This brief letter was written by Stephen Skinner (1799-1848), a son of Thomas Skinner (1770-1851) and Jennie (1768-1854) of Luzerne, Pennsylvania. It was written to his wife, the former Clarissa R. Upham (1809-1887), a native of Massachusetts. They were married in Erie County, Pennsylvania, on 18 August 1835. The couple had several children before Skinner’s death in 1848 — the two eldest boys, Thaddeus Skinner (b. 1838) and William Henry Harrison Skinner (b. 1841). Clarissa was probably pregnant with their third child Mary J. Skinner (b. 1843) at the time of this letter.
No biography for Steven Skinner could be located, but there is notice of him in the 1820’s as a school teacher in Erie County. He is listed among those what served as Erie County Commissioners and as County Surveyors (1836). He is also listed among the stockholders of the Erie County Mutual Fire Insurance Company established in 1839. But most importantly, Stephen Skinner was elected by the people of Erie County to serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1840 and 1842. As a Whig, he campaigned for internal improvements such as new roads and the extension of the elaborate canal system in Pennsylvania from the Ohio River to Lake Erie (see Beaver and Erie Canal).
[Addressed to Mrs. Clarissa Skinner, Waterford, Erie Co., Pennsylvania, Via Belfonte]
March 5, 1843
I rec’d your letter yesterday and am pleased to hear you and the children are well. I hope you may enjoy good health. It made me feel very sorry to hear that Thaddeus cried for me to come home. Henry, it seems, has better courage. Tell them I will come just as soon as I can get away, and to have good courage like men, and have courage yourself and confidence in the Great Ruler of all things and all will be well. My own is very good and have not been sick at all since I left home, and hope to continue well.
I really think now in good earnest you had better get some suitable person to come and stay with you till I come home. Can’t you get mother or Susan or Jane or some one who would be faithful to you, to come and help you and I will cheerfully pay for it. I write to James to send you all the money he had collected for me. If he sent you none, let me know and I will send you all that is wanted.
The business here has got to going slowly again. The Nicholson Court bill is past and in the hands of the Governor some 8 or 9 days. The bill [to] finish the Erie Canal by a company is far advanced and will pass in a day or two. The law to make Franklin Township an election district is pass’d. Two men you know left a petition with you when I was away from home last fall. The bill to fix congressional districts which we got pass’d some two weeks ago is vetoed by the Governor. The House has pass’d another to suit the Governor which is an outrageous one. He tries hard and all the Locos try hard to get Erie County into a locofoco district, but I have some hopes of getting it defeated in the Senate.
I should like to hear how Minor gets along with the work. If the hay is like to fall short, it would be well maybe for him to feed some potatoes & some ground oats to the cows &c. You said something about hiring Mr. Mory to help with logs for rafters. It would not be best for him to hire any unless he cannot do without do without help. As soon as the Spring opens, if Mr. Langdon should come to get barn timber, I want Minor to help him. And also as soon as the Spring opens, I want the manure hauled out from the barn – on the plow land. He will no doubt get as much sawing done as he can when the sawmill get started.
You will please to write to me as soon and as often as you can conveniently. And I am sincerely thine as ever, — S. Skinner
- Passed in 1843: “That the township of Franklin, Erie county, shall hereafter be an election district, and the qualified voters shall hold their elections at the house of THADDEUS MILLS, JR.”
- Passed in 1843: “An act to repeal the Nicholson Court of Pleas, and to release the lien of the Commonwealth on the estate of JOHN NICHOLSON, dec. That the act to settle the estates of John Nicholson and PETER BAYNTON, passed 16 Apr 1840 is hereby repealed. That the alleged lien of the commonwealth on all the lands belonging to the estate of John Nicholson, dec. are hereby released and discharged, as fully to all intents and purposes as if they had never existed. (11 Mar 1843).”
- The Governor of Pennsylvania in 1843 was David Rittenhouse Porter (1788-1867) who served from 1839 to 1845.
- Democrats were derisively called Locofocos by Whigs in the early 1840s. In this letter, Skinner rails against the gerrymandering efforts of the Democrats to change the composition of his home election district.