After the holiday – Christmas 1869

In keeping with the holiday theme this week, here is another excerpt of a letter mentioning Christmas from Mary Howard to her sister Sarah.

Bridgeport January 2nd 1870

….I should like to know how all your little ones, and big ones too, are getting along and how you enjoyed the holidays. We had a very pleasant time here. Edward came home on Christmas morning and stayed three days – much to our satisfaction. We had a letter the day before saying he was not coming, so we invited half a dozen neighbors to help eat the turkey – which we would not have done, if we had known he was coming. It would be so much pleasanter to have him all to ourselves. In the evening we had a grand display of fire works (quite astonishing considering the size of the building) caused by the burning of the dining saloon, just across the platform from the passenger depot, which was saved with difficulty. Fortunately, it was a calm night and no further damage was done – except to toll house, which when it caught fire, was pushed over into the river to save the bridge. Edward appears well satisfied with his situation, and likes Columbus better than any place he has ever lived in.

Christmas Celebrations – 1868

December 20, 1868 – Mary Affleck writes about 6 weeks after her sister Sarah’s visit:

I think Harriet is rather more cheerful than she was when you were here, and appears to take considerable interest in proposing an entertainment to be given in the church to the children of the Sabbath School, on Christmas Eve, and Johnnie has been very busy stringing popcorn to ornament the Christmas tree. This morning I heard him anxiously inquire if five days would be long, his mother having told him there were just five days till Christmas. He is expecting Santa Claus to bring him a drum, and I have no doubt the days will seem long enough to him, I suppose your little folks are also anticipating a happy time, and hope they may not be disappointed…

Harriet’s lack of cheer is not explained, but may have been partly from the death of her daughter Mary Howard Patterson a few years earlier. I wonder if she had also been hoping for another child during this period. “Johnnie: (or John Gladstone Patterson) was born in in 1862 and she did not have her younger son George Edward until 1870.

Scarlet Fever – a Fearful Disease

Before antibiotics, diseases were serious – sore throats and scarlet rash (or scarlet fever) were often fatal. It is hard sometimes to read these old letters – I find myself growing fond of my ancestors, their siblings, their friends, and the friends’ families, and grieve for their losses.

In December 1870, Joan Murray (a friend to both Mary Howard Affleck and her sister, Sarah Howard Forrer) wrote to Sarah, apologizing for a delay in replying to a letter. Her delay was understandable – the death of Joan’s grandaughter Bessie – “scarcely nine years old – a quiet, sensitive womanly child”

“- Mary has not written you of our stricken household by the fell disease scarlet fever – about the middle of Aug, dear little Bessie was taken sick with every appearance as I thought of this disease. The Dr would not call it this until three others were taken sick – Bessie was apparently recovering – but took cold and her joints were swollen and painful so as to make her unable to walk for three weeks, then recovered from that affliction and we all looked upon her as slowly improving but a short breath and some cough lingered about her. … – congestion of the heart was the immediate cause (induced by the disease leaving her limbs) of her leaving the dear ones here below….

….In looking over some old letters last evening I came across one of yours written directly after the death of your brother John’s three children – how many households have been made desolate by that same disease”

This same disease was the cause of death for Mary’s little sister, Jane, at age 3, and the deaths of her two sons in 1834.


Fourth of July – 1869

written from Bridgeport, Ohio, July 4th 1869

“……nobody home but Dr,. Mary and myself – none of us, I believe, in a very festive mood. It don’t seem at all like the 4th of July. There was some kind of a celebration yesterday at the fairground on the Island of the “lower million” principally, I suppose from their maneuvers. I watched them a while through the telescope, but didn’t see much to interest me, except a velocipede race, which was somewhat of a novelty.There was quite a crowd, and they appeared to be enjoying themselves hugely notwithstanding the extreme heat, till a sudden thunderstorm, towards evening, sent them flying in all directions. Thunder, and hail storms are all the fashion in this neighborhood. ”

It does get very hot, and humid, in this part of Ohio. The Afflecks were probably much more comfortable staying at home on top of the hill where they lived. I was glad to see Mary taking interest through the telescope, as she sounded weary and depressed for several years after the loss of her son in the Civil War, and the death of beloved granddaughter a few years later.

Old Family Friends

In searching through records of Quaker meetings, I was surprised to find the names of Nixon and Milhaus present at meetings attended by my Howard ancestors. Today I find that the Howards were more than casually acquainted with the Milhaus family.

On July 4, 1869, my 3rd-Great-Grandmother, Mary Howard Affleck, wrote to her sister, Sarah H. Forrer:

“I am glad thee and Augusta had such a pleasant visit at Richmond and was much interested in the account thee gave of the great revival. I have pleasant recollections of a week spent there some forty or fifty years ago, but so many changes have since taken place, that I don’t suppose it would seem like the same place now. Did thee see or hear anything of Hannah Mendenhall when thee was there? Thee will recollect her, a sister of Jane Watters, whom we visited the day we were at friend Milhaus’.”