Transcription of a Kentucky Letter Written Prior to 1830
From Lucy Ware Webb to her Niece, Sally Ware Stribling
© Research & transcription by Judy C. Ware 2009
The following letter provided not only a wealth of family information, but an incredible look into the lives of these people living in the early 1800’s. Life was hard, illness and death abounded, and although families tended to have many children, the majority of them never lived to reach adulthood. These early Wares were a stalwart group of people, relying heavily on their faith and the powers of perseverance and endurance.
ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FOLDED LETTER
Mrs. Sally E. T. Stribling Virginia Near Battletown June 5th
Battletown would one day be part of Clarke County
No year and postmark illegible
My Dear Sally,
I received yours and my dear Josiah’s letters and I need not say what a pleasure it gave me to find my dear relations were again restored to health, and I was also pleased to see they were not ceremonious with me. I can (with truth) say that a short time before I received your last letter, I took up one of yours and Josiah’s letters that I received some time ago and thought when I read them that I would instantly answer them. But some person came in (which at that time prevented me) and procrastination being a great evil attending human nature, I still thought I would – until I received your last letter and immediately fulfilled my long determination. And you, not being acquainted in this country, can’t have much interesting to you. I must, therefore, give you a detail of your relations and their families.
Your Uncle Thompson Ware’s daughter, Sally (Russell), has been as ill as ever any person was, to recover. She had a son and in three weeks, was taken ill with child-bed-fever. When her life was despaired of by her physician, Dr. Innes, (and every person that beheld her) they sent for Dr. Scott. They kept him three days there. Your Aunt (Mary) Webb went from her last week. She was there for two weeks and at the time Dr. Scott was there. She told me she was satisfied that she (Sally) would not have lived until morning. When he (Dr. Scott) came, she said it really appeared like raising the dead. Sally was taken with strong convulsion fits in an hour after he got here – which lasted nearly two days; one after another. But before he came away, she began to mend slowly and has been mending ever since. She can now walk about the yard but not entirely come to her reason. I suppose your Aunt Ware (Thompson’s wife) would have been frightened almost to death had not Dr. Scott told them she would be quite childlike – perhaps for two or three months. Your aunt (Mary) observed to me, with tears in her eyes, “O, if he could have only seen Fanny (Fanny Conn, her daughter), I think she would have got well.”
I suppose you heard his (Thompson’s) daughter, Polly Allen, died very suddenly. Her child was about 3 or 4 weeks old. She had been quite sick for two weeks, but Mary thought had gotten nearly well. She (Polly) got up in the morning, put on her clothes, walked to the fire, fell sick, was carried to the bed, and died in a few minutes. She left a son – Kitty (her sister) takes care of it as if it was her own. (Kitty later married Polly’s husband Grant Allen in 1830)
Lucy Ware, another of your Uncle Thompson Ware’s daughters, has married Mr. Bedford. (Henry Clay Bedford) He married two of Mr. Blanton’s daughters – both of them died in childbed; I have no doubt of want of skill in their physicians. He then married Miss Hutchcraft. She had two children and died when the youngest was 6 months old. Their first child died at a year old. He then married Lucy Ware. I should have disliked being any man’s fourth wife, but he is a very clever man, not more than 26 years old, made an excellent husband and is quite independent. I hope she will do well.
Kitty and Cassandra are still single, Davidella and Frances grown, Eliza is ten or twelve years old now. Charles William I suppose never will walk a smart child. He was taken sick and continued so for a year. His head enlarged (opened) when he was sick at about two years old. He has never walked since; his head very large now. Whether he took too much calomel or what, I don’t know. James is a fine boy; 15 years old I believe. (These were all also children of Thompson Ware)
Your Aunt Scott (Catharine “Caty” Ware Scott,) with her two daughters, lives with Betsy Sharp (her oldest daughter). Catherine and Arabella – they are amiable girls. The latter thought handsome of a very wild turn, and the other very sensible and economical. She would make one of the finest wives for rich or poor. Your aunt’s son, John, started three weeks ago to West Point – there to finish his education. Her other son, Harrison (William Henry Harrison Scott), is living some distance from her; I really do not know where. There was a report he was married. I have not heard the truth of it, but don’t believe it. Betsy Sharp (Caty’s daughter & wife of Solomon Sharp who was assassinated) is well and in good spirits. She’s a pretty sensible woman and has 3 fine children. They are Jean, John Scott, and Solomon (he was called Thomas but after the death of his father, they changed it to Solomon.)
