This letter was written by Sarah Brayton (Aiken) Saltonstall (1824-1910), the wife of William D. Saltonstall (1808-1886) of Chicago, Illinois. Sarah wrote the letter to her sister, Maria Louisa (Aiken) Wheeler (1817-1888), the wife of Lyman Wheeler ¹ (1805-1866), of Toledo, Ohio. Sarah and Maria were the daughters of Samuel and Sarah (Brayton) Aiken. Samuel Aiken was a shoemaker at William Wheeler’s shop near the corner of Clark and Lake Streets in Chicago during the 1840s.
Sarah’s 10 year-old daughter, Elizabeth Satonstall (1840-1898) writes a brief note to her cousin Helen Wheeler (1838-1881) in the letter.
The letter was written in June 1850, shortly after the 10 June 1850 death of Maria and Lyman Wheeler’s son, Lyman Wheeler, Jr.
Addressed to Mrs. Lyman Wheeler, Toledo, Ohio
June 23, 1850
We have received two Toledo papers today (one from you & one from Brayton) stating the death of your little Lyman. I have felt very anxious to have you come here this summer for fear I should never see the dear little fellow unless you did, but he has gone & we are left to mourn. I now know what it is to lose a child. Oh, such a yearning, such a blank & vacancy as we feel. It seems as if time could never remove it. Yet I can say the Lord gave & the Lord has taken away & blessed be His name. He knows better what we need than we ourselves know. He takes our little lambs that we may follow near & not wander far from Him. I feel that he is a God of love & doth not willingly afflict us, but we are such worms of the dust. It seems necessary to have something to wean us from this world.
I anticipated a great deal of pleasure this summer as our house was so much more comfortable & pleasant & we could have a good garden & many improvements which would please the children so much. Gertrude seemed the most pleased of all to see her Father setting out trees & currant bushes, &c. &c. But how soon were my anticipations blasted. Thus it is with the world. We know not what a day may bring forth. Passing away is written on every thing here below but I never until now realized it. We still have many things for which to be thankful. We are spared to take care of our children while many children are left without a mother. Yesterday Mrs. Stow (a lady of our acquaintance) died leaving five children — one an infant of ten months. Mother was with her all day yesterday & today. [She] has assisted about making a dress for the little girl. Mrs. Stow called at our house while you was here last — perhaps you remember her. She was a pious woman; a very active member of the church.
We are all as well as usual at present. Father is at home. He amuses himself taking care of our garden & his own a few blocks distant. We received a letter from Aunt Laura today. She has been hoping to visit us this spring but has been obliged to give it up until after harvest. [She] is anxious to know if you are coming to make her a visit this summer [and] says she would come down here with you if you would. I hope it will be agreeable to your feelings to do so. Mother is in hopes to return with you & spend the winter. I think there will be nothing to hinder her going. I have a good girl that has been with us more than [a year] and will stay another if we want her.
I hope we shall hear from you as soon as you feel like writing. Let [your daughter] Helen write if you do or do not & tell us what she is studying & what she reads. I would like very much to have you get her the four volumes of Woodworth Youth’s Cabinet, & if I was able I should send for the Parlor Annual for you. It is very interesting for so cheap a publication (one dollar a year in advance) – the year commences in September. Elizabeth is reading the bible through. She commenced last January [and] is going to get a nice Bible (if she reads it through in a year) from [Rev.] Mr. [Lewis H.] Loss,² the pastor of our church. Perhaps Helen’s father would give her one if she would do the same. Libby reads two chapters every day & five on the Sabbath. I think we ought to be very particular what our children read [and] have such as will be interesting, instructing, & useful.
We hear from William often. The last letter we had, he was very busy & well. But there seems to be a dead weight to his heart which he thinks will never be removed. His children are very near to him as you are well aware.
How far is Fla__vill_ from you? Do you hear from her often? I would like to receive another letter from her. We have not heard from Brayton very lately. I hope he is well.
Mother joins me in sending love to you all. Your sister, — Sarah Saltonstall
My dear cousin Helen,
O dear cousin. I am so sorry that you have lost your little brother. I was in hopes to see him & know how lonesome you feel for I feel lonesome too. Can’t you cause your mother to bring you and Jeffry to Chicago for I would like to see you very much. I think I could find something to amuse you. I wish I had a piano to play and then you could learn me to play. I hope mother will let me come and see you when Gramma comes. We have got a nicer place than we had before. I have got a little garden all to myself. I go to school now. It will be vacation soon and then I will have a long play spell. I guess I will not write any more this time for I don’t think you can read what I have wrote so good bye. — Elizabeth Saltonstall
Hope Helen will be able to read this scribbling. E. writes worse than she did two months ago. — S. S.
