1855: John C. Ferguson to Anna E. (Alcorn) Ferguson

John C. Ferguson in later years

John C. Ferguson in later years

This letter was written by John C. Ferguson (1808-1899), a Whig who represented the 21st District in the Pennsylvania Legislature from 1854-1856. He was from Mt. Jackson in Lawrence County which is less than 10 miles from the Ohio state line and approximately 250 miles from the capitol at Harrisburg. Ferguson was the second postmaster of Mt. Jackson.

He wrote the letter from the senate chamber of the Pennsylvania statehouse in Harrisburg to his wife, Anna E. Alcorn (1814-1865). The Ferguson’s later moved to Iowa and then to Colorado.

The Black Swan

The Black Swan

Ferguson mentions three items of historical interest. First, he tells his wife that he attended a concert by “The Black Swan.” She was Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield (1824-1876) — an African-American singer considered the best-known black concert artist of her time. She was noted by James M. Trotter for her “remarkably sweet tones and wide vocal compass.” Second, he says that he attended an exhibition by pupils of the School for the Training of Idiotic & Feeble Minded Children. This school was opened in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1854 and moved to Elwyn in 1857. The exhibition was chaired by Governor James Pollock (1810-1890). The third item of interest pertains to the new liquor law in Pennsylvania which prohibited the issuance of new liquor licenses to the keepers of any hotels, inns, taverns, restaurants, eating houses, oyster bars, theaters, or other places of entertainment or amusement after July 1, 1855 in Pennsylvania.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Ann E. Ferguson, Mt. Jackson, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Senate Chamber
[Harrisburg, Pennsylvania]
April 15th 1855

My Dear Anna,

I received your letter of 13th this morning and I thought I would not go to church this evening but would write a few lines to you. I also had a letter from Brother Joshua this morning. They are well & says he will be at Mt. Jackson on the 24 or 25 and will be here about the first of May. I have been thinking that it would be better for Adams to go to Canonsburg at the commencement of the session & as I will not be home in time to go with him you will send him. The session commences on the first Wednesday of May, the 2d day. I saw Mr. McDaniel of that place. He will procure him a suitable place of boarding until such time as I can go there. I will send Adams a letter of introduction to him. He had better start on Monday the 30 & stay one day at his uncles in Pittsburg. You can give him some $10 to bear his expenses, &c. — also the scholarship

From a Philadelphia Newspaper (1855)

From a Philadelphia Newspaper (1855)

On Wednesday evening last I went to hear the far famed Black Swan sing and I certainly think she deserves the fame she has acquired. On Friday evening, we had an Exhibition of the pupils of the School for the Training of Idiotic & Feeble Minded Children. The house was very much crowded. The Governor was Chairman. The Exhibition was quite interesting. The Governor signed the bill to restrain the sale of intoxicating liquors. I think the law will have a good effect towards reforming the drunkard.

Tell Lizza [I] want when I return home to see her able to say her a, b’s & c’s first rate. It rained last night and nearly all day today but this evening it looks as if it would clear off.

The friends are all well. Remember me to all. I remain yours as ever. — John Ferguson


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