1840: Rev. Jonathan Alden Woodruff to Cyrus Martin

This letter was written by Rev. Jonathan Alden Woodruff (1808-1876), a graduate of Hamilton College and Auburn Seminary. The first eight years of his ministry were spent in Ohio serving the towns of Warren, Madison, Kelloggsville, and Wooster. In 1839 he relocated to Rock Island, Illinois, started the First Presbyterian Church there, and soon after became the Chancellor of Rock Island University. In the mid 1840s, he returned East to serve Presbyterian pastorates in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Rev. Woodruff wrote the letter to Cyrus Martin (1799-1854) of Unionville, Ohio. The following biography was found for him:

“Cyrus Martin was a lad of ten years when he came with his parents from Massachusetts to Lake county, Ohio. He grew to manhood on the home farm, which he assisted in clearing, and in the later years of their lives cared for his parents. In addition to looking after the homestead, he worked at the carpenter’s trade, and for thirty years had a general store on his farm, selling goods to the Unionville people. He made frequent trades, his last one being the buying, in company with his son Clark, of a farm, paying five dollars down to bind the bargain. He lived but a short time after that, dying at the age of sixty-five years.

“Cyrus Martin married Cynthia Moseley, who was born in Massachusetts, in the same town that he was, and came here with her parents, Noah and Cynthia Moseley. Her father cleared and improved a large farm in Thompson township, and there lived until his death, at the age of ninety-five years… Cyrus Martin was a Whig in politics in his early life, but in his later years was a Free Soil Abolitionist.”

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Cyrus Martin, Unionville, Ashtabula, Ohio

Hampton [Illinois]
March 1st 1840

Mr. Martin,

I had expected to have started for Ohio before this. But have been suffering from lameness (scroffula) which has almost entirely confined me. I am still in that condition & cannot reach you until after court. I shall start as soon as I am able. I have not succeeded in collecting as well as I could wish nor as well as I expected. I have almost $900 together. I think I shall soon have the rest. I wish you would get Esq. Hitchcock to attend to the case & get it put over. I expect to have to prove payment on one note & my witness is Abigail Furguson living in Thorntown, Indiana.¹ If you will get it put off, I will pay all costs & arrange the matter satisfactorily to you & my bondsman as soon as I can reach Ohio. I have recently been appointed Chancellor of the Rock Island University & the affairs of the institution require that I should go East. If life & health are spared, I shall surely come.

I would send you what money I have now but I dislike to risk it when I am going so soon myself. Don’t neglect the business now & you shall be satisfied for what you do.

Mrs. Woodruff sends love to Mrs. Martin. I am yours, &c., — J. A. Woodruff


¹ There was an “Abigail Ferguson” (1798-1884) who married George Venis (1794-1866) in Champaign, Ohio, and was living in Boone County (where Thorntown is located), Indiana in 1850, but I don’t know if she is the same person to whom Rev. Woodruff refers. If so, why would he refer to her by her maiden name?


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