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.
[Mr. Joseph Wallace, Corner of Front & Chestnut Sts., Harrisburg, Pa.]
January 9th 1845
It is a few days in the new year, but not too late for my congratulations & desires for the health & happiness of Mother, your family, Mr. M’Pherson & especially the young stranger ‘Sarah’ who, with her mother, I hope are doing well. We have had a very pleasant fall & winter – now moderately cold with a recent fall of snow 4 inches deep. Time glides away another & another year is added to the past, and it seems like a dream. My life is fast approaching half a century, and when I look upon the past as regard myself, it seems to have been a little account. The present year will be the last link of time with many (and we may be of the number) connecting with the first link of eternity, introductory to those new & permanent scenes of which we can have but little conception, either as it regards happiness or misery.
I received your favor of the 19th ult., containing news both pleasing & its anti____, but such is human life – a stage with every reality of scenery & actions of every shade & character, meting out happening & misery to the extremes. If we would enjoy life, we must have contentment with our condition, and live without murmuring at things which we cannot control. I have said too much respecting matters you understand better than I do.
We were sorry to hear of Joseph’s illness & hope to soon hear of his recovery. We had but one letter from him soon after his arrival at St. Louis. I wrote to him at St. Louis & also to Davenport since I received your last letter. You speak of our kindness to him. Why sir, it is mere nothing, not worth mentioning.
It is hard to manage boys & young men. I don’t expect to be able to control my own. It is very difficult to keep up an increasing moral power, necessary to steer the evil currents of life. Their minds grow up with thorn & thistles, choaking the growth of valuable productions.
I am happy to be enabled to say that our family are in good health. My own about as good as I can expect. John & Thomas are going to school. Reynolds is teaching school 10 miles north at 10$ per month & boarded, and so far as I can hear is giving satisfaction to his employers. This is a small pay for him in the business way of life. I would like to get a situation for him in a wholesale house in N.Y. or Philadelphia. I think his mind runs in that train, for some active business. Little Jam[es] is in fine health & merrily enjoying this life in its happiest stage.
Our mill is doing a fine business having a very large custom – three hands constantly him. He has ground 7000 bushels of wheat in custom work since harvest, and 6000 corn & rye, & 1500 Barrels S.F. flour. We receive the 10 __ wheat and 8 __ corn & rye & make 50 cents per barrel on flour. Net about 1000$ after paying millers who get 1/3 of the toll & 10 cents per barrel for S.F. We now have upwards of 21000 wheat in the mill & buying daily at 62.20 per barrel. Corn is worth 37.20. Our prospect now is to clear 2000$ year & probably more. Our carding machine & sawmill may probably make 600$ year. Oil mill at present of little value, and is too high & oil low – too great competition in Cincinnati in the oil business.
A word as to the late election. We were badly beaten & Polked out of every Whig calculation, not by American citizens but by fraudulent foreign votes. It is a perfect outrage that Americans are such fools as to be duped in this way, and I believe that if the gates are not soon closed against this foreign naturalization, our government must change to Monarchy or Anarchy. Ohio done her duty & our county gained some reputation, being the Banner county. We received the flag a few days ago from Columbus. It is a rich article, made of silk, all manufactured in Ohio. It was at the Baltimore Convention. It is 16 feet by 35 feet, red & white, alternate stripes of very rich silk, with a likeness of Clay, sailor with his foot on an anchor, & a man breaking flax &c.
I have nearly filled the sheet with some kind of matter. We should be glad to hear from you soon. Jane joins me in presenting our love to Mother, your family & Mr. M’Pherson, and accept our best wishes for the health of all named. Your friend, — J. Cummins
In casting my eye over this letter, I think you will have some trouble to read, however, I make no pretense to plain or good writing.