Ranney Letter #29

Lemuel writes to Anson in December 1854, saying he had just received Anson’s letter dated October. This letter apparently took a similar amount of time getting back East, since Lucius forwards it on to Alonzo Franklin in Phelps in early February, saying it has just arrived. He asks A. F. to forward it on to Henry in Ashfield. At some point along the way (probably in Phelps), the entire letter seems to have been transcribed, because the whole thing is in the same hand. Interestingly, the transcriber in Phelps makes a “true” copy, including Lucius’s side-message to A. F. in the final copy. I think this letter is just one of many that made its way from place to place, which might help explain some of the gaps in the Ashfield archive.

Lemuel says he is planning to stay through another summer in the gold country, because the winter rains prevented him and his partners from working their claim completely. They have diverted Clear Creek, and are harvesting the loose gold from the creek bed. Lemuel says they made a little over a thousand dollars apiece after expenses. While this isn’t a fortune, Lemuel defends the result as “better probably than I could [have done] in the Atlantic States.”

Clear Creek, California
My Transcription:

Clear Creek, Shasta County, California
December 18
th 1854

Dear Brother

I have just received your kind favor of last Oct. and take the earliest opportunity to answer, as I know you will be anxiously looking for a reply.

I am digging in the mines yet, trying to make a couple of dollars. I did think and in my last letter to Lewis stated that I should probably start for the Atlantic States next Spring. But I think now that I shall stay until next fall when I shall certainly make a break for the East. You wrote that you would like to know how I have made it since I have been here. Well I have done much better probably than I could in the Atlantic States. I will tell you what I made the last summer.

I have two partners. We commenced working in the Creek or digging a race so as to turn the creek out of its natural bed, about the first of June. And we worked in the bed of the creek until about the first of October. And we took out in that time Five Thousand dollars. And our expenses were about Fifteen Hundred, including hired help & everything. We did not get the claim worked out as the rains drove us out about the first of Oct. and we cannot work in it again until next June. Hence my reason for staying here another summer. We are making about five or six dollars a day to the hand now. Wages for good hands here are four dollars per day, they board themselves. We have two hired hands and are paying them that.

I received two letters from Harrison the past summer, but he wrote to me not to write to him again until I heard from him again as he intended going to Mich. But I have not heard from him in a long time. I am indebted to Lewis for a letter too. I believe you say he is located in Branch Co. Write to me his Post Office address and I will write to him again when I hear from you. How has he made it in selling & buying again?

I hope you will redeem your promise to wrote again as soon as you receive this and let me know what new neighbors you have got there and where your place is and how many acres you have got and when you are going to & &. I shall certainly be home next fall. Write about all the folks. I don’t think of anything more to write in particular. I have never seen anything of the boys from your parts out here.

Give my respects to all my old acquaintances
Yours respectfully, Anson B. Ranney
Leml S. Ranney

Allen Feb 6
th 1855

We received this letter last week & thinking you would like to know what Lemuel wrote I thought best to enclose it & send it to you, A. F. Please forward this to Ashfield.

A. F. I have this evening wrote a letter to you. We are all well.

Lucius Ranney

Ranney Letter #28

Lucius writes Henry and Achsah again, in spite of the fact he has not heard from them since his previous letter of early September. Lucius apparently finds the long silence unsettling and says “we are all anxious to hear how you all get along.” He gives news of the family and neighbors, and of his farm. His daughter Carroline, who is now about four, has been to party for a little girls at a neighbor’s house, and had a good time. Lucius probably includes mentions of Carroline for his mother’s sake, rather than Henry’s.

Anson has gone to the State Normal School at Ypsilanti, to take a four or five week teacher training course. In the nineteenth century, a lot of professions such as teaching and medicine were taught in short, intensive programs. In the mid-1800s, for example, the “medical lectures” at colleges like Dartmouth lasted only fourteen weeks (and cost $50). People went, learned what they needed to know, and returned home. Sometimes they went back for a second course of study a year later. Then they took an exam. Only at the elite colleges did students stay for long academic terms. The multi-year, residential college life we’re so familiar with was something only the rich experienced until the establishment of land-grant agricultural and technical colleges during the Civil War, and then to a much greater degree in the twentieth century with programs like the GI Bill.

My Transcription:

Allen Oct 22
nd 1854
Dear Friends

I wrote a letter to you some five or six weeks ago, & have not heard any thing from you since that time. But however having a few leisure moments this evening, I thought I would write you again a few lines. We are all well. Anson is at Ypsilanti to school at the State Normal School. He went about three weeks ago. He will probably stay about two weeks longer. He went with Mr. Beers. I presume he will teach this winter.

