A Letter from Brother-in-Law Eldad Goodwin

Eldad F. Goodwin, Henry’s brother-in-law, writes from a peddling trip. In addition to being family, Henry is Eldad’s supplier and creditor, hence the double greeting of “Brother Henry” and “Dear Sir.” Eldad writes about visiting a Dr. Bemis to try to collect on a promissory note for his father, Henry’s father-in-law, Anson Goodwin (he made surgical splints, so the physician’s $35 debt may have been related to prior purchases). Bemis apparently bought the note from a third party to whom Goodwin had endorsed it. In spite of the fact Bemis paid a discounted price for the note, the fact it was in his possession ought to have canceled his debt to Anson Goodwin. So there must be more to the story than comes across in the letter.

Eldad is apparently new to peddling, but he thinks business is good and he has sold out of several items he’d like Henry to resupply. The illustration is a page from Henry Ranney’s ledger, showing items charged to Eldad’s account in another resupply in early 1854. Eldad was peddling on foot, probably carrying a tin trunk and one or more baskets. He mentions he is going to meet “Cross” (a relative of his wife, Julia) in Spencer in a few days. Peddlers often traveled together, but they split up to sell their wares, so despite being new to the business, Eldad would have spent most of his time on his own.

Peddling is a really interesting topic, and Henry Ranney was deeply involved, so I’ll need to write much more about it soon.

My Transcription:

Hubbardston Dec 21 1853

Brother Henry
Dear Sir

Agreeably to my promise, I drop a few lines to let you know of the whereabouts of the pedlar. We staid over Sunday at Barre, eight miles from here, and I have been these three days in getting here. I should think from what little I tried it that the peddling business was very good, but can tell better when I get my hand in.

You can tell Father that I called on Dr. Bemis and had quite a confab with him about the lost note. He told me precisely the same story about it that he wrote to Father. I watched him close and could get nothing new. He showed me the note, which is genuine as it has Father’s name on the back in his own handwriting. We went together to the
P.Master and I looked his papers over. No such letter was on his books. And I do not think that he ever saw the note. He appears to be honest and I think he is.

Bemis says the note was not due when he paid it, says he told the man he would give him Thirty Three Dollars for it (35) and the man made no objection to taking that. He borrowed a part of the money from Howard and paid it. Says he told Howard that this was the first time in his life that he ever shaved his own note &c. I have his statement on paper, will show when I get home. He has the reputation of being a horse jockey here. I fear that father will have to lose that note. But something may turn up yet.

I have sold all out of a number of little things and pretty near of several others. If you have that N. York order, wish you to send it to Henry H. and get such things as you are not supplied with immediately as I shall want a small bill of goods before many days. Get something to please the children, of course.

Cross thinks he shall go home the last of next week and I
may come too as we shall be within a days drive of home, but can’t say certain. At any rate get the goods ready and I will take if I can make a live of it.

Have you any Hot Drops, Tape, Worsted, Braid, Harmonicas, Corking, Pins, Velvet Ribband, Ounce Pins, Coats, Spools Thread Large Size, Bayliss Needles N. 7 & 8? My health has been good. So has the weather, but am some afraid of a snow storm.

I expect to meet Cross at Spencer next Saturday. If you have anything to communicate please direct there and I shall be sure to get it, as I will leave word to have it forwarded in case we leave before a letter could get there.

Respects to all, In Haste Yours

E. F. Goodwin

Shall write to my wife tomorrow or next day.