Amanuensis: A letter from Ira Sayles to James K. Sayles, 1872

Thanks to cousin, blog reader, and James K Sayles descendant, 
Sharon Babcock, for sharing her stash of family artifacts.

Christiansville, Mecklenburg Co. Va.

                                    Wednesday P.M., April 10, 1872

My Dear Brother James,

                                                Yours of March 14, was duly received, and somewhat astonished me with its announcement of your affliction.  If my sympathy could cure you, it is sincerely at your disposal.  I know that kind words can soothe the spirit, though they may not heal the infirmities. “that flesh is heir to.”  Nevertheless the spirits’ wounds and diseases are far more incurable than those of the body.  This great world of humanity is a mass of bodily rotenness (sic); but its infirmities of spirit create a stench that rises high Heaven and sinks deeper than Hell! Believe you this? In man there is no help. He has sought for panaceas. He pompously proclaims his discoveries. The simple pay their money and swallow his nostrums; make wry faces and die! Still, untaught by failure, they pour out their golden gifts, hoping for relief, though half-persuaded they have been humbugged.  But, when told the more alarming disease of the inner man, they open wide the eyes of incredulity, give you a broad grin—a regular alligator grin—turn away, and say, “I guess you’r (sic) joking.” So on they fare; from generation to generation. 

            I am rambling. Let me come back. You are sick of palsy. Nothing to be trifled with. Your physician will, of course, try to bring about recovery—may succed (sic) –hopeable. You allude to your religious faith in the matter. A sincere, calm trust in Providence is of more consequence than all else: that, however, is really effective only when our xxxx takes the life of the Son of Mary as his modle (sic), after which he is willing closely to pattern. I have spent years in studying these matters, and my Father has gradually opened to me the whole scheme, scope and aim of human life, with all the human faculties and susceptibilities. He gave us the exhibition of the Life of Jesus, as the modle(sic) of a perfect man. Through Him He promises to confer on the perfect man Immortal Life; and, in the resuscitation of the mangled carcass of Jesus, after a death of nearly three days, He demonstrates His power to fulfill His promises. Now, all this is strictly scientific, if we make our scientific basis broad enough: if we make it too narrow we fail to reach this great fact.  The narrow-based scientist and the narrow-based religionist are forever at loggerheads. Both are dogmatic: both wrong. The scientist sees just to the end of his nose, and thinks that the whole universe. The religionist scarcely sees from our corner of his eye to the other yet he thinks nothing worth seeing, which he don’t (sic) such are the facts in the case. IF your religion rests on a ‘scientific basis’, be sure that your basis is broad enough. 

            Anything I write, let anybody read who will. 

            And Anna—that little chub-faced, flax haired, blue-eyed blond-is a bona fideschool marm! Well, I hope she is a live one: but I can only think of her as that little girl that used to sit on my knee. Ah! That was eight years ago! How they fly! Since then, what a multitude of facts have occurred in my own life history! Yes, Anna has had ample time to develop into womanhood. I xxxxxxx old, grey headed man! Astonishing! Isn’t it? You are five and a half years my junior. You are in your fiftieth year: and Lucinda, well, I don’t know how old she is; nor does it matter: old-womanhood is sure to overtake her soon.  You speak of Frankey.  Who is Frankey?  I have not had an introduction: and this is coming it rather on the side cut. Well, I hope both you and Frankey will recover, now that spring is really on. Our peach trees have been in bloom for three days. A cool dry wind is blowing from the west today. We have been 

The rest of the letter is missing.

Chase the Man. Chase the City.

Today’s NY Times Opinionator piece discusses the history between Abe Lincoln and Salmon P. Chase, an earnest, no nonsense man who was both a fabulous Secretary of the Treasury and Lincoln’s arch rival.

Why care about this troublemaker?

Because the dude had a fan club among the founders of a little town in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Christiansville was a backwater village when George Endley and John Boyd rode in, buying up land on the cheap in 1868-1874. They held big plans for this area, recruiting northern colonists and railroad lines (that never quite materialized) to build a grand town–and in 1873 they approached fellow Ohioan, great banker, former US Senator and Ohio Governor, Secretary of the Treasury and US Supreme Court Justice. Your Honor, may we use your name for our grand Southside town?

Thus was born little ol’ Chase City, home of my beloved father, Norman S. Strickland.

This article details Salmon Chase’s political aspirations and his personal idiosyncracies. Thankfully, the nation was able to profit from his zealous anti-slavery and radical reconstruction ideas–a federal banking system was created, including the greenback demand note which was the first federal currency. His system also made it possible to fund the war effort with government bonds.

Salmon Chase, though an excellent financial administrator, was a pugnacious political fighter, with no sense of humor or understanding of human nature.  He aspired to the presidency himself and used his cabinet post to his own advantage, accumulating favors, names and cash–a fact overlooked by Lincoln because Chase was so good at his job. Salmon Chase overplayed his hand, however. Posturing for a particular political outcome, the Secretary offered his resignation.  Lincoln, weary of the man, accepted the letter. A surprised and humbled Chase did not seek the presidency. That year.

Lincoln, however crazy Chase made him feel, recognized the man’s intellect and within a few months of the resignation appointed Salmon Chase to the Supreme Court.

During 1872-1873 George Endley and John Boyd led the Southside Board of Settlers’ effort to incorporate their growing town as “Chase City”.  In April 1873 a delegation met with the Chief Justice in Richmond, Virginia to formally advise him of the town’s name, and to invite him to be an honorary member of their board.  By all accounts, Salmon Chase cordially received this news.

Date: Friday, April 11, 1873   Paper: Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA)   Volume: LXXIV   Issue: 81   Page: 2; accessed from Genealogy Bank,, ( on July 3, 2014.
Date: Friday, April 11, 1873 Paper: Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA) Volume: LXXIV Issue: 81 Page: 2; accessed from,July 3, 2014.

I have always wondered whether Endley and Boyd knew Salmon Chase personally, or if they had ever contributed to one of his political campaigns, or been the recipient of his patronage.  No matter.  Their admiration for their Buckeye buddy lives on, in the little town of Chase City.


Update:  The original post of July 3, 2014 stated that Salmon Chase never sought political office after Lincoln accepted his June 1864 resignation as Secretary of the Treasury.  That setback only affected the ’64 election.   Chase attempted to win the nomination in 1868 and 1872, unsuccessful in both attempts.