Howe Letters - Earliest Letters

Bolton, Vermont.  23 September 1849
Written by Father when he was about 21 -- George A. Howe
Perhaps Bolton is where the railhead is -- he is working on the Central Vermont Railroad and trading furloughs with Ace back to home in Northfield.  Mother, Martha Bridgeman, is visiting Boxford from Northfield.  Sophia and Thomas Sawyer live in Boxford where the Howes have lived for several generations.  Thomas's mother was a Killam, an influential family of cousins, and that was little Thomas' middle name.
Sister Nett (Miraette) was apparently something of a radical thinker, youngest of 6 -- ended up as a Western Democrat politically.  Rebellious child?
There is some confusion about the name of Asa and Lucy Ann's son.  The official name in the records is John Henry, born in Sharon in '48, almost 2 yrs old at the time this letter was written.  At some time later it was changed to Henry John.

Dear Sister,  [Sophia]
I should have answered your letter before now, had I not known that you have had several opportunities of hearing from us.  Ase [nickname for Asa] has gone home to see his wife [Lucy Ann] and Jim [don't know who this is.  Could it be a horse?]  today, and as he has been once before since I have, I think it will be my turn next.  I think I shall wait till Mother gets back if she does not stay away too long.
I was really surprised to hear that she had left her dairy, chickens, etc. and gone to Boxford.  I hope you will have pleasant visits there with our friends.  I shall write nothing to Thomas till he gives some reason for not coming to visit me when he was up.  Confound his lumber and apple trees and -- -- no perhaps I had not better add,... his wife and boy! Although I do think they had something to do with his hurrying home so soon.  [Tom, born 3 April]
I have not seen Net yet since she came home [sister, 19].  How did she enjoy life in Boxford?  She is a singular child, but there is a deal of sound sense in her after all.  I don't know hardly what would be best to do with her, do you?
The smallpox excitement has now died away.  I passed the door frequently where they had it but did not go into the house, although I was not afraid to, but, the man I board with would not let me.  It has been very sickly here.  One man buried his mother, wife and I believe four children in less than three weeks from the death of the first.  The disease I suppose was the summer complaint, although many people here contend that it was the regular cholera.  I have tried to be careful of my health, and advise you all to do the same, for carelessness in regard to diet and exposure, although it may not cause the disease, will, I am sure, greatly increase its power.
I wish you would write to me frequently.  You can't imagine what a lovely [could this be lonely?] place it is here.  With a few exceptions the people are the most vulgar and profane set I ever saw.  To find one who does not use an oath in every sentence is a rare thing.  Of course I refer to the "he" ones; of the females I know but very little, being as you know no "ladies' man".
Board is very high here.  I am obliged to pay $2.62 1/2 cents per week besides washing.  I receive $1.50 per day and like the business very well here, but I have not given up the idea of becoming a farmer, and am sure I shall not.  Tell Thomas to save some fruit trees for me, and should he find a pretty girl who can do housework, feed chickens, talk sense, wear thick shoes, sing sweetly and love like "thunder and sixty", he may begin to court her for me, but do it easily for I shall not want her for several years if I am well, and if not, never.
How is that Kill'em Thomas?  You must take good care of him, and he will soon get so he can thrash his mother, and then he will begin to be pretty.
I should like to make you a visit this fall and perhaps I shall after the rail-road is done.  The cars will run to Waterbury this week, and the President and Superintendent of the road say they must go to Winoosk Falls, (3 miles this side of Burlington) this season.
Where is Miss "Abby"?  Tell her I am growing old as fast as I can and hope she is growing young.
Give my respects, love etc. etc. to all whom I respect, love etc. and remember and write often.
I am sleepy so goodnight.
Your brother, I. B. Howe

Northfield, 25 January 1853
IB about 24 living in Northfield, sister Hannah [29] lost her first husband, McGregor, three years before, 1850, and is apparently staying with the Sawyers in Boxford.   Also has daughters Cora and Martha, [5 and 3].  She later married Roys Jones in '59 and moved west to Clinton. 
Who is Sam? Sam Tucker was the father-in-law of Theoda who died in '45.  But this one is apparently a Sawyer. 
Aunt Easty is maybe Abijah's sister Betsey, wife of Jeremiah Esty, visiting from Middleton.  The four Esty cousins are all grown middle-aged adults.
First sentences do not make sense.

