Lucius writes to Henry near the end of the summer of 1858. Lucius says he has received two letters from Henry in the last couple of weeks, and he does not mention the death of his daughter in the Spring — suggesting once again that there were letters between February and August that did not survive in the archive.
In response to Henry’s inquiries, Lucius has talked to the miller in Jonesville about “flouring” some local wheat for Henry. Henry apparently considered the miller’s offer, because he did the math in pencil on the last page of the letter (in photo). The wheat crop was much lighter than expected due to the rust, a fungal disease once known as the “polio of agriculture.” Lucius says he has no live-in hired boy this season, and is “both man & boy this summer.”
Definition: Offal usually means the parts of an animal discarded after butchering, but can also refer to the byproducts of grain milling.
Allen Aug 26th 1858
I take the present moment to drop a line to you. I have received two letters from you within two or three weeks & I now attempt in part to answer them, although with regret I have been very dilatory. I was at Jonesville a day or two ago to see about wheat & flour &c. I saw Baxter, the man that owns the mill. He said that he would flour wheat on a short notice. His terms of flouring were this. He would give what flour the wheat would make & furnish barrel & deliver at the Depot & he keep the offals for fifty cts a barrel, or he would give the offals (or bean &c.) and charge seventy five cts on the barrel. He says that last year and almost every year 4 1/2 bushels of wheat will make a barrel of flour. He has not tested it this year but he thinks but he think it will take 10 or 15 lbs more of wheat this year than most seasons. Wheat is generally poor & considerably shrunk this season.
Since the new wheat has begun to come in to market the price for white wheat has been from $1.00 to $1.15. It may be a little lower but I think that it will run higher. There is a great deal of wheat a going into the market. There has been on an average for the last two weeks about four thousand bushels per day or 100 loads in Jonesville & about 1/2 that amount in Hillsdale. White wheat I think now stands at $1.15. At these figures a barrel would cost here from $5.70 to $6.00.
The wheat that is bought in this market is all shipped, not any floured here scarcely. About the mark I did not think to inquire particularly, about the 1/2 barrels he does not put up any in that way. But if he can get the 1/2 barrels he would do it. He has got the same miller that he had when you were here. He says that he will make a good article, one that take well & retail first rate.
If you see fit to get any put up I will assist you here. I have been very busy this summer for I am alone. Miles, the boy that was here last year, went to the State of N.Y. last spring and I am both man & boy this summer. I have not hired much, only in harvesting & haying.
I saw a piece in the Northampton Courier concerning a man somewhere in the East that had tended eight acres of corn this summer. I can say that of myself besides doing a great share of my harvesting & haying, I have about the same amount of hay this season as last. I have not thrashed my wheat yet. I thought before harvest that I should have about 250 bushels, but I think now that I shall have about 150. The rust injured the wheat from one 1/4 to 1/2 throughout the state. The prospect before harvest a few weeks was never better, but it has proved to be a short crop. I also have got 12 acres of summer fallow which is partly plowed the second time, that I done myself in addition to all the boy work.
Mother has had 3 or 4 shakes of the fever & ague. She is better now. Otherwise we have been well this summer. Harrison & Lem have thrashed their wheat. They had 100 bushels. Anson has not thrashed. He will have about 50 bushel. L. G. Says that he shan’t have not over six bushels. Fruit is very scarce in this country. There is no peaches. We shall have about one half the apples as last year. I have the same team that I had last year. The Boys also have the same as last year. My stock is about the same. I summered about 10 tons of hay. The hay crop is good this summer. Corn about the same as last year. There is not much old corn in the country, old corn is worth 60 cts. Oats & potatoes are a light crop.
There is much more news that I might write but I have not time this morning as I have to go to Jonesville on business today. I would like to write a little to Ralph & Ella but they must excuse me this time & write to me soon.
Yours in Haste
Lemuel writes to Henry at Lucius’s request, to inform their brother that Lucius and his wife Clarissa have lost their seven-year old daughter, Carroline. She died of Scarlet Fever a week earlier, after an illness of two weeks during which Lemuel says “she suffered very much.” Lucius and their brother Anson’s one and a half-year old son, Everett, are also ill, but both their cases are less severe than Carroline’s. The fever is a bacterial infection (strep), and this is before the discovery of antibiotics like penicillin -- which, unbelievable as it may seem, is less than a hundred years old, discovered in 1928.
