This letter was written by Dr. William Robinson Smith (1822-1900) of Hillsborough (Hillsboro), Highland County, Ohio. William wrote the letter to his parents, Samuel Smith (17xx-1875) and Sarah Gallaway (1804-1875) of Greenfield, Ohio.
William attended Miami University and became a doctor and a druggist. He first set up a drugstore in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio, where his only competition was from Dr. John Ludlow (b. 1810). William’s drug business was on Fountain Avenue opposite the Odd Fellows Building. He later established a drug store in Hillsborough, Ohio, where he also served as postmaster.
Tuesday, May 5th 1863
My Dear Parents & Brother & Sister,
As it is raining this morning & dull, I thought of my old home. How are you all today? I would like to drop in & see you all & talk over the news from [General] Hooker & learn how you are all getting along. Of course we are most solicitous for Charles as he is an invalid. How many years have we been anxious for you, father, having been so long an invalid. But by the good Providence of God, still living & in tolerable health. May we fondly hope that many days of tolerable health may be allowed brother Charles that you & he may enjoy life & each other’s society together.
I am thankful that you, mother, & Laura are blessed with such fine spirits so that you may comfort those less highly favored. Cheer them all & be useful & happy & we will all pray for you & give you our warmest sympathy & love. If the weather settles, come over & see us some of you & we will treat you with the greatness kindness & warmest affection. I wish I could suggest something to cheer you Charles. I think fine weather, cheerful disposition, care as to exercise, sleep, diet &c. will afford the most comfort. Traveling when strong enough into some dry, bracing climate as Mackinaw or California often invigorates weak constitutions & brings fair health.
I have been proposing that Uncle john would take a buggy & visit Dr. Roby’s, Uncle Taylor’s, Somerville’s, Steel’s, Chillicothe & around by Greenfield & home again & to Bloomingburg, Columbus, Springfield & home. I think he would derive more advantage though taking medicine. His system is worn nearly out. The lungs & circulation constitute the the sources of weakness of which he complains so much. Want of breath, pain in his head, weakness & occasional chill constitute his troubles with his cough. His appetite, digestion, sleeping &c. pretty good & healthy. They like their new home & are nicely fixed up. They will build in a week or two & increase the conveniences.
Mr. [John Hill] Aughey — author of Iron Furnace — has preached for us & lectured for us partly to our education and delight, the last few days. he is now selling his book here. He is invited to preach at Greenfield & thinks of trying Peoria also. He is going to General Assembly. If you have not got his book, write me & I will mail you mine, as you will enjoy it I am sure. He was at Uncle Hibbens for tea & he & Libbie had a fine talk over their Peoria acquaintances. Ann told me Libbie would go with him to Peoria & Eliza would not go. Patience is about the same — some days better. Lavinia went to Cincinnati with Sallie McDowell & some other girls. The young folks seem to be happy visiting, riding &c. but I suppose Laura gets all the news from Lavinia & gives you the little items.
The friends generally are better. Patience, Uncle John, Mary McMillen all complaining a little. I will lend Aunt Nancy my book to read as we have read it. Jennie Nelson thinks Mr. Aughey’s narrative the most thrilling she has ever read. Mr. Brown seems to have ended his letters against our Uncles. I hope he has done good. Uncle is very attentive to Mr. Aughey, while most of the democrats will not go to hear him. We will try & keep him in the right company & hope for the best.
Kirby & Walter enjoy these nice days & are doing well at school. Lillie & Mary Pugsley are as happy together as 2 sisters. Walter & I took Dr. Kirby’s horse & buggy last week on Monday & went to Walter’s & back Wednesday. we enjoyed the trip & the visit as the roads & weather were good & friends kind. My system was run down some & I thought the trip would do me good. Walter is going to look through Illinois in June & may go into sheep business on the prairies. Uncle Bany [Barry?] is sick of office seeking but I am afraid will be out again in fall. David Miller is some better & may get up again. Mr. Mathews is coming back to have a select school in his old home. Some talk of James Smith going to see Annie Bany [Barry?] but I hope it is not true. Some talk of Dr. Holmes & Eliza, also of Dill & Lavinia. Lizzie Kirby seems to have discarded all. Libby & Grier & Tommie seem to be enjoying their visit. Ella had a bad cold yesterday but is better today. I told them they must try & keep house so as to let their children have the fresh air & sunshine or they will be sickly.
