1845: Charles Waterman Morse to Laban Morse

New York City is “as filthy as your pig pen. The hogs are allowed to run at large in the streets.” (C.W.M., 1845)

This letter was written by 20 year-old Charles Waterman Morse (1825-1896), the son of Paul Morse (1779-1841) and Sally Rice (1784-1837) of Athol, Worcester County, Massachusetts. He wrote the letter to his brother, Laban Morse (1812-18xx) who married Esther Fish in 1838.

At the time he wrote the letter, Charles was paying a visit with his brother John Edwin Morse (1817-1889) who kept a saloon in Washington D. C. with his new bride, Elizabeth Kendall Stretton (1821-18xx). John and Elizabeth were married in April 1845. By the 1860 census, John’s occupation is given as “Messenger, General Land Office.”

Though the dateline on this letter does not give the year, I feel confident it was written in 1845, just a few weeks after John and Elizabeth’s marriage.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to L. Morse, Esqr., Athol, Massachusetts

Washington [D. C.]
Tuesday, June 3 [1845]

According to your request, I write you to let you know where I am. I arrived in this City this forenoon about 11 o’clock and found brother John and sister Elizabeth well. They are the happiest beings in the world. John is doing a very good business in his line and according to his account, is laying up his money. His health is not bery good now on account of his being up nights so much, I suppose. His great mass of fat has left him. He weighs but about 160 now. He has been above 200 but is no larger than I am now. When I arrived here I went to his saloon and he was not in. I stopped there a few moments and then came downstairs and met him in the ally or entry way and I looked at him and he at me. I kept my countenance. I presume my face was as long as the moral law. And he did not know me from Adam. I passed out into the street. Soon after, I went up into his room and asked him if he knew me. He said he did not. I then told him my name was Morse.

Well, I suppose you are anxious to know what I am thinking about out in these diggings. I am thinking about looking at what there is to see in this city and then start towards the Old Bay State. I do not know how soon I shall reach there — perhaps next week. I made an acquaintance in New York [City] that is very anxious to have me stay there. There is plenty of chances to get in but I do not like the City of New York at all. It is as filthy as your pig pen. The hogs are allowed to run at large in the street. It is very unhealthy there. (By the way) Hollis and his wife are well and doing a good business. And I am as comfortable as can be expected although somewhat tired. I enjoy traveling first rate. If I had money enough, I would travel to the jumping off place. I never should get homesick. I would not come home until I was forty years old.

There is a great many curiosities to see this way. I must tell of some boys I have seen since I left. There were two boys in New York [City] — one 7 years old weighing over 250 pounds; the other 9 years old weighing 300 pounds (very lean little fellows all pined away to a cart load) and I have had the pleasure of shaking hands with a man 111 years old. He is, I think, old enough to have his time.

Well. enough of this folderall. Sister Elizabeth tells me to send her love to all of you and if you will take it and pass it around, I presume she will do as much for you.If anyone enquires after me, tell them I am amongst the niggars growing fat.

Yours in haste, — C. W. Morse


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