December 1, 1853 letter to Matilda Brown from Julia Allen

December 1, 1853

To: Matilda Brown

From: Julia Allen and Mary Calkins

This letter was updated on February 21, 2022 to make small corrections and add some tags

A day-by-day accounting of the family’s goings-on. On the 18th, her mother lost the use of her limbs entirely. By the 20th she could walk but not without holding on to something. John Todd and Thomas Fish’s daughter were married on the 28th. On the 30th she reports that her sister-in-law Rachel is “raveing crazy.”

Scan of 1853-12-01 Julia Allen to Matilda Brown

December 1st There has been two men here from Marion[1] to try to get the farm to work, but father[2] told them James[3] was a going to work it, if he couldn’t sell it. Father has been to the Ridge[4] he bought some saleratus[5], and two chamber mugs for seventy. Now after writing that, Peter called in just Candle light, and Father give him the hogs heads & feet, and he took the tails.

2nd Father has been over to the Blacksmiths, and got the money for the Apples, they had. John[6] was here he fetched my Acordion Book. Sidney[7] brought it down there, and Charley King brought it to his house, so I have got it now. Sidney has killed a beef today and so has John.

2nd Father bought some fore quarter of beef of Sidney. John fetched it here for him. I went to Jims and took the Acordion.

3rd We went down to Alberts, I carried the Music along and then we had quite a concert. James come brought me home to night.

4th We washed and boiled mince meat. They got a letter from Sarah[8] after I went away Saturday John fetched from the Ridge. Father brought it home from Johns just now and then I read it whilst i was eating an Apple. They are all well there.

5th There is a going to be a great Meeting over to the School House next Wensday & Thursday, the Christians has it. Doctor Ostrom, and Wife, has come here to night to stay with us. They are a going to the great meeting over here.

6th I thought that i would get a chance to go over with them so slick, but they said they shouldn’t come back here, so my bread was all dough again, my luck though. Father has been over to Jane Pulvers[9] – after his coat. She didn’t charge but six shillings[10] for mending it.

7th It is very pleasant weather here now. Peter went by here & Father got him to help cut down some straw. Sidney come after the Bier to cary the hogs on he is going to kill tomorrow. Uncle Bert and Alferd has stoped here to stay all night, started for Lyons.[11]

8th Johns Brother Stanton come here this morning just as we got done eating for Father to sign a subscription paper for another Meeting House over to Joy. He signed but i dont know how much. Enoch Granger said that the Women of their Society had got up a sewing Society the proceeds to go towards a carpet for their church, and they wasn’t going to have every boddy runing in with there dirty feet. Father had a writing drawn up for them to sign before he paid them. Enoch said he would fifty for his part, but when they come to see the writing there was one Clause that said the Sucsessors in Office, and they wouldn’t sign it, so Father didn’t pay. Jane, and Cornelia, and her Aunt come here a visiting. Jane stay on a spell.

9th James & Mary[12] has come they got a letter from Margaret.[13] Jane and I has been over to Johns I thought Moll would stay all night but when we come back she had gone off, she is to bad.

10th It was so pleasant that we went up to the other House. Whilst we was gone Jane’s Father & Mother come after her.

11th I have made emptyings & baked bread. Father has been to the Ridge got some pepper, and nutmegs, and the News Papers.

13th I see that I have made a mistake in the days of the month but this is right now I believe. I had to go to bed before breakfast so Father would go after Mrs Creeck to wash. She was gone but she is a comeing tomorrow. Charles[14] came after the sheep. Father was gone to the Blacksmiths, so he staid here an hour and a half I guess. There was a man come just noon to look at the Pigs and Cattle, and just as we got done eating Bill Fowler come. Father asked him to eat he said no but he walked up to the table and took a piece of pie just as if he had been to home now. Mother[15] has complained more to day than she has before in ten days. There has been twenty different people here to eat in two weeks. That suits Mother. Well it is enough to kill any one off to stay here as we do most always.

14th Mrs Creek has been here and washed. Mrs Miller has been here a visiting. She is almost blind of her left eye. It come blind all at once. She says she can see a light spot as large as her thumb nail and that is all. Mrs Creek says her Jane is real smart and she has got such a good man to.

15th Father has been to the Ridge he got a stick of salve & some sugar. He has been over to the Blacksmiths too to day. I have mended Cals coat & Pants, and bound Mothers shoes over to the heels. I have got my old woollen dress made over new.

16th John has been over after the candle rods. They didnt have good luck with the moulds. Mother has got the sorest arm that I ever knew her to have where she burnt it. She says her head feels better. I am makeing netting for a living now.

17th It is nasty fogy weather as ever was I guess. We have had about a dosen Indian Summers this winter. James come to go to Van Marters Vendue,[16] and Mary has come here. If she hadn’t she would got a scolding I’ll bet a cent. It is raining to night.

18th We have got lots of snow this morning. It is drifted some Father says. Mother says she never felt so bad as she does now. It seems as though she had lost the use of her limbs entirely. She can’t get up out of the chair alone nor walk alone either.

