Ranney Letter #16

1851-10-12LuciustoHSR
Lucius writes to Henry in the Fall of 1851, mentioning that he has had letters from Henry in Ashfield, Alonzo Franklin in Phelps, and Lyman in Arkansas in the same week. Lucius says everyone in his household is well, although his wife and niece have had bouts of fever. Their brother Lewis, however, is fighting for his life.

Lewis had traveled down to Ashfield the previous Spring, and had returned home with an illness that “used him up.” In the fall, he developed an infection in his leg that completely immobilized it. The doctors described this as erysipelas, which is an acute streptococcus bacterial infection of the skin and lymph nodes. As Lucius says, the infection was often fatal, through septic shock, spreading through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, and necrotizing fasciitis (“flesh eating” infection).

Lucius says the illness prevented Lewis from working for most of the summer, so in addition to being ill, Lewis is in a tight financial situation. But Lucius remarks, he has “a smart wife.” Lucius also reports what he knows about Lyman and Priscilla, and says no one has heard from Lemuel in half a year.

The harvest was apparently very good in Michigan, because Lucius says the price of wheat is down as low as fifty cents a bushel. And due to Lewis’s illness, no one in the family raised any peppermint. As a result of the “uncommon hard” times, Lucius will have to defer payment again on the loan Henry gave him. But he hopes to be able to come down to Ashfield himself in a year and repay his brother.

Lucius closes by saying their youngest brother, eighteen year-old Anson, has just returned from Lewis’s place fifty miles away, and that Lewis is doing better.

My Transcription:


Allen Oct 12
th 1851

Dear Friends

I was very much gratified by receiving a letter from you, one from Franklin, & also one from Lyman the past week, & as you all seem to be in a prosperous situation, it is somewhat a consolation to us here. I shall however write but a few lines, as I intend to write to you all this afternoon. We are well here at present. Clarissa has had the ague & fever some this fall, also Ellen Franklin’s little girl has had it some.

Lewis is very sick with a swollen leg. The doctors, the species of irrasiplas. He has not been out of the house for about eight weeks. The swelling commenced on the inside of the leg just above the knee. It makes the cords & joint stiff . It is drawn up in a triangle form & there remains. It is swollen very large and very hard. For the past two weeks it has been increasing & working upwards, & unless it is checked it will work up into his bowels & kill him. Mother is there. I saw him yesterday He has failed very much since I saw him a week ago. It is hopeful that he may get along but I am afraid that he will not live but a short time. He has the best of care & has had three Doctors. They opened it for fear it might be materated, but it was not.

Lewis had a bit of sickness this summer after he left Ashfield, which used him up. He has not been rugged since. He has not been able to do much the past summer. It makes it bad in his situation, although he has a smart wife.

Lyman writes that Bishop & Co. are going to send him out among the Indians with a stock of goods. When he wrote he was at Napoleon on the Mississippi on business for the firm & was going to return soon.

We have not heard from Lemuel since last spring. Densmore was here yesterday. He says Priscilla’s health is pretty good.

Produce is very low this fall. Wheat is worth from 50 to 55 cts per bushel. We had about 200 bushels. As for oil peppermint, in consequence of Lewis health they did not raise any.

The demands you have against me I am afraid that I shall not be able to send you this fall. But I think & hope that I shall be able to go down next fall myself & pay you. Times are uncommon hard in the state this fall. If the wheat crop comes in good next summer I will try & send you a quantity of flour if it should be desired.

I must draw my letter to a close. Anson has just come from Lewis. He says that L is better. Good news. Write on the receipt of this. Give my respects to all enquiring friends.

Yours in haste
Lucius Ranney