1852: Elizabeth Catherine (Richardson) Finney to Jacob Finney

What Lizzie and her infant son James might have looked like in 1852

This letter was written by Elizabeth (“Lizzy”) Catherine (Richardson) Finney (1821-Aft1870), the daughter of Marcus Calmes Richardson (1792-1864) and Harriet Elizabeth Chrisman (1800-1860). Lizzy was the wife of Jacob Finney (1803-1859). Jacob was the son of Elijah Goslee Finney (1776-1813) and Rebecca Tobias (1776-18xx) of Addison County, Vermont. Jacob and Elizabeth had three sons: James, b. 1852 (and the subject of much of the content of this letter); Marcus, b. 1855; and Samuel C., b. 1857.

It appears that Jacob came to Botetourt County, Virginia in the early 1840’s and entered into a partnership with John Wigginton Jones (1807-1894) in the operation of an iron foundry at “Mountain Gorge” near Buchanon. The Jones and Finney Foundry manufactured stoves and shipped them by wagon and freight boats to various markets until the foundry was burned to the ground by Federal troops during the Civil War. Jones was married to Mary Eliza Valentine (1818-1853). The Richmond Whig newspaper of 7 June, 1859, however, carried an obituary notice for Jacob Finney, which read as follows:

Died of Typhoid fever on the 21st May at his residence, near Pattonsburg, Va., Mr. Jacob Finney in his 57th year, leaving many friends, an affectionate wife, and three children to mourn his loss. No man ever lived who entertained a higher sense of honor, and his parting words were, “peace with the world and an humble trust in his Saviour.” The writer knew him long and intimately and can truly say he never expects to find his equal.

This letter’s dateline says it was written at “home” which I infer to be Lizzy’s parent’s home in Shenandoah County, Virginia. It appears that she travelled there prior to the delivery of her first-born child to be assisted in the delivery by her mother and other family members.

Stamped Envelope


Addressed to Mr. Jacob Finney, Pattonsburg, Botetourt County, Virginia

Home [Shenandoah County, Virginia]
September 21st 1852

My Dear Husband,

Page 1

I would have written you yesterday in reply to yours of the 14th Inst., but was prevented by company. I hope, however, that this may reach you before you set out for us, not but what I am very anxious to see you and also that you shall see our fine boy, but Father and Mother think that it would be imprudent to undertake a journey of such length when he is much less than two months old (& as you speak of staying only a few days with us) you may come too soon. I wish you could arrange it so as to spend several weeks — perhaps you can. The little fellow had measles last week in a mild form to be sure. Indeed, he was not much affected by it. He was entirely covered with the eruption, but except that, you would hardly have known that anything was the matter with him. And as there is great danger of taking cold afterwards, it may not be amiss to use a little precaution. Then as to how we shall return, I certainly have no objection to going by stage as far as I am concerned. I can stand jolting pretty well now but Father and brother Samuel say that it will come near killing the child and will it not even be better for us to go in a buggy and send the servant by stage than to run any risk? He is such a dear little creature and has been doing so well. I would not like to expose him to any danger. He was a month old yesterday and weighed twelve pounds. He is so sweet and plump and is the perfect admiration of his mother and aunt. I know you will love him.

I heartily wish you were rid of that man Willie and the neighborhood of his family. I fear he will trouble you some time to come.

Page 2

Was not Jane Arthur’s confirmation rather unexpected? I hope she has “chosen the good part which can not be taken away.” Bishop [William] Meade ¹ must be a very old gentleman. I recollect when I first saw him not much less than twenty years age. I thought him quite old and he must have been near sixty. What took him to that part of Virginia? He has friends living in Amherst. You must be rather more piously given than you sometimes were last winter and spring as you went to Church on Monday or was it to be present at the confirmation?

Cat Buck — one of the pretty girls you saw here when we were married — was to have been married this morning to a Mr. [Marcus] Blakemore,² son of the lady of whom you have heard me speak who was an inmate of the Lunatic Asylum at Staunton and leave ___ of Bell & Phil for Louisville at which place he resides. Susan R. went to Front Royal yesterday intending to be present at the marriage & we will hear all about it when she returns. Cousin W. Richardson’s daughter & a few others will accompany them as far as Baltimore.

I regret to learn that you have been suffering from cold. Perhaps you have needed winter socks and drawers. I left two pairs of socks in your drawer of the bureau and any thing you wanted out of the box you should have taken. They are ready to wear for if I recollect aright, I mended them before putting away. It will be well enough to be provided with a pair of them when you come down. You will please bring the blue muslin dress that I bought at Johnson’s for me to travel in. You will find it in the bottom drawer. Do not forget to bring my miniature. Perhaps you had better bring your best coat as the other is somewhat defaced. You can pack it in your hand trunk without injuring.

So it possible that you excused yourself to the ladies by saying you were afraid of my scolding. I have been away from you so long that I would not be surprised if I find you a rebellious subject.

Page 3

Mother and the girls send much love and say they are very anxious to see you but look forward with some dread to our leaving with the darling boy. Love to Mrs. Valentine — am glad to hear that she can leave the house. Also to Mrs. Jones. ____ I hope has recovered before this. Now do not hurry yourself took much when you come down, if you please. Give yourself time to look around a little. It would be very agreeable to me if we had a snug cottage of our own that we could get into. Boarding with a child must be attended with some inconvenience & if we were housekeeping one of the girls would possibly go with us. You must not understand me as urging the matter, but only expressing my preference. I will wait as patiently, however, as I can until you are ready, or you will not think me the obedient wife you have sometimes told me I am.

I am looking forward with pleasure to the time when we shall again be united, and the girls sometimes say they are going to meet you at the gate with the baby. At others, they will hide him so that you shall ask for him. This they think will put you to the blush, but I tell them you will be proud of him. I would like to brag about him to Mr. Jones but feel afraid he may not continue as healthy.

My paper is nearly filled and I must stop by requesting that you present me kindly to all our friends, and believe me my beloved, your devoted wife, — Lizzie


¹ William Meade (1789-1862) became an Episcopal Bishop in Virginia in 1829. He would have been about 62 years old at the time this letter was written.

² Catherine Elizabeth Buck, daughter of Isaac N. and Susan Buck, was married to Marcus Henson Blakemore, son of Thos. Blakemore, at “Mountain View,” on the morning of the 21st of Sept. 1852.


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