Robert does not know what to do & I cannot tell what is best for him. I am willing to make any sacrifice possible so as to give him a home. I think he could do well in furniture, groceries, or could buy Dr. Vicker’s drugstore & make a living either way. We could increase our business by adding his capital so as to have a large stock. Or finally I could sell him the drug store, pay my debts, & loan the balance, or buy some government bonds so that with the post office, papers, & a little interest, I could save something & have less care & anxiety than I now have. He could make a good living in the drug store, rent a little home & all be settled once more.
If in one year people want a new postmaster or if in 2 years the Democrats obtain the offices, I would be able to bring furniture or groceries into this room or buy out Robert if he would be tired of town or go in with him, or buy one of the other drug stores, or if business would improve so as to justify him in hiring me as clerk, try that awhile. I know how uncertain office is & how careful a person should be about going out of business but I would still have this room, you see, & furniture, drugs, or groceries would furnish me a living. We may elect in ’64 & continue the old postmasters. I cannot transfer the Post Office to Robert of course, but can sell him the drugs if he thinks best to buy. Ann & I are both unwilling to throw ourselves out of business again & therefore, we are looking ahead to the end of our postmastership. I still thought that Springfield or some other place would offer Robert a better chance than here.
I do not write now to trouble any of you in regard to our business, but merely state the case in full so that you may know that we have studied over the whole matter & that you may know all the circumstances. If a small drug store was for sale in Springfield that Robert could buy, I know he would do a better business than here & have a better home. I think it would be pleasant for all of you. If Mr. Wallace wants to sell & Robert’s capital is sufficient to buy & carry on business there, I would say without hesitation go to Springfield instead of settling here. Or if the other drug store is for sale & any better, buy it, of course. Having been in the drug business in both places, I decide Springfield as the best home & the best place for business,& would gladly be back there today if out of business here.
If Robert buys Vicker’s or goes to Springfield, I will take the office into the drug store, cut off the glass paints & keep a small stock of drugs & medicines, thus saving rent, fire, light, & one hand, & save a great deal of anxiety & trouble. Haller & I could attend to all business & care would be small, &c. &c. &c.
One man cannot attend to 2 rooms & 2 kinds of business to himself justice or to make money so that I feel determined to give up one, or take the office into the drug store & have all to one room & when I am engaged in one, let the other remain until I am through. I can make a little more this way than with one & then when the office is given up, I will have the room & a little drug business, which I can go to work & build up again. But I am willing to divide with Robert & doubt not but we can get along very well in either of the ways spoken of. I know you are tired & I must close.
Generally healthy in town. Business tolerably good. Our farmers are busy planting corn. We are all delighted with Hooker’s prospects but very anxious for our men everywhere as the rebels are growing desperate. Mr. Siegfried — the Baptist minister — gave us a ver y good sermon fast day. I feel more encouraged on account of the humiliation & prayer of our Nation on that day than on account of our soldiers for I know if we have the Lord to hear & assist us, all will be well for us. If Gen’l Hooker should fail at Fredericksburg, our war will not end within a year, but will probably need 2 more years. If Hooker defeats Lee, I think one year will end the war. Hence, it is we all feel anxious about the work of the next 30, 60, or 90 days. I hope for the best & think the Lord will give us peace within one year.
We all unite in love to all — Father, Mother, Charles, Laura & all friends, trusting that the Lord will comfort, sustain, & bless us all & prepare us to be a happy family in Heaven.
Affectionately, son & brother, — W. R. Smith