1847: Mary M. Gail to John Deshons

This letter, dated 1847, was written by a woman who signed her name “Mary M. Gail.” It is apparent that she resided in the household of Josiah Gail (1780-1856), the father of Lockwood Gail (1809-1893), but her relationship to Josiah is uncertain. On-line family genealogy records suggest that Josiah’s wife was Tamer Mary Doan (1785-1851); this does not seem to be her.

With the letter, Mary mentions someone name Levi who is employed as a musician on a Revenue Cutter. I believe this may have been Mary’s son, Levi A. Deshons (1830-1881). Levi shows up in the 1880 Census in Brooklyn, New York, employed as an advertising agent. He was married to a woman named Emily Reynolds and had three children. His mother’s birthplace was given as Connecticut; his father’s as France.

The letter is addressed to John Deshons, whom Mary refers to as her son. A second part of the letter is addressed to Adele, whom she refers to as her daughter. John does not appear to be married; Adele seems to be married to someone named Charles. Both John and Adele are living with their Aunt Ricatean in Loire, France. Madame Ricatean is, perhaps, Mary’s sister-in-law.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to John Deshons, Care of Madame Ricatean, Roanne, Loire, France

Eden [Erie County, New York]
May 23d 1847

My Dear Son,

Page 1

Your letter of 31st of March was duly received. It is the first we have heard from you since you wrote you was next morning to embark on board the Rochester in quality of mate. I was endeavoring to find out the name of its Captain  in order to ascertain if you were with him or what direction you had taken. Your letter arrived and relieved my anxiety which can better be imagined than described. I entreat you never more to allow such a length of time to elapse without informing me where and how you are. We have called at this and the Buffalo Post Office until ashamed to enquire for letters. I wrote immediately after the reception of the one dated at New York and directed as desired to the Leaman’s home, Pearl Street, Franklin Square, but receiving no answer to that and no father communications from you, I almost gave you up for lost.

Bottom Page 1

I am thankful you have decided to renounce the sea-faring life. It is attended with so many difficulties and dangers. Why did you go to Quebec, and how came you to get lost in the river? How were you saved and what were your sufferings? I am extremely sorry to hear of Charles’ misfortunes.

Page 2

I should rejoice could I offer you a home, but Mr. Gail’s son Lockwood has taken possession of both places and he lives with us. He provides for us and when we have done with it, has all. Mr. Gail is quite infirm. Elizabeth is also out of health. Both desire to be remembered to you. Tracy enquires with interest about you.

Jane and Sally-Ann are both married. Their mother is dead. Levi is still on the Revenue Cutter as musician.

Bottom Page 2

I am not so much confined since Lockwood’s family came. Your Grandpa has gone to Ohio to spend some time with my only remaining sister. How long has your dear Aunt been afflicted with a cancer. I do not recollect ever hearing it before. Be very tender of her and assure her of my sympathy and affection. I hope she will receive her reward in a better world. Write soon.

Your affectionate Mother, — M. M. Gail

My very dear and deeply afflicted daughter,

Page 3

My heart bleed for you at every pore. I can well feel for you since I have passed through similar afflictions, and am thankful that they have the desired effect of raising your affections above this world of pain and sorrow and placing them on heavenly wings. Perhaps my dear child, your heart was too much set upon your dear husband and children and your Heavenly Father saw fit by removing them to draw you to himself. He does not willingly afflict but it is sometimes necessary to remove our earthly idols in order to draw our affections from earth to heaven. The anguish of your heart must have been great. The idea of it has perfectly unnerved me. The night I received your letter, I could not sleep. The next day I was sick. This is the third day and I am scarcely able to write. But I hope we may both bear in mind that earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.

Bottom Page 3

Your Cousin Julia Ann has also passed through deep afflictions in addition to the loss we all sustained in the death of your Aunt Prescott. She has since lost her only daughter — a lovely child. Your cousin Julia Stanton has a fine son, and my brother a daughter. I took Josephine to my brothers after John left us. She will probably visit us soon.

It would rejoice my heart to again see you all; to once more clasp you to my aching heart and bedew you with tears of affection. But heaven only knows what is in store for me.

Give my love to Charles. Tell him not to be discouraged. He is young. If ambitious and enterprising, he may accumulate more than he has lost.

Page 4

Where is Peter? When you write, remember me to him. He is not forgotten in his mother’s prayers. I know of no opening for John here. Gladly would I procure him a situation could I do so. I wish not to encourage hopes that may be frustrated. He knows himself the difficulties he would be likely to encounter in this country, but perhaps his knowledge of both languages might procure him a situation in a school. With us as with you, there are many discouragements in finding business for one who has no capital. But perhaps Providence might smile on his endeavors. You are all remembered at the throne of grace that you may be heaven peculiar care — and permitted at last to rejoin your dear departed friends in the spirit land where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.

Write soon my dear Adele and let me know how you all are [and] how your dear Aunt’s cancer and health is. It must be consolatory to her to be able to offer you a home and afford relief to your afflicted heart. How, my dear child, did you lose your property in addition to your other misfortunes? All that concerns your interests.

Your affectionate mother, — Mary Gail


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