Your Aunt Webb (Mary Todd Ware Webb) looks well; though thinner than usual.
James Conn (brother of William) moved near the Blue Licks or rocks and mountains; his wife (Lucy’s daughter, Kitty) very much opposed to his selling or moving. I have no doubt but it will be his ruin. Kitty’s oldest son John (Lucy’s grandson) is living with James Webb. He (James) got me to write to his (the boy’s) father (James Conn) that if he would let him have John, he (James Webb) would educate him and give him whatever professional character his talents would best suit. He sent him. Kitty is living with me. The other two (sons of Kitty and James Conn), Joseph and Thomas, are with him (James Conn) – to my sorrow. I wrote a letter to him (James Conn) the other day that if he would give up their mother’s (Kitty’s) property that Mr. Webb (Lucy’s husband and Kitty’s father) gave her (though but little) we would take the other two boys and educate them and insure to them the property when they came of age. But I did not send it, knowing it would displease him very much.
James Webb (Lucy’s son) is living in Chillicothe. He married a Miss Cook (a niece of Dr. Scott). They have two sons, Joseph and James. Miss Cook is amiable but very homely. They are doing, I believe, very well. She was worth nothing.
John Webb (another of Lucy’s sons) is living in Ohio on Dr Scott’s farm. (This was Dr. Matthew Thompson Scott – husband of her daughter Winny) They are all in partnership with cattle raising. I expect Mary (Lucy’s daughter) gave you a full account of Winny’s and Lucy’s families. (Lucy’s other 2 daughters) Winny has 11 children living and two dead. She expects to be confined in two months. James, her (Winny’s) oldest, is one of the smartest boys. He’ll finish his education this year. (James ended up dying in 1833). Betsy (daughter of Winny) is pretty faced, but too low entirely. Isaac and Mary (other children of Winney’s) are going to school in Lexington. Mary is 13 years old; as tall as Betsy now. They are all smart, promising children and will have a good opportunity if their father (Dr. M.T. Scott), a man of energy and industry, knows the worth of an education. If only other poor motherless ones had the same chance. They are smart children (I mean Kitty’s). Mr. Scott (Matthew Thompson Scott) is still living in U.S. Bank, gets 1000 dollars a year, but is very tired of it. His family lives on a handsome farm some miles from town. He comes home in the evening; one of the best husbands living (and fathers).
Lucy Scott (a daughter of Lucy’s who married Dr. Joseph Thompson Scott) has 5 children living; Lucy, Mary Epps, Catharine, Isaac Webb, and James. (Lucy and Dr. Scott went on to have 6 additional children after this letter was written) Lucy and Mary are going to school in Lexington – I never saw two children learn faster in my life. Lucy (the granddaughter) plays the best on the piano that I ever heard one for the time she has been learning. Elizabeth, the doctor’s daughter by his first wife, is beautiful. Poor John, her brother, died last week after a long and painful consumption. He was ill two years; brought here last Sabbath and buried. There was a large procession – I believe a quarter of a mile long. He had been delicate from his infancy (was 22 years old and not larger than a 12 year old boy).
Betsy Cunningham (another daughter of Lucy’s) has two very interesting boys, Webb and Robert. __ to see her, but we had so soon to part overbalanced my ___. She would have been so delighted to have met with you and Josiah.
