This letter was written by Mary Sophia (Turner) Searle (1797-1866) and her son, Joseph Turner Searle (1832-1902). Mary was the widow of Rev. Joseph Searle (1789-1841) of Massachusetts. Joseph was a carpenter and builder in Niles, Berrien County, Michigan. He was married to Jennie ? (1837-1920) in 1856 and had several children. By the 1890’s, Joseph was employed as an insurance agent.
Mary wrote the letter to her nephew, Thomas Samuel Searle (1821-1879), the son of Rev. Thomas Coleman Searle (1787-1820) and Annette Woodward (1789-1824) of Madison, Indiana. At the time this letter was written, Searle was residing in Berks County, Pennsylvania where he was the Principal of the Stouchsburg Academy. He later became a Dry Goods Merchant in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He married Mary Ann Moore (1818-1889) in October 1848. [Note: Thomas Searle was born Thomas Miller Searle. His name was changed to Thomas Samuel Searle at the request of his mother by an act of the legislature of Massachusetts.]
We learn from this letter that Joseph Searle provided the labor for removing the temporary barracks of the 12th Michigan Infantry on the fairgrounds of the Berrien County Agricultural Society during the summer of 1863.
[Note — See also: 1848: Mary Sophia (Turner) Searle to Thomas Samuel Searle
Addressed to Mr. Thomas S. Searle, Stouchsburgh, Berks County, Pennsylvania
September 29th 1863
Ever dear Thomas,
I have occupied more than an hour this morning in looking for your last letter but not finding it, I thought I would get the one you wrote to Joseph as the dates were not far apart, but in this I have been equally unsuccessful. I am very sorry for when I write to a friend, it is always a great pleasure to refresh my mind with the latest intelligence from them. I generally commence my letters by apologies for delaying to answer letters so long. This I have decided not to do anymore. All who love me know me to be advanced in years and what was difficult for me to do when I was young, all will admit, will be much more so now that I am old. You and your dear family hold a place in my heart next to my brothers and sisters. Last week I replied to letters from them and then a letter came from your Uncle Moses. This I answered. Now I must write you about my health &c.
I have had but little vigor of mind or body for many months. My head troubles me with pain and heaviness much of the time and I tire easily. My daughter has not had good health for more than a year so that we have had rather dragging work in accomplishing the necessary business of life.
On the tenth of July, another baby girl was added to our family. Had we been allowed to choose, we have preferred a boy. There is no lack, however, of love and admiration for this little one. She is perfect sunshine for us all. We had good help for our housework a number of weeks and I was nurse. Marie regained her strength slowly but she has for three weeks done the work of our family and gets along better than my fears.
Our summer has been a very warm one during which we had a severe drouth. It was a great injury to fruits and flowers. At last we had fine rains and vegetation advanced with great rapidity. Towards the last of August a heavy frost did much mischief and this was followed by many cold days and frosty nights so that it seems now like the last of October.
Joseph has had such poor success with wheat that he did not sow any this year. Our potatoes suffered greatly by drouth and our corn & buckwheat by frost. Still God has been good to us. Joseph has had constant employment for many months in removing buildings which were erected for a regiment of soldiers and disposing of the lumber. For this he has received a fair compensation. His health and spirits have been quite good.
Our little girls are growing fast and enjoying life. Susan Annette — not yet five years old — has learned herself to read with unusual correctness and is passionately fond of everything like a story. She and her sister have for a few weeks attended Sabbath School. With a little assistance, Susan commits to memory with much facility. Mary is not though.
From brother Moses’ letter I find you was in Harrisburg, probably during your vacation. Had we been differently situated at that time, how glad we should have been to see you here but we are so widely separated I fear we may never meet again this side Heaven, and if we only meet there to part no more, It does not much matter. I thought a great deal of you as the army of Rebels drew near and entered Pennsylvania. How glad I was when they were driven back. I don’t believe they will be permitted to come so near you again. We live in so much quietness and security, it is hard to realize that our country is engaged in such a deadly conflict. What accounts do you have from dear Mary’s brother? I am always interested in hearing from him and all her friends.
I believe you wrote nothing in your last letter about your children. The girls are almost or quite grown up, are they not? Let me know their ages.
Your uncle writes us that Mr. Willard is making arrangements to sell his farm with the intention of removing to N. B. This seems to be on account of Mary Ann’s ill health which requires more skillful medical advice than they can get there. I am very sorry for dear brother & sister. He says he has been a good deal troubled about the future, but has been enabled to cast his care on a covenant-keeping God and has found some relief. Although his sons have not an abundance, it does seem to me they ought, and might, with a little sacrifice, relieve their parents from all anxiety about the future. I hope brother & sister will make us a good visit as they go east. I long to see them.
Remember me with much affection to your wife and to her mother and sister and believe me as ever truly and lovingly your aunt, — M. S. Searle
September 29, 1863
Dear Cousin Thomas,
I do not know when your last letter was dated but here is one which lies before me dated over a year since, and as it is all that we can find in the house, I am afraid that it is the last one that I received from you. I have been so busy this summer that I have not been able to find time to write as many letters as I could wish I had done.
I have worked very hard and have earned considerable money. I got the job by the day of taking down the barracks which were used for the 12th Michigan Regiment, and refitting the ground which was an enclosed lot of several acres belonging to the Berrien County Agricultural Society. I have taken down nearly all the buildings, sold a large amount of lumber, and sent a great deal to another city some ninety miles distant to be used to build government storehouses. I have got $1.87½ per day. I could have got two dollars as well but I did not ask it.
We have all enjoyed pretty good health this season and hope that you have received the same blessing. I suppose that mother has told you of our acquisition in the shape of a baby. We would have been glad if it had been a boy but she is a bright, smart little girl and if that is God’s will concerning us, we are satisfied. But I must close. Much love to your dear wife & little ones together with yourself.
From your affectionate cousin, Joseph T. Searle
[P.S.] I notice by reading mother’s letter that there would have been no use in my writing more as she has written all there was to write. I went to the Michigan State Fair last week. Came home the same day. Had a great smashup on the road the next day — 7 killed and over 30 badly wounded. [Note: see article from the Boston Daily Advertiser of 2 October 1863 below]