Family Letters: Ensign Letters from Simsbury, CT to Forsyth, GA
September 11, 1845 to September 16, 1856
From: N. Whiting, North Haven CT
To: Isaac W. Ensign, Forsyth, GA
Sept 11th 1845
I again sit down to address you by letter. The promptness with which you answered my former note has encouraged me to continue the correspondence.
I can give you but little account of "Home" and its concerns, though I recently received a letter from David about 8 or 10 days since saying that they were all well, and bringing other items of intelligence all of which I presume you have been made acquainted with before this as he remarked that they heard from you about two weeks previous, and I concluded have written you since.I also received a letter from Ephraim some three weeks since. He was well, and he says he is engaged in "the fine arts such as painting" (probably some old barn or board fence) "and Music". Abigail was then in Barrington. Doct John was at my house the first of last week, and had with him Maria and Cornelia. They were all well.
Mr. Dibble from Granby was in this place with his lady on a visit about a week since, at Mr. Bray's w young man who has been in Georgia with him for a time. You may have formed some acquaintance with Bray. He expects to return to Georgia in a week or two. David has probably informed you that Brother Reid has closed his labours in Tariffville. I have not learned where he expects to go. The Association meets with the Bloomfield church yesterday and today. They are expecting to have an ordination today of a Pastor over Bloomfield Church. I wanted very much to attend but could not. This (New Haven) Association meets the first day of Oct in Southington. I hope I shall be able to be there.
The Avon church has hired a man to preach there who has a wife and two children. He is doing very well I understand. They complain so much of me for leaving them, but are satisfied that the fault was in themselves. They supposed they were doing all they could, but have since found that they were not by a good deal. A fact, by the by, of which I was aware before I moved from there.
The description you gave of Southern preaching was such as I supposed it to be, at least for a majority of the churches. And I have little hope of a change for the better while the home made scriptures of which you spoke has such weight in the minds of both ministers and people. It is a fond notion with avavitious professors that God will not only "qualify those whom he calls", but support them independent of any aid from the churches to whom they minister. There are also many ministers (whether called of God or not, I will not pretend to say), whose highest aim seems to be imitation of some boisterous exhorter and suppose they are doing a world of good in filling up the churches with numbers who have never dreampt of doing anything but make a noise for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom!
We have no very encouraging appearances in North Haven but are hoping for better days. I hope to have occasion to baptise the first sabbath in next month. There appears to be a little more feeling than has been & I hope it will increase. My health is tolerable good, Melissa is well as usual. Andrew was very sick yesterday but is much better today. He was attacked by a fever but I think we have broken it up so that he will get along.
Take care of your health, both of body & soul
Yours affectionately N. Whiting
From: Sabra Ensign (Seymour) Simsbury, CT May 22, 1853
To: Nathan Ensign, Forsyth, GA
I was very happy to receive a letter from you for which accept my earnest & heartfelt thanks. I am very glad to hear that you are not home sick. Why surely you should not be as all that constituted the life the charm of happiness of the one you have life is now silently sleeping that long dreamless sleep that knows no waking. Ah! We shall never again know that blessedness of our peaceful childhood home, henceforth one deep fount of feeling in our "heart of hearts" must know no outlet, that which gushed forth in love for our Mother. We may pronounce the name but our hearts will fail to thrill with the deep earnest love corresponding to that which we love our sainted mother. I hope you will be careful of your health as it is truly the greatest of earthly blessings. No one can hope to be very successful in any kind of business without it. We are all fully well excepting colds. Martha has broke her arm just above the elbow. She was playing with some children & fell over a stick & broke her arm. I fear Abby will get worn out taking care of her. Mr. Thomas Case is dead, so Father can't have the pleasure of taking care of him. He seemed very sad at his funeral as there were none to shed a tear but all looked on in calm indifference. I trust I shall not outlive all that love me. I would far rather pass away with cherished ones beside me. In a day or two after his death a nephew appeared saying Mr. Case had promised him all of his old clothes. I guess he will not be without perfumery for one year. I believe he has willed his bed that he lay on to the society. Valuable ain't it. Ha! Ha! We are having delightful weather. The trees are all in blossom filling the air with the most delicious fragrance. The dear birds have come again with their varied plumage & sweet voices making the "green strings of the forest lyre" resound with music.
