1858: James Elliott Waldo to Araminta Adeline (Fowle) Waldo

Canal & Royal Streets in New Orleans, ca. 1860

This letter was written by James Elliott Waldo (1805-1891), son of Shubael Waldo (1777-1857) and Rebecca Crosby (1779-1823) of Chesterfield, New Hampshire. The letter was written to Waldo’s second wife, the former Araminta (“Minta”) Adeline Fowle (1825-1871), the daughter of John Fowle (1800-18??) and Abigail Hill (1806-????).

James E. Waldo “went to New York in 1824 and was admitted to the New York bar after studying under William Paxton Hallet.” Shortly after, he relocated “to Cincinnati, where his brother, Rev. Josiah C. Waldo, had established the first religious journal in the West, The Sentinel and Star of the West.” There, he “studied law under Judge Thomas Corwin and was admitted to the Ohio bar.” Not satisfied with a career in the legal profession, he “built the steamboat ‘Antelope‘ and navigated her in the Pittsburg-Cincinnati trade.” Still only 23 years old, he came to New Orleans (1828) and “became professor of English in the college of Prof. Francis M. Guyol.” In 1831, he relocated to Meredosia, Morgan County, Illinois — a small village in the Illinois River Valley — “in which vicinity he and his brother, Daniel Waldo, had purchased vast tracts of land with the intention of settling it with New England immigrants.” Here, the enterprising Waldo brothers opened a store, constructed a steam sawmill, a steam flouring mill, and a distillery. It was in Meredosia that Waldo met and married his first wife, 17 year-old Eveline Almira Cobb in 1835, but she died soon after giving birth to their only son, James Curtis Waldo, some ten months later.

1851 Advertisement for Miller, Harris & Waldo

When President Tyler named him as a Custom House Officer in Louisiana, Waldo returned to New Orleans with his son to live, and in 1849 became a member of the ante-bellum firm of Miller, Harris & Waldo.”

In the fall of 1852, he married his second wife, Araminta Fowle in Arlington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Waldo apparently split his time between Massachusetts — where Minta and their growing family lived with her parents — and his mercantile business in New Orleans. It’s not clear if Waldo still held an interest in the Miller, Harris & Waldo store though he mentions George Miller in this letter. He may have had an interest in the furniture store of Sampson and Keen, also mentioned in this letter. It was owned by Calvin Chandler Simpson and Isaac Keen, and was located at the foot of Bienville Street near the levy.

Shortly after the reconstruction period, he retired from business entirely and “spent his declining years in the exercise of his scholarly attainments.”

Source: Louisiana: Comprising Sketches of Parishes, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form (volume 3), p. 584-585. Edited by Alcee Fortier, Lit.D. Published in 1914, by Century Historical Association.


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[Addressed to Mrs. A. A. F. Waldo, West Cambridge, Massachusetts]

New Orleans
Wednesday Eve, March 3rd 1858

My dear Minta Wife & own dear babes –

How do you all do tonight – my large family – my little large family? I hope happy and well. We have been having here about the coldest time of the season & it has pinched me pretty hard. I do not think, however, that it has hurt the fruit much, if any. There will be any quantities from present appearances of the Misfilus plum. The tree in Mrs. Cunningham’s yard is quite full, loaded, & they are now quite large. I wish I had a few trees in bearing. I like the fruit much although I did not think much of them at first. Many of the peach trees were in full blossom when this cold snap came on, but I do not think the fruit is injured.

I got a letter from [my son] James today in which he says that Everett’s folks have another son. That makes the fourth, does it not? I most forgot. They are all well — James’ folks & Everett’s. Mrs. Everett told you that Mr. E. should have the next one himself, did she not? Well, they have it between them somehow. I suppose it does not make much diference. It is all in the family.

