1840: Joseph Cummins to Joseph Wallace

This letter was written from the frontier village of Sidney, Ohio by Joseph Cummins (1798-18xx) who emigrated there in 1834 from Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. Cummins was engaged in “merchandizing, tanning, and farming” in the Shelby County community.

Joseph wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Joseph Wallace, a merchant and lawyer who lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Wallace also served as treasurer for the Borough of Harrisburg 1836-1839, and as deputy secretary/treasurer of Pennsylvania.

See also 1845: Joseph Cummins to Joseph Wallace

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[Addressed to Mr. Joseph Wallace, Front Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania]

Sydney [Ohio]
August 6th 1840

Dear Sir,

We were pleased with the receipt of your favor of the 30th ult. yesterday & delay not to satisfy, as we hope, the anxiety therein expressed. It is painful to my arm & hand to write & I do as little of it as possible. Whether my letter will be long or short will appear at the conclusion. I hope you received my letters for they are not noticed in yours.

We are sorry to hear of Mother’s infirmities, but trust & pray that Providence may sanctify all her afflictions & cause them to work out for her a more exalted weight of glory hereafter, in the full enjoyment of those blessings God has promised his people, such an “eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor _____ it entered into the heart of man to conceive of.” I should be glad to visit Mother but circumstances forbid it now. Should we meet not again on earth, may God grant that we may meet in his kingdom when sin & sorrow shall know us no more forever.

In answer to your questions – Are you going on prosperity & to prosper & are you happy?” We are all in the possession of health, except myself. I am recently more troubled than usual with pain in the side & breast, debility & diseased affection of the nerves. Our boys are lively and active. Reynolds is industrious, has been working at hoeing corn, harvesting &c. for three months past & they all take delight in attending to the feeding &c. our stock.

As to prosperity, the times have forbid the making of money. There is very little in circulation. No demand for produce & the farmers cannot pay their debts. Consequently we are unable to do business advantageously. The crops are exuberant & we have on our land an abundance. We are raising  Durham cattle & Berkshire hogs. We imported the stock from New York.

As to being happy, happiness you know is a relative term & by mankind, & I would say of myself, has been sadly misunderstood, in its application. I believe that we are just as happy as we are virtuous. I mean such virtue as the scriptures exhibit & enables man to perform his duty towards God & his neighbors. These qualities, in my opinion, stand in juxtaposition, and strictly speaking, have no separate existence. We might be happier than David, Solomon, Joshua, or any of those worthies, if we were more virtuous than they. Here is the true focus of our philosophy, and where we may & ought t wield it to our present & future prosperity. Therefore I would say. If we are not happy, the want of virtue is the cause. We are at last comfortable & enjoy some of the scintillations of happiness.

"Old Tipp" -- William Henry Harrison

I was at a convention at Greenville [Ohio] the 28th July where there was not less than 10,000 people tho’ it was in the throng of harvest. Old Tipp addressed the meeting for two hours, in a very perspicuous and emphatic style, giving his opinions freely on many of the most important features of our government – showing that the pecuniary distress & many of the evils existing in our country, have grown out of the maladministration of the party in power – that the government has assumed the powers of monarchy & are rapidly approaching despotism &c. He is 67 years of age, has a stentorian voice, energetic body, and mind still vigorous & glowing in its pristine glory. Gen’l Harrison is, I believe, a man of sterling honesty & if not first in the Nation as to talents, amply qualified for President & entertaining such views of the policy of out government, as will conduce to the welfare of the people. His election is, I think, certain. The same spirit that was infused into the minds of the people in ’28 for Jackson now exists for Tip. I hope that the result may be for the welfare of the country & not the exultation of men or party. We have not had time to hear any news from Indiana, Ky. &c.

I have nearly filled the sheet & will shortly conclude with love of Jane & self to Mother & the rest of you. I hope her latter days be they many or few, may be blessed with peace of mind & absence of pain & misery. Yours Truly, — Joseph Cummins


A Whig, Josiah Mongar headed a “company of 100 men in uniform” which marched in a rally for William Henry Harrison held at Greenville, Ohio in 1840 “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” presidential campaign. A thousand people from Randolph County, Indiana were among an estimated 100,000 attending the rally.


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