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Family Letters Between Phelps and Ensign Families

Jan 12, 1845 to June 16, 1865

We extend our thanks to Sam Bunn, who transcribed the letters presented here from the originals.

Ensign Letters from Simsbury, CT to Forsyth, GA

Several letters written from Simsbury, CT to Forsyth, GA are included in this group. The first however, is one of the last to be found and was written from N. Whiting to Isaac Ensign. This letter was found in the Phelps family bible owned by Cornelia Sheppard who provided many of the letters I have transcribed. It gives some interesting insights into the church activities of the period of 1845.

The other letters were written from Simsbury, CT by various Ensign siblings including Sabra Thankful, Moses David, and Martha Abigail to their brothers Nathan and Isaac in Forsyth. The time period of these letters was 1853 to 1856. Much information concerning the goings on of that era can be gleaned from these newsy letters.

It is sad to realize that today we would just pick up the telephone and call our relatives to pass on this information thus leaving no written record for our descendants as did the people who wrote these letters. I have gained a great love for my ancestors in reading and rereading these letters and finding out the struggles they went through over a century ago. Families today do not support one another as did our forebears--we are too busy "doing our own thing".

As you complete reading these letters, think about taking time to write some letters yourself. You might even write a relative in your own town that it would be easy to phone, but make a record of your existence so that your descendants can find out how you think, and believed, and what your faith was placed in. You can see the hand of God moving in many of the authors of these letters and it is a thrill to read of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. I, for one, take this opportunity to publicly profess that on March 15, 1966 I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and cleanse me from my sins and live in me forever. It has been the greatest decision I ever made!

Letters Between the Ensign and Phelps Families

The Ensign and Phelps families that had been intertwined in marriage on several occasions once again came together on September 30, 1846 in Forsyth, Monroe County, Georgia. So far no records of the details of the marriage have been located except for the date. It is interesting that Isaac Ensign born in 1747 was the Grandfather of our ancestor Isaac Ensign and also the Great Grandfather of Cornelia Phelps! This "Cousin marrying Cousin" was quite common in this period.

The first look into the life of the newly married Ensign family comes from a letter written December 27, 1846 just three months after Cornelia and Isaac were married. Letter #11 was written from Culloden Georgia to Cornelia's younger sister, Susan who was 13 years old at this time and staying with her grandparents in Simsbury. Culloden was quite a prosperous town in the 19th century boasting a college and was a hub of activity for the area. Isaac must have taken work in Culloden which is about 12 miles southwest from Forsyth. They originally roomed at a tavern which must have been frequented by some rather uncouth characters. They later moved to a boarding house that must have been more comfortable. Cornelia's reference to the "land of sturdy habits" obviously refers to the "Proper" habits of the New Englanders in Connecticut.

I will now digress for a few pages and look into Cornelia's sister Susan Jane Phelps who died a few years later at a very young age. The next letter in this section, Letter #12, is from Parker Johnson to Susan who is still visiting in Simsbury. Susan was 13 years old when she received this letter, and it is the only one available from Parker Johnson to Susan. Parker and Susan were married in 1851, however, Susan died 13 months later and left no children. This is perhaps the most tender love letter of all in this book, yet written to a girl only 13. Letter #13 of this group was from Cornelia to Susan. Cornelia is visiting her parents in Forsyth for a few days and left Isaac in Culloden "behind the counter", obviously a clerk in a store there or else he owned the store.

Letters #14, #15 and #16 are an exchange from Oliver Roswell Phelps and his sister Susan. In the first two, Roswell is in New York working for the summer and left right after writing for Simsbury. Obviously her letter to him was written before she received his as she did not respond to his inquiry.

Letter #16 is our last from Susan to her brother. From reading these letters between Roswell and Susan, they must have been very close friends as well as brother and sister. They seem to have placed confidences in each other quite often, even though he was several years older than she was.

Letter #17 is from Susan and Georgia Phelps to their brother Roswell in Simsbury. Georgia was only nine years old when she wrote her part of the letter. The last letter in this group, Letter #18, is the last written to Susan. Read these eight letters now before we return to Isaac and Cornelia.

Letters Between Roswell and George Phelps

In researching for this genealogical study of the Phelps family and its interweaving with the Ensign family, certain individuals seemed, to the author, to supply fascinating lives. Among these would be Roswell and Georgia Phelps: brother and sister. Both died at a young age as did their other siblings Cornelia and Susan Jane. Since Roswell has traceable descendants, I will give his background first.