Lemuel says Carroline’s death is not only “a severe stroke on Lucius and Clarissa,” but that their friends and neighbors all “feel her loss very much as she was a general favorite in the school and neighborhood.” But after devoting the first half of his letter to the details of Carroline’s illness and the spread of the fever in the area, Lemuel moves on to other matters. The recession historians know as “The Panic of 1857” is in full swing in Michigan. Land prices have eroded and farm commodities are selling at very low prices because there is no cash in the local economy and there has been a general collapse of credit. Lemuel says a number of local merchants will be unable to pay their debts, which will result in more bankruptcies and “assignments” of assets.
In spite of all the bad news, Lemuel remarks that the snow is finally falling, so there’s “a prospect of having some sleighing yet this winter.” Even in the middle of disaster and a letter filled with tragic news, there’s a glimmer of hope and an acknowledgment that life goes on.
Hillsdale February 9th 1858
As Lucius is sick and not able to write, I at his and his wife’s request will address you a few lines to inform you of their affliction. They have lost their little girl. Little Callie is dead. We buried her last Wednesday. She had the Scarlet Fever in its most malignant form. She was sick about two weeks. Her tongue and throat were badly swollen and cankered and she suffered very much throughout her illness. It is a severe stroke on Lucius and Clarissa I assure you. In fact, all the friends and neighbors feel her loss very much as she was a general favorite in the school and neighborhood.
Lucius was taken with the same disease about a week after she was and was quite sick for a few days, but is able now to be about the house again. The Scarlet Fever has been quite prevalent in that town this winter. Anson’s little boy has got it now but is not very sick, not considered dangerous. One of Mr. Fox’s little girls has it also. Hosea Folger’s wife is very sick and not expected to live a great while. The rest of our friends around here are well I believe.
Clarissa and I have made a visit to South Haven this winter. We found Densmore’s folks all well and prospering. I have some expected to make you a visit this winter, but it is such hard times here that I shall have to postpone it this winter I guess. I have talked some of going to California next spring. But I don’t believe I can raise money enough to go with. Wheat is worth 65¢ a bushel. Corn we cannot sell for the cash at any price. Butter is worth only 10¢ per pound. In fact everything sells low for cash. The price of land has fallen 20 per cent since you were here last fall.
We have not had any sleighing here since November, until today. It commenced snowing here last night and is snowing yet. So there is a prospect of having some sleighing yet this winter. It was very warm and pleasant during the month of January, and there was considerable plowing done around here.
Jim Pratt and W. C. Campbell of this place have been forced to make and assignment lately, and there are a number of other merchants here that will be unable to meet their payments next spring. How are the times down your way this winter? I hope not as tight as it is here.
Our respects to you all. Write soon and often.
Leml S. Ranney
Lucius writes to Henry, a little over a week after returning from a trip to Ashfield and Phelps. He spent six weeks and a day away from home, which he remarks is just a day less than the time Henry spent away on his recent visit West. Lucius says Alonzo Franklin’s family is well, and revives the perennial claim that Frank is putting his affairs in order in Phelps and planning to move to Michigan (he never does).
Lucius describes a severe flood (remembered in New York histories as the “Freshet of 1857”), which washed away most of the bridges around Phelps as well as several mills, and damaged the railroad. He remarks that times are hard in Michigan, but apparently the Panic of 1857, which began in October in New York, had not affected Lucius badly enough to prevent his trip East at the beginning of November.
Allen Dec 27th 1857
I presume that you would like to hear from me by this time, & I am very sure that I would from you. I arrived safe home two weeks from the next Friday after leaving Ashfield. I found everything all correct on my return Home, & we are all well at present. I stopped at Albany one night, at Utica over one. Train arrived in Vienna in the evening. I found Franklin’s folks well & Frank was a making arrangements to move to Mich in the spring. I had an excellent visit in Phelps & Hopewell, & in fact the whole visit was a good one.
They had a very heavy freshet in Ontario Co & in fact from Siracuse almost to Buffalo when I was there. It swept off almost every bridge in Phelps both great & small. It took both bridges at Orleans & all on the Creek to Vienna, & a number on the Canandagua Outlet. It also done great damage to the railroad. It took out about seventy feet of the high embankment East of Vienna in the hollow by Russell Bement’s old place. It made a great Depot & the passengers had to exchange cars.
Harrison & his Wife were here Christmas. I heard from Lewis yesterday. He was on the Grand Jury last week at Coldwater. We heard from Priscilla a few days ago. She was well but did not weigh only 180 lbs.
I was gone just six weeks & one day on my visit, just one day less than you was. We had some very cold weather the next week after I got home. We had about 4 days of good sleighing & then it came off warm & pleasant & remained so until last week & now it is comfortable winter weather with about three inches of snow. I wish that there was about three inches more.
