This letter was written by Hyman Eastman (b. 1815) of Grafton, Vermont. I have not been able to confirm the identity of his parents but his wife was Mary Jane Ames Ladd (1818-1901), the daughter of Rev. Nathaniel Ladd (1795-1875) and Mary Gordon of Epping, New Hampshire. Rev. Ladd, a Methodist clergyman for over 50 years in New Hampshire, probably named his daughter after Bishop Ames. After his 1839 marriage in Epping, Hyman Eastman returned to Grafton with his wife where their only son, Alonzo, was born in 1841.
The July 1850 Census enumerates the Eastman family back in Epping, New Hampshire, where Hyman’s occupation is given as Trader. But by October 1850, this letter establishes that Hyman and Mary had journeyed to Jacksonville, Florida. The content of the letter does not suggest, however, that the journey was of a business nature. Rather, there are indications that it was taken for Hyman’s health. It may have initially been intended as a temporary change in climate, given that the couple left their nine year-old son Alonzo in New Hampshire with his grandparents, but it appears that the Eastman’s stayed in Jacksonville until at least 1852. It seems that Hyman operated a rooming house in Jacksonville for the benefit of “health tourists.”
I have not found any record for Hyman Eastman after 1852. Perhaps he finally succumbed to whatever disease drove him to leave New England and seek the warmer climate of East Florida. The 1870 Census shows Mary Eastman back in New Hampshire residing with her clergyman father in Tilton.
[Addressed to Nathaniel Ladd, Epping, N. H.]
Jacksonville, East Florida
Oct 24th 1850
Dear Father & Mother
I improve the first opportunity to inform you of our safe arrival. We left Boston last Friday at 5 o’clock PM, went by cars to Fall River, thence by Steamer to N.Y. Arrived Saturday morning, then took the steamer Florida for Savannah & sailed at ½ past 4 Saturday & arrived in Savannah Tuesday morning – then took the steamer for this place & arrived here yesterday noon, making the travelling time 100 hours from Boston.
The steamer Florida is a splendid ship & rides the sea like a duck. When we left N.Y., thousands were collected on house tops & every commanding place to see her go and the steamer Philadelphia was just coming in as we went out. Nothing unusual occurred on the passage & we had a pleasant passage as we approached Cape Hatteras Sunday night, we received a smart Norther which with an old rolling swell caused the vessel to roll heavily which produced sea sickness all about. We had 290 passengers, 48 crew – in all 338 & went through in 64 hours.
Dr. Morse of Chester met us in Boston & came on. He has gone up to Palatka thinking to get board cheaper. He is verry slim. I think there is but a verry small chance for him to live to return – should not think strange if he did not live half the winter.
My health is considerably improved. My countenance looks much better. Sea-sickness did me good & I have gained 3 lb. notwithstanding all my fatigue & my streanth is much better. Mary stood the journey first rate.
The weather here is decidedly beautiful. Every thing bears the impress of mid summer. There is a mildness in the atmosphere which we never have at the North. I am very glad I came.
I am paying a dollar a day for each boarder till we get to keeping house which we expect to in the course of next week. Will you write to us all about things in Epping? Tell Alonzo to be a good boy & not go out evenings & see that he has a god pair of boots. Mr. Godfy did not meet us in Boston as he expected.
My puls[e] have reduced from 108 to 92.
Respectfully Yours, — Hyman Eastman
- Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Box 6, Folder 6: Hyman Eastman; 5 letters written in Jacksonville from 1850-1852. Reports on tourism & costs of running a rooming house for “health tourists.” Florida Historical Society, Cocoa, Florida.
- Hollis Shelley Account, Litchfield Historical Society, Statement presented to Hyman Eastman covering labor and making and repair of shoes and boots, 1844-1846.