Anson writes Henry from the town of Reading, seven miles from the family home in Allen. He has taken a teaching job for the winter that pays $16 and board, which Anson says sounded like a better deal than $12 a month for working “out in the snow.” Some of Anson’s students are older and bigger than he is (Anson is 20), but that doesn’t seem to bother him. He likes the people, who he says are “good nice citizens.”
Anson says the family is well, and mentions that they had heard from Lemuel. Although he supposes that Lucius may have already written about Lemuel’s letter (if Lucius did write, his letter was lost. This is one of those remarks that leads me to think there were actually many more letters between the brothers than made it into the archive — which is remarkable, given the number that were preserved), Anson repeats Lemuel’s news from memory. He says Lemuel has offered to send him money for his trip, if he will come to California. Since Lemuel has already written that he would not advise friends to travel overland to California, this presumably means a journey by ship down the coasts of North and South America, around the Straits of Magellan, and up the other side to San Francisco. That would be quite an adventure for a twenty-year old from Michigan, and Anson seems to be considering it. Anson says if he goes he might retire to Ashfield afterward, once he has made his fortune.
Nov 24th 1853
Having a few leisure moments to spare I will improve the time by writing to you. I am well & doing the same. I am about seven miles from Lucius in the town of Reading, teaching school. I have taught about ten days, and so far I like the business very well. My school is not very large now & probably it will not be this winter. It will average about from twenty five to thirty scholars. Some of them are men grown larger than I am. I get sixteen dollars & boarded. I thought that would be better than to work out in the snow for twelve. It is a first rate district. The people are good nice citizens, which makes it rather more pleasant.
I came from home last Monday morning. The folks were all well then. Lewis was at our house when I came away. They were all well there. We received a letter from Lemuel a few days since. Probably Lucius has written about it before this. He wrote that he was in good health and doing tolerable well. He was to work where he has been for some time on Clear Creek, twelve miles from Shasta City. He was to work by the month mining. He gets one hundred & seventeen dollars per month & boards himself. He wrote for me to go to California. He said he would send me the money in the spring if I would only go. He says that a laboring man can make more there than he can here in the States.
I must stop writing now for a while because it is most school time and I will try and finish after school.
Well school is out for the night and I am glad, for I am a little tired now but will soon be rested again. I received a letter from Harrison a few days ago. He wrote that he was well but a little homesick. He thought of coming back in the spring, in June I believe he set his time for coming back. He wrote that Lyman had been sick but was getting better so that he was up around. Mother she is in Phelps N.Y. I suppose she calculates on staying there throughout the winter.
If I go to California I shall probably go to Ashfield when I come back from the Gold Mines. Then I can have something to live on. I suppose you think there is not much to be made in California. Well everyone to their notion.
I thank you very much for the papers you send me, for I get some time to read them and find some good pieces in them. I suppose I shall have to quit for it is most time to go for my supper. Please write on the receipt of this. Write soon.
A. B. Ranney
P.S. Please send my mail to Reading P. O. Hillsdale Co. Mich and Oblige A. B. Ranney
Eighteen year old Anson writes to Henry for the first time from Florence, Michigan, where he is working as a farm hand for day wages. Anson is getting seventy-five cents a day, which he considers good pay. He reports that he is in good health, “which is the first thing in letter writing.” Then he gives news of all the family, and thanks Henry for the newspapers he has sent over the years and invites his brother to write back to him “without fail.”
Unlike Lucius, Lewis, and even Lyman, Anson and his older brother Henry really have no shared experience. Anson was born just before the family moved to Phelps, so although Henry may remember him as a newborn baby, Anson’s only face to face contact with Henry would probably have taken place on the rare occasions when Henry visited Phelps (I don’t think he had been to Michigan yet, at this point), before their father George died and Achsah moved out to live with Lucius. So it’s noteworthy that Anson feels a family connection and decides to initiate contact with a brother who he only knows through letters and family stories.
Florence May 2nd 1852
Being that I am out here in St. Joseph away from the harm of Friends & alone today I thought there would be no harm in dropping a few lines to you, as I had never done the like before. As to health, which is the first thing in letter writing, I have been blessed with good health for the past year & hope this to find you in the same.
I am to work by the day now & probably shall continue to work by the day through the summer. I get $0.75 a day or $19.00 per month, which are good wages for a common tug like me. Probably I am an extra hand, let me tell the story. I have been here about six weeks. I think that I can stay away as long as until fall if not longer. I have a notion of going to Iowa in the Fall if I can make things shape right. If I don’t go there I shall go home & go to school through the winter.
Anyone would judge from the looks of my writing that I had ought to go to school winters, but I do not pretend to be a scholar. Neither at writing or any other branch of knowledge.
We got a letter from Lemuel just before I started from home. His calculation then was to emigrate for California about the 10th of Apr. I am afraid he will see some hard times before he gets back if he should happen to live until he got back. But luck to him I say. There has been a great many from here that started for California that got as far as Council Bluff & turned about & came back on account of there being such a rush this spring. But I say if there is any that want to go there let them go. I think I can better myself in some other country. Everyone to their notion. I can enjoy myself here for the present well enough.
Harrison was here about a week ago on his way to Mt. Carmel. He says he shall probably be back in the fall, but I guess it is different. I had a letter from Lyman a short time ago. He wrote no news in particular. He is getting pretty good wages down in Van Buren. Lewis has had a hard time of it for 6 or 8 months past. It is hopeful that he will recover fully.
As I have written a pretty long letter I think it is best to hold up now, for if you write to me I may want to write again. I am very thankful to you for those papers you have sent me in times past. Write to me when you receive this without fail. If you should feel disposed to write me a letter you may send it to Constantine St. Joseph Co. Mich. I send my love to you & the rest of the family.
From Anson B. Ranney