Lucius writes to Henry, a little over a week after returning from a trip to Ashfield and Phelps. He spent six weeks and a day away from home, which he remarks is just a day less than the time Henry spent away on his recent visit West. Lucius says Alonzo Franklin’s family is well, and revives the perennial claim that Frank is putting his affairs in order in Phelps and planning to move to Michigan (he never does).
Lucius describes a severe flood (remembered in New York histories as the “Freshet of 1857”), which washed away most of the bridges around Phelps as well as several mills, and damaged the railroad. He remarks that times are hard in Michigan, but apparently the Panic of 1857, which began in October in New York, had not affected Lucius badly enough to prevent his trip East at the beginning of November.
Allen Dec 27th 1857
I presume that you would like to hear from me by this time, & I am very sure that I would from you. I arrived safe home two weeks from the next Friday after leaving Ashfield. I found everything all correct on my return Home, & we are all well at present. I stopped at Albany one night, at Utica over one. Train arrived in Vienna in the evening. I found Franklin’s folks well & Frank was a making arrangements to move to Mich in the spring. I had an excellent visit in Phelps & Hopewell, & in fact the whole visit was a good one.
They had a very heavy freshet in Ontario Co & in fact from Siracuse almost to Buffalo when I was there. It swept off almost every bridge in Phelps both great & small. It took both bridges at Orleans & all on the Creek to Vienna, & a number on the Canandagua Outlet. It also done great damage to the railroad. It took out about seventy feet of the high embankment East of Vienna in the hollow by Russell Bement’s old place. It made a great Depot & the passengers had to exchange cars.
Harrison & his Wife were here Christmas. I heard from Lewis yesterday. He was on the Grand Jury last week at Coldwater. We heard from Priscilla a few days ago. She was well but did not weigh only 180 lbs.
I was gone just six weeks & one day on my visit, just one day less than you was. We had some very cold weather the next week after I got home. We had about 4 days of good sleighing & then it came off warm & pleasant & remained so until last week & now it is comfortable winter weather with about three inches of snow. I wish that there was about three inches more.
I have not foddered much yet, sheep only 3 or 4 days. Produce is very cheap of all kinds. Wheat is only with 75 cts. I think that it will be higher next spring. I have not thrashed the balance of mine yet. Times are, or rather money matters are, very hard this winter.
Ralph, I got some chestnuts on my return home. What speculations are you into this winter? Ella, have you got your pay on the Butternuts yet, & are you a studying Laws & Resolves as much as you was?
I have nothing more in particular to write. Write soon, I want to hear from you. Mother, Clarissa & Caroline send their Love to you all.
Yours in Haste
Lucius writes to Henry in the summer of 1857, after a long silence. The gap in their communication was probably not as long as the gap in the archive, because Henry went to Michigan in late 1856, and Achsah returned home to Allen. Lucius writes about the farm and the family. He says their mother Achsah did not go to Coldwater to visit their cousin, Lucretia Ranney Hathaway in the fall, as she had apparently planned to do. Coldwater is about twelve miles from Allen. Harrison, who was married in early 1856, has had a son in April, and Anson’s son who is just over a year old “walks all over the house.”
Lucius mentions that he has traded his team of oxen for horses, and that Harrison and Lemuel also have a team of horses. Horses are slightly more of a luxury than oxen, because they are faster (and can pull a wagon quickly to town), but more expensive, since they need oats whereas oxen can survive on grass. Lucius also says Anson doesn’t have a team at all, so he has been doing his brother’s “team work.”
Lucius invites Henry to visit again in September, when their brother Alonzo Franklin will be coming out from Phelps. He also invites his niece and nephew, suggesting to Ralph that he take up a peddler’s basket and come out on west. This is a joke, because Ralph is only twelve — but Ralph does go out on the road as a peddler several years later.
