Ranney Letter #19
Eighteen year old Anson writes to Henry for the first time from Florence, Michigan, where he is working as a farm hand for day wages. Anson is getting seventy-five cents a day, which he considers good pay. He reports that he is in good health, “which is the first thing in letter writing.” Then he gives news of all the family, and thanks Henry for the newspapers he has sent over the years and invites his brother to write back to him “without fail.”
Unlike Lucius, Lewis, and even Lyman, Anson and his older brother Henry really have no shared experience. Anson was born just before the family moved to Phelps, so although Henry may remember him as a newborn baby, Anson’s only face to face contact with Henry would probably have taken place on the rare occasions when Henry visited Phelps (I don’t think he had been to Michigan yet, at this point), before their father George died and Achsah moved out to live with Lucius. So it’s noteworthy that Anson feels a family connection and decides to initiate contact with a brother who he only knows through letters and family stories.
Florence May 2nd 1852
Being that I am out here in St. Joseph away from the harm of Friends & alone today I thought there would be no harm in dropping a few lines to you, as I had never done the like before. As to health, which is the first thing in letter writing, I have been blessed with good health for the past year & hope this to find you in the same.
I am to work by the day now & probably shall continue to work by the day through the summer. I get $0.75 a day or $19.00 per month, which are good wages for a common tug like me. Probably I am an extra hand, let me tell the story. I have been here about six weeks. I think that I can stay away as long as until fall if not longer. I have a notion of going to Iowa in the Fall if I can make things shape right. If I don’t go there I shall go home & go to school through the winter.
Anyone would judge from the looks of my writing that I had ought to go to school winters, but I do not pretend to be a scholar. Neither at writing or any other branch of knowledge.
We got a letter from Lemuel just before I started from home. His calculation then was to emigrate for California about the 10th of Apr. I am afraid he will see some hard times before he gets back if he should happen to live until he got back. But luck to him I say. There has been a great many from here that started for California that got as far as Council Bluff & turned about & came back on account of there being such a rush this spring. But I say if there is any that want to go there let them go. I think I can better myself in some other country. Everyone to their notion. I can enjoy myself here for the present well enough.
Harrison was here about a week ago on his way to Mt. Carmel. He says he shall probably be back in the fall, but I guess it is different. I had a letter from Lyman a short time ago. He wrote no news in particular. He is getting pretty good wages down in Van Buren. Lewis has had a hard time of it for 6 or 8 months past. It is hopeful that he will recover fully.
As I have written a pretty long letter I think it is best to hold up now, for if you write to me I may want to write again. I am very thankful to you for those papers you have sent me in times past. Write to me when you receive this without fail. If you should feel disposed to write me a letter you may send it to Constantine St. Joseph Co. Mich. I send my love to you & the rest of the family.
From Anson B. Ranney