1867-68: Byron & Rhoda (Weldon) Henry to Linnie (Weldon) Williamson

What the Henry's might have looked like

What the Henry’s might have looked like

There are three letters presented here, all of them written from Saint Francis, Anoka County, Minnesota. Two were written by William Byron Henry (1837-19xx), the son of Morris Henry (1813-1900) and Melissa Cartwright (1817-1875). The third letter was written by Henry’s wife, Rhoda L. (Weldon) Henry (1842-1932). In 1850, Rhoda is enumerated in the household of Henry and Ruth Warren of Olive, Meigs County, Ohio.

Henry resided in Cheshire, Gallia County, Ohio in 1860. He enlisted in Co. B, 116th Ohio Infantry as a sergeant in August 1862 and and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1865 before mustering out in June. He was married to Rhoda in 1863 and came to Minnesota in 1866. When these letters were written, the Henry’s had two children; Edwin K. Henry (1864-1940) and Linnie Mary (“Molly”) Henry (1866-1953). A third child was born later, Frank B. Henry (1871-1949).

The Henry’s addressed all three of their letters to Rhoda’s sister, Linnie (Weldon) Williamson  (1850-19xx), the wife of James (“Jimmie”) N. Williamson (1844-18xx) — a steamboat captain residing in the Ohio rivertown of Pomeroy in Meigs County, Ohio. In 1870 (and presumably earlier), the Williamson’s resided with his parents, William and Nancy Williamson. The 23 June 1875 issue of the Cincinnati Daily Gazette ran a notice stating that Capt. James N. Williamson was “in the city [Cincinnati] yesterday prospecting for the purchase of a boat, ready built, and would probably bid on the Ella, now lying at Jacksonport, White River, if she is offered for sale by the United States Marshal.”

Mentioned in the second letter is Rhoda’s uncle, Hiram Kelton (1816-1888), of Tupper’s Plains, Meigs County, Ohio, and Hiram’s son, Horace Kelton (1840-1922). Hiram was married [1837] to Margaret (“Peggy”) Weldon (1817-1896), no doubt the sister of Rhoda’s father.

LETTER ONE

St. Francis, Minnesota
May 17th 1867

Miss Linnie, my Dear Sister:

If you are waiting on expenses — as the saying goes — to hear from me, you must needs be impatient to say the least.

But, I hope you are not so doing, but that some pleasant and profitable proposal has been made and accepted per way of a school, or perchance Jummie has come down and I am improperly addressing you when I say Miss. By the by, in either event I would congratulate most heartily.

Image 3Now, as to my long delay, there are several good reasons for same. One, that I wanted to find out positive before writing. It took me long to ascertain because I had so much to do, and so poor chance to do it. I made application to (8) eight School Districts and was answered in each. You would have found us anxious for teacher a few days ago, but we have just secured one. In the District my sister Mary lives in, they had just gired a lady from Minneapolis giving her $4½ per week, and board her for a six month term.

Don’t think it would be any trouble at all for you to get as much teaching to do as you would want, if you were here early in the Spring or Fall. Quite an easy job to get certificates here. Rhoda and I both feel disappointed but can’t you come anyway?

We got into our own house the 7th inst. Stopped a week at Charles Weldon’s for children to recruit, They’ve had a siege but are some better, have the Whooping Cough. Rhoda seems well pleased with her new home — particularly the well of water that exactly suits her.

Image 2Found everything out of repair and in bad condition; another dirty house for Rhoda to clean up. I have got in my wheat and it is up nicely, ground for corn and potatoes almost plowed. Have repaired and fixed up about 3 miles of fence and have one mile more to fix. It is late for I was out building fence until 9 o’clock by de light ob de moon. I’ve worked about as hard today as I could and Oh! “golly” my hands are sore, my limbs ache, my back aches, so does my head. My feet are wet and I’m not very well myself.

Rhoda and the children are asleep and I must get up as soon as light in the morning if I set up all night so all things considered, I will close by subscribing myself your affectionate brother, — W. Byron Henry

LETTER TWO

St. Francis, Minnesota
October 31st 1868

James & Linnie Williamson
Pomeroy, Meigs County, Ohio

Dear Brother & Sister:

Image 5In concert with all our friends you complain of epistolary neglect. If you have been neglected (we by no means admit it all things considered), you have not been forgotten by any means. There has not been the least abatement or cooling of our esteem, friendship, and love.

Linnie, your favor of October 22d reached us last evening. It begins, “I will make one more effort to hear from you, this being the third (and last) attempt.” The two words in parenthesis being understood and added by your humble servant. We also acknowledge the receipt of the other two letters, the one bearing date July inst., the other of date still more ancient, both being honored by the pen of both James & Linnie. They reached us in due time and were received and read with pleasant satisfaction.

Image 6We are all well. Even Edwin is well and grows finely, is now clad in trousers, a remarkable good boy, has ordinary intellect, the pride of his father, my “barbaric cruelty” to the contrary notwithstanding.

We are  getting along pecuniarily as well as we could expect, calculate we doubled our “worldly possessions” the 1st year of our sojourn here, and think we’ve did well the past six months.

We are contented here, enjoy ourselves, and are happy in saying “it is well for us to be here.”