I have not foddered much yet, sheep only 3 or 4 days. Produce is very cheap of all kinds. Wheat is only with 75 cts. I think that it will be higher next spring. I have not thrashed the balance of mine yet. Times are, or rather money matters are, very hard this winter.
Ralph, I got some chestnuts on my return home. What speculations are you into this winter? Ella, have you got your pay on the Butternuts yet, & are you a studying Laws & Resolves as much as you was?
I have nothing more in particular to write. Write soon, I want to hear from you. Mother, Clarissa & Caroline send their Love to you all.
Yours in Haste
Lucius writes to Henry in the summer of 1857, after a long silence. The gap in their communication was probably not as long as the gap in the archive, because Henry went to Michigan in late 1856, and Achsah returned home to Allen. Lucius writes about the farm and the family. He says their mother Achsah did not go to Coldwater to visit their cousin, Lucretia Ranney Hathaway in the fall, as she had apparently planned to do. Coldwater is about twelve miles from Allen. Harrison, who was married in early 1856, has had a son in April, and Anson’s son who is just over a year old “walks all over the house.”
Lucius mentions that he has traded his team of oxen for horses, and that Harrison and Lemuel also have a team of horses. Horses are slightly more of a luxury than oxen, because they are faster (and can pull a wagon quickly to town), but more expensive, since they need oats whereas oxen can survive on grass. Lucius also says Anson doesn’t have a team at all, so he has been doing his brother’s “team work.”
Lucius invites Henry to visit again in September, when their brother Alonzo Franklin will be coming out from Phelps. He also invites his niece and nephew, suggesting to Ralph that he take up a peddler’s basket and come out on west. This is a joke, because Ralph is only twelve — but Ralph does go out on the road as a peddler several years later.
Allen July 19th 1857
It has been a long time since I have written you a letter, & the reason is not because I have forgotten you for I presume that there is not a day passes but what I think of you & also think of what a fine visit we had together last fall. But it is my negligence. We are all well as usual & also the other Boys & their Families for aught I know. I see them quite often. Mother’s health is about the same as it was when she came home last fall.
We had a very long & severe winter & the spring & summer are very backward, & very wet. We had a very hard thunderstorm last night. Provisions are rather dear here this summer, although there seems to be a plenty in the country. We have a plenty of old wheat on hand yet, old potatoes & old pork &c. Potatoes have been worth during the summer, one dollar a bushel. Wheat, the average price about $1.50 a bushel &c. One year ago today I had my wheat harvested & in the barn & the most of my hay, and now I have just begun to hay & my wheat will not be fit to cut under about a week.
Crops look very promising at present. I think I shall have two hundred bushels of wheat. I call it 12 acres. You recollect where it was sowed. I should estimate it higher, but the Weavle are injuring it some. Don’t know how much. The little piece across the road is injured by being too large straw, it is lodged flat to the ground the most of it. Grass is very good. I shall cut double the hay that I did last year. I have a piece of oats that looks well. Potatoes look first rate. Corn is backward but is a growing finely now days.
Anson’s crops look very well. He will have nearly two hundred bushels of wheat. Harrison & Lemuel’s wheat is rather small, their other crops are good. Lewis says that it has been too wet to hoe his corn much, but it will all be right with him in the fall.
I suppose that you have heard that Harrison has a boy about three months old. Anson’s boy walks all over the house. Anson has not got any team this summer, consequently I do the most of his team work. I have no oxen this summer, I work horses. I traded my oxen for horses last winter. I have about such a team as the Boys had when you were here. They have the same now.
We have three cows this summer. I sheared the same flock of sheep that I had last fall when you were here. There was 66 of them. We saved 2 fleeces, the other sixty-four sheared 291 lbs of which I sold for 44 cts a lb. Beat that with a common flock of that size in your county if you can.
Mother says I must write more about my horses. I keep that black colt that you saw. She is raising a fine colt this summer. I have the boy 2 year old colt, & I also have a yearling colt that I bought last winter. Which makes in all six horse kind. I have since shearing sold all of my wethers, both old & young. 23 in number for $2.25 per head. Beef cattle are very high here at present. There is a great many buyers about these days.
I moved the house from across the road over near where you & I staked out & I find it much better or handier rather. It also looks better. We are a having a great deal of fruit this season. We shall have a number of bushels of peaches from the old, apparently dead trees. Our orchard is a bearing full. We shall have a great many greenings & we are a having lots of currants. In fact there is a going to be a great many beechnuts, butternuts &c.
