1863 May 5: A Letter from Home
The following is a rare letter to Frank Harding from his father, Eddy Harding, in Brooklyn, Connecticut. The original letter is in the Frank D. Harding Papers (River Falls Mss AB), University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives and Area Research Center. Frank was in Company G of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry.
One can see where Frank got his poor spelling and lack of punctuation! His father’s spelling is atrocious, and he uses run-on sentences with very little punctuation. His “a” always looks like a “u” and his “r” usually looks like a “v.” Some words he consistently leaves off the final letter, such as wil for will, shal for shall, and ma for may; we have added the final letter in square brackets . There are several words we could not even make a guess at and they are represented thus [__]. The word “grale” is used twice in the letter and looks the same both times; we wonder if it was his way of writing “great”—see what you think. We have added punctuation to make the letter easier to read, but sometimes it was difficult to know what he really meant.
Brooklyn May 5 1863
I wil[l] once more try and write you a few lines, and let you know how we are. We are all well. We are having a cold [backward?] spring. I had my garden plowed last weeke [sic] and commenced to plant. I got my potatoes and peas and a part of my corn but it was so cold I gave it up for a while. Friday we had a cold north east rain storm and yesterday it began to snow and I tell you it came in good earnest about as tough as aney [sic] we had throug[h] the winter while it lasted and all I planted is under the snow but this morning the sun is out bright and plesent [sic] and we hope it will after this behave itself. [paragraph break added]
We were quite happy in getting your letter, it was a verry [sic] rich letter and unscheduled. I haven’t had much to do lately a[n]d it took all I could get to get what my grale farry [great ferry?] stood in need of but we have got along nicely and wanted for nothing. I think as the season advances business will be better and I think is improving some. I had some debts due me and I have be[e]n getting them in and some some more to come in and some that I never expect to get but I shal[l] I think not be discourage[d] and do the best I can. Many in this place that look far above me are one heel in debt and credit gone. I go about the street with head erect and laugh at them for I don’t owe a cent and credit good as yet. [paragraph break added]
I have [t]hought O so many tymes [sic] if I could only look in on you, nice it would be, two little darlins old enoug[h] to send their old grandfather such a presant [sic] and never have the happiness of so much setting ey[e] on them. Well perhaps thing[s] ma[y] have a turne [sic]. [paragraph break added]
I took an Id[e]a last fall, as we had so many apples, I would bury som[e] of them in the ground and I dug a hole in the ground and put a coupple [sic] of bushels — the other day I thought I would try them. I dug in and found them as sound as when I first put them in the ground and the flaveur [sic] was excelent [sic] and how happy I should be to get them before them two little boys. I only took out a few to try them as we had enoug[h] in celler [sic] and ma[y]be when they come to see me I will take all of them out and they shal[l] have them.
As for news we don’t have much. They undertook to have a [rail?] from here to Danielsonvill[e] but I hardly believe they will make it go. They have the charter & perhaps it will go through but I think it won’t, to[o] big a job for Brooklyn. Mr. Warner is doing quite a business here, he bought Mrs. Mulken[‘s] house, if you recollect he is none laying out guile, a [_] of money on it putting it in a different [shape?] and will make the place look the bette[r] with other improvement, then he is putting up three new dwelling houses and I suppose he mean[s] to be thought a man of business. Brooklyn since you left here, as to look, has improved much but as to earnetive [sic] no grale [not great?]. [paragraph break added]
Diantha is not verry [sic] well, she has her poor spel[l]s, them humours¹ trouble her, if she could get well of them she would get along much better. [Grity?] commences her school tomorrow, it will be altogether new business to her, how she will get along she will likely [k]no[w] better when she gets through.
I have tried to write you a letter you ma[y] call that or any thing you have a mind but to my mind t[ ]l come with out calling. When do you think you shal[l] present us with your better half. For my part I begin to feel some discouraged. I am afraid any vision will be so impaired that I shal[l] dispute what people have said about her.
We all send love and good wishes to you. Wi and truly [__] and ma[y] heaven’s blessings rest on you all.
1. Wikipedia explains humors thus: The ancient medical concept of humorism suggests that four bodily fluids, or humors—blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm—affect human personality traits and behaviors. From Hippocrates’ time through modern times, humors and their temperments, or modifications of them, have been part of many theories of medicine, psychology and literature. Humour is the English spelling of humor.