Oh spring is so gay & cheerful, but far dearer than spring is the month of June--my bridal month. The skies never seem so beautifully blue--the foliage & grass never so fresh & green as then. Far more than all it is the "fruit of roses," the prettiest dearest of all flowers--then if ever may we forget that we live in a world of sin, sorrows, blight, mildew & change & the world seems a very paradise in its brightness & beauty. We can well imagine the agony that fused the heart of Edens queen as she cast a farewell glance at its last glories. Chester is taking care of the children & I am alone. It seems almost like a fairy land. The wind steals in so softly through the half closed shutters & all is so still & cool, but I expect ere long I shall hear merry voices & laughing or perchance a squall to remind me this "life is real life is earnest"
And now again let me thank you for your letter. I cannot bear to think that you are going to forget us all, to let the bright chain of love that encircles the little land of brothers & sisters to which you belong, grow rusty or perhaps be severed by the perplexities of this plodding world. You must ever remember that "those are the best friends whom God has given us." And as we have no Mother to whom shall we look, for encouragement and sympathy but to each other. Please write often and it will be a pleasure to me to hear from you. And that God may preserve you from the vice & wickedness of the world is the prayer of your
S E S
George continues to pay his distresses to Elizabeth. I fear George has got the "whooping cough". Josiah is here. Chester was much pleased with Forsyth. I wish we could go South. Father & Ralph are well. David is about the same.
Note by Sam R. Bunn
Sabra and Nathan's mother, Martha Tuller Whiting Ensign, died on 15 January 1853, just 4 months prior to this letter. Sabra is married to Chester Seymour and living in Simsbury while Nathan and Isaac are living in Forsyth, GA. Martha, who broke her arm, must be the daughter of Abbie, sister of Sabra.
From: Moses David Ensign (age 29) Simsbury CT June 24, 1853
To: Nathan Ensign, (age 21) Forsyth, GA
I have, you will perceive, undertaken to pen a few lines to you. I was in hopes I should have received something from you as I told you I would answer it if you would write one. I often hear the inquiry, do you hear from Nathan, how does he like it there. I, of course, tell them that you enjoy it well, that you like the South well, as well or better than you expected, but you must find time to write to me so that I may be able to answer all the inquiries concerning you. Our folks have just completed our cistern north side of the house and we have altered the eave trough on both sides to let the water run into it. It is near the back buttery window, and is large enough to hold 125 barrels. We are having a chain pump on it so that we can water the horse, and shall have a lead pipe from the back sink go down under the house into it to pump up water for washing. It has been so dry here that every thing shows the want of rain, there has been but little rain for nearly a month.
I suppose that you hear from Joe and the rest of the boys pretty often so that you have all the news. I have been almost a month trying to get someone to go on to New York with me or let me go with them, but have failed in all my endeavors, however I do not quite give up yet. I can think of it while summer lasts, perhaps I can persuade Father to go down to the Worlds Fair and so from there get over to Samuels. I received a letter from Samuel the other day, he says they are going to have a Woods Temperance meeting down there only a few miles from them. Mr. Gough and some other great speakers will be there. He says the Jersey people are getting waked up for a Main Law. Our legislature hardly dare to prop it for fear of what will be said of them. The Whigs all around say they won't prop it cause it is not a Whig Legislature, just as though they would do better. You don't forget to answer this and tell Isaac and Oliver I should like to hear from them. Last Tuesday night an Irishman that lived with Isopher St John in going in swimming with some other fellows was drowned. He could not swim much, but following the rest jumped in and was drowned. Julius Weed also came very near it. He and William Whitehead and Charley Junior went together. Julius and William were over the other side of the river and Charley on this side when William halloed to Charley that Julius was drowning. He swam across as quick as he could and caught him just as he was going down the third time and saved him. Such things show us the instability of human life. One was drowned, the other just escaped. One thing I would remind you of. Ever remember the many admonitions our dear mother gave us and the Lord grant that none of us may ever forsake her counsel.
Write as soon as convenient
From your dear brother
From: Moses David Ensign, Simsbury CT
To: Isaac W. Ensign, Forsyth, Georgia
Saturday July 15th 1853
As it rained to hard to work at harvesting today I suppose I can give you a few lines. We are having a fine rainy day. We commenced harvesting this week and have got in all on Uncle Tommys land and about half of ours, but you know that we are pretty sure to have a rain before the rye is all in. This morning we went up and got in one load and soon the rain began and a great deal of rain has fell but it is not over yet. It is not so dry here now. I do not know as it will injure the crops very much some appears to come on well. Three o'clock this afternoon the shower is pretty much over. It is something uncommon for a thundershower to last six hours and rain hard nearly all the time. The flashes were not very bright nor very frequent. We have had no severe winds though one or two very heavy rains this summer a few such rains as this one today would fill up our cistern. You inquired about fathers lightning rod speculating as to the money he will make on it. I cannot tell you as yet, though there is a profit of his doing something as he has partly engaged to put one up for Mr. Miner or someone out that way, but you must not give way to so many fears concerning it as he has the sole agency for Simsbury, Avon, Granby and Heartland and it comes with such great recommendations why should it fail, but truly it has some improvements over all kinds that I have seen. It is fastened to the house with a knob of glass set in a piece of wood so that there is no metallic connection between the rod and house. Glass is a non-conductor of electricity. The rod is so constructed that once in six feet and once in twelve there are gilded points to carry it off into the air should the rod become overcharged so that there can be no danger of bursting. Perhaps after haying is over he may put up some.
