1851: Charlotte Elizabeth (Burch) Locke to Charles Harold Burch

This letter was written by Charlotte E. (Burch) Locke (1824-1857), the wife of William Madison Locke (1814-1873) of Chariton County, Missouri. William was the son of Abram Lock & Faithful Sharp Duncan of Lee County, Virginia.

How Charlotte Locke might have looked

How Charlotte Locke might have looked

Charlotte wrote the letter to her brother, Charles Harold Burch (1828-1904). An on-line biography states that Charles was born in Sheridan County, Missouri, and was only two years old when his mother died. His father, a physician, died when Charles was ten years old and he was raised by his paternal grandparents. At the age of 16, Charles made the journey to Oregon Territory riding on a mule. Remarkably, he left the emigrant wagon train he was traveling with at Fort Bridger (Wyoming) and made his way to Oregon from there alone, being the first white settler to land in Oregon City. He remained there until 1846 when he went to California and served under Lieut.-Col. Fremont. He lived for a time in Sacramento engaged in the prospecting and saddle-making business. Then he lived about two years in Marysville, California, before relocating back to Oregon. In 1851, he married Phebe Buffum, a native of Illinois, who came with her parents to Oregon in 1847. He settled in Yamhill County and took up farming.

Charlotte mentions their brother, Jonathan Tyrus Burch (1818-1862) in the letter.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. C. H. Burch, Yamhill County, Oregon Territory

Chariton County, Missouri
October 5th 1851

My brother Charles,

As Maria Lock wrote to brother Ben a short time since & Maria Wallace intends writing soon, I trust it will be a sufficient apology for my silence. However, you may tell him that I too will speak (Providence permitting) before long.

Yours of July (as they always are) was gladly received two weeks ago & you don’t know how glad I was to learn that you would write every month or so. We were sorry to hear that you & brother Ben did not enjoy good health. May our Father in Heaven sanctify all the dispensations of his Providence to your good & if consistent with His will, restore you both to health, grant you length of days, & smile on your pathway — that your journeyings through life may be prosperous & peaceful & useful, the world being made better by your having lived in it.

We, as you know, were placed here for usefulness. To be a useful Christian — to do or suffer the will of my God, whether it be a life of care or pain, whether of affluence or penury, if by this I may be made more useful. If I am thus led in the path of duty, I have reached the acme of my ambition. Oh, how good it is to rest as implicitly on the mighty arm of omniscient love.

Within his circling power I stand,
On every side I find his hand;
Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
I am surrounded still with God.”

Our conference convened in Fayette on Wednesday the 24th of September & closed last Wednesday. Our presiding elder, Jacob Lannius — one of the best preachers in the conference — died last Friday of flux. We feel sensibly the loss; ours not his. A strong man has fallen but he fell at his post. He died in triumph. “Tell all the Christians to come,” said he, “and see how easy a thing it is to die.” We know not how his place can be filled. We had thought that no other preacher belonging to the conference could at the time fill the place as well as he. But it is the Lord’s doings & we know that He is too wise to err & too good to be unkind.

Uncle Ben stayed all night with us as he went down. He looks venerable. His head is very white. He said he had not forgotten you. He is again on the Richmond District. We have not seen our preacher (Walter Toole) yet. He is said to be a good young preacher.¹

Tell Aunt Ellen & Uncle Sam ² that brother Colton lost both his wife & child two or three weeks ago with flux. Many, very many, have suffered with this disease in our state this season. It has prevailed to a considerable extent in Virginia & other states too, I believe. There has been more cares of chills this season than there had been (I believe) for four years previous all taken together but they have been very easily managed & but very few cases of fever. Did we tell any of you that old Dr. Myers was dead? His death brought on by intemperance.

Well for the life of me I can’t tell what Tyrus will do sometimes. He talks of going to Oregon & again he talks of something else. He says for me to tell you that he is just floating about, as madam rumor says that he is very much inclined to drift on to old Capt. Gilliams & the attractions around Miss Mary being so strong it is quite a difficult matter for him to shove off again. If he does not go to Oregon, I think he ought to marry & settle himself. He commenced [illegible] months ago — about ____ send to Franklin [illegible] finished. He has not forgotten his friends in that far off land.

Mr. Luck has been making some slight improvements around our little house. He had a cistern dug & plastered with hydraulic cement week before last & last week he had our front yard graded taking it off about three feet — that is, dug it down and built a perpendicular brick wall two or three feet high to hold it. The wall is nearly half way between the steps & gate — when we get a gate, for we have got none yet, nor steps either, but it is hoped that we will have before long for I tell you it takes climbing to get to the house. A lot of preachers (strange ones) came in the other night after dark. Maybe I oughtn’t to laugh at the poor fellows, but it is so funny. Well one of them — a Brother Moore — walked out __th of the house not suspecting anything. He came unawares to the “jumping off” place & down he went & no telling where he would have stopped had it not been for a hole into which he accidentally or perhaps Providentially thrust his foot & leg up to his knee which impeded his progress. The bank was 10 or 12 feet almost perpendicular. Well another steered westward — a great tall funny fellow [named Brother Jones — [and] he, supposing when he got onto the horse block, that he was at the bottom of the hill & was starting along you know on level ground & at his first step he measured his full length in the lane [and] the others had their sport. So when you come to see us, you must come before night & look around.

Do send me a lock of your hair. I still want that miniature. Bro. Charles, just come to see us one time & let us talk a ‘heap’ together. Love to Bro. Ben & all the friends. Mr. Lock joins me with love to you. Write often as you promised. Tell Bro. Ben to write too. Sister & family were well the last time heard from.

I send you a book mark; one that I worked for you [which reads], “Cast your anchor in Heaven” — the lettering is done with some of my hair. Brother, you will find safe anchorage there. It is the only part of safety then do steer for that port. It is the haven of sweet repose. The very name is cheering. Its banks are clothed in never fading beauty. Its city is eternal for there is a city just on the shore, all the inhabitants of which are immortal. Is not our friends there? Yea, doubtless we have many ties to bind us there. We have many incentives to urge us onward & upward to that land where the wicked cease from troubling & the weary are at rest. God bless you into harbor. Good bye. Your sister, — Charlotte


¹Reverend Walter Toole, born in 1820, married Virginia Lyle, settled at Macon, Missouri, and was a noted circuit preacher in the South Methodist church.

² Samuel Burch and Eleanor Lock were Charlotte’s aunt and uncle. They were the parents of Benjamin Franklin Burch (1825-1893) who was an Oregon politician.


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