1824: William L. Nye, Jr. to Susan B. (Hastings) Ellis

Shipping off Gibraltar

There are two letters here. The first letter was written by William L. Nye, Jr. from Gibraltar to his step-sister Susan B. (Hastings) Ellis of Chelsea, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. The second letter is her response to his letter.

Susan B. Hastings was born 16 June 1798. She married Cornelius Ellis in 1822 and she died 7 July 1856. Their first child, mentioned in the second letter above, was Cornelius William Ellis, born 11 June 1823; died 23 January 1840.

Susan (Hastings) Ellis was the daughter of shipmaster Abijah Hastings (1762-1832) and Susan Langdon Ingraham (1770-After 1865) who were married in 1797. Prior to her marriage to Abijah, Susan was married (1792) to William Nye who fathered a son by the same name before his death. William Nye, Jr. grew up to be a ship captain and in the first letter written in 1824, he claims to have been at sea for 14 years. Family records say that Capt. William Nye was a prisoner in Dartmoor Prison (Devon County, England) during the War of 1812.

Letter 1 Stampless Cover

William Nye Letter

Susan Ellis Letter, Page 1

Susan Ellis Letter, Page 2


Addressed to Mrs. Susan B. Ellis, Boston. Per “Elk”, Capt. Wheelwright

March 28, 1824

Dear Sister,

This will inform you that I am well & hope it will find you the same. I received yours yesterday dated Dec. the 28th 1822 (being only 15 months old!). We are now waiting for a fair wind to proceed to Charleston, South Carolina, when I hope we shall arrive sometime in April or the first of May. And if you can possibly find time enough, I should like for you to write me a few lines. But if through a multiplicity of business you have no time to spare, I must be content without receiving any.

It is now about 14 years since I commenced going to sea & I have rec’d I think three letters – that is one in about five years (which you know is little time enough to write me). Besides there is never any vessels bound to foreign ports from Boston. My dear sister, this is the last I shall write to any friend before I receive letters from them. Out of sight, out of mind – the old saying. – W. L. Nye

Chelsea [Massachusetts]
June 14, 1824

My dear brother,

It is with pleasure that I again resume my pen to write a few lines just to let you know that now and then we think of you although you seem to think out sight, out of mind. But you know we think sometimes we know little, & at that time, more like than not, we are thot the most of. Some say if you knew how much you have been thot of by your sister, you would not think she had forgotten you. No, my brother, you have not been forgotten.

Likely our letters have laid some time for many months past not a week but some one was at the Office for us if we are not go ourselves. By the time we could get word, [you would] sail before a letter from home could reach you. Father says now it is hardly worth while to write for he does not think you will get it, but I shall write at a venture, hoping you will have the good fortune to get it for I don’t like to remain in debt any longer than I can possibly help. Besides, if you should not receive one from me, I should expect you would think I was not any better and you would send a large dose for me to take which would make the fee come pretty high. And perhaps I might be like the man that had medicine to take; he did not like such small portions but had it all at once to last a good while and when he had taken it, he needed no more.

Mother and I went to P. Office on Friday and we received 3 letters apiece dated 28 March and April 1st and 2d. I have ever been ready and happy in writing to you my brother. Whenever I have received a letter or had an opportunity of writing so that there was any chance of your getting them. You mentioned that you had received one only 15 months old and I think there has been one wrote since then that you have not received. I am very glad that you have relinquished the resolution that you formed not to write and hope you will not think of such another very soon. Your letters are always very gratefully received & I hope you will always continue to write as often as possible.

I will now tell you a little news. You will have a little nephew not a year old 11th day of this month and is named for his father & Uncle (Cornelius William). Husband has been gone 7 months and 11 days and is expected home from St. Petersburg the last of August or early September.

We are very glad to learn that you expect to return home and I hope that you and Mr. Ellis will meet each other at home. He frequently mentioned you when at home and is very desirous seeing you and desires to be remembered to you. Our family is very well. Grandpapa, who you may hardly suppose is living, is very well and rather more than 94 years old. Last fall, Joseph went with Mr. Peter to build a light house at A________, North Carolina and when he returned home, he landed at Piedmont, came home thro Sandwich and stopt to see your Grand Mother Nye. She enquired a great deal about and wishes you would go and see her.

Your friend J. Cutter has arrived home after being absent rather more than 2 years & half. He said Chikens looked so much better when he got home then it did when he went away – he hardly knew where he was. Within these 2 years there has been two houses built in Tewkesbury that used to live down to the beach. The other to James & Thomas Green. The Meeting House was repaired last summer, painted inside and out, the steeple taken down and a new one built not so high.


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