Monday morning. I again attempt to indite a few lines. I suppose that you have so many letters from Joe Bartlett and the rest of the young fellows that you are pretty well informed of their doings. Joe and Aseph went up to Springfield on the 4th. There was little or nothing going on around here. Ralph has had an invitation to attend the anniversary of the Constitution. (Several lines faded) I suppose Oliver or Mr. Phelps will be starting soon. We heard a short time since that Mr. Phelps would come instead of Oliver. Mrs. Barber has been up around here for two or three weeks. She made inquiries about you. Would not you like to see her? You must write when you can we are all well as usual. Remember us to all
Moses D. Ensign
Transcribed on September 9, 1991 by Sam R. Bunn from the original loaned by Cornelia Sheppard.
From: Moses David Ensign
To: Nathan Ensign at Forsyth, GA
Simsbury Aug 15th 1853
I will attempt to comply with your request and tell you a little about matters and things here in the land of sturdy habits. When the thoughts of writing a letter first enter my mind at times thoughts will flow freely, but when I seat myself in the corner, and with pen in hand and paper before me commence the undertaking, then my thoughts begin to scatter far and wide. If I attempt to describe anything that has just taken place, I may perhaps say a few words just enough to open the subject, and then to have the thoughts come upon me with all its force, and what shall I say next? Puts a damper upon my proceedings, but I will not weary you with thoughts or ideas. We have received your bill and I have now just commenced to make it out. Jason Burr has been here, he stayed over Sunday with us and went away this morning. He says that he shall go home soon and after he has been home about a week shall come over to Forsyth and shall call and see you. Father thinks that Isaac had better recollect that money and see if he will pay it. He says that he has two shops. One in Griffin and the other in Atlanta. He has bought one hundred and fifty dollars worth of stoves in Albany (?) that he is going to take on with him, it would seem as if he was doing something and might pay if he had a mind to. Interest and all is worth having. Don't you let Isaac forget it when Burr comes there perhaps in three or four weeks. We have almost finished haying and it is fine. Commenced the 5th of July and worked every pleasant day. They thought they could not get along without my help, so I used to go and spread all they would mow and after a couple of hours mowing go and rake with any of them in harvesting. I could rake up and carry together and I tell you I found work enough. Last week we had some almost insufferable hot weather up to 95 in the shade there. I did wish myself back in the shop or out of the heat of the sun, after bearing it until Friday noon I at last persuaded our folks to get along with out me and I went into the shop and worked in the afternoon and I tell you I felt some better. We have not hired help for one single day, but if we had only had you to have swung the scythe with us we should have been through some time ago. Frank says you may tell Uncle Nathan that I miss him. He says that he would like to see you. He was some tickled to hear what you wrote about him. He laughed and talked about Uncle Nathan. You may tell Oliver that he is not forgotten. Shall write to him in a few days. Maj. Phelps is very low, gradually wearing away. May not live many days. The old complaints are on him. We are all well. Write Soon,
Moses D. Ensign
Note: Nathan Ensign served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Maj. Oliver Phelps died on 4 Oct 1853.
From Moses David Ensign, Simsbury CT, Sept 12, 1853
To: Nathan Ensign, (age 21) Forsyth, GA
Again I resume the pen to let you know a little something of matters & things in the "Land of Sturdy Habits". Sometimes we would say there is no change here to speak of but as all are doing something in some way or other it would be strange passing strange if something was not brought to view. Still as Capt Spring is our chief carpenter in this place we cannot expect buildings to rise very fast, but I must not weary you with this fol-de-rol. The weather here has been quite dry for some days, we have what the old folks used to call a dry moon, but we should not always place the utmost reliance on the phases of the moon.