Image 8Am pleased to learn that Aunt Clara is successful in securing position and that Grandmother is able to go visiting Jimmie. Linnie says and appears to be much bereaved “Jimmie went off Wednesday on tho Emma and has not yet returned.” Don’t you think you abuse your wife by staying away from her 4 or 5 long days (and nights) in Autumn.  Ha! Ha! &c.

Judging from what the weather has been here, I would suppose this fall a good harvest for boatmen. Suppose you are just coining money with the Emma and that Canal Boat. My best wishes are with you.

It is now past 12 M and it has rained hard since daylight. The rain is attended with much heavy thunder and vivid lightning. Presume this will be our last rain this season. Rain is almost unknown in winter in this climate, the like not coming to pass more than once in several years. The snow is so dry through the winter that you can scarcely make a snowball at all.

Image 7Linnie, I’ll tell you what my “barbaric cruelty” means. It is an old story but lately reached mem so that it is new to me. The story goes that “Byron is unmercifully cruel in his family, particularly with Edwin.” Kilton’s folks are the authorities with Linnie as their proof. Kilton’s say that “Linnie Weldon told them that once when she (Linnie) was at Byron’s when Rhoda was sick in bed Byron whipped Edwin most outrageously, so much so that Rhoda became alarmed for the safety of the child and begged him not to kill the child, whereupon Byron turned with looks of a savage and told her (Rhoda) to shut her mouth or he would pain her through the bed and then went on whipping Edwin as before. There is not anything about the yarn that sound or looks like my style, the language to Rhoda is such as I never used to any person.

Linnie, I do not believe you told anything of the kind, but I do believe that as Rhoda married against the wishes of K’s, they would be glad if she was abused as punishment for her willfullness to them. Rhoda say “K’s are a snarling disagreeable set among themselves and always jealous of other people’s happiness.” They also say that “Linnie is so stuck up since her marriage that she won’t speak to them when she meets them on the street. That both Hiram and Horace passed Linnie on the street at different times but she wouldn’t speak or notice them.” O, consistency, thou art a jewel.

Noe Linnie, when you are using the sidewalk as a pedestrian, I want you to stop and gaze and gawk at every man on horseback or vehicle for if you do not, perchance you may pass “Uncle Hiram” or “Cousin Horace” without noticing them, thereby calling down their indignation and firing their jealous hearts, poor creatures. Perhaps I’ve said more than I ought of your Uncle K’s but when people meddle with my family affairs, they are on sacred ground of my own.

I am aware that all the rules of etiquette which you so scrupulously apply  in your epistles are outrages wit this s____, but you know I never get my say said on the first three pages nor would not if the sheet was was used and more than that, I’m merely obeying the Golden Rule. I.e., we don’t like to be done. I am very fond of long letters. But I’ll have a little regard for your over___ patience and conclude by subscribing myself your affectionate brother, — Byron

LETTER THREE

At Home
St. Francis, Minnesota
October 31st 1868

Dear Brother & Sister,

Image 1I was very glad to hear from you but sorry to learn that you thought I had forgotten you. I could never do that even if I were not to write at all. But I do not blame you for getting a little spunky for it is too bad the way I have been putting you off and I am sorry for it. Perhaps I may do better in future, but I do not know. It is hard to tell what I will do. I wish that you would come out here to live and then I would not have to write at all. Wouldn’t that be nice? Why don’t you and Jimmie come out here to commence housekeeping. It will not cost you near as much as it will in Ohio because you will not require as much here as there and it will not cost as much to live because you would have such an appetite you would eat anything and everything and would not have to buy many knick-knacks and all those nice things. This is a very good place to make money if anyone has the capital to begin with and even if they do not for we are getting along very well and we had nothing to commence with. I know that you would like the country here. I would not go back to Ohio to live for anything. Minnesota is the place for me.

Linnie, Uncle Charles Weldon is coming to Ohio this fall to spend the winter and bring back a Mrs. Weldon No. 2 in the spring, I expect. But I do not know anything about it — it is all guesswork with me, you know. Mrs. Cyrintha Danes is going to move out here in the Spring and Lois Wiley expects to come with her. Now Linnie, that would be a good chance for you to come out here and spend the summer with us. If Jimmie can’t come with you, perhaps he can come after you and then spend the winter. Oh, wouldn’t we have a very nice time. I hope that you can both come in the spring. We are not fixed up very grand but you would be welcome at our humble home.

Image 4Well Linnie, I cannot write anymore without telling you what a good baby I have got. She is better than Linnie was at her age, I think. We call her Millie. What do you think of her name? Linnie is a wide awake girl, can’t be still two minutes at a time if she would try. Edwin can ask more questions than any child I ever knew. He is still Aunt Linnie’s little man.

Give my love to Grandma and Aunt Clara when you see or write to them and tell them I would like to see them very much. Now, Linnie, be sure and write me when you can. You must not feel bad about that story you wrote about for we do not believe it. I do not know what Uncle Hiram’s folks wanted to start such a story for. Do you expect they feel very badly on account of ____’s death. I feel sorry for them. I did not think she would live very long. I must stop and take Millie. She wants to go to sleep and she is noisy about it. Byron has written a letter while I have been at this so it is time for me to quit. So good night. Love to all. Keep a good share for yourself.

From your affectionate sister, — R. L. Henry


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