This letter was written by David L. Zeigler of Leitersville, Maryland — a village in the watershed of Antietam Creek in Western Maryland, and an area settled in the late eighteenth century predominantly by German emigrants. It appears from the content of the letter that David was probably in his 20s and was employed building distilleries.
He wrote the letter to his boyhood friend, Henry L. Besler. Nothing further found.
Addressed to Henry L. Besler, Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi
Leitersburg, [Washington County] Maryland
January 12th 1836
Mr. Henry L. Besler,
Dear Cr____ — Sir, I received your letter of the 13 December and am pleased to hear you are doing well. Judging from the contents of your letter, you have certainly enjoyed yourself very well since I had the pleasure of seeing you at Canton and I hope nothing may intervene to dampen or mar your enjoyments and that you will always possess a cheerful mind and be surrounded by the sunshine of prosperity and success which I think undoubtedly you deserve — for your perseverance and industry. Sir, I perused the contents with the happiest feelings & indeed imagination too soon carries me to the Mr. Miller’s where we so happily spent our last moment in the land of the living.
I am situated in a portion of the mighty globe which affords many objects calculated to call and solicit my attention but yet I cannot refrain from happily reflecting on the many pleasing and happy moments we have spent on the banks of the Antietam — wrapped in each other’s confidence — and as I reflect — imagination too soon also carries me back to our early satiability and depicts plain to my view. Sir, too often am I as sadly disappointed when in dreams I am wafted to your side. But as soon as I awaken, reality warns me of my disappointments so soon am haunted with the most unpleasant feelings which naught but the bustle bustle of the day can disperse it.
You rather think I have deviated from the path of rectitude & truth in saying I had prin_____ 00 but sir, such is not the case, and the arrival of that sheet no doubt will ‘ere long convince you of its reality. Consequently you need not seek for anything interesting & let it suffice to say that I shall not attempt to philosophize nor to drive reason from her throne, but shall only pen such ideas as are most prominent or likely to present themselves. Your favor has aroused within me those happy feelings I so long cherished to share with you in your country N. But if milk sold at the old rate, I have no doubt you laid in sufficient to make a equal division with your old friend D. L. Z. for I am well aware that the young lady in Cincinnati told you to take a little for me too.
As I perused your letter, I imagined I traced you marrying in the highest circle of society you occupied when in Cincinnati, and no doubt old Mr. — you know who I mean — poured down with oath and indignation your just reward for dating or disfiguring his daughter. Did you give my respects to her & tell her I would call shortly? If not, you neglected a most important duty for I can assure you I feel a deep interest in her welfare. I rather suppose from the many weddings you have in your city that you will soon thing of getting converted two into one to enjoy the sweet fruit of matrimony.
I intend on tomorrow night to attend a singing in the neighborhood of Mr. Shank’s & intend to give E. S. a single L. — & am happy I can tell her you are well and in hopes to return in the summer coming. Myself & the people here all well and doing as well as they can — unite to me shortly and tell me what day you will be in Pittsburg & I shall certainly try and meet you there, as it would afford me pleasure to having your company from there to Brother Fidewok’s. Do take care & mind No. 1 as I say anybody but Besler.
Sir, I shall now commence to give you a small history of this corrupted matter which I am now about to relate. You know we are generally inclined to partake of the female sex & sometimes brings it into the greatest extent which has been raised to the very highest point of destination. By ________________ who handled the old cat that you often make mention of in your letters, she turned the joke and happened to lite to the quick which caught the cold and commenced healing and festering and still growing longer and larger till at last the boiler bursted and instead of a corrupted matter, it brought forth a very large and fine looking daughter and before the explosion took place some were at a loss to determine exactly on who the point of destination would rest. As to me, I was satisfied in my mind that the sentence would pass upon him & the child was scarcely born till put upon him rather sooner by the old chubs than by her who forced her into measures — immediately had the squire bought and the condemnate oath taken without any delay at all. Here the thunder storm then broke loose which raised a stink that smelled so loud that every felon smelled the rat immediately — and the old woman was jumping hoping to see the Uncle Lewis to come over and try to fix matters immediately having sent for him and see how the case stood. And then the chat commenced and talking over the subject we at last got to cross question the Uncle L. & asked him whether he would not think that Lewis should marry her. He then told him he would never marry such a strumpet himself nor would he advise his son to do the like. Then the old woman broke loose for the second time but the uncle went off & left her swearing & damning. The old heifer was then at a loss how to get revenge. She advised brutal act how to get satisfaction & how to bring it into effect without exposing herself was a point not yet settled which caused her much pain. She devised every plan & scheme to get Sarah Ritter to carry the child to uncles and went as far as to give her 5 dollars cash to carry it over & set it on the floor & she would not and the old woman says no more but picks up the young cub, carried it over & sits it on the ____ in the kitchen and never said a word but looked mightily savage. Catharine Cozen said Mrs. Lahm what have you there. Said not a word. ____ right off scarcely noticed but by a few, and who was then called to look but aunt, whose feelings were greatly mortified at this astonishing sight & it also caused a great excitement among the _____. Knowing what to do within [paper creased] child which had so lately befallen in their possession, but thinking of the old jay bird Mrs. Barnhart who had lately a young one thought that she perhaps might raise the child. Aunt carried it up to her which proved full satisfaction really to her unbounded wishes happened in a contrary manner with the plans that the two old Lahms had so firmly fixed their _____ — and the object of taking the child to uncles was according to the way I looked at it. I expected they would take it down. They thought they would have no way to raise the child and so concluded it should be done. But how soon the old wife drawer in horror when she found that the child was taken to Mrs. B & then to beat up in a child manner but the old cubs can not see iy just the idea. The old woman bolted right off & took the child home again.
But now, dear sir, how would you like to be in her predicament. No not for a world of wounds would I have wanted on my back which is now perhaps at the present forcing him to call to mind there adulterated acts which is now staining the character with a dye that has never yet been known to fade away from those that are partaken therein. This is a solemn fact about Lewis having b___ up Elisa Lahm & I expect you have heard that Lewis is studying medicine in Ohio. If you would wish to direct a letter to him, you will direct it to North Georgetown, Columbiana County, Ohio. Do not mention a word to him what I have written to you &c.
Sir, you know your father Henry Besler on the 8th of this month, himself & 3 of his sons — John, Peter, & Samuel — went into a well of 38 or 40 feet in depth & no time in the well until it caved upon them & killed Peter & Samuel, & John very much injured & the old man some little. One of the boys had his back broke & his skull cracked & the other his leg broke in 2 places & his head very much _____ up. They were only 18 inches under ground & dead instantly. The father soon fell to work to get the 2 out but when he found them dead, he sent Joseph to Mr. Mantzens to assist him in getting them out and as soon as the last one was out, the well caved in again much more than the first time which was a narrow escape to the old man. Jess Henry seeing 2 sons laid in one grave was a sight & warning for a father never to attempt to go in a well at such a time. We have had a great deal of rain 10 days in succession while they were at work in the well. This is all I have to say. John Besler is getting better of his wounds he got in the well. George L. Besler is well & him & Barber & ____ & myself intend to start for Lancaster in a few weeks to spend 3 weeks & George & I intend to visit Philadelphia and when I meet you at Pittsburg, I shall tell you all about it & many other things as I have not time at present. If you would wish to direct a letter to me, direct it to Newcastle, Mercer County, Pennsylvania & not until March as I intend to erect a distillery in that section of the country & as nothing more at this time. J. Zeigler send his respects to you & all the friends & relatives, your mother & all are in good health. John Lectis lives in Va. with James N____.
I am your friend, – David L. Zeigler