We heard from Franklin’s folks some 3 or 4 weeks ago by way of Mr. Everett Baggerly & his wife. They are here on a visit & expect to spend a few months here. We like John Baggerly’s folks quite well for neighbors. They said that Frankiln’s folks were well.

Lewis and Sarah Ann moved to Quincy about two weeks since. Henry Koon got a letter from Harrison about a week since. He said that he should start for home about the first of December. We got a paper a day or two since from California. Suppose it was from Lemuel. We have not heard directly from Priscilla in some time.

We have just finished husking corn & digging potatoes. I had three hundred bushels of ears of corn, & 75 bushels of potatoes. We have had a very pleasant fall so far, & but a very little rain until today. Today has been a very steady rainy day.

I hope that we shall hear from you soon. We feel anxious to hear how you all get along &c. Do you get the Hillsdale Standard regular? We send it times & matters move along about as usual. We milk 3 cows. Butter is worth eighteen pence. I let Lewis have to old Brin cow. Snap & Old Yellow are sleeping around the fire as usual.

Carroline went to a little girl’s Party to Mr. Brockway’s yesterday. She enjoyed it well.

Please write as soon as you receive this.

Yours in Haste, Mother, Henry &c.
Lucius Ranney

Mother, if I do not write more on this slip of paper I am afraid that you will think that I am wasteful. Well what shall it be? There is so much that I might write about that I hardly know what to write. Well we are a fattening a beef & six hogs. We have 22 pigs about 6 weeks old. They are just right for roasters. We have 10 spring pigs. We raised one calf this summer. It is a nice one.

We also raised a nice lot of chickens. Mrs. Ford started out a visiting a day or two since as usual. She went to three places & they were all gone. You know that she is very persevering on such occasions, consequently she made us a visit.


Ranney Letter #27

Lucius writes to Henry and Achsah, who is visiting Ashfield to help out. Both Henry and his wife Marie have been ill. Lucius mentions that he was briefly down with “ague & fever,” but is recovering. Lewis is fully recovered, and is buying a small farm in Quincy, about six miles away. He and his wife Sarah Ann will stay with Lucius until they move into their new place in a month. Lucius also says Harrison is not home yet, because he is waiting for a cholera outbreak to subside.

Michigan and the rest of the continent are apparently experiencing a drought, and Lucius gives a detailed account of the conditions on his farm. The hot, dry weather has reduced the wheat and corn yields, and a hailstorm has damaged his fruits, but Lucius says at least the extreme heat has produced plenty of tomatoes.

Lucius says his wife Clarissa has gone into the “dairy business,” and made twenty cheeses. Their daughter Carroline is healthy and Lucius writes fondly about her and says she “often says she wants to see Granma.” But he repeats his opinion from previous letters, that Achsah should come home whenever she is ready. Lucius also says he’s sorry Henry’s family has seen so much sickness; and he uncharacteristically sends his love at the close of the letter. It will be interesting to see if, as the brothers age, more or less sentiment shows up in their letters.

My Transcription:

Allen Sept 10
th 1954
Dear Friends

It has been a long time since I have written to you, in consequence of which I am almost ashamed, but friendship & duty directs me to do it, although I am quite feeble just about these days. I was taken with the ague & fever about ten days since. I had 3 or 4 very hard shakes of it. The first hard work that I done after the first shake was to send after some Rhubarb, Quinine, Brandy & Hops, and I soon started over fever & ague. I am now fast recovering. I can eat nearly my full allowance, think that I shall be at work in a day or two. The rest of us here are all well. We have not had a Doctor since Mother left here.

Lewis & his wife have made it their home here this summer. His wife has not been here for the past four weeks. She has been down near Hillsdale in their old neighborhood, a sowing, visiting &c. Lewis has bought him a small farm, I expect. He went yesterday to draw writings & he has not been here since. He has bought 20 acres all under good improvement with a log house, a young orchard good land &c. It is located in the town of Quincy two miles north of Quincy Center. He gives five hundred and fifty dollars $550.00 for it, gets possession the first of Oct.

We got a letter from Priscilla a few days since. She that her health has been & is better now than it has been for several years past. Harrison has not got home yet. The last we heard from him was about a month ago. He thought that he should come home after the Cholary subsided. Say in Sept or Oct. He had been well the last we heard from him. We have not heard from Lemuel since I wrote you last.