To: Thomas Sawyer Esq.
Boxford, Mass.
Mr. Thomas Brother Sawyer Dear,
Your last harness litter has been received and father has gone forth with it.  Sam says he will take it down in his trunk, as he shall have nothing but a bushel and a half of wheat in it.  He is very well and says he and "father Howe" and that old lady, (Aunt Easty) have great times with their pipes up there [up where?].   You need not wonder if he stays here for weeks yet.  I like him much the best of any of the Sawyers I am acquainted with.  I am glad to hear that Brock [horse] is well.  If you can't sell him for what he is worth I suppose it will be best to let him go for what he will fetch, but you must do as you think best.
Please let me know when Hannah needs anything, and when you sell the colt, retain in your hands whatever you please for her, and use it as you think necessary.
Yours truly, IB Howe

Note:  There was a significant financial panic in 1857.  A number of railroad companies were unable to survive it and were acquired by other companies or disappeared.

Dear Sister!
Northfield, Aug. 30Th /57.     1857
Shall I go to meeting today, or preach a sermon, myself? Think it might do you more good if I were to preach -Eh! Were I to do so, I should take for my text the 15th verse of the 1st chapter of the human heart: --"What is life, if ye do nothing but toil; or what are friends if ye visit them not?"
"What is life, if ye do nothing but toil?" Let the slave, unceasingly driven by the last of the cruel taskmaster answer as he toils day after day wearing away his life without enjoying the fruits of his labor. Even were all the gold he earns his own instead of his master's, would he be any better off if he took no time to enjoy it? He would be like the poor, old horse which "had plenty of oats at home, but hadn't any time to eat 'em." We are taught to believe that industry is a great duty, and we are referred to the ant and the bee for examples; but they toil not to gather vast wealth they never expect to make use of themselves --they toil that they may rest --they have their industry --they leave it for their posterity to do the same, seemingly thinking that they who would reap should sow for, "what is life if ye do nothing but toil?"
The brain, as well as the arms need rest, and this it cannot have when filled with the cares, trials, perplexities and fears of momentous labors. Change of thoughts, induced by change of scenery, associations, etc. are to the weary brain what change of position is to the tired body. The student after bending for hours over his desk, finds rest in walking, or almost any violent manual exercise, while the tired farmer wonders what a person should walk for, unless he is compelled to do so.
"What is life, if ye do nothing but toil?" Were labor the only duty of life, ought not man to be born with a snout like a hog's, so he could dig his potatoes without being to the expense of buying a hoe? Ought not the bright flowers to be onions and turnips --the little birds all geese or turkeys ---our love of the beautiful and glorious --our yearning for a "higher and holier destiny than that of earth," should all be changed to infinite adoration of the eagle on the gold dollar: No, my beloved friends!--The great object of life is not toil. Man was created for other and more noble purposes. Let him remember this and realise that he has a duty to perform to others as well to himself -to friends -to society,-and to the world. Let something be done --some mark made so that when you depart, you may feel that the world has been in some way made better from your having lived in it.
"What are friends, if you visit them not?" When the first of the household band goes out into the world of strangers, how deeply his presence is missed at home. All miss the sound of that one voice --slowly the days and weeks pass away and less and less the wanderer is missed --they learn to do without him --they must find means for enjoyment without his aid, and when months and years have passed, the absent one is almost forgotten for, "what are friends, if we visit them not?" But let the brother or sister or child return to the old home again, and how soon is all the affection of former years revived. How memory will recall the long forgotten scenes of childhood and the weary heart and brain find rest, and, for the time, forget the cares of the "later years. " We feel that "it is good for us to be there", and we return from such reunions, refreshed, invigorated.............
The letter ends here ... handwriting is I.B. Howe's.