1854: John C. Ferguson to Ann E. Ferguson

This letter was written by John C. Ferguson who represented the 21st District in the Pennsylvania Legislature from 1854-1856. He was from Mt. Jackson in Lawrence County which is less than 10 miles from the Ohio state line and approximately 250 miles from the capitol at Harrisburg. Ferguson was the second postmaster of Mt. Jackson. John wrote the letter to his wife from the senate chamber during the first session of the legislature in January 1854.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Ann E. Ferguson, Mt. Jackson, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Senate Chamber
Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]
January 7th 1854

My dear Ann,

I received your letter of the 5th this morning and and I scarcely need say that I was very glad to hear that you and all the rest of our little responsibilities are well although I had heard from home by Judge [John] Nisbet ¹ who arrived here yesterday at 2 o’clock, making the trip from Enon Valley [Lawrence County] in less than 24 hours. This is quite a stormy place this winter and were it not for thinking of home sweet home and those who are there lonely, I could enjoy myself very well.

I did not get out to Uncle Joshua’s yet. On the day our session commenced, uncle was in town as one of the appraisers of the estate of Thomas Elder, ² deceased, and I promised to spend the next Sabbath with them if I did not go to Philadelphia & if so, the the next. He tells me they are all well and all the rest of the friends. On Wednesday morning, I seen Josiah Espy. They were well. He was on his way to the funeral of Mrs. Edward Jordon — sick for some time.

I have concluded to go to Philadelphia on this afternoon to attend as a delegate of the Old Soldier’s Convention which meets at Independence Hall on Monday next. ³

Our boarding place (Mr. Saunders) is quite a pleasant place. We have eight Senators and about one dozen members and a good many other boarders. We have also boarding at our house Mrs. Kate — the sister of Governor [Alexander] Ramsey — and her little husband Mr. _____. †

I saw James Jordon this morning. His father is quite well.

I believe I have nothing more to say at present. Tell John to write to me how things go on. I am yours, — John Ferguson


¹ Judge John Nisbet (or Nisbett) was on his way to the National Convention of the Soldiers of the War of 1812 in Philadelphia.

Simon Cameron House in Harrisburg

² Thomas Elder was a prominent attorney who died in Harrisburg in 1853, leaving a valuable estate which included the family residence which still exists and is known as the “Simon Cameron” house. Cameron bought the house in 1862 at the time of his resignation as Secretary of War in President Lincoln’s cabinet. The elder family owned the home from 1835 to 1853. It is now owned by the Dauphin County Historical Society.

³ The National Convention of the Soldiers of the War of 1812 was held at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on 9 January 1854. There were four delegates representing Lawrence County, Pennsylvania: Hon. John Nisbett, Robert B. McCoombs, Hon. John Ferguson, and Major A. W. Taylor. The purpose of the convention seems to have been to issue a series of resolutions petitioning Congress to address certain inequities in the awarding of land grants to veterans as well as their spouses and children.

Alexander Ramsey, Territorial Gov. of Minnesota

† “Kate” was Catherine Kelker Ramsey (1826-1882) — the sister of Minnesota Territorial Governor, Alexander Ramsey. She married John Nininger in 1843 and resided in Harrisburg until 1855 when they relocated to Minnesota and attempted to establish a town called Nininger. It proved to be a failure and is now a ghost town. John Nininger was the son of Anthony Nininger — a native of Alsatia, France — and his wife, Catherine May. John’s sister, Agnes Nininger, graduated from the Women’s Medical College in 1879. She married, first, Col. William Saunders in 1860 and second, Joseph Kemp, a layer of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. She achieved some notoriety as a reformer. Her first husband may have been related to the “Mr. Saunders” — the keeper of the Harrisburg boarding house where John Ferguson and the Niningers resided in 1854.


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