We have not heard from Priscilla in a long time. She was well the last we heard from her. We are expecting Franklin out here in Sept & we would like to have you come out with him if you thought you could make it pay. We are a fitting up some roasters. I think it will be doubtful about my going East this fall as A.F. is a coming out here. Mother did not go out to Coldwater to see Mrs. Hathaway last fall. It did not seem to be convenient for her to go until we was afraid that Mrs. Hathaway was gone. Andrew is not a living with us now. His mother got married last winter & wanted him to go live with her, so he went. I have got a lad to work for me this summer, about seventeen years old.
I might perhaps write many more things which would be interesting to you, but it is chore time & I must draw to a close. I must try to write often & hope that you will do the same. We want that you should all write. We were all very much pleased with the large mail that we got from you at one time last winter. Ralph, can’t you take a basket of essence & take a trip out into Mich and make a dime or two & see your kin? They would like to see you very much. Ella how can you manage to come out, try and study out some way can’t you? If you cannot don’t forget to write. Carroline goes to school to Mr. Howes this summer. Down in Anson’s dist.
Yours in Haste H. S. Ranney
From Lucius Ranney
P. S. Please do not delay writing but a short time after you receive this. Mother says that Ralph is a great hand to write. Can you make any of your townsmen believe many moderate Mich truths? We all send our love to you all.
Harrison writes to Henry in late 1855, acknowledging receipt of a draft for payment on a shipment of peppermint oil. The oil went to Henry’s brother-in-law, George C. Goodwin who is a merchant in Boston. When Henry lived in Boston, he and Goodwin had been partners. Harrison says he went to some effort to find the best and purest oil for Goodwin, and he’s pleased that his efforts were appreciated.
Since Harrison and Lemuel have both recently returned to Michigan, they are considering going in together on a farm or business. Harrison has been a merchant in Tahlequah, so he thinks a clothing store might be profitable. There is a shop in Quincy, where Lewis lives, where a tailor cuts custom clothing and then pays local women to sew it. But he can’t keep up with demand, so Harrison thinks ready-made clothing from Boston or New York might be a profitable venture. He asks Henry to refer him to a manufacturer who might offer them credit or send them goods to sell on commission for the first year, because he and Lemuel would like to reserve their capital to speculate in land.
Anson has returned from his father-in-law’s and is preparing to teach school. Priscilla is visiting and says she would like to see Achsah, who apparently did not return to Michigan with Anson and Lemuel earlier in the fall. Harrison closes his letter with an apology for his poor handwriting. He has been husking corn at Lewis’s place so long, he says, his fingers are “like sticks.”
Nov 18th /55
I recd your letter containing the draft two or three days since and am glad Goodwin is satisfied with the oil, for I took some extra care to get that which was good and pure. Lem & I are at Lewis now for a few days assisting him about husking out his corn. He has very good crop this year. Priscilla came out here some ten days since on a visit. Will remain here some ten days longer. Her health is good, she is quite fleshy. She, Lucius & Wife came up here to Lewis on a visit yesterday & have just started for home. Anson commences teaching school tomorrow at the Red School House situated across the road from his farm.
Leml and I have not bought a place yet. We do not know what business to go into. Sometimes we think of going into the Clothing Business as there is a good opening for that type of business at Quincy. If we could get ready made clothing and cloths from New York or Boston to sell on commission for the first year we would do so as we would like to use our money for the purposes of buying unimproved land or lands with small improvements on them near here. Such purchases are a good investment as land is rising fast.
If you think we could get cloths and clothing in some of those places to sell on commission or we would advance some money on them if we could not get them without doing so, I say if you think we could get a stock of say about fifteen hundred dollars worth or two thousand, we would like to have you write to us what you thought about our getting them.
Quincy is growing rapidly, quite a good place for trade. There is one clothing store in the place. Lewis Wife and Sister are sewing for them. The establishment employs one man to cut out clothing constantly for custom work, and he cannot cut fast enough. There is a good opening I think for Lem and myself to go into business. We have talked with men of our acquaintance who are doing the same business in Hillsdale and they advise us to go into the Ready Made Clothing Business at Quincy. I have I think quite a good knowledge of the business and from what experience I have had in it, it is a very pretty and profitable employment.
The reason why I write to you about it is this. We thought perhaps you might probably be acquainted with some Firm where we could get a stock on such terms as we propose.
Priscilla says she would like to see Mother very much. That is the case with all of us. I suppose she will come out here in the spring. Please excuse bad writing for I have been husking corn so long that my fingers are like sticks. Write soon.
