Below, is an excerpt from a letter, postmarked Jan 13, probably 1834 – a few months after the deaths of Horton and Hannah Howard in the Cholera epidemic. The letter is written by 20 yr old John Howard to his brother in law Samuel Forrer, and refers to John’s half brothers Henry (41,) Joseph (36,) and Horton Jr (30.) Samuel & John are trying to repair wounded feelings caused by settling the estate of the Howard parents. Horton’s will left everything to his wife, and Hannah died before creating a will to include her stepsons in sharing her estate.
“With regard to the divission of the property which thee mentions, I can say that as far as I am concerned I am perfectly well satisfied, indeed I would prefer that I should be place on an equality with them, – But I do not feel satisfied that the portions of my sisters should be divided in any such way. – I just now think of a plan which would be much more honorable, and one which cannot but be agreeable to Henry and Horton, it is this. Let my portion of my dear Mothers estate be given to brother Joseph. Joseph always was a good boy when he was at home, and when he was grown, he was still of use to Father, but, he was not more useful in his sphere, than were his sisters in theirs. Although I loved my parents as much as any of them, I have not been as useful as my sisters and Joseph have been, nor have Horton and Henry. Therefore, I think that if the property were divided in this way, making the three who were evidently the most deserving equal, that is giving Joseph my place, and making my portion equal to the of Henry and Horton, I think there would be no more trouble or hard feeling. Henry and Horton cannot think that they are equally deserving with their sisters and Joseph, or if they can, I know they are not, and I know I am not; and, therefore, shall not willingly give my assent to any other divission of the property than the one I have mentioned, or one which will leave the portion of my sisters untouched. Nothing gives me so much pain as to see the members of a family entertaining hard feeling toward each other, and I am sure this will be the case in ours unless this matter is arranged.
An anecdote appears in The Life and Times of Edwin McMasters Stanton. Variations of this anecdote appear elsewhere in histories of the man who would become Secretary of War under President Lincoln.
Stanton was living in Columbus, working at a bookstore, and boarding with the Howard family, when “during the spring and early summer of 1833, the cholera, which had struck heavily in eastern Ohio, moved menacingly eastward along the route of the National Road. The epidemic began raging in Columbus during the unusually hot summer months. On August 9, Stanton was served his midday dinner by Ann Howard, and the returned to the bookstore. An hour later Ann collapsed. At 4 p.m. she was dead. As a precautionary measure, to keep the plague from spreading, her family buried her at once. When Stanton learned of the horrible event, he experienced a morbid conviction that she had been buried alive. Persuading a young medical student and anotehr boarder to help, he hurried to the burial ground and by lamplight exhumed and opened the casket.”
What is not reported anywhere, is that Stanton was half-second cousin to Horton Howard, the father of the young woman who died. When I read this story, I recognized that Horton’s mother was a Stanton. The Stantons and Howards were Quakers, and their careful record keeping allowed me to make the connection.
I have transcribed 37 of the letters I photographed in Dayton. This morning I worked on a few short ones. My 3rd-Great-Grandmother’s brother-in-law was an engineer on the Miami-Erie and other canals, hence away from home much of the time. In early 1837 his youngest child died. Then, in late 1838, this was sent to him about his young son: “Yesterday he complained of pain in the bowels, which I supposed might be cholic. Today the pain and tenderness is much increased , attended with fever, general lassitude and increasing, the slightest pressure gives pain, difficulty of breathing – great pain upon coughing.”
I can only think that this sounds like appendicitis. The boy died the day after this letter was sent. It must have been hard to be a parent in those days.
There was much artistic talent in this family. Sarah Forrer, the sister of my ggg-grandmother did this botanical, and others, as well as many pen and ink or other grey-scale drawings. She is also the one who drew the sketch of the teakettle in my previous post. on that – I wonder why she waited 49 years to try find the teakettle?
One of her daughter also had much talent, toured Europe (you’ll hear from those letters sometime in the future) and has a few smaller works in the Forrer-Woods-Peirce collection at the Dayton-Metro Library
I hoped to attend church, visit the Cox Arboretum or maybe both, before the library opens at 1pm. Instead, I spent 2 hours at the emergency room. Yesterday I had a bad fall – tripped on a badly heaved sidewalk while looking up at street numbers. You know that little dance you do to recover when you trip? Well – I didn’t recover, went flying through the air and landed on my face. This is not recommended. Have a serious cut inside my mouth but couldn’t stand the thought of not continuing yesterday’s work. This morning the library is closed, and luckily one of Dayton’s best hospitals is walking distance from my AirBNB residence. I am now off in search of a drugstore to fill a couple of anitbiotic prescriptions. Before I go, I wanted to share a small treasure I found in yesterday’s research