1848: James W. Shines to Jane Elizabeth Chambers

USS Albany

USS Albany

No biographical information could be found for this sailor named James W. Shines who served on the USS Albany in 1848.

He wrote the letter to Jane Elizabeth Chambers (1825-1891) of Newtown, Connecticut. Jane became the wife of Eli James Morris (1821-1901) in September 1850. He was the son of Eli Gould Morris (1783-1856) and Lydia Bennett (1793-1879).

The following information was found on a website called Historic Barns of Connecticut:

Eli Gould Morris (b. 1750) married Lydia Bennett (b. 1794) and had come with his father Daniel from Fairfield to settle in the nearby Grays Plain section of Newtown. Their son Eli James Morris remained here and farmed the property with his wife Jane E. At the time of the 1860 census, Lydia Bennett Morris and Eli James’s sister Martha Jane, a schoolteacher, were also living here. They were identified as a separate household at that time, which may be a clue to the date of the second house, 125 Berkshire Road.

James Eli Morris House in Newtown, CT

James Eli Morris House in Newtown, CT

Photographs of Eli James and Jane survive in the Morris Family Papers (Yale MSS 622) along with a pair of farm ledgers from 1790-1823 by Amos Beardslee and from 1822-1861 by Eli Gould Morris.

Eli’s brother Luzon Burritt Morris (1827-1895) left Newtown to attend Yale and became a lawyer in New Haven. He served in the State Senate and was elected Governor in 1893. Luzon died shortly after the end of his term, in 1895.

There is a reference to Cornelius Chambers who I assume was Jane’s brother. He attended the Yale medical school from 1842-44.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Jane E. Chambers, H. R. Chambers, Newtown, Connecticut, U.S.

Laguaira, [La Guaira, Venezuela]
July 11th 1848

Dear Jane,

Image 5I have been since I left Mr. Chambers. Now I am sorry I did leave home. I did not know when I was well off or should not have left him my honey. I am in hopes of seeing you once more, Madame. I have been absent a long time. I did not let no one know that I was going away. I have been well.

I am on board of the United States ship Albany ¹ cruising at this place. I am getting along very well. We have very good officers on board. We have been at this place over three months. On the fourth of July we fired a salute of twenty guns and on the fifth we fired a salute and answered the Battery because that day the Venezuelans gained their Independence.

This ship mounts twenty guns and is one of the finest ships in the Navy being of the heaviest metal. Mexico is now settled a treaty has been settled with the nation. Please to give my best respects to Frederick and Jane Ann Forthell, and please to write me soon and let me know how Cornelius — or as you may say — Doctor Chambers whether he has got married or not. Please to give my respects to the old man and also Mrs. Chambers.

I am about to sail on a cruise to St. Thomas — one of the West Indies Islands. I expect a letter from you soon as you receive this from me. Yours &c.

— James W. Shines, South America


¹ USS Albany, the first ship with this name, was laid down at the New York Navy Yard sometime in 1843; launched on 27 June 1846; and commissioned on 6 November 1846, Captain Samuel Livingston Breese in command. The Albany was put to use in the Mexican-American War until March 1848 when she was detached and sent to Venezuela to protect aMerican citizens there during a highly volatile constitutional crisis in that country. Following that, she cruised the Carribean-West Indies region and finally returned to Norfolk in mid September 1848. She was lost at sea in October 1854.


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