Greetings Fellow Historians!

This site was created to stash old letters that were spared from obscurity so that descendants of those who wrote the letters may benefit in their historical or genealogical research. I do not wish to profit from these letters and it’s my intention to eventually donate any originals that I own to an appropriate county historical society/museum. A significant number of these letters were never owned by me; they were transcribed with the permission of the owner prior to their being auctioned on ebay and posted on this site after the sale.

If you find these letters useful in any way, I’d love to hear from you.

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14 responses to “Greetings Fellow Historians!

  1. What a wonderful idea! My husband’s niece just sent this to me when she saw the letter from Lizzie Ratliff. Lizzie’s father was brother to my husband’s great-grandfather. Do you know who is the owner of the letter? There are some errors that need to be corrected.

    • I’m pretty certain this letter was one of many that I transcribed for an acquaintance prior to his selling it on e-bay. It was probably sold a few months ago. If you have corrections to make to the letter or to the accompanying research material, I invite you you to add comments in the field provided at the bottom of the page in which the letter appears for the benefit of others who would be interested in this particular letter. Thank you for your comments. — Griff

  2. Regarding the 1818 letter from Dr. Stephen Hall to Lucy Hall and Dr. Philander Hall, determining latitude on land or at sea is rather simple, but determining longitude with precision at sea is far more complicated. To encourage the development of a means for accurately determining longitude, the British government created the Commissioners for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea, in 1714. The Board was authorized to provide funding for such research and to award up to £20,000 to anyone who found a solution.
    Dr. Joel Abbot of Washington, Georgia claimed to have invented a method for determining longitude based on magnetism. He entered into a contract with Dr. Stephen Hall and Dr. Philander Hall of Savannah on June 20, 1818 under which the latter were to develop and perfect instruments that used the principle and to market the instruments. I have a copy of this contract. In the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah is a microfilm copy of the Hall Family Papers, 1796-1820, Ms. 1,500. It contains correspondence and other papers of Stephen, Lucy, Philander and other members of their family.
    Dr. Stephen Hall went to Liverpool and London in an attempt to fulfill the terms of the contract mentioned above. In the letter from Dr. Stephen Hall to Lucy and Philander dated September 1818, Stephen states that “the Board of Longitude” had rejected Abbot’s claim for having solved the problem of determining longitude.
    John Harrison’s invention of the chronometer had basically already solved the problem, and, after many refinements, the Board for the Discovery of the Longitude was abolished by Parliament in 1828.

      • Hi Griff,
        I am a member of the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah and do historical research and publication, mainly with regard to the history of surveying and land titles in Georgia. I am listed in Contemporary Authors, volume 135, page 63. The 1818 letter from Dr. Stephen Hall to Lucy Hall and Dr. Philander Hall, that you posted, is of considerable interest.
        If you have the original, please consider donating it to the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. The author of the letter and the two people the letter is addressed to moved to Savannah. Throughout the 1800s, Savannah was the biggest cotton exporting port in the world and Liverpool was the biggest cotton manufacturing center in the world. Most of Savannah’s cotton exports went to Liverpool. As a result, the two cities had intimate connections in many ways. The letter indicates some of this connection.
        The Georgia Historical Society already has a microfilm copy of a collection of letters of the Stephen, Lucy, and Philander Hall family. See http://www.worldcat.org/title/hall-family-papers-1796-1820/oclc/173482511 Joel Abbot, who is mentioned in the letter, was, among other things, a congressman from Georgia. He built the house in Washington, Georgia that was later owned by Robert Toombs. Robert Toombs was a U.S. Senator from Georgia and Secretary of State of the Confederacy.
        The person to contact about donating the letter is Lynette Stoudt: http://www.georgiahistory.com/containers/74 Here is the address:

        Lynette Stoudt
        Georgia Historical Society
        501 Whitaker Street
        Savannah, GA 31401
        Library: 912-651-2128
        Administrative Offices: 912-651-2125
        http://www.georgiahistory.com/

        The Georgia Historical Society is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5 PM.
        If you do not have the original letter, do you know where the original is? It would be useful for my research to cite the original.
        Below is the full article from Niles Weekly Register, that you already have, that connects the Halls, Abbot, and Savannah.
        Thanks very much, and thanks for posting the letter!

