Ranney Letter #37

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.

My Transcription:

Allen Aug 26
th 1858
Dear Brother

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
Lucius Ranney

Ranney Letter #36

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.

My Transcription:

Hillsdale February 9
th 1858

Dear Brother

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.

Yours Respectfully
Leml S. Ranney