¹ A biography for Lyman Wheeler is posted on Ancestry.com, some of which is extracted here:
“….. As soon as I arrived I bought land, enough for three stores and two dwelling houses. It was a lucky circumstance I started for Toledo when I did. Property is 50% higher now than when I bought. I am not much in the habit of bragging. But I presume I could sell out today for $2000 more than what I gave. I am very much pleased with the place, much more so than when I was here before. Speculators swarm in from all quarters…..” extracted from a letter Lyman Wheeler wrote on Feb 18, 1836, to his fiancé Maria Aiken who was then residing in Chicago, IL.
Lyman Wheeler arrived in Toledo in 1836. Born in 1805 in Winhall, VT, he was the youngest of 10 children of Beriah Wheeler and Sarah Williams Wheeler. After a brief teaching career in Leicester, Mass, he went west to Hannibal, NY, where his older brother Henry had moved during the 1820s. Lyman was an entrepreneur. The opening of the Erie Canal enabled him to move further west to Buffalo, NY, where he set up a business selling books. We do not know the circumstances that made him move further west to Toledo. His arrival in Toledo was well timed. He soon married Maria Aiken, and settled down in Toledo.
Lyman was very successful in the grocery business in Toledo. He was a prominent citizen of Toledo and was active in the civic life and politics of the city during his lifetime. He was a member of the Toledo city council in 1839, 1840, 1845-48, 1850-51, 1853, and 1855. He represented the city in meetings of shareholders of the Plank Road Company, a capital stock corporation, established by the city of Toledo in 1848. He had four children. Helen Wheeler was born in 1838 and she married Louis Wachenheimer. He had a son named Julian and another daughter named Gertrude who married Charles Hague. His youngest son, Robert Jeffrey Wheeler, born in 1846, was the proprietor of the old Wheeler Opera House.
Lyman Wheeler’s business interests expanded into real estate and liquor, in addition to the grocery business he started soon after his arrival in Toledo. He died on Sept 27, 1866 at the age of 61. Here is his obituary in the Toledo Blade:
Death of An Old Citizen: We learned that one of the old citizens of Toledo, Lyman Wheeler, esq. died yesterday of consumption. Mr. Wheeler came to this city in 1836 and engaged in the retail grocery business, which he pursued for a few years and then retired. In the spring of 1843 he became associated with M. Boos in the grocery business on the dock and the partnership continued for 22 years until May last. After many years of successful business as grocers, they engaged in the wholesale liquor trade and while in this business Mr. Wheeler’s health failed and he was compelled to retire. As a business man, he was one of the most successful we have known in Maumee valley and it is understood that he has left a very handsome competence for his family.
Source: Oral history from family members; Clark Waggoner, History of the City of Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio (1888); Toledo Blade
² Rev. Lewis Homri Loss (1803-1865) was the pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church in Chicago at the time this letter was written in 1850. He graduated from Hamilton College (1828) and was licensed to preach by Oneida Presbytery and installed as pastor at Camden, Oneida County, New York in 1829. He afterwards served in Elyria, Ohio; in Rockford and Chicago, Illinois; and in Joliet and Marshalltown, Iowa.
The following excerpt comes from a history of the Presbyterian Church in Chicago:
“By the 1840s, slavery was a source of much controversy across America. In that decade, the little congregation that had been founded in the carpenter’s shop split into three (First, Second, and Third) Presbyterian Churches over slavery. They were all opposed to the practice of owning human beings but differed in how they proposed to see it end. The members of Third Church were the most militant willing even to go to war to abolish slavery.
Philo Carpenter, one of the founding members of the original congregation, helped found Third Presbyterian Church. Carpenter, it is now known, was a very active member of the underground railroad helping about 200 slaves escape to freedom in Canada. It is important to remember that opposition to slavery was a religious issue before it became a political one. Many Christians were willing to go to prison to oppose slavery.
In early 1851, Philo Carpenter and the majority of Third Presbyterian voted to abstain from participating in the meetings of the presbytery because of the church’s “failure to discipline those guilty of holding their fellow-men in bondage.” When the Presbytery of Chicago removed them they founded the First Congregational Church of Chicago.”