        Farris Cadle
        5228 Augusta Road
        Garden City, GA 31408
        Phone: 912-398-5202
        E-mail: fcadle@bellsouth.net
        http://farriscadle.com/

        Niles Weekly Register (Baltimore, Md.), New Series, 1, no. 1 (August 30, 1817): 5:

        Longitude.
        FOR THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCER.
        Messrs. Editors–The following is a copy of a letter to a gentleman in Savannah:–
        “Ship Wallace, lat. 33, 50, long, 68, 22,
        “May 11, 1817.
        “By calculation we have made 12 deg. 35 min. difference of longitude. The doctor’s machine corresponds exactly–and I have not the least doubt of its accuracy, and it certainly is the long sought for thing.
        J. STICKNEY.”

        Doctor [Stephen] Hall, of Savannah, sailed in May last for England, with an instrument, to claim the emoluments and honors of a discovery of longitude; but, though he may obtain those, the merit of the discovery of the theory, is unquestionably due to doctor Joel Abbot, of [Washington,] Georgia, member elect of the 16th congress. For nearly twenty years the writer of this has occasionally corresponded with him on this very interesting discovery. I have now before me his memoir on the subject, printed in Philadelphia, in 1814, entitled, “An Essay on the central influence of Magnetism.” The author conceives that he has discovered, in the laws of magnetism, a native principle, by which, with proper mechanical ingenuity, longitude may be discovered. This principle he has defined, in his theory of magnetism, which explains the laws of magnetic motion, impressed by nature–never explained nor conceived before. Perhaps further communications on this subject may be submitted to you. I will now only add that doctor Abbot believes that he originally conceived and explained a law of nature impressed on magnets, which fixes as permanently a meridional attractive government to magnetic bodies, as polarity itself; that when a magnet is formed and suspended so as to obey all its attractive powers of government, it will obey not only a polar, but a meridional influence, and accommodate itself to the infinite conceived meridians of the earth, as it accommodates itself to the poles of the earth. Z.

  3. Farris. I only transcribed the letter for the gentleman who sold it on e-bay a few weeks ago. The transcription was in exchange for the authorization to post images of the letter and the transcription on my blogsite. — Griff

  4. Dear Griff – I cannot tell you how surprised I was to come across your blog regarding two letters written by 4th great-grandfather Captain James Thwing Homans(my maternal grandmother was a Homans) as the result of a chance query on Google(where I entered his mother’s name including her maiden name). His son Harry is my 3rd great-grandfather. Is there any way to connect with the current owner of the two letters? Also, is the daguerreotype shown on the blog confirmed as being James Homans? I look forward to hearing from you.

  5. Dear Griff,

    I’m PhD Candidate in history working on Henry Boynton Smith, and I’m very interested in the letter that you found of his to D. R. Goodwin from 1840 and would love to know more about it. Could you send me an email at the address I entered on this comment?

    Thanks,
    Andrew

  6. The Letter from Margaret L. Bowie to her Brother Walter Bowie, Jr. was of great interest to me! I am a descendant of the Bowies and have a lot of the correspondence between members of the family. Was this letter owned by you or was it one you just happened to transcribe? Do you know what may have become of the letter? Thanks for any information. If you own the letter, I have more information on the Bowies for you. I have many pix of the people named in the letter. This is a great service for many and a way to connect letters with descendants. Best wishes and Thanks, Bill

    • Unfortunately I do not own this letter and I’m sure it was sold on e-bay some time ago by an acquaintance of mine who buys & sells these stampless letters. I would be very happy to add footnotes to the letter that might provide information useful to any family researchers and I would be delighted to include images of the people mentioned in the letter if you are willing to share. Thank you for your comment. — Griff

  7. I’m enquiring about the 1833 letter of George Pease to Joseph Pease. I am an intern at the West Carrollton Historical Society, in West Carrollton, Ohio. I am doing a research project on the Pease family as well as a digitalization project of Evergreen Cemetery. The majority of the Pease family is buried there. Finding this letter is amazing because of the facts that is given on our town. The Pease family were pioneer founders of our city. If you have the original copy of this letter, or the photograph that is mentioned of Horace Pease would you consider donating it to the West Carrollton Historical Society? If the letter is now elsewhere, could you send via email any information that you have on the Pease family along with the photos of the letter/Horace? We have little in our collections of the Pease family and it would be a true treasure in our collection.

    West Carrollton Historical Society
    323 East Central Avenue
    West Carrollton City, Ohio 45449
    Phone (937) 859-5912

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