1848: Harriet Amelia Nixon to Eveline Ostrander

What Clinton and Harriet Nixon might have looked like in 1840

This letter was written by Harriet Amelia Nixon (maiden name unknown). From this letter we learn that her husband, Clinton Nixon, died in 1840 in Wisconsin Territory, and that the couple had at least two boys — Henry and James Nixon — who were still living in 1848 when this letter was written. We learn that Harriet was a school teacher and that she took in boarders to make a living. It isn’t clear whether the relatives residing in La Porte, Indiana, that she speaks of were her relatives or her husbands. She and her husband probably relocated from New York State to Wisconsin Territory in the 1830s. On-line genealogical records suggest that Harriet remarried to Edmund Taylor Locke, the son Edmund Locke and Samantha Atwood. The marriage record, however, says the marriage occurred in September 1847 in Platteville which would not be consistent with the content of this letter as it seems pretty clear that Harriet is still a widow. Perhaps the marriage occurred in 1849 instead.

Harriet wrote the letter to Eveline (Hanks) Ostrander (1808-1888), the wife of John Ostrander (1804-1865). Eveline and John were married in 1829. Three of their children are mentioned in this letter: Edward E. Ostrander (b. 1831), Dwight Huntington Ostrander (b. 1836), and Jane Ostrander. John Ostrander was a lawyer, a merchant, and a hotel keeper.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mrs. Eveline Ostrander, Kennedyville, Steuben County, New York

Platteville, Grant County, [Wisconsin]
November 5, 1848

My Dear Eveline,

A long time since, I received your letter, and with a glad heart, I opened and read it. And now I must offer an apology for not answering agreeably to your very pressing and friendly request. To tell the plain truth, I do not have time to write any more than necessity obliges me. My boys have been from home a long time. Of course I must write to them often. My relations in Indiana would never forgive me if I did not write often to them, besides acquaintances in the adjoining town about here with whom I sometimes have business. And you know I am quite a man of business. I have accounts to keep, bills to make out, copies to set. I presume you think you have plenty to do with seven children to look after. What do you think of me? I have had forty all summer and my family to attend to besides. I do all my own sewing and some for others, my washing, and all my house work, and teach school and keep boarders. Now I am sure you will excuse me for not writing oftener. Let me tell you, Eveline, never until you have the experience, can you have a realizing sense of the anxiety and care it necessarily requires to get along alone in this unfriendly world, with no dependance but your own exertions, no kind friend to assist in the arduous duties of life, or when weary and discouraged, to solace, cure or cheer the drooping spirit.

But I will say no more about such dull things. ‘Tis enough to experience it, without talking about it. I cannot write in a sentimental strain — I am too nervous. I must change the subject and tell you something else. Well, what shall it be? I have been to church today. Heard an excellent sermon from the Rev. Mr. Lewis. Sang in the choir and came home with the headache. There comes Mary Helen — I suppose you recollect her — Ann VanGorder’s little curly-headed girl. We have her here with us. My two boys have returned and are both at school in the Academy for the winter. We have a very fine institution of learning in our very flourishing town, and several common schools and fine churches.

Has Mr. Ostrander entirely given up the idea of coming to the West? Do try and persuade him to come and see the country and I am sure you will like it. O how I would like to see you and your children. You did not tell me about Edward and Dwight and Jane, or what you called the others. You must name one for me surely. I think you must be very happy with your husband and children always with you. I am sorry to hear of your mosther’s feeble state of health, but she has the blessed consolations of religion for her comfort, and I hope a cheerful resignation to the will of Heaven.

You did not tell me about your sisters — where they are and how are they. Do write me everything and about all my old friends, for it is not likely I shall ever see them but I should like to hear from them. Do you ever hear from or see my friends in Bath? Write me  if you know anything of poor Aunt Charlotte Hopkins.

I had forgotten to tell you that Maria is teaching in La Port, Indiana, and never writes to anyone. Have never received but two letters from her in eight years. No reason for it as I know of. My correspondents in the family are Charles and Louisa. I always hear from Maria, by them. Poor Louisa has never enjoyed health since she came to the western country. My heart aches for her — poor girl. She probably will not survive long. Well! Then she will be free’d from this world of trouble for I would rather bid her farewell than have her pass through trials such as mine have been. God grant that she may never tread that thorny path. She is a follower of Christ, prepared I hope to receive a crown of righteousness.

Tis five o’clock. I must put by my writing and finish after tea. O how happy should I be if my dear Clinton was still to occupy his seat at the table. How cheerfully would I prepare everything for his taste as I always did. It may appear strange to some that after eight years have elapsed, I should think of these things, but it is nevertheless true. That his loss is yet most severely felt, and his remembrance as fresh as the day he was lowered in that gloomy vault on the Mississippi. These thoughts are too much to bear.

My dear Eveline. Can you imagine how I feel? It is a dark, rainy evening. But I must go to church and try to dispel this sadness. The church is but the second door from our house. Henry and James are ready. The bell is ringing and I must go.

Do not think because I am so remiss in writing that I do not wish to hear from you, but be punctual — if I am not. Write as soon as possible. Believe me ever your affectionate friend, — H. A. Nixon

Give my respects to Mr. Ostrander and your mother and all other friends.


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