Judge Herrick is getting to be quite low – so low that he can help himself but little. Cannot turn in bed without help. The Doctor says there is no help for him. He is a good fellow. I am sorry to see him in such a situation. It does not seem to me that he can last many days. He has several very bad diseases – Rheumatism, Bronchitis, & desease of the heart. But the last is what seems most to affect him now. You speak of the smell. I assure you it is not very pleasant below, but it does not affect my room at all – my room being upstairs & sales house is open all day. But the folks below do not seem to notice it much. Herrick spoke of it once, but only once. He then thought it must be the dead rots – Dead devils perhaps, or priests. What do you think its being dead priests? Well, I intend to keep above it.

George Miller is extensively about the store on Canal street, as usual –quite a little giant in his way. But we let each other alone. I do not think he goes to Madam Goners much now. Your opinion of her & my own are about alike. But I know, know nothing – she may be very fine. I hope she is. Herrick’s widow is hoity certain. It is noised around amongst Herrick’s friends that they are engaged. Well, I do not believe that is any of my business, so I will let it pass.

I left the store (Sampson & Keen’s) about 3 o’clock today & have not been there since. It was understood there that Lewis would leave at 5 o’clock for the North. I do not know if he left or not but presume he did. He says that he will call to see you before he returns.

You have not yet told me if you want more money. I think it must be so & hope you will write how it is. I love to hear you tell of our dear little ones. You must, dear Minta mother, give them a good many kisses & little toss too for old Papa. He would give them a bit of toss as they lay asleep. He would that. So our dear Johnny boy helps Grandpa wind his watch & build fires &c. He must be very industrious. He is a good little boy, I feel. I desire that he should be good, kind, & affectionate & of course of good sound common sense. But I have no desire that he should be a great man – only a great good man. If he can pass through life happily & usefully & of course virtuously – that is enough. I feel that Fredy is going to be one of your good, decidedly good men & they are the only ones that are of such value to society. I think it is likely George may be so too. I thought little sackey baby’s name near decided on. Minta is the name I gave her & I suppose you would like Caroline [missing text…] Minta Caroline. I never saw [missing text….] taken any interest in where the Waldo’s came from. All I know is as far back as I can go is that my Grandfather – Daniel Waldo – came to New Hampshire from Coventry, Connecticut. I think I would name the little girl as soon as it is thought to be prudent to do so & let the little bad girl live on bread & butter & cheese & pork. His little rowdy one – I say too, she is a little Dutch girl. I hope she may always remain stout, fat & healthy. Let her run about out of doors & she will be fat and healthy.

I went today with Keen to Judge Buchanan’s – one of our best judges. His wife has a large garden. Every flower & vegetable you can almost think of & fruit too. A hot house, chicken yard, turkey yard, duck yard &c.— a large place of many lots & kept neat as a pin & she does the managing all herself. She would handle a spade or any other tool & did when we were there like a man. She is at the same time a most intelligent, accomplished lady. She says she is up & at work in the garden every morning by five o’clock. Well, she’s very fat & healthy & enjoys life.

Well, dear Minta Wife, give my best compliments to all. Kiss our dear babes many times for me & save for yourself much love & a big package & may a kind Providence ever guard & protect my dear little family & keep them in health & happiness.

Affectionately, your husband, — James E. Waldo

  • Francis M. Guyol is listed as a professor of writing & drawing at St. Louis College in 1821 (Source: Paxton’s 1821 St. Louis Directory)
  • The Magazine of Western History lists the Antelope as a Pittsburgh steamboat built in 1831. Another steamboat (75 tons) by the same name is recorded as having been built in 1828 and owned at Perrysburg (see History of the Maumee River Basin).
  • James and Araminta had at least three children together. Family genealogical records give their names as John Fowle Crosby Waldo, b. 1855; Caroline Annette Waldo, b. 1857; and George Frederick Waldo, b. 1861 & d. 1862. This letter suggests that in addition to John and Caroline, there were two other boys living in March 1858 — “Freddy” and “George.”  Either the genealogy records are in error or it would appear that both of these boys died between 1858-1861 and the boy born in 1861 was named after each of them.

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