1852: William Henry Rosewarne to R. N. Rice

This letter was written by William Henry Rosewarne (1813-1884), a native of Cornwall, England, who came to this country in 1830 with his father, Dr. John V. Rosewarne, and seven siblings. They settled in Canandaigua, Ontario County, New York, where William met and married Eliza Ann Hicks (1819-1876) in 1840. Eliza was the daughter of Martin Hermance Hicks (1793-1879) and Millicent Norton (1796-1875).

William and Eliza were the parents of eight children; yet only two survived to adulthood. The children were:

Margaretta Rosewarne 1841–1841
Mary Caroline Rosewarne 1842–1852
Elizabeth Ann Rosewarne 1843–1852
John Martin Rosewarne 1847–1848 (twin)
Martha Rosewarne 1847–1847 (twin)
Sarah Ellen “Nellie” Rosewarne 1851–1930
Margaretta Kate Rosewarne 1854–1858
William Hicks Rosewarne 1859–1937

The following obituary for Rosewarne appeared in the Republican Niles newspaper in September 1884:

William H. Rosewarne, one of the oldest and most upright citizens in this vicinity, died at his home in Milton Township, three miles from this city, Monday the 15th inst, in the 72d year of his age. Mr. Rosewarne was the son of the late Dr. John Rosewarne, who was a pupil of the renowned Sir Astley Cooper. He was born at Cornwall, England, and began the study of surgery under his Father, but his removal to America in 1830, determined him to become a farmer instead. After residing for a time in Canandaigua, N.Y., he removed in 1834, to this place, where he has resided most of the time since. For upwards of twenty year he was a trusted employee of the Michigan Central R.R. Co., but returned to his farm when his health would no longer permit him to discharge the arduous duties of railroad life. Mr. Rosewarne was an obliging, kind-hearted friend and neighbor; one who never forgot to be a gentleman. For many years and especially since the death of his estimable wife, in 1876, he was prevented by the inroads of disease and the growing infirmities of age, from active business, but his interest of the passing events of daily life was unabated and the warm clasp of the hand and the hearty “God Bless You,” with which he greeted his friends, seemed like a benediction. He was a member of the Episcopal Church. He leaves two children, a son and a daughter–Mrs. Edwin Gillette

William wrote this letter to R. N. Rice, the General Superintendent of the Michigan Central Railroad, following the death of his daughters, Mary Caroline and Elizabeth Ann. We learn from this letter that both daughters died on the same day (April 19, 1852) within an hour of each other and that the cause of death was scarlet fever. William seeks Rice’s approval to vacate his job temporarily so that he might accompany his grieving wife back to Canandaigua, New York.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to R. N. Rice, Esqr., Detroit [Michigan]

Decatur [Michigan]
April 23d 1852

R. N. Rice, Esqr.

1852 Letter

Dear Sir. Last Monday night between the hours of nine and ten o’clock, I lost both my little girls from Scarlet Fever. I buried them at Niles on Tuesday in one coffin and my wife wishes to go to Canandaigua to stay awhile with her parents and my Father and Sister. Mrs. Gibson will be so kind as to let me go down with her at once. We have lost five out of six children — only an infant about five months old left. My wife mourns bitterly and I hope change and being with her Friends will help her. I will return as soon as possible if you will let me go and attend to my duties before the Night Runs commence, if I possibly can. If you will give me a pass to assist me down and back, I should be ever thankful. You know, I suppose, I am in poor circumstances. My duplicates have not been sent since the nineteenth. I send them this morning. I have a man that I can trust at the Station with every thing. The Washington left Car 94 for Albion loaded with lumber. They had forty loaded cars — thirty two with cattle — and said they could not take it. I should not mention this but Mr. Ferguson, Conductor of the other train, told me they could have taken it as well as not. I thought Mr. Grissell had a very heavy and miserable train to draw and did not think it best to urge off the Car which I have ever done. (You know best in the premises.) Mr. Ferguson, I suppose, will report to you these are the facts.

Yours respectfully, — William H. Rosewarne, Freight Agent


5 responses to “1852: William Henry Rosewarne to R. N. Rice

  • Alana

    Thank you for posting this letter from my 3rd great-grandfather. I’m curious how you came by this. If you have any more, our family would be very grateful.

    • Griff

      I transcribe these old letters for an acquaintance of mine who sells them on e-bay. He gives me permission to post them on my websites in exchange for the transcription. Since this one was posted many months ago, I’m going to assume that it does not come from a larger cache of letters that he sometimes acquires from estates sales or auctions. Although the letter was sold long ago, I’m glad you found this transcription and that you can see the scanned images of the letter written in your ancestor’s own hand. Please let me know if I have transcribed anything incorrectly. Also, please feel free to say something more about your lineage to William H. Rosewarne for the benefit of others who may be researching this same family. — Griff

  • Cathleen Kalin

    Hello. I am the 2x great granddaughter of Willian H Rosewarne and the aunt of the previous respondent, Alana. I was pleased to find your site and this letter. I have researched our Rosewarne family to our first Ancestor in America, Dr John V. Rosewarne (1789-1865).

    We don’t have much in the way of memorabilia about William and Eliza. They must have had a very sad and difficult life to loose 6 out of 8 children. William and Eliza lie in the Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles, Berrien, Michigan. However, there are no gravestones. Likewise, there are no stones for the many babies that they lost. Until I read the letter you posted I never knew how the two girls died. The pair of twins most likely were too tiny to survive. We still don’t know how the other two children died.

    My great grandfather was William Hicks Rosewarne. He was only 17 when his mother, Eliza, died in 1876.

    Thank you for finding this letter as it helped to clarify some things about our ancestry.

    Cathleen Miller Kalin

    • Griff

      Cathleen: So glad you found this letter & that it was useful to you in your quest to learn more of your family history. And as your ancestor greeted his friends, “God Bless You” for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. If you have a picture of William or Eliza that you are willing to have me post with the letter, please let me know. — Griff

      • Cathleen Kalin

        Hello again,
        I unfortunately do not have a photo of William Henry Rosewarne or of his father Dr. John V Rosewarne. Eliza Hicks was the daughter of Millicent Norton and Martin Hermance Hicks. The Hicks family came from a long line of Hicks ancestors who came to this country in 1620’s. Her Norton side is unknown to me.
        Thank you again for posting this heart felt letter written by my 2x great grandfather.


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