Harrison J. Ranney
Lemuel writes Henry from Lucius’s home in Allen, to let Henry know they arrived home without mishap. Anson has gone to his father-in-law’s place, to help while John Baggerly is ill. Harrison has received a letter from Henry regarding Peppermint Oil, and thinks he can get it for less than the local farmers are asking. Lemuel mentions that he and Alonzo Franklin in Phelps had talked about the possibility of Henry buying land there. He says he and Harrison may come down again in the winter.
Allen Sept 24th 1855
I am happy to inform you of our safe arrival home. We arrived last Friday and found every one well. Harrison wanted I should write you a few lines this morning concerning the oil peppermint. He received your letter last Saturday and will start for Florence next Wednesday. He has not run out there yet but saw a young man from there a few days ago, and he says they hold oil at Four Dollars a pound there. But Harrison thinks he can get it for 3.50 or 3.75 and will let you know the result as soon as he returns.
There has been a great deal of fever & ague here this fall. Anson has gone to John Baggerly’s to work. John has the ague pretty bad. Lewis & his wife were here yesterday and carried home a wagon load of Peaches. I wish you had about 3 or 4 bushels. They lay here on the ground rotting.
I spoke to Frank about you buying out there. He didn’t say much about it, but said that he should think you ought to come out this fall and see for yourself, but said he would write to you about it. Harrison and I may be down there this winter.
Give my respects to all enquiring friends.
Very Respectfully Yours
L. S. Ranney
This is a letter from Harrison Jackson Ranney to Anson Bement Ranney. It found its way into Henry’s collection because Anson was visiting Ashfield when he received it. Harrison wrote to his brother in late August, 1855, when he finally returned from Tahlequah in the Cherokee Nation. He had been planning to go to Phelps and Ashfield with his brothers, but he didn’t return soon enough. He also missed his brother Anson’s marriage to Caroline Baggerly on August 15th. Caroline (“Callie”) was born in Phelps, so Harrison is curious whether she stayed there with relatives or went with Lemuel and Anson to Ashfield.
Harrison, who worked as a merchant out west for several years, has decided to make a thousand dollars buying and selling Michigan peppermint oil. He arrived too late to have planted any of his own, so he would be thinking of buying from neighboring farmers, and taking the oil to a market where he could make a profit on it. Harrison wants Anson to find out prices in Ashfield and Boston; he is also considering Louisville and St. Louis, which illustrates the large market for Michigan oil in the 1850s.
Harrison mentions that John Baggerly, Callie’s father, is ill. He appears to be staying with the Baggerlys, possibly because Lewis is visiting Lucius. Harrison urges them to write, and to come home soon, so he can see them and their Mother, who he expects to return with them from her long stay our East.
Illustration is “Uncle Jesse,” from the Middletown Upper Houses. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find images of any of the brothers except Henry.
South Allen Mich
August 25th /55
I arrived here on the Saturday after you left. Was sorry I did not see you & Lem before you started. I recd your last letter on the night before I left Tah-le-quah. You said in your letter Lem & you would start for Phelps about the fifteenth of this month and go down to Henry’s. I had intended to have got home in time to have gone with you to Ashfield. But you was a little too soon for me.
I wish you to ask Henry if I could dispose of any Oil Peppermint and how much and at what price, for if I could sell two, three, or four hundred pounds of oil down there somewhere I would go down sometime this fall. Oil is worth about three dollars per lb in Florence this fall. Could I get four in Ashfield of Boston? I am expecting a letter from Louisville telling me how much oil I can sell there and at what price. I may perhaps do something in that business this fall if all things are favorable.
You & Lem I hope will be making yourselves back this way ere long. John’s folks have just recd a letter you wrote them the day after you got to Frank’s. My kind regards to all friends. Write soon after you get this. Why cannot Henry come out here this fall?
H. J. Ranney
[On reverse page]
John Baggerly was taken with a kind of fever last night. He is up here today on the bed. Thinks he is going to have the fever & ague. Got the blues some.
Has Callie gone to Ashfield with you? I tell our folks if she don’t go with you that you will not enjoy yourself much.
What do you think of the folks down there? Clarissa said you wanted to see what kind of relatives you had. How is Uncle Jesse?
Lem, take care of Ans & (???) Rather new potatoes to take to market.
Anson, you be certain to find out about the Oil Peppermint. I want to make One Thousand dollars this fall. I may go to St. Louis with one lot of oil. It is worth four dollars there.
The reason I write so much stuff, Lewis & Lucius are talking and I do not care about listening to them.
Come home soon. I want to see Mother & Lem & Callie. Jane was over to JB’s as soon as she found I had got home.