These two letters were written by William Hathaway Stiles (1825-1904), the son of Alexander Stiles (1800-1862) and Mary Hathaway (1800-1868). William married Mary Coutant Halsted (1833-18xx). William and his father were proprietors of a clothing store on Williams Street in lower Manhattan in 1850. Years later, William had his store on Murray Street (NYC).
Stiles wrote to his cousin, Ebenezer Akin (1817-18xx), the son of Ebenezer Akin (1784-1870) and Susanna Blossom (1789-1875). Ebenezer married Elizabeth E. Thompson (1832-18xx) in 1854. He was employed as a merchant tailor.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 1
Addressed to Mr. Ebenezer Akins, Jr., Fairhaven, Bristol County, Massachusetts
New York, [New York]
February 13, 1850
I have been promising myself that I would write you and as often something has prevented. It seems to me that I have become a piece of machinery — that is, constantly in motion. Days seem as hours used to, months as weeks. I almost envy you the retirement you enjoy in Fairhaven. Through the live-long day I do not know what it is to have a quiet hour. All is bustle and confusion.
O, how young men who have been brought up farmers do make a mistake when they leave their peaceful and hapy homes and enter the mercantile business. If they are of the few who are successful, their very success will be attended with a multitude of little troubles and annoyances that they little think of on commencing.
It is well for us that we cannot look into futurity — it must be well or it would not be so ordered. But could I have taken a glance before I entered the mercantile vortex, I would have shrunk back and avoided a calling that is attended with so many uncertainties. But I am in for it now (as the Californians say) and shall make the best of it. I have no cause to complain. My prospects for the future, if my health is spared, are bright. Enough of this prattling about myself.
Ebenezer, I would like very much to see you [come] on to New York. Do come. There is no use of asking your mother or father, I presume, as I have long since become tired of this — but we would be glad to see you all on here. My place of business is changed to 130 William Street with the same firm. However, our residence after the first of May will be in Williamsburg, No. 48 First Street. This latter change has been made upon the Physician’s recommendation in consequence of my father’s health not being quite so good as formerly. He is troubled with a constant pain in the head nearly over the eye. It is necessary that he should have a little more change of air and exercise. There are 2 ferry boats plying constantly between New York & Williamsburg. It takes but 5 minutes to cross the [East] River so that it is attended with but little inconvenience.
Issacher ¹ made us a brief visit while waiting for the Steamer. He on his arrival went to one of the Hotels and staid a day or two but afterwards came to our house as I insisted upon his doing so. I accompanied him to the Museum ² and to other exhibitions and I think he enjoyed his stay. He has embarked in a fine sea boat. I do not think quite so much of her speed as of some others, but she is quite safe and will not be 2 weeks behind any of the others. Accounts continue to come in from California of the most flattering character so far as dollars and cents are concerned, but it is to be expected that there will be much suffering in the mines more particularly owing to the inexperience of many who went out. Multitudes are incapable of enduring the hardship that they must meet with. I have two hale and hardy men who asked me to fix them out and receive, in turn, a part of the proceeds of their labor. I consented. They are now in California in good health and doing as well as most others at last dates from them. The rainy season had set in and they could work only part of the time. These men counted the cost before they started. Therefore, privations do not discourage them. Issacher promised to write me and in return I promised to write him and shall do so tonight in time for tomorrow’s steamer.
I heard a short time since indirectly that you had been unwell, but that you was better or gaining. I have not at hand your last letter and cannot note its contents. Do not follow my very poor example but whether I am prompt or not do you write. This has been written in haste as you will perceive and in utter defiance of orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosity. My love to all. I remain ever, — W. H. Stiles
My dear coz, Do not think that in all the busy scenes that it is my lot to mingle, that my confidence in my Redeemer is any less. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It is my comfort in this world and is the foundation of my hopes for the next.
¹ This may have been Issacher H. Akin of Fairhaven, Bristol, Massachusetts. Issacher was a sailor and eventually became the captain of a whaling ship (the Bark Winthrop). He married Deborah Jane Grew in 1854. From this letter, it would appear that Issacher was sailing to the California Gold Fields.
