This letter was written by Eunice (Slawson) McIlrath (1795-18xx), the wife of Thomas McIlrath (1761-1836). Eunice was the daughter of James and Eunice Slawson. Thomas was the son of Samuel McIlrath (1718-1804) and Isabel Aikman (1734-1814).
Thomas McIlrath had a nephew named Abner C. McIlrath — a son of his brother Alexander — who kept a tavern on Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland. History records that when Abraham Lincoln passed through Cleveland in 1861 on the way to his inauguration in Washington, he made a speech from the balcony of the Weddell House and observed the Abner McIlrath, who was taller than six feet, standing nearby. Laughing, Lincoln allegedly invited Abner to measure up with him to see who was taller. They stood back to back and McIlrath won. It is said that Abner exclaimed, “There, you see I am a bigger Republican than you are!”
Addressed to Miss Ann Palmer, West Springfield, Massachusetts
[22 January 1827]
After so long silence, I almost fear to write. Knowing your goodness, dear Ann, I write with pleasure. Since you left here, we have been visited with sickness, but it pleased the Almighty Giver of all good to spare our unprofitable lives a little longer and I hope we shall learn submission to his most holy will for I feel the need of humility. We want the prayers of all for religion is low here. Never the less, we hear of revivals in other places. There has been quite an awakening in Brooklyn and many prayers have been made and hopes entertained that as the Lord passes by, he will spread his skirt over us and lay unto us live and I feel that in his own good time he will for the Lord is not slack in his promises to his people.
I received 2 letters from you and the packet for which I feel most thankful to all my friends. Tell the cousins I value their presents as a token of their love. It will be remembered by me with lasting gratitude. Although unknown, they are the subject of much conversation with us and are remembered in our prayers as we wish to be in theirs. It is a matter of great rejoicing to hear from Rachel and the forbearance and goodness of the Lord with her. Her lot has been cast in pleasant places. She has been favored with constant ministry and pious friends to comfort and strengthen her. I hope you will labour with her and tell her she must strive to enter in at the straight gate. My prayers are at last heard for her. Tell her to labour with her husband and family, go to them in the strength of the Lord, and it will not be in vain. She must believe he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Tender her my love and best thanks. I will soon write her.
If the Lord wills, I think of coming this summer. My health is much better than when you saw me last. Mrs. Lemming is here. They moved down before you left home but the situation of her health prevented her visiting you. She and family is well with the addition of another son. James is at the Maumee. His health is very poor. We expect him here this Spring for his health. He has lost his daughters. Mrs. Plumb is in a poor state of health. The rest of the family is well. They have lost 2 children since they came here. Caroline died the 7 of January very sudden. Julia has had a severe sickness last fall. She kept school 6 months almost when she was seized with a fever which confined her 10 weeks. She has recovered her health and changed her name. She has married Judge Leeson, formerly from Massachusetts — a very respectable man. He is a farmer; owns a farm and considerable property. He is a moral man of industrious habits about 32 years of age. She will be pleasantly situated about three quarters of a mile from us. She thinks she is better suited then she could have been heretofore. The ways of the Lord are mysterious and marvelous in our eyes. She says her affections are not so much confined to one object but that you share largely in them.
Prudence is [at]tending the academy, studying grammar and geography. She wishes to be remembered to you in much love with thanks and love to Adaline. Lloyd is in good health and talks of coming to make you a visit but I fear he intends to marry. It is all the rage here and has been this 2 months. Julia says you must not think that was the cause of her changing her situation for her choice directed by judgement whereas it was formerly by fancy.
Now my dear Ann, I have given you an account of the family agreeable to your request, I will speak of our business. We have built a house and are living in it. We have four fire places. It will be very convenient when finished. I know not whether I wrote you the particulars of getting the land. Alexander McIlrath lent us the money one hundred dollars to buy the land which he was not in need of until we could be able pay him. But he has been suddenly called by death before any writings were made and left it to his wife and son administered and in order to favor us, they made a debt of it, and as Isabel ¹ was free from encumbrance, gave her the deed as other heirs was encumbered and she could wait for the money. Her being underage prevented us from getting a deed from her. We felt safe knowing her honor, but my dear Ann, how uncertain is all things here. Last night she was married to a man whose disposition is most craving and now we fear they will want the money and perhaps will dispossess us and turn us again adrift in the wide world for it is out of our power to pay the interest at present. But we will submit it as in all other cases to the all wise disposer of all good and if it is best, there will be some dower opened for us.
When we heard last from James, he was blind with sore eyes. I have just heard from him. He has recovered his sight and talks of moving here in the spring. My daughter Sally & sons is here. Anthony lives with Mr. Plumb and Henry with me. The more I think of you all, the more I want to see you. Give my love to our ever dear Edmond and family. Tell him I want to see them. O how I wish to converse with him, & see his wife and child. James is as anxious as ever to see him [and] feels that he has never wrote him. Tell Saba, Juliam and Adaline I love them all. Tell Rodric I will try to come by the time he appointed to his wedding. Tell honest Frederick if he can’t suit himself with a wife there, to come here as there is an abundance of good girls yet unmarried.
Julia wants to draw this off and correct it but having a chance this morning to send it to the post , I will send it as it is knowing your goodness will not expose it. Pray write us as often as you can. Accept our best prayers and well wishes for your health, welfare and happiness in time and eternity.
— Eunice McIlrath
My Dear Ann,
Mother has given me the liberty of closing this letter which opportunity I embrace with much pleasure. You know not, dear Ann, how we all wish to see you. This winter has been spent very pleasantly with us and we feel that your company would have been a great addition to our pleasure. It is a general time of health with us at present. You have no doubt heard of the death of our dear Mrs. Ely. She departed this life the ___. We do really sympathize with Mr. Ely [and] feel that he has lost a worthy companion. Mother would have gone and spent a week with him had her business been such that she could have left home. Mr. Lathrop preached here last sabbath. We have regular preaching every Sabbath. Mr. Peat has been placed over the church here as our settled minister. They have employed him another year. Are all most pleased with him. You will be pleased, my dear cousin, when I tell you that all our young men have signed to support the gospel. They are now a finishing off the meetinghouse. The ladies in this place have paid for the trimming of the pulpit. We have a fine society of young people in this place. They have improved very much since our minister came into place. Mother has told you all that will be interesting to you. Do, my dear Ann, write to us often. We shall be pleased to hear from you all as often as once a week. Give my love to all the cousins and accept a great share yourself from your ever sincere and affectionate cousin, — Julia A. Lee
January 31st 1837
¹ The date of Eunice’s letter is confirmed by a reference to the wedding of Isabel McIlrath (1808-1835), which occurred on 21 January 1827. Isabel married Benjamin Sawtell (1805-1851). Note: Sawtell is sometimes spelled Sortell.