Your bill of tin is packed and on its journey now, we packed it this forenoon. We have not sent those wood handles for the sausage filler because we could not get them to send some men out in North Canton. Between them both promised I guess some three or four times but have as surely failed for want of water, & so we concluded to wait no longer but send the tin along. Those cake pans we did not hardly know what you wanted & so made what we did the small scollop ones. The good people of Simsbury had what they called a pic-nic this afternoon down in a maple or hickory grove down in Elizur Eno's meadow. You probably know where it is. There was something of a turnout if we may judge by the numbers of wagons that passed here with gentlemen & Ladies, the elderly as well as the young, the married as well as the single. We can furnish you nothing more than imaginary thoughts concerning it as none of our own people were there. Chester went to New Haven so he could not be there & Ralph was too tired with his work having finished dragging this forenoon out to the hollow.
Mr. Jeffrey, the old man, is very sick. He has the neuralgia or brain fever, is at times much distressed, has been down about a week. They have sent out for Mary to come home. Charlotte has come up. It has generally been quite healthy here this summer. There has of late been a few cases though not many severe. I suppose you have just received one from Ralph. Uncle Oliver is about the same or I don't know as he is any worse. Mr. Phelps and his wife were over here today. I gave him that Daguerreotype for Isaac & he must bring on that old one of mine next winter when he comes on. The last volume of the Waverly we cannot send on this time as Mr. Phelps cannot carry it.
Friday morning. Have not quite completed this letter as I have waited for the bill to go with it, but father is going to copy it off this morning so that we can put it into Shepherd's mail. Cornelia Tuller is very sick with a fever. I do not know as I can write any more now. You must write as soon as you can. Most everyone inquires how Nathan likes the South. Frank says he wants to see Uncle Nathan. We are all well as usual. We are some expecting Uncle Niles here today. Eunice has been here all the week. No more at present. Regards to all.
Yours, Moses D. Ensign
From: Abigail Ensign (Goodrich) Simsbury CT 18 Sept 1853
To: Nathan Ensign, Forsyth, Georgia
I have looked all around for a sheet of paper to write upon but cannot find you perceive so I must content myself with such as I have. I presume you have begun to think I am somewhat tardy in answering your letter this time. I intended to have written to you as soon as I received yours but have not found time. If you could just look in upon me you would not wonder. You know it has been cutting tobacco with us. Our folks were just a fortnight about with all their help. Lucius has built another shed south of the slaughter house larger than the one at the barn. He thinks that his tobacco never was as high as it has been this year, but you never learn enough about tobacco. [Here a large section is blurred out]
---he has not called Lucius as often as he used to perhaps he has turned his attentions some where else. Joe Bartlett is as devoted as ever to Miss. Ellen. June Hoskins is going west to spend the winter with her brother Lewett. He was married last spring. They had quite a fuss about a seat in the choir but June finally conquered. You know Mr. Potter pretended to call her one of his best singers. When they were seated by some means she and Ellen were seated on the back seat close to the door. Mr. P tried to swap her a little and said that he always wanted some of his independent singers on the end of the seat to help the poor ones along but that step didn't stick and June set below [blurred again] It would have amused you to have seen the work. Mr. Potter has been dreadful sick way down in Bristol with the typhus fever. (Don't you think there were a good many tears shed about that time) he could not keep away from Simsbury. He was back in about two weeks and called at Mr. Mathers of course. He is able to attend to the singing school again. Isabel Mulker is going to New Haven to school this winter. Col Mather and his wife and Julia are going to the west Illinois very soon to spend the winter. Won't J create quite a sensation . You know Mather's brother that died last spring was very rich and they will have a good share. The leave Clayt to superintend affairs at home. Lucinam Bartlett is going or has gone to Suffield again. Clark Chapman is at home he has not succeeded in getting a place. Stephen is in Hartford yet he thinks he has to work pretty hard. He confined himself very much. He was at home and stayed a few days not long since he was sober enough. I can tell you Seth Ely is in a clothing store in Hartford. Mr. Richards has had a call to go to Illinois. More salary they say. Some excitement about his going. They don't know whether he is going or not. He keeps pretty still about it. He has hardly got settled here. I should not think he would want to leave now. Mr. Jeffery Phelps is very sick. The boys are both at home and Chas is there too. They are quite alarmed about him. There has been a good many sick, not many deaths. Children have had the dysentery a good deal.
