This letter was written by 55 year-old Olivia (White) Stanton (1806-1898), the wife of Amos Pendleton Stanton (1802-1874), a well-to-do Brooklyn merchant. Olivia was the daughter of John White (1775-1807) and Philena Hinckley (1780-1859) of Georgia, Vermont. When Olivia was less than a year old, her father, a lawyer, died while traveling on his way to the ocean in an attempt to restore his ill health.
Olivia wrote the letter to her cousin, Sarah Mariah Hinckley (1809-1868) of Georgia, Vermont. Sarah was the spinster daughter of Ira Hyde Hinckley (1785-1860) and Sarah Mariah Hale (1786-1829).
Addressed to Miss Sarah M. Hinckley, Georgia, Vermont
Toms River [Ocean County, New Jersey]
June 7, 1861
Dear Cousin Maria,
You will see from this heading that I am now at my husband’s home in New Jersey, and it is here that I received your very welcome letter. I had often wondered why you did not write me.
I left Brooklyn the fifteenth of May. The week before I left, I had a most unexpected call from cousin Robert Spencer. Perhaps ‘ere this letter reaches you, he may be in Georgia. But as that is uncertain, I will briefly tell you what I learned of his history. For the last twenty years or more, he lived at Fort Smith, Arkansas. He owned a farm there and worked upon it. Eleven years ago, he was sun struck and has suffered in health ever since. His wife is still living and is now at Fort Smith. Last March, cousin Robert’s health was such that he doctor recommended him to come North and spend the summer. But as Robert was out of money, his friends there made up a purse for hm. He first came on to Boston and from there to New York where his half brother’s children live, and where he was staying at the time that he called upon me. In all those long years, not one word has he heard from his Vermont relatives, and knew not whether any of them were living. I invited him to visit me at this place and he thought that perhaps he might come, but I hear no more from him. The State of Arkansas has seceded since he left and now he cannot get back and I do not see how he can hear from his wife.
[My daughter] Eliza ¹ and her little family are now in our house in Brooklyn. Since I left, Doctor Allen has got an appointment as surgeon to go in a steamer [USS Albatross] connected with the blockading fleet in the Gulf of Mexico. The steamer sails the 20 of this month. I shall go to Brooklyn before that time and intend when I return to bring Eliza and little Stanton home with me. [My other daughter] Emma ² went back to Pittsfield the first of May, spending her vacation in Brooklyn.
I wrote you last winter about [my brother-in-law] Robins Allen. ³ His disease has not advanced so rapidly as we feared it would. Since the war broke out, he has seemed almost to forget himself, so interested did he feel in everything going on in the nation. Several times he rode in his carriage to New York to see the different bodies of troops take their departure for the seat of war. He says that if he was well, nothing would keep him from joining the army.
When this war will end, the wisest are unable to tell. It is not expected that the South will give up without fighting. Desperation will make them fight, and some think that they may yet gain some victories. But I hope not.
I am glad to hear that our friends in Illinois are well. I wish they would write to me. Are any of them going to the war? Mr. Stanton is too old, and besides has too many cases to think of leaving home for the war, notwithstanding his heart is in it and he will do what he can to encourage others.
I long to see the good old town of Georgia once more, but fear I never shall. In this place, the old settlers are a queer people. They do not like to have strangers come here to reside and are very much afraid of innovations. A number of the Stanton’s acquaintances have come here from other places during the past year, so I have a few congenial friends. There is a Presbyterian Church in this place, quite new, and a very pretty building. It has a bell which seems to add consequence to the town. The minister [Charles Milne] is a Scotchman but he is only a home missionary. I wish they had a good settled minister. For years there has been but one church here — the Methodist — and now there is a rivalry between the two churches.
I wish you would write oftener. I want to hear from my friends when I cannot see them. I have much to say to you whenever I commence to write and often exceed the bounds of my sheet.
Please give much love to your mother and to all your brothers and sisters and all friends.
Yours affectionately, — Olivia W. Stanton
¹ Eliza Jane Stanton (1837-1906) married Dr. James Morrill Allen (1831-1906) in April 1858. Their little boy’s name was Stanton Allen, born in July 1859. It’s possible they had another child born in 1860 or 1861 that did not survive.
² Emma Stanton was born in May 1847 and was probably attending a boarding school.
³ Jonathan Robins Allen (1836-1862) died in June 1862.