Discord over Inheritance

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.

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.


A Soldier’s Complaint

My great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Howard Affleck was not alone in criticizing the government over management of the Civil War army. The following excerpt is from a letter written to Sarah Forrer by Joan Murray (a close friend of Mary and her sister, Sarah F.) Joan’s son-in-law, Charlie, was a full Major in Company S of the Ohio 96th Infantry Regiment. Charlie was one of the lucky ones – he returned home to his wife and children.

“Our last news is of the 15th of Feb still at Young’s Point, with many sick and very destitute of provisions for them. Charlie is indignant at the neglect of sick and wounded soldiers in the army. Callie is now busy trying to get off a few boxes of onions, fruits, etc. Had a line from Gov. Todd promising a passport, and ½ fare for ticket for an agent to be sent with them. I see he has been refused by the legislature means to purchase a steamer for the use of Ohio troops – it is too bad. Charlie says they are murdering soldiers by their “red tape” issues.

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.