These two letters were written by Sarah M. Wheler (1810-1850), the daughter of Robert John Wheler (1780-1874) and Catherine Parmella Bacon (1791-1879) of Walthourville, Liberty County, Georgia. It is presumed that she was living with her brother and/or attending a school for young ladies in Savannah when she wrote the second letter. Sarah became the first wife of John W. A. Fennell on 19 October 1843 and the couple had at least four children before Sarah’s death in 1850.
Sarah wrote both letters to her uncle Richard Miles Wheler (1811-1894), the son of Henry Wheler (1750-1821) and Mary Keziah Watkins (1769-1823). [Note: the family name is sometimes spelled Wheeler.] Richard married Mary Ann McIntosh Anderson (1816-1938) in 1837.
Though Richard was Sarah’s uncle, there was little difference in their ages. Sarah’s father was the son of Henry Wheler’s first wife, Jane McIntosh (d. 1797), and Richard’s father was the son of Henry’s second wife, Mary Watkins.
The death of Orlando Wheler is mentioned in the first letter. See footnotes.
Addressed to Mr. Richard M. Wheler, Sumpterville [Sumterville, Sumter County], South Carolina
Walthourville [Liberty County, Georgia]
August 13th 1836
I was really surprised today when I found that a month had passed since I received your last letter. Indeed, time passes away very fast. Yes, Oh! how fast. And what a stimulate this should be to improve the present. The truth that a moment once passed will never return.
I have now left school and perhaps you would like to know how I employ myself now. I sew & read alternately at their proper times, and I go twice a week to take drawing & music lessons which I still pursue. And then at the close of every day, I take a walk, often alone (excepting my little dog Webster) and of tea accompanied by my dear Susan. To see her, Uncle, is to admire her. To know her is to love her. I do not know how long I’ll remain at home, but no longer than until I can get a school.
You spoke of coming here to school. I wish you would for if it is your design to go through college, you can be well prepared for it here. We certainly have very fine schools here. Papa says he would be overjoyed to see you. You must know how anxious he is to see his brothers & sisters again. Here, separated from all of them, he thinks his younger brothers ought really to come to see him. We were all very much grieved to hear of poor Uncle Orlando’s death.¹
My dear Uncle, I will thank you for all your kind advice & wishes expressed in your last [letter] and be assured any advice from you will never be unheeded by me. As it is not convenient for me to write any more at present, I’ll conclude. But I am really ashamed to send this after your long letter; and besides this, is scarcely legible.
Adieu, dear Uncle, and believe me to be your affectionate, — Sarah Wheler
Do not follow my bad example and I will write a longer [letter] the next time.
Addressed to Mr. Richard M. Wheler, Sumpterville, South Carolina
Belmont [Savannah, Georgia]
September 29th 1837
Dear Uncle R,
A considerable time has elapsed since I received your letter but I shall make no excuse as I am as punctual as you generally are. And indeed! perhaps your dilatoriness has rendered me so. However, no more upon this subject.
I am particularly gloomy this morning. I have just had my fortune told. It ran as follows: “You have been courted by a light complexioned man & loved by dark one, but who has not said anything to you & it is useless for him to say it. You have loved once a light haired man.” Thus far, I believe is true. The remainder I suppose it will take time to prove whether true or not. “You have a secret enemy who is very fair to your face. You will meet with two great disappointments. You will be crossed in some wish by your parents or they will not approve of some of your conduct. You are to receive some money, to have a great many troubles but finally all will be well. You will most likely never get married. And if ever [you do, it will be] to a light haired man whom you have never seen as yet.”
Now this was told me by an old lady with cards who has never failed; or at least every instance that I know of has turned out exactly as she said. You may say I am superstitious but I must confess that I do believe what she has told me. And say, uncle, is it not enough to make me melancholy? A secret enemy! I shudder at the thought. To meet with two disappointments in what my mind is most fixed upon. Ah! You would pity me if you knew how limited my designs or expectations are & then to be disappointed in them. And oh! how am I to be crossed by my parents or how am I going to displease them by my conduct? My greatest wish has been to be able in some way to relieve their necessities & to have all mankind for my friends. And in this I am to be disappointed? Be it so, I will believe it is for some good.
I am very anxious to hear from yourself and Aunt Ann again. May you have a long life & a happy one. The intimation you gave me of who she was before [she became] Mrs. R. M. Wheler is not sufficiently clear for we can only make out that she is my father’s mother’s brother’s child, or grandchild — I forget which. Now this is very unsatisfactory. I have been home once since the reception of your letter to attend the wedding of a friend. Found all relations well except grand ma’ma who was quite sick. I have heard since she is better. Excuse this uninteresting letter as I had nothing more to write. And once more I will request you to write soon. If you are too lazy, why not [let] your better half perform the task for you. I should be very happy to receive a letter from her.
Well, my dear uncle & aunt, accept of the love and best wishes for their welfare from their niece, — Sarah W.
[P.S.] Ask Aunt Jane why she has never answered my letter. My love to her & all relations. My brother wishes you to enquire of Uncle William if he has ever received a letter from him.
¹ Orlando Wheler was one of the “Texas Martyrs” executed by General Santa Anna on 27 March 1836 at Goliad, Texas, during the Texas Revolution. He was residing in Mobile, Alabama, in 1835 and may have been part of “The Mobile Grays” — a group of 30 volunteers led by Capt. David N. Burke. The following letter, written in February 1836 to his brother Richard, was probably his last:
Garrison of Labahier, Texas,
Feb 23 1836
My Dear Brother.
I hope you will not think hard of me for not writing to you before now for this is the first opportunity that I have had to send a leter ot the United States since Ive been here in Texas.
I am quite hearty at present, and have enjoyed better health here than I ever did in my life , although I was in a wretched state of health when I left Mobile.
Tesas is the most beautiful country that I ever beheld and the richest lands in the world. If we prove successful in this way, and God willing that I live until it is over, I intend to live here as I will have nearly 2,000 acres of land coming to me as a bounty for my services besides twenty dollars a month.
We have been victorious so far and have beaten the Mexicans in every battle. We will leave this place in the course of two or three days for the town of San Antonio de Bexar as Santa Anna is on his march to that place at the head of a powerful army and designs to attatck the place as soon as possible but he will meeet with a warm reception for our amy is in high spirits and eager for battle and the Mexicans cannot stand our rifles. I am hily pleased with a soldiers life, although it is very toilsome and dangerous, and I have become a first rate cook and washer.
Tell the girls that I am coming back to South Carolina when this war is over and get a wife if I dont get killed and whichever one will come here with memust be in readiness for I dont want to stay there courting them for a year or two.
I am very anxious to see you all but I will not return till the storm of war is over here. You must excuse my short letter as I am in great haste. Give my respects to all my relations and friends, and to Mrs Sledge and Mrs Black and their families and tell them that I have not forgotten them and am also very anxious to see them all.
I remain your affectionate brother — Orlando Wheler
N.B. I cannot inform you where to direct a letter to me as we are continuously marching from one station to another and for that reason I may not get your letter, There is no postoffice inthis part of the country. If we beat Santa Anna in Texas I expect we will march against Matmoros inthe state of Tamulipas and try to reduce that state. — O. Wheler