Oliver Roswell Phelps, born in Simsbury Connecticut on August 4, 1830 was exactly 6 years younger than his sister, Cornelia. Several letters have already been included which give interesting insights into his early life. As we have previously stated, he was evidently close to his younger sister Susan Jane and they shared a camaraderie which few siblings today enjoy. On November 10, 1852 Roswell married Eugenia Campbell Lanier who was only 16 at the time. Their first three children died either at birth or shortly thereafter. Their fourth child, Robert Eugene Phelps lived to be 20 years old but did not marry. The only surviving child was Sara (Sallie) Ensign Phelps born on January 23, 1862. When Sally was only six months old, Roswell died of Tuberculosis and left Eugenia a young widow. His obituary is included as Document #24 and shows the love and admiration shown for him during his lifetime.

After Roswell's death, his wife and two children moved in with Roswell's father O. C. Phelps and his stepmother, Louise Peters Phelps whom O. C. Phelps had married on 1 August 1861. (This was his third marriage as his second wife, Harriet Wilder had died shortly after they were married). On Sallie's 16th birthday she married William Andrew Cooper. Sallie Ensign Phelps Cooper died on February 15, 1913 of Tuberculosis according to research by her granddaughter Cornelia Sheppard. This is the same disease that claimed her father and grandmother and other relatives. Thomas Cooper married Geneva Elizabeth Winkle and had one child, Cornelia Fedra Cooper who was born February 21, 1916. The next section was written by Cornelia Cooper Sheppard at my request.

"Sallie Ensign Phelps was born January 23, 1862 in Forsyth, Georgia, daughter of Oliver Roswell Phelps and Eugenia Lanier. When she was born her father was quite ill with Tuberculosis and died in July after her birth in January. Her mother had contracted the disease and died in the summer of 1863 leaving her to be raised by her maternal grandmother and her beloved paternal grandfather, Oliver Cromwell Phelps. Mr. Phelps had given his son, Roswell, a house directly across the street from his and the young child ran from house to house. She was sent to a girl's school in Culloden after being tutored the first few grades at home. Her grandfather had chosen her husband to be and had set aside the money for a house for her when she was married. Marriages were "arranged" by the Ensigns and Phelps as they wanted to keep their blood line and their heritage in the immediate families and often married cousins.

Sallie's grandfather died only five days before her 15th birthday on January 18, 1877 and she never got over it. This may have been a contributing factor to her marriage to William Andrew Cooper. She was attending school in Culloden and at a Christmas dance held at the school she met him and less than one month later, on her 16th birthday, January 23, 1878 she married him. A house and lot were purchased for her in Griffin by her family. The house still stands on the corner of 13th Street and Slaton Alley. (The alley was not there then and was all her property.) Her Mammy was sent to Griffin to live with her as she had been with her since her birth. A cottage was built in the back of the house for the Mammy to live in. That house still stands and is now facing what is known as Slaton Avenue. Sallie was given a fine horse and buggy and the lot from 13th to 14th streets was fenced in for the horse. She immediately became pregnant and was very unhappy with married life so she and the Mammy hitched up the horse and buggy and left Griffin for Forsyth where she gave birth to a baby boy just before she had been married ten months and while she was only 16 years old. She remained with her people in Forsyth without seeing her husband for the next seven years. She returned to Griffin, the reason has never been told, left the young boy in Forsyth, and once again she became pregnant. Her Mammy died about this time and she was left in Griffin without her child or her Mammy and gave birth to a second son on February 20, 1996. From this birth she never really recovered and she never was able to get her first child back, however, it is very doubtful that she tried."

We have two more letters written to Roswell Phelps and these are included as Letter #22 and Letter #23.

Another of the Fascinating Phelps family would have to be Abigail Georgia Phelps. Georgia was the youngest child of O.C. and Sarah Phelps and was the only one born after they moved to Georgia (thence her name "Georgia"). She was born either in Macon or Bolingbroke Georgia on May 17, 1840. I do not have her picture, but there is one of her daughter when she was 2 years old. Georgia married Fred Ellsworth of Simsbury Connecticut on October 28, 1860. Though born in Georgia, she spent considerable time in Connecticut with her grandparents and must have met Ellsworth while there. They had only one child, Susan Georgia Phelps Ellsworth born on June 28, 1864. When Susan Georgia was only 21 months old, her mother died. One day while doing research in the Forsyth Georgia cemetery, I ran across Georgia Ellsworth's grave. It is an obelisk and is not located near any other Phelps or Ensign graves. Evidently, Fred and his daughter remained in Connecticut as the family was very prominent in Hartford County. I have tried unsuccessfully up until this writing to research what happened to Susan Georgia Ellsworth but can find no records of her after her mother died. Perhaps some other person reading this can offer assistance.

Two letters survive written by Georgia and Fred Ellsworth. These are Letters 25 and Letter #26 and complete this chapter.