Allen July 19th 1857
It has been a long time since I have written you a letter, & the reason is not because I have forgotten you for I presume that there is not a day passes but what I think of you & also think of what a fine visit we had together last fall. But it is my negligence. We are all well as usual & also the other Boys & their Families for aught I know. I see them quite often. Mother’s health is about the same as it was when she came home last fall.
We had a very long & severe winter & the spring & summer are very backward, & very wet. We had a very hard thunderstorm last night. Provisions are rather dear here this summer, although there seems to be a plenty in the country. We have a plenty of old wheat on hand yet, old potatoes & old pork &c. Potatoes have been worth during the summer, one dollar a bushel. Wheat, the average price about $1.50 a bushel &c. One year ago today I had my wheat harvested & in the barn & the most of my hay, and now I have just begun to hay & my wheat will not be fit to cut under about a week.
Crops look very promising at present. I think I shall have two hundred bushels of wheat. I call it 12 acres. You recollect where it was sowed. I should estimate it higher, but the Weavle are injuring it some. Don’t know how much. The little piece across the road is injured by being too large straw, it is lodged flat to the ground the most of it. Grass is very good. I shall cut double the hay that I did last year. I have a piece of oats that looks well. Potatoes look first rate. Corn is backward but is a growing finely now days.
Anson’s crops look very well. He will have nearly two hundred bushels of wheat. Harrison & Lemuel’s wheat is rather small, their other crops are good. Lewis says that it has been too wet to hoe his corn much, but it will all be right with him in the fall.
I suppose that you have heard that Harrison has a boy about three months old. Anson’s boy walks all over the house. Anson has not got any team this summer, consequently I do the most of his team work. I have no oxen this summer, I work horses. I traded my oxen for horses last winter. I have about such a team as the Boys had when you were here. They have the same now.
We have three cows this summer. I sheared the same flock of sheep that I had last fall when you were here. There was 66 of them. We saved 2 fleeces, the other sixty-four sheared 291 lbs of which I sold for 44 cts a lb. Beat that with a common flock of that size in your county if you can.
Mother says I must write more about my horses. I keep that black colt that you saw. She is raising a fine colt this summer. I have the boy 2 year old colt, & I also have a yearling colt that I bought last winter. Which makes in all six horse kind. I have since shearing sold all of my wethers, both old & young. 23 in number for $2.25 per head. Beef cattle are very high here at present. There is a great many buyers about these days.
I moved the house from across the road over near where you & I staked out & I find it much better or handier rather. It also looks better. We are a having a great deal of fruit this season. We shall have a number of bushels of peaches from the old, apparently dead trees. Our orchard is a bearing full. We shall have a great many greenings & we are a having lots of currants. In fact there is a going to be a great many beechnuts, butternuts &c.
We have not heard from Priscilla in a long time. She was well the last we heard from her. We are expecting Franklin out here in Sept & we would like to have you come out with him if you thought you could make it pay. We are a fitting up some roasters. I think it will be doubtful about my going East this fall as A.F. is a coming out here. Mother did not go out to Coldwater to see Mrs. Hathaway last fall. It did not seem to be convenient for her to go until we was afraid that Mrs. Hathaway was gone. Andrew is not a living with us now. His mother got married last winter & wanted him to go live with her, so he went. I have got a lad to work for me this summer, about seventeen years old.
I might perhaps write many more things which would be interesting to you, but it is chore time & I must draw to a close. I must try to write often & hope that you will do the same. We want that you should all write. We were all very much pleased with the large mail that we got from you at one time last winter. Ralph, can’t you take a basket of essence & take a trip out into Mich and make a dime or two & see your kin? They would like to see you very much. Ella how can you manage to come out, try and study out some way can’t you? If you cannot don’t forget to write. Carroline goes to school to Mr. Howes this summer. Down in Anson’s dist.
Yours in Haste H. S. Ranney
From Lucius Ranney
P. S. Please do not delay writing but a short time after you receive this. Mother says that Ralph is a great hand to write. Can you make any of your townsmen believe many moderate Mich truths? We all send our love to you all.