A Complicated Character

Of the many letters and documents that I’ve transcribed to date there are 155 written by or to Horton Howard, or that mention him. In his own letters he appears to be a caring man, full of energy and willing to take risks in his attempts to rebuild enough wealth to help each of his children to be well established in life. He also cares about the social injustices injustices of his time, including working for the abolition of slavery and the kidnapping of freedmen, and seeking reparation for the injustice done to the “Indians.”  In other letters, some writers mention Horton in a tone that is disparaging, and perhaps even full of dislike. It will be an interesting challenge to develop him as a sympathetic character while acknowledging a part of his personality that some found distasteful.

A bride’s unhappy tale

The internet has been a boon to researchers. I knew, several years ago, that the library in Massillon Ohio had a dozen or so letters written from Horton Howard to another Quaker named Thomas Rotch. Thanks to improved cross-referencing of letters in their collection, I’ve recently found other letters that mention Horton Howard, and fill in some of the missing pieces of family history.

On July 20, 1821, Horton wrote to Thos Rotch:

Joseph is gone to accomplish his marriage with Pharaby Patterson daughter of Ansalem Patterson who lives just above George Kinsey on the Short Creek road, a respectable farmer who has only a son & Daughter. It is pretty much of a tryal to them to be so far separated from her but Joseph will not at present to be separated from his father and mother to whom he is very much attached so she has consented to come with him, my personal accquaintance with her has been but small but sufficient to be satisfied that she is of good moral Character, Inherits Industry and frugality from her Parents, and appears to be an amiable religious young woman about 20 (himself 22 years of age) she appears to be pretty well informed.  It is much approved of by the most respectable friends at Short Creek

When some of Horton’s other children married outside of the Society of Friends and had other troubles in their relationships with Horton, and their step-mother Hannah, this was such a welcome letter to find, and I looked forward to learning more about Joseph & Pharaby, their children, and life together. I’ve been disappointed that this was not to be – Pharaby disappeared with no mention. Others in the family named daughters after her, and after a gap of years, Joseph had a wife named Jennette. I could only assume that Pharaby had died, until I found another letter, today, in the Thomas & Charity Rotch Papers at the Massilon Public Library.

On October 22, 1821, Lewis Walker, another Quaker in Ohio, wrote to Thomas Rotch:

There is much sickness prevailing westward Elizabeth Patterson & her companion from still water were sick during time of Y Meeting as also was Isaac James from your quarter the complaint is said to be a bilious intermittant fever, Horton Howard did not attend the YM in consequence of the indisposition of Joseph’s wife. she deceased about the time our friends were at Delaware on their return. They had been married about 3 months perhaps, and are now separated. It is a great trial to her parents, who live here in our neighborhood. she being an only daughter – having but one child left.

A sad story, though not an unexpected one.

For Abolition – not Prohibition

I was surprised to discover that the early Quakers were not teetotallers. Horton’s grandmother had 2 wine glasses in the inventory of her estate, and Horton seems to have considered going into wine production. At the very least, he was making or planning to make wine for his own consumption.In November of 1831 he writes:

“among my acquaintances on the Catawba I have found a native vine which still had on its branches (which covered a large forest tree) perhaps a bushel of the sweetest and finest grapes I have ever eaten  they were somewhat shriveled but I  have a sample of them corked in a bottle for him to taste of – and I hope I can preserve them in good case they are as large as a stout rifle ball, an of the bunch grape, suitable for wine, thin skin and juicy, but taste very sweet and somewhat flavoured like the Fox grape, or between it and the Muskadine,  or Muskadet which grow here spontaneously and I have the promise on my return of cuttings from one of these ….. the bunches of which as well as the grapes are generally very large and frequently 9 inches long. – – I have some thought of going to Columbia …..where my friend W Bee says I can get a kind of native grape which is more to be relied on than any other – as they never rott, nor blast and always bear and are a choice wine grape.”

Not being familiar with the 2 grapes mentioned I had to do a little research – the Muskadine has been used in the making of sweet wines since the 16th century. The Muskadet produces a drier wine with a slightly musky tasting. Did he know what he was talking about, or did the grape he found really have resemblance to two very different grapes?

Perches & Pizza

I am up to 230 letters or other documents transcribed, and have had an interesting time with the transcription. I wrote previously about the crossed lines and the bad handwriting, making it difficult to decipher some letters, but I’ve run across another difficulty. Horton Howard also appears to have been a well educated man, with an extensive vocabulary – including words that have changed in meaning or are no longer commonly used.

On February 18, 1827 he wrote about visiting a property that his son-in-law either had purchased or was considering for purchase. In his words,”there are two large rooms and 2 of good size with a passage, each room a good fireplace & a handsome Pizza.” This is most certainly not the Pizza that we know today, yet his handwriting is very clear in this phrase. Could he have meant piazza?

Another puzzle appeared in describing this property in a phrase that was less clearly penned, so that I wasn’t sure if he wrote about perches or finches, and couldn’t figure out what a fish or a bird could have to do with measuring distance when he wrote” also there appeared at a distance say of 25 perches is a tolerable Barn stabling etc.”

A little research on units of measure solved that one! It was indeed perches which turns out to be another word for the distance also known as a rod or pole. This measure is equal to 5 ½ yards, 16 ½ feet or 1/320th of a mile.


Estate Inventory – 1788

At the age of 18, Horton Howard was the executor of the estate of his grandmother, Frances Horton. His inventory of the estate lists many items that were utilitarian in their day, including 1 watering pot, 4 tin pans, 1 pair of shears, 2 grind stones, 1 Hachet [sic], 4 hoes, and 1 lantern.

Some items have long since gone out of style or use – 4 chamber pots, 1 sidesaddle, 2 wheat riddles (strainers or separators), 1 churn, and 1 old riding chair. The riding chair was a small carriage with 2 large wheels, carrying a sitting chair mounted on a small sleigh-like platform. Carriages were taxed by the number of wheels, the riding chair could be pulled by a single horse, and this carriage was easier to drive over narrow and bumpy country roads.

There are also many items indicating comfort and an appreciation of the finer things in life. 9 Queen China cups and saucers, 1 punch strainer, 8 blue & white bowls, 2 looking glasses, 26 sitting chairs and 2 wine glasses.


Only 2 wine glasses?  And 26 sitting chairs? I’m intrigued by the juxtaposition of 26 chairs and only 2 wine glasses.  Can we assume she once had more and didn’t bother replacing them as she grew old? Or did she hold large meetings at which serving wine was not appropriate?