1850: Charles William Henderson to John Thompson Siler

How Charles W. Henderson might have looked in 1850

How Charles W. Henderson might have looked in 1850

This letter was written by Charles William Henderson (1825-1905). He married Jane Catherine “Jennie” Brosius (1832-1905) in October 1852. Charles was a dry goods merchant in Hancock, Maryland. According to an on-line obituary, Charles passed his youth in Berkeley  County, Virginia (now West Virginia) and became a clerk in a store at Berkeley Springs. He came to Hancock in 1848 and was for two years in the store of Richmond Gregory. During this time he came acquainted with Robert Bridges, and in 1850 entered into a partnership with him in the manufacture of “Round Top” Hydraulic Cement.

Charles wrote the letter to his friend, John Thompson Siler (1826-1908), the son of John Siler (1783-1847) and Susannah Thompson (1785-1863). From before 1860 until after 1880 he was a dry goods merchant having his own store in Bath, Morgan County. By 1900 he was a bank president in Bath and also served as an officer of the Berkeley Springs resort. He was married to Caroline Amanda Hammond (1824-1893), the daughter of Thomas Hammond, Sr. and Mary Crumbacker of Ann Arundel County, Maryland.

In the 1850 Census, Charles Henderson is enumerated in the household of his employer, Richmond Gregory (1815-1865) — a Merchant in Hancock, Maryland. Also enumerated at the same residence, besides Richard’s wife Ann Lewis Snively (referred to as “Mrs. Gregory in the letter) and two young children, is 22 year-old Elizabeth (“Bettie”) Sheriff who is also mentioned. The “Ginnie Snively” must have been a sister of Ann’s.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to John T. Siler, Esqr., Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, Virginia

Hancock [Maryland]
October 28th 1850

Dear John,

Your favor of Saturday enclosing a note to Bettie came duly to hand, and I have set down tonight to answer a question in that letter, viz: “Why I have not written to you?” On last Monday night Mrs. Gregory sent for me to play a game of euchre with Bettie Sheriff, Ginnie Snively and herself, and on Tuesday night I had to play a game with Ginnie Snively, Mrs. Gregory, and Bettie, on Wednesday night I played with Mrs. Gregory, Miss Bettie Sheriff and Ginnie Snively. on Thursday night I had to play with Miss Ginnie Snively, Mrs. Gregory, and Miss Bettie, and on Friday night I played with Mrs. Gregory, Miss Ginnie Snively, and Miss Bettie Sheriff. So you see that my excuse for not writing is a good one and my time very usefully employed.

You damn rascal, you thought to take the start on me by telling me you would not take the arrival of our new goods as an excuse. By thunder, you caught me for I intended to plead it on you certain. But truth is mighty and will prevail. I think the excuse given above will render satisfaction and though before I close I will give you a better and more plausible one, yet I think the first will take the premium.

I was very near coming to Bath last Sunday and would have done so had I not forgot to write to Duckwall on Thursday last. He made me promise to write him a line about three days before I paid the visit. I spent a very pleasant Sunday, however, at Thomas Beran’s about 4 miles below Hancock in company with Miss Ginnie S. and Bettie. They went down Saturday morning and I went at night, in all that rain, and rode one of the damnedest horses that ever I threw my legs over. The sonofabitch — I dug the spur into him every jump and made him “f__t like a hoss.” It didn’t take me more nor 15 minutes to travel that four miles.

On Sunday morning (notwithstanding the rain and wind were doing their damnedest) I got in a buggy with Ginnie S. and rode about 5 miles down the pike, and blamed if I didn’t forget in my felicity that wind and rain were two of the elements of creation. We got back to Beran’s just in time to get one of the finest dinners you ever heard of.

I received a letter from Doct. Hammond a few days ago making inquiry after my health &c., and concluding with a request that I would visit my friends shortly and give him about two days help. I wrote him a very able production in reply and told him if it was in the power of man I would render him some assistance, but I fear I will not be able to perform. After all, John, I’ll be blamed if I don’t like the Doct and would do his writing for him if I could, but I believe it to be out of my power.

Give my best respects to Duckwall and tell him I have a good one for him, but as for Doct. Chambers, he may “gone to hell.” I mean no harm to the trio of Bachelor’s Hall, but I’ll be blamed if I like that man. He is too pusillanimous and shitters to be connected with the men he is, and his presence (were I so situated) would be an obstacle in the way of my being one of your number. I got a little the start of him some time ago, and he has never forgotten or forgiven me for it. “I hate the slime that sticks on filthy things.”

We have sold over hundred dollars today and eighty of which was cash. Last week our sales were seven hundred dollars — about $400 cash. Some nights we did not get the goods on the shelves until after 10 o’clock.

I shall now make a word good and tell you why I have delayed writing to you as well as to all of my friends. We have gotten no coal from Cumberland and the small quantity left from last winter is nearly exhausted. A fire is kindled in the morning and before night it dies away. Business keeps me in the store until nine or ten o’clock and after we shut up I am so fatigued that I don’t feel like building a fire and writing letters. Our store is very dark and if I were to write on Sunday, I should have to do it by the light of a candle. Now these are facts, stubborn facts, and I will prove them to be so the first time you come over. As soon as the weather is cold enough to have fire all the time, I will pay more attention to you. I am writing now without fire and my word for it I am so chilled I can scarcely form a letter.

I received a paper from you today and return my thanks. I only wish you would continue it, but that I cannot get you to do.

My respects to Mrs. S. Roberts and believe me your friend. — Charles W. Henderson

How did you get along in Berkeley?  This is only an excuse for a letter.

Miss Bronaugh wants Mr. Duckwall to come over here on Friday or Saturday. She wants to see him on some business. Her hand is sore and she could not write. The request was made of me this morning.

Letterhead of Bridges & Henderson Firm

Letterhead of Bridges & Henderson Firm


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