1838: Ransom B. Williams to Lucy D. (Williams) Butts

This letter was written by Ransom B. Williams, the son of David Williams, Jr. (1783-1875) and Polly ______ (1783-1878) of Pompey, Onondaga County, New York. Ransom was married to Susan Beebee (1810-18xx) in January 1831. Susan’s brother, James Lewis Beebee (1809-1897) was married to Alma Cornelia Williams (1807-1885), Ransom’s sister, on the same day by the same minister.

Ramson wrote the letter to his sister, Lucy D. (Williams) Butts (1812-1870). Lucy was married to Milton T. Butts (1812-1892), the son of Jacob Butts (1782-1864) and Catherine Wheeler (1789-1876) of Pompey, Onondaga County, New York. Milton had a brother named Isaac Newton Butts (b. 1814), mentioned in this letter. We lean from this letter that Milton worked on the canals (a “canawler”) in New York state. We also learn that that the children of Ransom and Susan Williams were: Victory Williams (1832-1880), Lewis Williams, and Eugene Williams. Victory Williams resided in Buffalo, New York, in 1860 and enlisted as a First Lieutenant in the 19th Ohio Light Artillery Battery during the Civil War.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Lucy D. Butts, Westernville, Oneida County, New York

Tye River Warehouse, Virginia
December 2nd 1838

Dear SIster,

Yours of the 11th November was duly received and from a perusal we learn that Little William is no more! This is undoubtedly a great affliction to James and Alma [Beebee] as well as to their numerous and extensive friends and connections among whom we do claim our place as Brothers and Sisters, and as such deeply and feelingly mourn with them and you his untimely death!

We are all in good health. For myself, I have not had as good health for three years, and in fact Susan and the children are in like good health. And if we enjoy the same six months longer, we intend to pay you all a visit. I think we shall leave here by the first of June next and perhaps earlier and intend to remain with our friends, if we keep any, for two months and perhaps for a few days longer of the season should be very warm. Susan says she does not intend to come back with me but I think she will alter her mind by the time I want to start back. But if she should wish to remain in that country, and I cannot persuade her to return with me, I shall have to come and leave her, for my business here will not be closed by that time and if it should be, I never intend to spend another winter in a cold and northern climate. And in addition to the great advantage of this climate to my health, I am fully of the opinion that I can make more money here than in any other country north of this either at farming, trading, or jobbing. Either branch of business I do consider safe and profitable although I have not followed any but jobbing for the last three years. Yet I think I am safe in saying that either is good business in this state.

I have given Addison an invitation to come out and join me in business of some kind but for some reason he has declined coming and also his reasons for not coming, but I am fully confident if he did come it would have been better for him in a pecuniary point of view if no other than the job that I intended for him is now progressing and from every appearance it will prove a profitable one. But in consequence of the multiplicity of other jobs that I have had or have and shall shave, I have not given that job the attention that it ought to have had, but still it will yield a good profit in my opinion. And if he would come and join me and give strict attention to business, I can make him comfortably rich in a short time — or at least I for one have made more money here within two years than I could have made in New York in my whole life at the same business. But, after giving to Providence its just due, I claim for myself some of the credit, and on these grounds founded upon experience, I feel confident in saying that any young man professing business habits and will exert himself can accumulate a sizeable fortune in a short time even at canalling in this state.

We have no news to write that would be of interest tp you living 6 or 700 miles from any of our connections. We cannot fill up our sheet by recording the death of any, or of E____ informing you of any interesting or important events to which they are subject.

You mentioned in your letter that Milton had gone or was going to a letting [of contracts] on the Erie Canal and if he did not get work there, he intended to come South. If he should think best to come South and will come here, I will endeavor to get him a good job or give him an interest in some jobs that I now have on hand. I think this climate would restore you to good health if you conclude to try your luck here. Please inform us immediately if you should conclude to come. You can live with us and not have to move any of your household furniture at all for we have enough for all of us — such as it is — and should like to have you with us.

I am glad to hear that Orrin has bought Chase Wallace’s farm. I hope that he will be able to pay for it. I am also glad that Newton is in a fair way to pay his place too and if any of those farms are for sale about Father’s, I should like to buy some of them myself. I wish Milton would make some inquiry about it and let me know. I did think some of coming out then on that business but have never got started. I should like to know how Father gets along with his business. Has he enjoyed good health? How was his crops this year? I want you to tell Elijah and Addison that I want to hear from them both. I want to know what Elijah is about and in short, I want you to answer this immediately and answer all my questions and give me all the information about our folks that you possess and oblige your distant, though affectionate brother, — R. B. Williams

(P. S. Susan will fill up the sheet.)

Dear Sister,

As Ransom has left a little room, I will put in a few lines. You wanted to know about the children. Victory is the strongest and most healthy child I ever saw of his age. His old complaint does not trouble him. Only he cannot keep himself clean at all times. I am in hopes he will outgrow that. He has been to school about two months last summer but there is so few children about here we cannot raise a school. He learnt very fast what time he went. Lewis and Eugene are, Ransom says, two of the smartest boys in the state. They are full enough of mischief if that is a sign of their being smart I am sure.

We received a letter from Betsey the same day we got yours. Her health was very good. They were intending to visit Pompey the first good sleighing that came and will probably visit James and Alma. She thinks they have all forgotten her as they have not been to see her in some time and she had been looking for a letter from John and James for some [time] but not got any. I hope you and your better part will make up your mind to come down here and spend the winter with us and if you do not like it, you can go back in the spring. But there’s no doubt in my mind if your husband is a canaller and determined to follow that business but that he will engage himself in business that will make him contented for two years at least. I hope you will make up your minds and let us know soon as we were anticipating the pleasure of Addison’s company a long time and he fooled us at last and I hate to anticipate anything so long and then be disappointed.

Tell John he must read the piece on education in the paper I will send by this and he must answer my last letter. Remember me in love to all. Kiss Alma’s children for me and do not let them forget us. Do write soon and oblige your affectionate sister, — S. Williams

L. D. Butts

Victory is three feet and seven inches high. How high is Franklin?


3 responses to “1838: Ransom B. Williams to Lucy D. (Williams) Butts

  • Cynthia Williams

    Ransom B. Williams and Susan Williams are my great-great-great-grandparents through their son Eugene J. Williams. I have very little information on Ransom, who died around 1851. He was a canal contractor in the 1850 census of Onondaga County, NY. I do have information on the other children of Ransom and Susan Williams. I would love to hear how and where you found this letter!

    • Griff

      I transcribed this letter in exchange for the owner’s permission to publish it on this blogsite prior to his offering the letter for sale on ebay. My records indicate he sold it on 21 October 2012. I hope that the letter has proven useful to you in your family research. Please feel free to advise me of any errors I’ve made in the transcription or identity of individuals. If you have any photographs of those mentioned, I would be delighted to include them with the letter. — Griff

  • Cynthia Williams

    So I missed having this letter by 4 days!!! That breaks my heart!!! I hope it went to a member of the family. I do indeed have some corrections and additions that I will post when I get the time. I don’t have any photographs of people mentioned in the letter, but I do have a coffee cup and saucer and a Masonic manual which belonged to Eugene John Williams. Thank you so much for the transcription and the photographs of the letter! Ransom had been somewhat of a mystery, but now I feel that I know him much better.

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