Isaac has two children; Lucy and Edward live ½ mile from him on Miss Winny Webb’s farm. (Edward died in 1833) (Miss Winny Webb was the spinster sister of Isaac)
I have been trying to write close so as to have room to write to Josiah, but I’m afraid you can’t read it. My son, Cuthbert, lives this year with Dr. Scott (Joseph Scott), as Lucy was so lonesome since he moved to the country. She is so pleased with raising so many fowls, she and Winny. I was up there two weeks ago, and I never saw the like of the fowls in my life. I believe we had 150 turkeys and as many ducks and chickens. I was all but distracted with the noise and fuss with feeding. When I came home, I found a calm both in the house and yard; but for fowls and children.
This letter, I fear, will not be worth the postage. It will be about an hour’s conversation when we meet, which I hope will be soon. Mrs. Jones came while I am writing and desires to be remembered to you and hopes to see you once more. Her daughter, Amanda, married a Mr. Burton Paris – a hatter. She has married very well (both infidels) but he coins money and has joined the Presbyterian Church. Elizabeth lives with her mother; is very tall. She and Louisa and herself are all members of the same church. She wants to know if you ever heard of Mr. Snicker’s son that went to sea.
I now find no room to write Josiah, but give my warmest love and affection to him and his wife. I want much to see you all and Sigismunda (Sally’s daughter). Tell him (Josiah) I often look at my breast pin and think of him. I can consciously say, though I write seldom, you will ever be remembered by me as wonderful, beloved relations.
And, my dear child, let me unite with you in praise to our Heavenly Father for his unbounded goodness to us in restoring you and your dear child to good health again. And I pray that we may be enabled by divine grace to see His hand in all things. I often think, “who am I that He should be so kind to me in giving me such affectionate children and such kind husbands and wives to them all, and, particularly, giving them spiritual blessings; as I hope they are all members of the church – both husbands and wives (with the exception of two or three) for which I hope ever to be truly and humbly thankful.” When I look around and see large families all contentious, quarreling, and parting with husbands and wives – it brings fresh to my memory the goodness of God to me (who is so unworthy).
Tell Josiah that Dr. Flournoy and his wife are parted. He married Miss Blackburn, they parted, each got a divorce. He then married his cousin, Mary Ann Conn. She found, before married 11 days, she could not live with him; but stood it as long as possible for fear of the reproach. He then drove her off. She is now at Father’s with two children. He has now sold off everything – going off I suppose to deceive some other person.
Tell Josiah that if my life and health is spared, I will write him in a month or two. Farewell, my dear relations. May God forever bless, protect, and direct you through life will ever by my prayer.
I had not room to entreat you not to forget your promise in visiting us if you possibly can. Kiss my dear little niece, Sigismunda, for me for a while. We got a letter the other day from Mr. Cunningham. They are all well. Betsy had been very sick but has recovered.
This was one of the original letters that Cornelia found and tried to translate. She wrote this commentary at the bottom of the page – –
“This is a letter to my grandfather, Josiah W. Ware, and his sister, Sarah who married Sigismund Stribling who lived just across the road from Springfield. Written possibly just prior to the 1830’s as the “little niece” would make it about that time. Lucy Webb was the mother of Lucy Webb who married President Rutherford B. Hayes. Cornelia Ware
CORRECTION: Actually, Lucy Ware Webb was the mother of Dr. James Webb and he and his wife (Maria Cook) were the parents of the Lucy Ware Webb who married President Hayes. Cornelia had the generations wrong. The Lucy who wrote this letter was the grandmother of Lucy Ware Webb Hayes, but it was through her son James, not through her daughter Lucy.
*** This letter was written prior to 1830 because Thompsons’s daughter Kitty married her dead sister’s husband in 1830 and the letter doesn’t mention that yet.
*** In 1833, there was a horrible cholera epidemic that killed many of the people mentioned in this letter. Both the Ware and Webb families suffered extraordinary losses. In the household of Mary Todd Ware Webb (often called Polly) and Charles Webb, they lost their son-in-law (Nancy’s husband), Dr. Innis, on June 18, 1833.