19th We have washed and just as we got done Jim come up with part of a sleigh load of oats so Moll had to go home. Mother feels better to day but she cant walk any better. Jeddy[17] had on short cloths, and shoes and stockings, looks funny. John was over here he had been over to Holleys and they had a letter from John Holley. He wrote that himself and Father & Mother lived on the old place yet and was doing well. Lucys and Janes and Ruths familys was all well. Martha died in 1851 with the Consumption. She left three Children.

20th Mother isn’t any better she dont walk one step without holding on to something. Sidney was here a few minuets. Till[18] you said i mustent be mad at them because you went off[19] but i be, and i shall, and i will be.

21st They have Deddicated the new Meeting House to day. John was over here. He says that he and Schult has drawn writings this morning, so he is sure he has sold now. Mother is very sorry for it.

22nd They have had meeting to day again to the new meeting house. James has moved up to the other house to day again. John and Albert and Wallace helped him move. Father went down and brought Mary and the children in the Cutter. They staid here all night with us.

23rd Mary has mixed the bread, and fried cakes, and helped do up all the work and now when Jim and Cal gets back from the Ridge we are a going up to the other house to work. Well now it is night and i have got back they have got to liveing.

24th There has not been any school to day. Cal has had his boots mended. Father has been over to Johns. They was a greasing their harness. Rach[20] was up stairs to work. Mother is pretty well to day but I guess that she never will walk alone any more. We tell her she may as well laugh as cry about it. James had been to the Ridge, and wonder of wonders he has got a letter from Ambrose,[21] dated the 15th of december. You wrote you was all well but you didn’t write what Tille and Henry[22] was a doing, so now I won’t tell you what I am a doing cause you see I hain’t a writing. Well any way I won’t tell you what Frisk done to day.

25th It is Christmas but not a merry one here. I have been up to Jims a writing and I do hope you will get what we have wrote for I am sure we could not think of it all again in two months time there is such a mess of it. John was over a few minutes. Mother asked him if they was all well to home. He said yes. He said he had been over to the meeting house to meeting this afternoon. There is to be preaching every Sabbath at two oclock. He says they have got a very nice meeting house. They have got a sofa in the Pulpit, and three chairs that cost three dollars and a half apiece, and a centre table, and eight lamps, and the aisles is all carpted not in the Pulpit and all in front of the Pulpit and it is very nice, very.

26th Father had the colic or something else last night. I got him some Wintergreen drops before i went to bed and then got up once and warmed some cloths and got him some pills to take. I wanted Cal to go after the Doctor but Father said no he couldn’t do any good, so I went to bed most scart to fitses. This morning i wanted to dress Mother. No he could. He felt well enough only some sore. Sid was here. He had been to Johns. He said Rach hadn’t slept much last night. No wonder I said _______ _________

27th Mary had been down here to day whilst Jim was gone to Lyons. He took Caper[23] out to Armses[24] but Lawson was gone off south somewhers. If he concluded to take to go west and take the dog Charley would let Jim know. Mother has felt pretty smart today, but yesterday she got cold in her head and she felt very bad with it.

28th I have been up to help Moll some about her Carpet. Five breadths just reaches from north to south but it lacks ever so much the other way. She says never mind when they get rich they will build to suit the carpet they will so they will. Mother staid alone while Father come up to Jims and whilst he helped Jim unload the last load of hay and then I rode home too.

29 Wells has been here and borrowed 15 dollars & Jake Andrews has been here beging for the Cooper at the Center. Father give one dollar and John J Allen come this afternoon. He had been to a wedding last night. John Todd and Miss Fish,[25] Thomas Fishes daughter was married.

30th Father has been to the Ridge John I rode down with him. He got some coffee for John. He carried it in for him. Rachel is raveing crazy. They have got her in the recess and got it boarded up. I don’t know how long it has been so. Uncle Stephen[26] has come to see us. He says he has got tiered of waiting for Phebe[27] to come. She is down to Johns yet he says.

31st Father and Uncle Stephen has been over to Johns. They say that Rach talks all the time. Uncle Stephen says it sounds to him just like somebody a reading. They did not see Rachel. It seems he has got it boarded up tight and a door to fasten on the outside of it. Sidney was in there yesterday and she took hold of him and would tore his coat off, but John boxed her ears[28] so she stopt. Wensday morning whilst John was gone to take the children over to school she burnt up a vest, and a pair of mittens and some Books. When he got in the house she had got some Cloths and Papers piled on the stove and the bottom ones was all on fire. If he had staid a very few minuets longer the house would been on fire. Father says the floor was burnt some, where John throwed the things off the Stove. Mary has come to stay all night and help me cook the old Gobler tomorrow. I wish you was here to help eat him. They think they can’t wait for me to get maried you know. Never mind. Albert Pratt[29] said he would let me have their old Rooster.

