1835: Caleb Alonzo Burgess to Sarah (Everett) Burgess

Perhaps Caleb Alonzo Burgess looked something like this unidentified young man?

There are two letters presented here. The first letter was written by a young Caleb Alonzo Burgess (1817-1896), a cotton broker, to his mother Sarah (Everett) Burgess. Caleb’s father, William Burgess, Jr. (1777-Aft1820), was a publisher but died around 1830. See footnotes for family details.

Longworth’s 1827 American Almanac: New York Register and City Directory lists a Sarah Burgess maintaining a boarding house at 90 Fulton Street. Her husband, William Burgess — a “Bookseller and stationer” is listed with a shop at 93 Fulton Street.

Caleb wrote the second letter 21 years later, in 1856, to his wife, Harriet (Proctor) Burgess.

According to his 1858 passport application, Caleb was born 22 October 1817 in the city of Boston and stood 5 foot 9 inches tall, had a high forehead, auburn hair and gray eyes.


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Addressed to Mrs. Sarah Burgess, No. 90 Nassau Street, New York

Mobile [Alabama]
December 22, 1835

Dear Mother,

This evening, I received the trunk containing my clothing, which you were so kind as to send me. I am much pleased with my clothes. The coat fits admirably as well as the vest. My shirts, socks, handkerchiefs, I can hereafter depend with some certainty on getting them from my washerwoman, whereas hitherto I have not been able to get over one half of them on account of their not being marked.

I should have done as I told you in my last letter sent herein the funds for the payment of my clothing, but I lately met with an accident (I alluded to it when I wrote you before) in my horse & dray speculation. The way of it was, my horse took fright, and ran away with my negro driver, broke my dray to pieces, and nearly killed the driver, who was laid up two weeks. Taking everything into consideration, I lost about $100, which fell rather heavily upon me. When I wrote for the articles you sent, I had every prospect of being able to pay for them immediately. I merely state this last fact to inform you that I have been obliged to unknowingly keep you out of the money, which I am very soon to have to do a short time longer, as I know the amount of some importance to you and shall ere long be paid, barring accidents to future plans.

I hope this will find you all well and comfortable. The distance length, and time between the date and reception of your letter makes me ever anxious concerning you.

I am very anxious to get home again, not on account of home sickness – tho I love my home as ardently as possible for any person – but on account of your lonely situation. I am fully aware that the need of one of your sons at home is great – not only because it would be conducive to your happiness – but because my conscience tells me that I ought to be the natural protector of you and my sisters. And therefore, it is my duty – if it is your wish – to be ever near you.

Excuse me to any of my friends who may think themselves neglected by my not writing to them, with the plea that I have not the time, for such is the case. I am obliged to attend to business from daylight to 10 & 12 o’clock every night, and frequently upon Sundays. One half of the time I have to swallow my victuals whole, “as it were,” having not enough time to chew them. It is merely an accidental opportunity that I am enabled to address you tonight.

When you again write me, inform me if you have heard anything from my brothers. Give my love to all the family and likewise to all my friends. Your son, — Caleb

I sincerely hope that the coming year may prove more happy to you than the past and will merely add the old saying, “I wish you a happy New Year.” – Caleb


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Addressed to Mrs. C. A. Burgess, 378 Pearl Street, New York [City]

Mobile [Alabama]
November 7, 1856

My Dear Wife,

As yet, I have only received one letter from you. My ardor for letter writing must soon fail under such discouraging circumstances. I have commenced too strong to last long, that is certain.

Today I packed up your work table & shall send it & sundry items of trash as soon as possible. I have done nothing yet towards selling my Negroes. I expect to lose considerable on them. The whole pack have not made more than their expenses over the summer. They are bad stock to me & the sooner I get rid of them the better. After I sell out everything I have in the World, I shall not realize much from it. However, I am determined on doing so!

I will here sum up such local news here as will interest you. Mrs. Marsh has another boy. Mrs. Jones has another girl. Mrs. Deloach has a daughter. Sol Jones’s wife I expect has been indulging again by her appearance. She regrets very much that you do not intend coming out here again. Myself & Sol talk somewhat of opening a house in New Orleans next fall, but it will probably all end in talk. Sol’s negro man William died about 10 days ago — rather a severe loss for him for which I am very sorry, for Sol is a good-hearted fellow & deserves better luck. Mr. J. J. Jones was very glad when I arrived as he was pretty well tired of keeping books.

I am boarding with a gay widow of an intriguing reputation, by the way of prooving my victim, for we cannot boast of the strength of a fortress that never has withstood an attack.

Holding myself aloof from all excitements, my mind is as calm as a summer’s morn & I am as happy in my bachelor life as “a clam at high water.” Behold in these results the effects of temperance and philosophy — Go then & do likewise, resign yourself to this position into which the fates have placed you, and be content with the blessing you enjoy. Strangely you will achieve & deserve more happiness.

The aim & object of my residence here has but one purpose — to get a few dollars in advance of my current expenses, that I may return to my family, friends & clime of my nativity.

I am very anxious to hear from you regarding yourself & children. Love to all. Tell Ma Campbell has not yet seen those clothes for J.J. Jones & to try & let me know if he intends sending them as soon after the receipt of this as possible. Kiss the children for me. Your husband, — C. A. Burgess


William Burgess VI was born on 7 May 1777 near Dedham, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts. He married Sarah Everett on 3 November 1802. He was a publisher. He died at Hartford, Hartford Co., Connecticut, after 1820, having had at least four children. Caleb’s letter suggests they had daughters but family records only show four sons:

1. Joseph Burgess (1803?- )
2. James Burgess (1805?- )
*3. Caleb Alonzo Burgess (1817-1896) of San Francisco Co., CA
4. Warren Burgess (1820?- )

Caleb Alonzo Burgess was born on 22 October 1817 at Dedham, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts. He married firstly Harriet Louise Proctor about 1841, and secondly Mary Frances Murch in 1878. He is listed in the 1850 census for New York, New York, in the 1865-66 IRS tax assessment lists there, in 1870 in Westchester Co., New York, and in 1880 in San Francisco, San Francisco Co., California; he has not been found in 1860. He also is listed in the 1890 Great Register of Voters for San Francisco. He was a cotton broker and mining broker. He died there on 24 May 1896, having had four sons, three by his first wife, and one by his second:

1. James Burgess (1842- ), died childless
*2. Caleb Augustus Burgess (1845-1923) of New York, NY
3. William E. Burgess (1855-1880+) of Mono Co., CA, died childless
4. Edward Everett Burgess (1882-1931) of San Francisco Co., CA

1858 Passport Application

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