This letter was written by Amanda Zenobia Agnew (1817-1895), the daughter of Gen. Robert Moore (1778-1831) and Mary Stibbs (1783-1829). In 1838, Amanda married Isaac R. Harter (1811-1876), a hardware store merchant in Canton, Ohio. One of the sons born to this couple was Michael Daniel Harter (1846-1896) — a U.S. Representative from Ohio in the 52nd and 53rd Congresses. Two other sons, Capt. Joseph Stibbs Harter and Lt. George DeWalt Harter, served as officers in Ohio regiments during the Civil War, the former tragically losing his life when he was shot by the accidental discharge of a revolver in Cincinnati. Isaac Harter had an older sister named Christina Harter who married George DeWalt (1794-1850); their daughter Catherine (“Kate”) DeWalt (1827-1873) married James Asbury Saxton (1816-1887) and this couple’s daughter, Ida Saxton (1847-1907) was the wife of President William McKinley.
Amanda wrote the letter to a brother — probably Joseph Moore (1805-18xx) — but doesn’t mention him by name. Her letter is addressed to Judge Daniel Agnew (1809-1902) of Beaver, Pennsylvania, the husband of Amanda’s older sister, Elizabeth (Moore) Agnew (1809-1888). Though Judge Agnew was Amanda’s brother-in-law, and she may have called him “brother,” it seems pretty clear from the contents of the letter that Amanda was writing to a sibling rather than the judge. Her sibling was probably either living with, or visiting with the Agnew family in Beaver at the time.
Amanda and Elizabeth were the daughters of Gen. Robert Moore (1778-1831) and Mary Stibbs (1783-1829). Judge Agnew was the son of Dr. James Agnew (1786-1840) and Sarah Burr Howell (1783-1868). [Note: Sarah Burr Howell was a cousin of Varina (Howell) Davis, the wife of President Jefferson Davis, CSA.]
The following biography was found for Judge Daniel Agnew:
Born in Trenton, N. J., Daniel Agnew grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated from the Western University of Pennsylvania in 1825, was admitted to the bar when only 18, and began to practice law in Beaver in 1829. He was a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention in 1837, in 1851 was appointed President Judge of the 17th District (Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties) and was elected to the same office in 1861. An ardent Unionist he was elected to the state supreme court in 1863, and named chief justice in 1873. “Seeking the truth with conscientious industry, no cause was too small to merit his thorough investigation, none too large for the comprehensive grasp of his powers.” After his retirement from the bench in 1879, except for two important legal cases, he devoted his life to writing articles on the law and local history, and received honorary degrees from Washington College and from Dickinson University.
Addressed to Daniel Agnew, Esqr., Beaver, Pa.
February 2nd, 1836
Your letter of the 24th ultimo, I received a few days since. I am truly sorry that Eliza is so ill. I feel very anxious about her. I hope that she will be better before long. I would like to be with her at this time, but perhaps it is well that I am not for I have not been altogether well since Henry was here. I have had a bad cough, but am now getting better of it. I am drinking flax-seed tea for it at present. I would have gone home with Henry had it not been that they all thought it would be imprudent for me to go out in the cold with a cough. I stay very close in the house and do try to be careful. Sometime in March, when the weather becomes pleasant, if I am well which I hope to be, I will go to Wheeling and from there I will go home about the last of March or first of April. This is now my arrangement, if God is willing. Cousin Henry wants me to stay there two or three months but this I can not do. They want me to go to Wheeling now, but Uncle is not willing for me to go; the weather is so cold. They all say that to go home by the river will be much the best way.
Do you expect any of the friends from Pittsburgh down? I think perhaps Mary will go down, however, I do not know as I have not heard from her. Although I wrote to her (at her request) it will be sometime before I will trouble Mary with my letters or intrude any of my letters even if requested to do so. However, it is not of much consequence. I only mention it as being singular.
I am provoked about your girl. I declare, it is a little too bad. Law, what is the world coming to. I believe “the people have all gone mad.” As to the Printer, Hannah bids me tell you that he is quite a gentle & clever young man, only he does not know what to do with his hands, or else is subject to the Cholic. Now for my opinion, he is nothing in the world but an Antimason Editor, and that is a poor thing. I am no friend of Antimasonry in any form whatever.
I have not yet found my Beau Ideal. When I do, however, you will be apprised of it, and consulted in all due form. Uncle says 22 is young enough to be married, and according to that, I have two years yet. But I think it more than probable that I never will mary any person. Beaux are the least of my thoughts at present. If some of the young ladies thought more of the world ro come, the general aspect of society would be very different. But so it is. I do not wish you to understand me as attempting to exculpate myself. I, amongst others, have spent too many hours in trifling, nonsensical thoughts. “Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours, and ask them, what report they love to Heaven” — but few can look back with complacency on their past lives. I for one had I my life to live over again, would act very differently. All that is Earthly is changing — Life, Health, friends, riches, are all uncertain. Then why is it that we all have our hearts set so much on the vanities of time that we have hardly a thought for God, or Heaven? My greatest desire is to be a Christian and to see my friends Christians. How painful it is to think that we may be forever separated from those we have known and loved on Earth. And on the other hand, how pleasing the thought that we may be reunited in Heaven where will be no such things as parting or distress of any kind. What Heaven will be like, we cannot precisely tell, for “it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive the happiness of heaven. Then let it be our beings endowed aim to be Christians and all will be well with us.
You knew of Widow Fleming’s illness. She died about a week ago. Her remains were brought to Bentleysville. She died happy. I have heard none of the particulars connected with her death except what I have told you. Poor Hannah; I can hardly realize that she is gone. O what a solemn warning to her surviving friends.
Do write soon. I am anxious to hear from sister. I hope she will get along well. I am pleased that Mary still remembers me. I think it is high time Jinny would talk some. I do suppose Barker’s party was a mere apology for a party. Ten to one you will never get all they borrowed from you. I am glad Dr. Adams was not elected last Autumn to the Legislature. It is shameful for Mr. Gould to treat Miss Marsh as he does; he cannot be an honest man. Remember me to Miss Marsh. Tell Franklin I wish to know whether he has read the books I wished him to read or not. I am sorry Caroline is about to lose her teacher. I think with you that the Judge puts too low an estimate on education.
Maria Leet is to be married to a gentleman in Tennessee. I think the old adage is coming true (viz) There never was a Jockey without a Jenny. It is leap year and I suppose many of the Ladies will take advantage of it. Now is the time for the girls that want to get married. I imagine all the gentlemen in Beaver have gone into a state of retiracy for fear of being courted by the Ladies. I think they ought to knock up a few weddings by way of variety.
My respects to the Judge. My love to Sister Eliza and Caroline, Franklin, Mary, and Jimbo — as you call him. Have you heard from Wooster lately? Hannah send her love to all.
It is extremely cold here — almost as cold as Greenland. This weather does not agree with me, but still is better than damp weather. Tell Eliza I think her very excusable for not answering my letter. I will take “the will for the deed.”
I hope you will not look at my writing. It is bad and so is my pen.
Love from all two all. Your affectionate sister, — Zenobia