The hardest hit was the family of Lucy and Isaac Webb. Lucy is the one who wrote this letter. Their grandson William Nicholson Scott (from daughter Winny) contacted cholera and died on May 04, 1833. Lucy, herself, got cholera and died on June 22nd and just four days later, her husband Isaac died on June 26, 1833. Their son James Webb succumbed to the disease in July 1833, and daughter Winny Scott (the one who lost her son to cholera in May) died of the same disease on July 08, 1833. Edward Webb (son of Isaac Webb) also died in 1833, and later, on September 07, 1833, grandson James (from Winny Scott) also died of cholera.
The Hayes Memorial Library has a paper where the following incident was reported. Mary Ann Todd Webb (Mrs. William T. Nicholson) relayed this story to her daughter, Isabelle Eugenia Nicholson in 1876.
“. . . [In 1833] Sister Winny’s infant was not two weeks old when news came of the death of her parents and her brother reached her. She was kept in so much terror of cholera (because) all the bank officers had died of cholera – (except Mr. Scott [her husband] and one other,) and he [was] called upon to write wills of persons who had cholera. When Betsey was told of the death of Papa, Mama, & Isaac, she (without thinking) ran into Sister Winnie’s room and said, ‘O, Sister, Ma, Pa, & Isaac are dead.’ Sister lost all reason though Dr. Scott went to her and said, ‘Winnie, you are not sick but frightened. I assure you, you are not sick’ . . . and when brother was told, he exclaimed in anguish, he ‘had killed them all.’ ” Winnie died shortly thereafter. “Maria [Cook Webb] took the baby who was William and weaned Lucy [Lucy Webb Hayes] who was two years old. The cholera was at its height at that time.” (ref.174)
Between just the months of May and September of that year, they buried eight of their family members from this dreaded disease.
In Kentucky, there was a marker placed on the gravesite in commemoration of this time that reads:
“Isaac Webb Sr. his wife Lucy Ware
of Frederick County Virginia 1792
and some of their sons and daughters
who died in epidemic of 1833. This burying
ground restored by their descendants in 1931.”
*** Calomel – Medicine in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s was primitive at best. The most commonly administered medications were opiates and the little blue pill called calomel, or mercurous chloride. Calomel was often used as a remedy (of purging) for diseases such as typhoid, but little was known at the time about the dangers of mercury poisoning. The school of thought was that whatever illness the person was inflicted with could be “drained” out of the body by bloodletting (hence leeches) or inducing dramatic diarrhea. Calomel was one of the harsh laxatives. Although small doses may have actually produced some medical benefits in certain cases, the very large doses that were often prescribed indiscriminately produced terrible side effects and were often lethal.
*** Childbed Fever – The Latin name for this disease was Puerperal Sepsis. It was a serious form of septicemia contracted by a woman during or shortly after childbirth or miscarriage; usually due to unsanitary means of delivery. Little was known about germs and sanitation during the late 1700’s and this led to many infections of this kind. Childbed fever also occurred as a result of the mother being unable to expel all placenta at the time of her delivery. The afterbirth would soon become septic; resulting in death.
*** William Henry Harrison Scott was the son of Catherine Ware Scott and her husband, Dr. John Mitchell Scott. Dr. Scott was good friends with General William Henry Harrison (later President of the United States) and attended Mrs. Harrison at the birth of one of her children. Due to the friendship between the families, Harrison named his son John Scott Harrison and Dr. Scott & Catherine named their next son William Henry Harrison Scott. He was known as Harrison.
*** Betsy Sharp (daughter of Catherine Ware Scott and Dr. John Mitchell Scott) married Solomon Sharpe. He was a well respected Congressman who was assassinated at his home right in front of his wife.
*** Sigismunda was the only child of Sally Elizabeth Ware Stribling and her husband, Dr. Sigismund Stribling. She was obviously named after her father.
*** Josiah Ware was the brother of Sally Ware Stribling, the person to whom this letter was addressed. He was the nephew of Lucy Ware Webb.