This from Julia Ann Allen, to A. M. H. Brown[30], good bye.

[The following portion was written by Julia’s sister, Mary (Allen) Calkins]

Friday evening January 6th, 1854. Julia said last Sunday, that I must finish this letter and start it on, and it is now 7 oclock and i have just got the baby[31] to sleep. It is the first time i have had to write any. This week, and my last week mending is not done yet. Julia received a letter this week, on wednesday that you wrote, the 6 of Nov, and we received one from Ambrose 2 weeks since, and we started one wrapper full on the next Monday. Rachel is herself again[32] and the rest of us are all well as common. Sarahetta[33] has got the saltrheum[34] and she scratches so much i have to put gloves on her hands nights, and to night when i put them on she says Mother, i will act naughty and you know the sound, I had to box her ears. i staid to Fathers Wednesday night. Julia went to Orin Parsonses to a paty. She said there was not but a few their, only about 64 eat supper. Julia and Judith Ann was here last evening.

Now Matilda you need not make any excuses about writing or spelling. We can read all you can write, and we want you to write if you are pleased with the west, or if you are homesick or not, every one of you, and which way the road runs, and which way the shanty stands, and how many windows, and doors, it has got and if the sun rises in the East, West, North, or South to you, and we want to know 500 other things that we never shall know, and so you must write every thing you can think of and more too, and please write if you got all your things safe their. I am very much in hopes of geting the rest of those missing letters, now that Julia has got hers. Julia says that she will not go any where again, it makes so much trouble. Jim took Caper back to Abraham, W and he wants to keep him untill you can get him. How did he get away from you. Write what Henry says & does.

Good bye Marys love to all if it will be acceptable.

[The following was written upside down between the lines]

Sarahetta wants me to read Aunt Matildas letter to her every day. Jedediah can’t but just wear them shoes that you gave him. Tell Henry for me to eat a quart of beech nuts.


[1] Marion, New York, which was about 20 miles southwest of their home in Sodus, New York

[2] Jedediah Allen

[3] James Calkins, who was married to their sister, Mary Allen

[4] While the residents of the Village of Sodus referred to the town as Sodus, those living on the outskirts referred to it as The Ridge

[5] Before baking powder was common, the only leaveners were wild yeasts and sour dough starters, frothy egg whites and the unreliable early baking soda, or “saleratus.” It had to be mixed with an acidic ingredient, usually sour milk or buttermilk, to make the soda active

[6] Their brother, John Allen

[7] Their brother, Sidney Allen

[8] Their sister, Sarah (Allen) Lunn

[9] Neighbor, the wife of Henry Pulver

[10] Coin of Colonial America, varying from about 12¢ to 16¢

[11] Lyons, New York, which was about 15 miles south of Sodus

[12] See footnote #3

[13] Their sister, Margaret (Allen) Stinehart

[14] Their brother, Charles Allen

[15] Mary (Pearsall) Allen

[16] A public sale, or auction

[17] Jedediah Calkins, son of James & Mary (Allen) Calkins, born June 12, 1853

[18] Nickname for Matilda; sometimes also referred to as Tildy

[19] Matilda and her husband and son had just moved to Michigan

[20] Their sister-in-law (John’s wife), Rachel (Waters) Allen

[21] Matilda’s husband, Ambrose Brown

[22] Ambrose & Matilda’s son, Henry Brown

[23] Ambrose and Matilda’s German Shepherd dog which accompanied them on the move from New York to Michigan. According to a note from Granddaughter Lela (Brown) Mueller to her cousin, Warren Atkins, “They brought their Shepard dog with them. He disappeared very soon, was gone several days, came back in the night with sore bleeding feet. Later they had a letter from Sodus that the dog came back but they couldn’t keep him. They never knew how he made the trip as they came by wagon.”

[24] Ambrose Brown’s sister, Cynthia, and her husband, William E. Arms

[25] Helen Fish

[26] Stephen LeRoy, husband of their Aunt Phoebe

[27] Phoebe (Pearsall) LeRoy

[28] To box the ears is to hit someone across the side of the head with either a flat or cupped hand which is a very dangerous action as it can burst the eardrum

[29] The husband of Emily (LeRoy) Pratt, the daughter of Stephen & Phoebe (Pearsall) LeRoy

[30] A[mbrose], M[atilda] and H[enry]

[31] Jedediah Calkins

[32] It is interesting that Rachel was “raveing crazy” one day and then just a week later was “herself again.” While there are probably a dozen possible reasons for this behavior, one possibility is that Rachel ingested ergot-contaminated food. Ergot is caused by a fungus which affects cereal grasses. The affected grain contains potent chemicals, including lysergic acid, from which LSD is made, and can produce delusions and hallucinations in a person eating the contaminated grain. It has been suggested that there was an ergot contamination of rye crops during the period leading up to the Salem Witch Trials which explains the “crazy” behavior of the accused witches

[33] Mary’s daughter, Saretta Calkins

[34] Eczema