grog shops and the candy shops, law & doctor offices, and the haberdasheries kept by the race without guile are open the same as any other day. Last Sunday the rain poured, the lightening rods got warm and tired out with so much work, and for once in a long time the city of Little Rock received a scavenger that did its work well and in tip top order she needed it. We did not go to church because our bank was too frail. Most southern towns are filthy, and especially where the shiftless darkies most do congregate. Little Rock might be a Venice, but she isn’t. We are in possession of a grand canal called in less elegant language — which does not in the least smell of the soft Tuscan — the “Town Branch.” [It] winds its way like a slimy snake through the heart of the city. It felt the storm and shook itself in rage, broke through its fastenings, spouted up through bridges, floated off a fat alderman, and swamped several grocery stores, [thus] mingling with its turbid waters dried codfish, pickled herrings, and salted mackerel — a kind of fish unknown to these waters. In the language of the poet laureate of the city who always sends up a sympathetic wail whenever the Town Branch misbehaves, “it was as tricksy as Ariel and as deformed as the freckled whelp of Sycorax.” You see he was a poet after the semblance of Shakespeare.
The city is to have water works. There are at least five different companies striving for the honor of cheating the poor and the city and robbing the rich in order to give us adulterated water without the trouble of pumping it. Our city dads take their grog strait and they sit back and calmly view the contest and declare their intention not to subscribe for any plugs their inability to take water, and so in the dim future when hope deferred has at last called us to Abraham’s bosom or somewhere else, we may be able to squirt our garden sass with water works.
Boreas has trotted down here at a fast pace. I think he has come too soon. His ice will melt and he will, like us, have to take a drink. On the whole, Little Rock is not a bad place — no worse, nor any better than others. There are pious citizens and pious old women and worldly preachers as in any other town which has any snap or vim about it, but I am compelled to say that the impious outnumber the otherwise. If Moody and Sanky could come, the visit might help us. The praying couldn’t but the singing might give the darkies some other new airs which they would air in making night hideous.
It is getting late. Night air is full of malaria and I’ll get to bed to rest my weary spirit and worn-out legs, but wait — Ca-chew! The refrain is taken up by the other one, Ca-chew! — Good night.