Nat Turner’s Rebellion

Transcribing a letter from 4th-Great-Grandfather Horton Howard in Nov 1831, and find he was a man with complex and universal compassions. One letter, written on travells through VA & SC etc, includes the following, which seemed contradictory to his antislavery/abolitionist stance “they are determined to remove to one of the Free Western States as soon as they can sell and get away – the Fright and Terror that the Whites generally in these states have been indescribably shocking and terrible – some few in delicate health have be frightened to death – time and paper would fail me to attempt a description of a small portion of their frenzied actions and the moments of their Terror!!! It seems somewhat abated, but the impressions on their minds and the consciousness of their danger seems to rest heavily on many and many are moving or preparing to move”
This was just after the Nat Turner slave rebellion. Although the Aug 21 rebellion was over in 2 days, Nat Turner was not captured for 2 months, and was executed on Nov 5 – only 10 days before the postmark on this letter.

From Sympathy to Romance

I am working on 1804 letters written by my 4th-Great-Grandmother to Horton Howard, the man she married in 1806. I believe their romance began when she wrote him a sympathy letter on the death of his second wife. There were several other letters written before the second wife died. I can’t help wonder if this young woman knew that Horton would soon be widowed.

A father’s loss

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.

wishing for “happily ever after”

The past two weeks have been full of successful research. Last week I read bits and pieces at the Dayton Metro Library, while photographing 100s of letters. This week I sat and transcribed letters sent home from the war. While working I have gasped in amazement, had “aha” moments when I found missing “pieces of the puzzle,” laughed at amusing incidents and shed a few tears over sad passages. Anyone who’s been following my adventures knows the outcome of Howard G Affleck’s life, as I’ve known for years. Yet I find myself reading these letters, rooting for him to make different decisions, in hopes of a happier ending. Does anyone else do this when they already KNOW the ending to a story?

His Sorrowing Mother

Yesterday I spent 4 hours at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, transcribing a journal in which my 3rd-Great-Grandmother transcribed the letters written by her son Howard Gladstone Affleck while serving in the Union Army. His last letter was to inform his mother that he’d been injured. A musket ball in his knee led to his death about a month later. As intro, Mary Howard Affleck wrote: “His letters have been preserved, and although, while in camp, or on the march, especially during the time he was in the three months service, he had few facilities for writing, yet so thoughtful and loving was his nature, that a week seldom passed without bringing one, or more, to the anxious ones at home. Many of them were written with a pencil, and have become so dim as to be almost illegible. With the hope of preserving them, and believing that in after years they will be perused with interest by his surviving relatives, they are here transcribed by his sorrowing mother.”
I doubt she had any idea these letters would be read with interest 151 years later.