This letter was written by Caroline (Henshaw) Kittinger (1830-1857), the wife of Joseph Kittinger (1811-18xx), a millwright of Hamburg, Erie County, New York. Caroline was the daughter of Gilbert Manuel Henshaw (1800-1861) and Abigail Matilda Poole (1811-1844). Caroline’s siblings were Eliza C. Henshaw (1823-1858); Calvin Lafayette Henshaw (1824-1855); Fanny Fedelia Henshaw (1826-1844), and Seth Henshaw (1831-1841) — none of whom lived past the age of 35. I believe the young blue-eyed child with the golden locks whose death is described in excruciating detail in this letter was Joseph M. Kittinger (1849-1850).
Caroline wrote the letter to Clark Dart Jameson (1823-1908), a cabinet-maker, dealer of furniture, and undertaker, who was born in Hamburg, Erie County, New York. He was the son of Hugh and Susannah (Moore) Jameson. He was married to Caroline’s older sister, Eliza C. Henshaw in September 1848. The young daughter born to this couple, mentioned in the letter, was Grace Antoinette Jameson (1850-1920), born on 20 May 1850. After his first wife’s death in 1858, Clark Jameson married Lorency Beebe (1829-1889).
Addressed to Mr. Clark D. Jameson, Northville, Erie County, Pennsylvania
Whites Corners [New York]
June 27, 1850
Dear Sisters & Brother,
I avail myself of this opportunity of addressing a few lines to you but with a sad heart and a bewildered mind. It is to announce to you the death of my little son who departed this life June 1st after a long and distressing illness of about 7 weeks, leaving a Father’s and a Mother’s bosoms torn with the keenest anguish. Oh, could I but see you, I could tell you al my sorrows. But now with a heaving beast and throbbing heart the effort to address you is painful in the extreme. Oh, what can we say, when all is lonely and vacant [and] dreary. My little babe is no more. That form which was once lovely and beautiful is gone forever from a doting parent’s view. Alas, how painful the recollection of his protracted sickness. Oh, but think of that happy, happy day before he was taken sick. That lovely form was all joy animation and hope, light & free as air. He went sporting his golden locks in the pleasant spring air. Never was he more charming to his find parent’s breast. No, Oh no never our little one was a perfect model of sweetness and health. We were led to exclaim that day that we never see him enjoy himself as well. He was pleasant and cheerful. He went hopping and jumping, laughing and singing all the day long. We went to rest with him as usual, he being somewhat tired for he left no time unoccupied that day, for he walked twice to the corners during the day. We were awakened by him about 2 o’clock in the morning, he being rather uneasy and sick at his stomach. At 7 o’clock, we got up with and made a fire. While I was dressing, his feet I discovered an eruption on the surface of the skin and on examine him we found it to be the Scarlet Fever. At sunrise, we called the Doctor and he thought that he would get along soon and safe as it was rather mild form of the Scarlet Fever.
But soon there was a change. The worms began to trouble him and he had a fit in consequence of them. We being alarmed at this sent for father but before he arrived, he was taken with the croup. The doctor said he thought he was dangerously sick. They all stayed that night and we tended him faithfully and Tuesday morning, he was better (he was taken 2 o’clock Monday morning, April 29) until the next week he was taken with the dropsy and next followed was the bowel complaint and disease not being satisfied with the length of chain that was already run, it had to prey upon our little one in another form. Still more harassing that was the congestion of the lungs. It was with the greatest effort that he could breath. His tiny voice being hushed with pain. All hopes of his recovery being forever blasted. No one thought that he could survive but a short time.
A council was called of four physicians — they being Allen, Dean, [Harvey B.] Marvin, and [Jabez] Allen of Aurora, and still no encouragement could be given by them unless nature poor weak could work a cure for he had passed through the hand so much medicine that it could do him no good by using. After 48 hours of the most excruciating pain of his disease, he seemed to be better for a short time so that the inflammation of the lungs next presented itself to view to destroy that lovely tender bud just springing from its parent. ___ this as it seem would end his sufferings.
But no, not here. Still farther. His sufferings were prolonged. What next — the consumption. But this was tedious to endure after so much sufferings for such they were, for ______ there seemed to be no change, but some symptoms were better for three days before his death, so much so that he talked and took some notice of things around him and his parents hearts beat high emotion. They clung to the hope that as long as there was life, there was hope. We retired to rest half past eleven o’clock leaving our babe sweet (in care of a tender Brother and other friends) hoping that the morning might disclose to us something lasting wherein we could for the better.
Oh! No, how sad the change within two short hours. We were awakened from sleep that that we trusted so much in which were prepare us us for another scene. It was to behold our loved one in the pangs of death. In death did I say? Death would have been a welcome messenger to release our fond babe from the torture that awaited him. But now that brain that was noble and serene which had served his manly frame was next assailed with the dropsy. Oh, I cannot describe to you his agony that hushed his lovely voice sat in motion his tiny frame mad so by diseases. It spoiled his reason by times he did not know his loving parents, friends near & dear which stood around in breathless anxiety to render all the assurance which reason and judgment could avail. But also how transient and how vain did all efforts prove. 48 hours under extreme pain his sufferings were ended, in the morning of June.As we stood around him, his soft blue eyes spoke word his faltering tongue could not speak as if he was conscious of his fate. I asked him question, but he could not answer although he had his senses. I asked him to kiss me and he did readily. His father stood by absorbed in grief so he could not speak. Soon all consciousness fled and in a few hours he was no more. But still when diseases hay preyed upon that tender form and had executed its design when all this was ended, still there was loveliness & beauty upon that brow.
I would ____ Father & Mother, Brother & Sisters dear stood willing & ready to do all that they could well might. We exclaim in the language of the Poet, “Friends nor Physicians could not save, that tender blossom from the grave.” But still I have a hope, when we are done with earth and things of earth, we shall join our little one in a higher and fairer clime, where sickness and sorrow, pain and death are seen & heard no more. I would also inform that my health is poor. Joseph is quiet & hard at work. We have moved into our house, but it is not completed. But it does very well.Father’s health is as usual. Mother is still limping about. All the rest are in good health at present and the rest of the family friends. I have waited rather impatiently to hear from your family. I understand that you have a daughter. I wish you all the enjoyment that this world can afford with our little one. You should be careful of your health, for you have cares & impending duties clustering about you. Do you take as much care of hubby as ever & if so, what does Hellen for a livelihood? I think that she has not much to do so if hubby Clark will come out here, I will come and stay a week or two the first of July. Don’t you think that’s fair for me?
If that proposal is not right, come yourself and bring the baby too. We should like to see you all. Ask Hellen if she won’t write soon and often. You say that you have seen Brother Jefferson. Sis, tell them to write often. Tell Grandfather to write to me soon for we would like to hear from them & Uncle & Aunt. Also give our best love to them all. Accept the same. We send a kiss for all & the baby too.