A.B. Is here with us this summer. He is at work on his place some. He had an excellent crop of wheat for this year. Two hundred bushels, it is now worth $1.75 per bushel. He is clearing off & putting in about 7 acres this fall. The wheat crop was very light this season here in
Mich. The smallest yield per acre that I have ever known in this Western Country. It is very dry here, but according to the papers we do not suffer with the drought as many parts of the United States do. Even your region of country does. The corn crop is going to be a light crop generally. The potato crop is a going to be very small. Buckwheat got a good growth of straw, but the extreme hot & dry weather has blasted that. My wheat crop was better than an average, but it was light. I harvested 10 acres & I had 125 bushes. I have 10 acres of corn which is about middling fair. 1 acre of potatoes which are as good as anybody’s & that is not any more than 1/4 of a good crop. Our corn looked first rate until about the middle of July. We then witnessed a terrible blow & hail storm. It cut the corn terribly. It also knocked the apples & peaches & plums awfully. It knocked off a great many of our hard winter apples. We have apples enough to use & shall have some to dry. We shall have from 4 to 8 bushels of good winter apples. We shall have but a few peaches. We also have but a few plums. But a plenty of tomatoes. We have had a great deal of not only warm but hot weather this summer, both day & night. We had a fine shower yesterday & it is cooler today.

Mother, I say Mother because I suppose that this will reach you, there is a great many things that I might write about which I do not think of now. But I will make a kind of wholesale business of it. Times move along about as when you left here. The neighbors with the exception of a few changes remain about the same. Moultrop has returned from California without money & full of pin pains as usual. It is generally healthy here this season. None sick about here but me & it seems to me that I shall feel better after supper as Clarissa is cooking not a quarter of veal but has a large piece nearly baked & any quantity of potatoes.

Lewis says that his health is better than it has been for six years. Mrs. Brockway & the 2 Mrs. Sheriffs got home day before yesterday from Phelps. They have been down on a visit. Was gone about 4 weeks. They did not see Franklin but heard that he & his folks were well. Uncle Everett as we call him & his wife are a coming out here about the 10
th of Oct to spend the winter.

Clarissa is in the dairy business on a very small scale this summer. She has made 20 cheeses. Carroline says that dinner is ready & I shall have to stop writing. She is always on hand about 10 minutes before there is anything to eat & if you do not believe it, you would if you should see how she grows.

Mother, as regards you coming home, I shall say as I have said in my previous letters. That is, come when you think best. We would all be very glad to see you. Carroline often says that she wants to see Granma. We all get along very well here.

I am very sorry that Henry’s folks are sick as much as they are. I suppose that ll things are for the best. But it certainly seems to me that they have more than their share of sickness. It has been a long time since we have heard anything from you, therefore write on receipt of this.

Clarissa sends her love to you all. I also send mine.

Yours in Haste, Mother, Henry & Family
Lucius Ranney

Ranney Letter #26

Lucius writes Henry in mid-June, 1854. He mentions that he received a letter recently from Henry, but was waiting to write until Harrison came home from the Cherokee Nation. Harrison is anxiously awaited, Lucius says. The family’s anxiety would have been heightened because Lyman died March 7th, 1854 in Van Buren, Arkansas. The fact that none of the letters in the archive discuss Lyman’s death is another strong indication that there were many more letters sent and received between the Ranney brothers than have come down to us. But as a result of this gap, we have no information on how Lyman died. Based on earlier letters, we know he had been ill and that epidemic illnesses were not uncommon, and in a future letter we learn Harrison is delayed returning home because of an outbreak of cholera. But we also know that from Lyman’s point of view, Van Buren was a pretty rough town. Lyman could as easily have been killed in a robbery or brawl as by illness. We’ll probably never know, and this incompleteness of information is typical of this type of archival research. We work with what we have, and hope the story we can tell using the available information hangs together and makes sense.

In spite of the fact their brother had died only a couple of months earlier, though, the Ranney family has other concerns that get a lot of attention in this letter. Lewis is looking for a new farm, with even less acreage than the reduced parcel he has been working since his illness. A dramatic rise in land values has allowed many of the Ranneys’ friends and neighbors to sell at large profits. A neighbor boy has died, which has affected everyone (possibly more so because of their own recent loss of Lyman). And Lucius wants his mother to come home, but as always doesn’t want to come right out and say it.

