1844: Ernestine (Strong) Alberti to Lydia (Strong) Clapp

An 1864 Map of Nassau Co., Florida, showing the precise location of Woodstock Mills and the village of Woodstock on the St. Mary's River.

An 1864 Map of Nassau Co., Florida, showing the precise location of Woodstock Mills and the village of Woodstock on the St. Mary’s River.

This letter was written by Ernestine (Strong) Alberti (1811-1862) to her older sister Lydia (Strong) Clapp (1807-18xx). They were the daughters of Cyrus Strong (1777-1866) and Rosalinda Brooks (1784-1863).

Ernestine was the second wife of Edwin Rudolphus Alberti (1798-1862). They were married in October 1841. He was a former cadet at the Philadelphia Military Academy 1814-1817. In 1820 he was a 1st Lieutenant in the United Stated Army Light Artillery but later transferred to the 4th Artillery in Savannah, Georgia. In 1821, he was a member of the John Eatton Le Conte expedition charged with exploring the newly acquired territory of Florida. He resigned his commission in 1827. On January 23, 1823 he married Mary Sadler (died 25 October 1839), daughter of Henry Sadler of Camden County, Georgia.

At the time the letter was written in 1844, the Alberti’s lived on a tract of land known as the “Cabbage Swamp” fronting the St. Mary’s River in a heavily pine-forested area called Woodstock in Nassau County, Florida — just across the state line from Georgia. Alberti was the owner of Woodstock Mills, a steam sawmill operation that he started around 1837. Alberti was also the owner of as many as 52 slaves in 1850.

Alberti died in 1861, leaving Ernestine as sole owner of Woodstock Mills, located on the St. Marys River approximately four miles downriver from Kings Ferry. The “little village” included the Alberti mansion, a post office, schoolhouse, church, retail store and a two-room jail.

Lydia and her husband, a prominent and successful attorney named John Clapp (1805-1886), lived in Binghamton, New York. Their children were Cyrus Strong Clapp (1830-1900) and Rosalinda Clapp (1834-1852).

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. John Clapp, Binghamton. Broom County, New York

Woodstock [Woodstock Mills, Nassau County, Florida]
12th June 1844

I must apologize, my dear sister, for not having written before. When Cyrus came, we expected my box would be here in a short time & I thought I would want to report on that, but the next vessel that came happened to be a foreign one & consequently not allowed to bring freight of any kind from New York here. So its arrival has been delayed until now. The vessel which has it on board made its appearance here this morning but has not yet commenced to unload.

In the meantime, I can tell you how much I was gratified in receiving the things sent me by Cyrus. For several days, [text blurred] to go regularly after breakfast & look them all over till I finally wore out that satisfaction & I have since been putting them upon their in____ value by wearing & using them. The dress, tell Eliza, fits me nicely, I think it very pretty. Mr. Alberti says it is one of the most becoming he has ever seen me wear & I was just wishing a new dress. The cap is also very pretty & nice for cold ears as I recently found it while suffering influenza. Indeed, everything I received was pretty & just exactly suited me.

I will not go through with the catalogue — even to Rosalind’s dish cloths & mama’s sage & tomatoes, or if they weren’t pretty, they were good, which is enough, but I must say the dried tomatoes is nicer than I thought it could be made. I must not forget to deliver Mrs. McLolley’s message when I gave her the spectacles. She said, “Tell the Old Lady when you write to her that I send my compliments & am a thousand times obliged to her.” The poor old creature has been such all the fall so that for some time she was not expected to live. She is now better [and] was here the other day. Her pecuniary prospects are brightening. It is thought she will get seven or eight hundred dollars from the government on a claim of her late husband.

Tell Miss Harper with my best love that I find the over socks she sent me very comfortable indeed. As yet I have only tried them when I go in the pantry to “fuss about” — make pies, cake, etc. I think they will be just the things for cold ankles when I ride. I also thank her for her kind letter & intend to reply to it. And my love to Mrs. Andrews with thanks for the jar of sweetmeats that Cyrus could not bring. Mrs. Wooley & Mrs. Sadler both desired their best love to mama, with kindest thanks for the little remembrances she sent them. I expect every day to hear that Mrs. W. has an addition to her little flock.

