1849: M. G. Davison to Mary Sarah Orange

Cincinnati Waterfront in 1850

Cincinnati waterfront in 1850

The date on this letter is obliterated but the contents reveal that it was written on 7 May 1849. The identity of both the writer and the recipient remain a mystery, however. The author’s name appears to be M. G. Davison [Davidson, or Dawson] to me. There was a family of Davidson that lived near Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky in the early 1800s but I can find no one in this family who matches that name.

Likewise, the identity of the recipient cannot be conformed but is thought to have been Miss Mary Sarah Orange (1829-1914) who is enumerated in her father’s household in 1850. Her father was William Frederick Orange (1796-1862), a native of England, who came to the United States in 1820 and married Barbara Tait in 1824. In 1830, William moved to Cincinnati and made a living as an upholsterer and outfitter of Ohio River steamboats. Mary never married; she lived her entire life in the Orange family home on Lehman Street in Cincinnati.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Mary Orange, Cincinnati, Ohio

Stanford, Kentucky
May 7th 1849

My Dear Friend,

Image 3I will presume so much upon your good nature as to expect a perusal, if not a reply to this. It is with feelings of the liveliest pleasure that I am seated to pen you a letter. I had much rather be with you & grasp the hand which I must say was always extended to me in right good cordiality, but as this privilege is at present withheld from me, I embrace the one method nearest akin to it, which is the delightful employment of writing you a short epistle. And I beg of you to receive my thoughts as though I was seated by your side in careless conversation. I make it a rule never to look over a letter after I have written it for fear I should get ashamed of it & burn it.

Image 7Although I am far separated from you, my imagination pictures you, in all your lovely gaiety & youth, partaking freely of the pleasures & delights of “the first of May.” I am yet living the life of the single blessed. How is it with you? I would not be inquisitive, dear Mary. I would not over task your candid nature, but I suppose it will not be long e’er you find your young heart fluttering in the ease of love, or perhaps its young pinions are already bound by that artful, yet pleasant little God

“who hold the bow
And decides the fate of mortals here below.”

Image 4If such be the case, please inform me who the favored one is. Tell me the one for whom there are so much happiness  in store. I know how the Ladies are — they keep all their secrets to themselves; so I suppose this will be the case with you, & I shall not know till all the world knows the happy lot of your husband. But I must insist that you shall not (if you have not already) fall in love till you come to Kentucky, which trip you promised to make this spring. I have heard by some means, perhaps Mrs. Frazier told me, you would not come till fall. I shall regret it very much indeed if you have so determined, as I much desire to see you. I think you would have quite as pleasant a trip in the spring as fall and as you promised to come in the spring, I hold you to your promise.

Image 5Speaking of Mrs. Frazier reminds me that I must give you some account of her ladyship. Well, Miss Berrysford [Berrisford] is married ¹ at last to a very clever gentleman — a widower — the father of nine children though his youngest has recently died. He is deputy sheriff of our county, has some property — how much, I do not know — though he is not rich. He is a very good live, has treated his two first wives well, & I make no doubt will treat his present one equally well. I was requested by Capt. [James M.] Frazer & Miss B. to be present at the ceremony. I went at the appointed time and saw them married. There were but few present. Everything went off well. It looked quite strange to see so young a lady as Miss B. married to a man whose son who was present looked to be the most suitable, “But there is no accounting for women’s taste.” I hope she will do well. The prospect, I must confess to my optics, looks quite gloomy, for a new Ma to please 2 or 3 children is generally thought to be a hard task, but to please 8 or 9, the God’s themselves don’t look for so much human perfection. They live in Stanford. I would write more about her but I suppose long before this, she has informed you of all the particulars in much more glowing terms than your friend can command.

Image 6The health of the County is good at present except the California Fever. Several of our citizens have went off with this fever. I suppose you are aware that this fever affects the head more than any other part of the system, rendering its victims perfectly insensible to everything but yellow gold dust. This decease is as old as mankind; it has followed the footprints of men through all time. It now rages as an epidemic — “Money truly is the root of all evil” but I will not give you an essay on medicine. I hope, my dear friend, this may find you in the enjoyment of mental, moral, & physical health in common with all your Pa’s family. I desire to be remembered to them all.

I wish you to send me a letter right soon. Tell me all the news, both local & general & don’t forget to come to Kentucky. Farewell.

I have the honor to be your friend till death, — M. G. Davison


Capt. James M. Frazer

Capt. James M. Frazer

¹ Capt. James Monroe Frazer (1805-1885) married his third wife, Martha Berrisford in March 1849 in Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky. Martha Berrisford was an English lady born in Liverpool, England, and was teaching school when she married James. The family moved to Texas in 1852, settling first in Washington County, then to the old town of Lyons near the line between Fayette and Colorado Counties.


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