My Transcription:

Allen June 18
th 1854
Dear Friends

We received a letter from you about two weeks since & ought to have written to you before this, but have waited for Harrison to come home. But he has not come & I shall not delay writing a longer on his account. The last letter that we got from him said that he should start for home in May. But Henry Coon got a letter from him some 2 or 3 weeks since. Harrison said to him that he meant to start for home about the first of June but should be at home at any rate by the fourth of July. We are anxiously awaiting his return.

We are all well & have been since I wrote last. Lewis & his wife are here & have been for about 3 or 4 weeks, or ever since Sarah Ann came from the state of N.Y. She was at Franklin’s 3 or 4 days, they were all well. Ellen had just got over the ague. Lewis went out to Black River & drove his cow, with the intention of staying. He did not buy any land. He stayed two weeks & made up his mind that it was not the place for him. Priscilla’s health was quite good, Lewis said that he never saw her as fleshy. Densmore & Edwin were also well.

Lewis thinks of buying about here somewhere. He wants somewhere fro twenty to forty acres of land. Land is a getting very high about here. It has raised in value one third since you left. I mean Mother. Mother you would be surprised if you knew all the sales of land & changes even in this town since you left. I will just mention a few that you are the most particularly acquainted with. Mr. Bements have sold to John Baggerly and he has moved out here so that we have got them for neighbors once more. Mr. Bement’s folks have bought 3 miles south of Hillsdale. He sold for two thousand dollars & bought for the same 80 acres. George Martin has sold 60 acres which was all he had to a man by the name of Edwin from Ontario Co. for eighteen hundred dollars. Mr. Scovill has sold his that joined Holbrook. Mr. Graves has sold his & has moved a few miles west somewhere. Richard Aldrich has sold & moved out with his father in law. Elder Sabin sold last fall & the man that bought him out has sold again. Daniel Nichols has sold & bought near Jonesville. There has been a number of small sales on & about the Prairie this spring. There is a great many many Eastern people through the country a looking this season.

We got a letter from Lemuel a day or two since. It was written the 9
th of May. He says that he is well & has been. He also says that he is a coming home next spring. He says that he has not made his fortune yet but has been a doing well of late. He has made the last three moths $500 five hundred dollars. He is a mining but he says that his claim is a running out a little. He intends to keep a mining until he comes home. He got a letter from Lewis & one from Henry a day or two before he wrote.

Anson is here this summer. He is a clearing off, intending to put in about seven or eight acres of wheat this fall. I am also a clearing off 6 acres up on top of the hill by the sugar place. Wheat is worth two dollars a bushel. I sold a load the other day for $1.90. Wheat looks very poor on the ground this summer, poorer than I ever saw it in this country. Anson’s looks well, it bids fair for two hundred bushels. Mine looks better than on average, but rather poor. Other crops looks well. The weather is fine. We had a heavy rain yesterday.

Mr. Brockway’s folks have been sorely afflicted. They have lost their son George. He died about five weeks ago. He was sick just a week. He died with the inflammation of the bowels. He suffered a great deal of pain through his sickness, the most I ever knew a person to in sickness. The family (Mother) you know took it very hard, & the neighborhood feel to mourn the loss of him, for truly it is a great breach of the family & great loss to the neighborhood.

I sent some money to Franklin by Harrison Baggerly about three or four weeks ago, & out of it there would be about 26 or 28 dollars more than was a going to him which I told him that he might send the whole or a part of to you. Probably you have received it before this time. As regards your coming home, I will say in this as I have said in my previous letters, you can act your own pleasure about coming home. We would all be glad to see you, but just do as you think best & you will please us. We do not want you should give yourself any uneasiness one way nor the other about us. I would also say that we get along well. I do not know how long Lewis’ folks will stay here. Lewis’ goods are in the house across the road.

We shall write again when Harrison comes home or we hear from him again. I have nothing more in particular to write at this time. Clarissa says that she will not write any this time. She is a writing to her folks. It is nearly night. We have been to the Prairy to meeting today. Clarissa & Sarah Ann send their love to you all. Wealthy Ann Howard was married to Andrew Winchester about 4 weeks since. Write soon.

Yours in Haste
Lucius Ranney

[Notes written upside down in the margins:]

We have sheared our sheep & have sold wool for thirty five cts a lb.

Caroline as the old saying is, is tougher than a bear. She wants to be on the move from morning till night. She is all over the farm & wants to know all that is a going on & she asks as many questions as her Grandmother Ranney has ever thought of.

We raised about 30 lambs this year which I would like to sell for $1.50 a piece.