We are just now going through with a siege of the influenza, or rather I hope we have got about through. We kept hearing of it north of us & just before Cyrus came, several of the negroes were complaining  of colds, which we look to be that, & told him we supposed we had had it, but it was so light in this favored region that we hardly knew it. He seemed incredulous & said he thought we would know it when it came. And whether he brought the “evil eye” to look upon us or as the negroes say, “put his mouth” upon us, I can not say but not long after he came, came the real grippe,¹ & not more than one or two individuals — white or black — have escaped. A number are still suffering from it. Some seem to get well & are attacked a second time. I had it lightly considering my predisposition to something of the kind. No asthma at all. Neither have I had any, or anything that I could call a cold such as I used to have in more than a year. My poor husband suffered severely [and] has not yet recovered from it, tho’ he is writing today, being obliged to, as he thought. Cyrus himself has had a touch of it, which I suppose he thinks is hardly the fair thing as he thought that account already settled.

[My servant] Hannah has a new little baby about six weeks old. I have not had her services since it was born at least but a day or two. She did not get her strength as soon as they generally do, & some after she began to work was taken with the influenza & is still confined to her room. I have June, her sister, who used to live in town, in her place & get along very well save that we have to go without buckwheat cakes because she can not learn to bake them decently. By the way, Hannah & Maria say thank you to mama for the cravats she sent them.

Tell “Bub” I appreciated his letter very highly & am going to answer it “by & bye” as soon as I get time. But having a good many other things to take up my attention, I have become almost as bad a correspondent as some of my friends.

After dinner. The box has been brought up & opened. Everything is whole & in good order as far as we can see. Have not yet opened the sweetmeats but have no doubt they are nice. The small glass jar of jelly looks as though it had begun to ferment a little, not so however but that it can be perfectly restored by doing over. A little of the vinegar had run out of the pickles — not more than half a pint, I should think & they look very nice indeed & taste equally so. I had some of them on the dinner table & we had a gentleman from Centreville dining with us. He seemed to think them “first rate.” We also had some of the butter from the f____ your good husband sent us. It is capitol. Mr. Alberti pronounces it the very best he ever tasted, & he is a judge of these matters. The nice jar mama sent me I do not intend to molest at present as they say butter made early keeps best late here & by guarding it a little more from the air, I think it will be good next summer. It is so hard & sweet as possible now, & I think I shall take even more satisfaction in eating it than the premium butter as Cyrus tells me she made it herself.

About going to Binghamton this coming summer, I can not say with any certainty tho’ I some expect to go. Mr. Alberti thinks it probable he may be able to leave in the early part of the summer long enough to take me there & return by the time his presence will be most needed here, leaving me to return with Cyrus, but we have not yet made any definite calculations about it & may be prevented altogether. He is hardly willing to have me, nor am I, to go to be gone all summer — say 6 ot 7 months — & leave him here alone. Still I want to go & see you all & I am inclined to think unless something quite unfortunate occurs to prevent, there will be some arrangement made by which I can do so, but I do not calculate on it with so much certainty as to be much disappointed if I should not.

Do not forget my love to Emily with thanks for the pretty piece of her handiwork she sent me. Do not let it be long before you write me. Your notes were kept altogether as you desired they should be. My good husband desires his best love to you all. I asked Cyrus if he had any message to send & he says no don’t mention my name — pretending to be indignant at none of you having written to him. I tell him it is just right — what he deserves.

Affectionately yours, — E. A.

Miss Eliza Galloway has come back & is keeping her boarding house again so we go there now when we go to town.

The Head Cheese was very nice tho’ a little dry.

How the Alberti's might have looked in the 1840s

How the Alberti’s might have looked in the 1840s


¹ When an influenza epidemic swept the nation during President Tyler’s administration (1841-1845), it was called the “Tyler grippe.”


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