1864: Theron E. Sanford to Mary Jane Sanford

How Theron might have looked

This letter was written by 27 year-old Theron E. Sanford (1837-1918), the son of Leman Sanford (1803-1879) and Emeline Pratt (1808-1890) of Marion, Wayne County, New York. He wrote the letter from Fort Scott, Kansas, where we learn he has been operating a livery business and hoping to expand into the boarding business by persuading his sister to join him, keep house for him, and cook meals for their boarders. There is no evidence that his sister ever accepted such an “attractive” invitation.

Theron was married in June 1865 to Lydia Ann Potter (1844-Aft1915), the daughter of Emory Potter (1802-1879) and Lydia A. Hall (1813-1844). The location of the marriage is not recorded but I believe it was in New York State for Theron and his wife seem to have lived the remained of their lives in Wayne County, New York.

Theron wrote the letter to his older sister, Mary Jane Sanford (1833-Aft1900). In the 1860 US Census, 26 year-old Mary Sanford is enumerated in the household of her parents in Marion and her occupation was given as “Teacher in Academy.” In the 1870 Census, she is enumerated in Marion as the keeper of her own “fancy goods” store accompanied by a dress maker named Ruth M. Adams. In the 1880 US Census, she is still in Marion, enumerated in the household of her mother (age 72). In the 1900 US Census, she is enumerated as the head of her own household in Marion — still a single woman.

A younger brother, Byram Green Sanford (1843-1919) is mentioned a couple of times. He became a Methodist Episcopal clergyman — admitted to membership in the Central New York Conference in 1881.

1863 photograph of Market Street in Fort Scott, Kansas. Courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society.

Addressed to Mary J. Sanford, Marion, Wayne County, New York

Ft. Scott [Kansas]
February 20, 1864

Ever dear one at home,

I wrote quite a long letter home some time ago but from some cause neglected to mail it. Still I supposed you & all became so accustomed to my eccentricities that you would not wonder at all at my long silence. I want you to write often whether I do or not.

I am well and doing fairly — am not making money very fast but have a pretty fair business. I am mighty lonely out here all alone — go into society but very little and would give almost anything if some of you were here with me. I think Byram is quite unwise that he does not come and stay a year or so before entering college. Still I’ve said enough about that I suppose.

I shall probably remain at Ft. Scott through the summer. Mary, how would you like to come out and keep house for me awhile after a little? I shall come home on a visit this spring if I can get away but it looks doubtful now. There is no use in thinking to leave my business in someone else’s hands. It don’t work at all. I may rent my property here possibly, which if I should do, I can get away for awhile.

March 4th,

Dear Sister Mary, — I ought to have sent this scrawl before this but I haven’t and there’s no use making excuses. Mary, if you will come out here and keep house for me a while, I think we can make it pay well. There is a great chance for taking boarders. A good house will command plenty of custom at from $3.00 to $4.00 per week for meals only, without lodging. There is a house adjoining me here which I think we can get that with some fixing will do well enough. I have had the thing in my head some time and now if you will come out, it and the stable will work together finely, I think. One will help the other, you know. I am doing pretty well — am some in debt, but think I can see my way clear. I have a good deal of custom which if I was fixed to furnish meals, would pay much better than it does now.

If you come out, bring whatever you have that will be needed and as much money as you have and have a mind to. It is the best  thing you can do, I think. I am lonesome and want some of my friends with me. Besides, I am pretty wild and will pay you a good salary to keep me straight. I am afraid though you would have your hands full for awhile. I am tired of batching it so long — want to be a “white man” again for awhile at any rate, just to see how it seems.

I have given up Byram’s ever coming out here. And now, if you ever want to see me again, come and stay awhile and maybe after somewhat I will go home with you.

— T. Sanford


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