² This was probably Barnum’s Museum on Broadway.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 2
Addressed to Mr. Ebenezer Akins, Jr., Fairhaven, Massachusetts
New York [New York]
June 3, 1850
Your very welcome letter of April 23rd 1850 came safely to hand and after speaking of many subjects which I have duly noted, you mention that it is your purpose to visit New York between its date and November next. I am glad to hear this and shall take much pleasure in being at home at the time of your visit, and for fear that you may have fixed upon the month of June as the time, I write you thus early to inform you that I expect to be absent from home until the latter part of the month. I shall start on the 4th or 5th of this month to be absent two or three weeks. I have business to call me to the State of Ohio and possibly I may go as far as Detroit.
I think I informed you in my last of our intention to move from New York to 48 First Street, Williamsburg.¹ We did so on the first of May and like our change much. Our residence is on the bank of the [East] River and overlooks the Bay of New York with Brooklyn and New York in distance and an innumerable host of sailing and steam craft passing constantly by us. By help of good ferries, I am no further from my business than when we lived in the Bowery. It takes from eight to twelve minutes to cross the river; this morning and evening.
I find beneficial another advantage. The society as an average is much better than New York. We have no rowdies, no bullies. A person may walk out even in an unfrequent part of the town without carrying a cane or any weapon of defense. My mother and myself have united with the New Methodist Church (we have four others in the village) of which Mr. Janes (Brother of the Bishop) is Pastor. He is an excellent and talented preacher and in every respect a judicious man. How few ministers you find who know much of human nature as a general thing. I think they, for the advantages they have, are the most unsophisticated class of men that you will find in society, and I speak this with all respect, for I believe nineteen twentieths of them are honest and sincere men who fear and love God, and I believe the very fact of their being honest themselves leads them to be deceived in many and to misunderstand the peculiarities and ways, and consequently not know how to get along with others.
The California Fever so far as emigration is concerned still continues with us, as great as ever. The shipment of goods has, however, in a great measure ceased. The unsettled state of the San Francisco market and the very low prices for everything has brought this latter state of thing about. I have not heard from __sacher since at Rio. When you get a letter and write me again, let me know how he is doing. I feel anxious to hear. I get letters regularly from two men in whose success I am interested. They are doing well, not meeting with their sanguine anticipations, but still doing well. Have had their health everyday and dry weather and a better prospect ahead.
So far we have been spared that dreadful scourge — the cholera. I trust the season may pass without a visit of it. During the month of May, we had twenty-four stormy (more or less) days, and I think there is some more of the same kind ahead from present appearances. The health of New York & vicinity is unusually good. Emigration has averaged for 7 weeks past between 1200 & 1500 per day. They are, as a general thing, of the better class, appear to be temperate.
After 1st of July, come any time you can. I will be at home. My love and the remembrance of Father and Mother to you all. And may God ever bless you, — W. H. Stiles
¹ Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordering Greenpoint to the north, Bedford–Stuyvesant to the south, Bushwick and Ridgewood, Queens to the east and the East River to the west. Williamsburg was incorporated as the Village of Williamsburgh within the Town of Bushwick in 1827. It became the City of Williamsburg (discarding the “h”) in 1852, which was organized into three wards. The old First Ward roughly coincides with the South Side and the Second Ward with the North Side, with the modern boundary at Grand Street. The Third Ward was to the east of these, stretching from Union Avenue east to Bushwick Avenue beyond which is Bushwick (some of which is now called East Williamsburg). In 1855, the City of Williamsburg, along with the adjoining Town of Bushwick, were annexed into the City of Brooklyn as the so-called Eastern District. The First Ward of Williamsburg became Brooklyn’s 13th Ward, the Second Ward Brooklyn’s 14th Ward, and the Third Ward Brooklyn’s 15th and 16th Wards.
An 1845 Map of Williamsburgh shows that First Street ran parallel to the East River the entire length of the village.