Martha has been sick with it. She is just getting to be smart again. She talks about you a good deal. How do you get along and how do you like your business. Have you got many acquaintances? Father gets along about the same as usual. I guess he would give a good deal if Mother was back here. He finds things very different from what they used to be. Eunice is there some and she will help them a little. I do not see Ralph very often. I suppose he is getting around as usual. George Seymour I believe is at work in New Britain. He goes to see Elib Wilcox. Lucian and Hector are getting along finely. It is thought they will be married this fall. Chet is as busy as ever. Have you had the wagons he was building for you. Write and let me know how you are getting. They had a Picnic last week, Wednesday, over to the plain in Elizur Eno meadow. We have an invitation but could not get Len started to go. Aloza and Emerson went. I do not know of any of the rest of the fellows in your company that went. All of the old folks like Watson Wilcox Rush Tuller, Priest Toy, Mr. Richards and Mr. Toy, Mr. Lucius Wilcox and lots more of the men went. I guess you will think you have got a nut when you get hold of this but you will find it is not. I should write more but it is getting late. I have written more than half of this with Martha and Julia and Lucy talking as fast as they can. If I have left anything out you must guess at it. Give my love to Isaac and Cornelia. I want to see them and the children. How I wish that we lived near enough together to run and see each other once in a while. It is nothing but work work all the while. Sabra's girl has left her and she has got to put into work. We have had two girls this summer and have been without most of the time. Mr. Phelps and his wife are beginning to think about going home. I have hardly seen them since they have been here. I called to Mr. Case one night and found them there and staid to tea. I thought I should owe them a good deal. They have not visited here their father has been so unwell that they have spent the most of their time there. I shall not write any more.
from your affectionate sister
Abbey M. Goodrich
Note: by Sam R. Bunn
Abbey's letters were written essentially without punctuation, and I have added periods to make easier to read.
From: Sabra Ensign (Seymour) Simsbury, CT 16 Sep 1856
To: Nathan Ensign, Forsyth, GA
My dear Brother!
Many very many thanks for your punctuality in answering my letter. I appreciate it all the more because I was conscious that my negligence in answering letters did not deserve it. My health is about the same that it was when Isaac's folks were here. Chester & the children are very well. I was pleased to hear that your health had been so good & hope it will continue so. Aunt Melissa & Andrew have spent 3 weeks here, she has just gone. While she was in Canton she visited at Mr. Burts (the minister). Said he thought there had been so much agitation on the subject of Slavery & so much light upon it that it was almost an insult for a man to bring a slave on to spend the summer, and said he thought it showed a strange carelessness in allowing one to remain here as long as Ann did without any one trying to make her stay here & showing her what high privileges she would enjoy is she did. Aunt M told him that she knew that she could be free here but he thought if any one had told her that she could earn 1.25 a week here & have it--all herself if she was an intelligent girl she might have been induced to stay. He did not know they were out to Uncle Elijah's till he saw them coming home and knew Father's team. I presume they would have had a call from him if he had known it in time. I have been very lonesome since they went home, although they did not visit me much it was some comfort to know they were about here.
I am anxious to know if Cornelia's health has improved any. I felt worried to see her looking so unwell. Tell Charlie Aunt Sabra wants to have him come over to her house. He is as smart a child as I ever saw. Mary Hollister and her husband have spent a week in Simsbury. Chester had a very severe turn of bilious colic the week they were here. I never saw him so unwell. He had the doctor & the next day we were invited out to Mrs. Stockwells to visit Mary & spend the afternoon. As he did not feel well enough to work he said he would go if I would, and therefore I exerted myself and went. It is so long since I have visited much that I have to make quite an effort to get out. I believe that Georgia Phelps is at her Uncle Edwins although I have not seen her to speak with her since she returned. Mr. Vining has sold his place to Mr. Lucius Wilcox for four thousand dollars and bought a place in Southwick. Quite a little farm, well stocked for 35 hundred leaving him five hundred, and people think he had made a great bargain. Father & his lady have gone to New London started last Thursday. They picked all of their grapes to have "brother Darwin" make into wine for them. Father wanted to leave some to eat but she would have the bushes striped as she said "she must have the wine". Poor feeble woman. It is hopeful that the sea air will improve her. She told me she "never thought she should have been a slave to a negro but she had this summer". They never so much as offered us a grape except the day they picked them Father brought over 3 or 4 little bunches in his hand which I divided with Mary.
They have had quite a Fremout meeting here. Mr. Hanley & Mr. Gillmasn spoke, of course. We had them here to tea & Mr. G remained all night. Ella Haskins called here yesterday. She said Jane was well, had gone out sewing with Jennetta. Give my love to all & write soon.
Yours with much love, S E Seymour
Note: The remarks about Cornelia Phelps Ensign's health were well founded. She died the next year at an early age, leaving three small children.
225 Durham Road
Milner, GA 30257-4004