I owe a huge debt of gratitude to a blog-reading cousin, Sharon B., who contacted me after perusing this site. After a flurry of excited email, I received a packet of letters written from MY great-great-grandfather to HER great-great-grandfather. Today I transcribe the first of these brotherly exchanges. Thank you, thank you, Sharon!
From Rushford, Allegany County, New York, my great-great-grandfather, Ira Sayles, wrote a letter to his younger brother James Sayles. The circumstances of that summer of 1869 must have been strained; the weather was unpredictable, his marriage unsatisfactory, his birth family scattered far and wide. Ira seems unsettled and forlorn. On a Saturday, July 24 he wrote:
My Dear Brother, James,
Yours of the 18 inst (of the present month) came to hand, last evening. I need not say I was somewhat surprised: for I had lost all trace of you. My last to you was directed to LaPorte, and was never answered. I received a paper published at Austin, Minn. sometime last summer, a year ago. Your name was onit, and I supposed you sent it. This was ll the clue I had to your whereabouts. I could not discover where that was mailed. So I supposed you would rather I should not know. Of course I was quiet. I am glad to receive a line now. Since I wrote to you, my matters have run along in the usual track. My year’s expenses devoured my year’s salary, and left me as poor, today, as one year ago today.
Serena (White Sayles) does not dispose of much of her landed property, though, of course. She is moving to sell her Alfred property, house (1) and all, for six thousand. It ought to bring ten thousand and she wanted me to invest her means in Virginia lands. Then she thought she didn’t dare trust me alone, so she went with me. It was exceedingly warm; and I suspect she will not go again, very soon. (2) I could get and make a splendid home there, at a very low price. But it is all of no use. The means of making such a home are hers. Where she says invest, there investment will be made, or nowhere.
Loren (another younger brother) is in East Boston, I suppose. He has twice inquired of me for you. I could not tell. so the matter has rested.
I am again engaged in this school (Rushford Union School/Academy), for another year. So you will know where I may be found.
This season has been a very unfavorable one for corn with us; but wheat has done well. Grass has a heavy growth, but the weather for haymaking is tremendous. No on can guess what hour it may rain like Noah’s flood. These rains are frequently cold as April rains.
We are all very well. I have not recently heard from any of our brothers and sisters. My respects to Lucinda and Anna.
Very truly, Your Brother,
(1) The Gothic house on Alfred University’s campus, built by her father, Samuel S. White, in 1852 to house the Sayles’ family. Both Ira and Serena were on faculty at the time.
(2) In fact, the family had purchased a farm in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, just south of what would become Chase City, by the spring of 1870, when it was recorded to be the residence of Ira and eldest son, Clifton.
3 thoughts on “Amanuensis Monday: A Letter From Ira”
What a fantastic find! I’m so happy for you that you were able to make contact with a cousin who shares your enthusiasm. I’ve had the same kind of luck with one of my cousins.
Thanks! These fascinating letters offer insights into the lives of Ira and Serena that I never hoped to have first hand evidence of! AND my cousin has MORE to share! Woot !!!
D. Kay Strickland email@example.com
Norma-Jean Strickland here, cousin to Kay who is doing all the blogging, our fathers being brothers whose mother was Florette, granddaughter of Ira and Serena. It is with wide-eyed and open-mouthed awe I read these posts to learn more of my not-so-distant family heritage. It also answers questions like why both Kay and I are writers (since Ira published some poems) and why I’m teaching (since both Ira and Serena were faculty members). WOW!! Such RICH information!! Thank you to everyone for taking the time to share this priceless discovery!!