Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
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Mary Angeline BURNS Gorham 1844 -1916
Copyright © David V. Kester, 2000
Letters sent to Mary BURNS Gorham
Township: Burlington Township, Bradford County PA
Transcribed  by David Kester
Year: 1857-1869
Photo Source : David Kester

Part IB. School Days 1855-‘61


Transcriber’s Note: Viola Goodwin of Wyalusing married James J. Gorham (s/o John B. And first wife Dolly Beeman) of LeRaysville in 1857. Tragically she died in 1861. In 1855 a young schoolmate of hers seemed to have had a premonition of the short but happy life she would lead and penned these poignant words. (Viola was the namesake of James and Mary’s firstborn child Viola Idell GORHAM Hosdowich.)

To my friend Viola!

I wake for these a mournful strain,

Like breathings from a saddened heart;

And yet there has been more of pain,

When I have played a gayer part.

I wake this strain for other friends

Will choose for thee a cheerful theme;

Where love and hope with gladness blend,

And sunshine gilds Life’s placid stream.

They wish this much of present joy,

They give this friendship all to thee;

They ask this bliss without alloy,

And death from pain and terror free.

I come to tell thee life is not

A sunny, thornless peaceful way;

Earth’s flowers will fade & clouds will dim

The sunlight of the brightest day.

And life is real—is a scene

Where early dreams and hope give place

To stern realities, and burning thoughts

Die out, and scarcely leave a trace.

And friendship’s sacred golden chain

Too often rudely, madly broken;

Till Friendship proves itself—a name,

Of falsehood & deceit, a token.

And hearts that love will sadly change,

And tears will dim the lovely eye;

And shadows of the grave will come,

The dear, the good, the pure will die.

Yet life is beautiful & fair,

And wears a thrilling charm for me;

For shadows only make more dear

The brightness when the shadows flee.

And far beyond the fearful gloom,

And shadow of the grave’s deep night,

For sin-sick, earth-tired souls, a boon

Of priceless value greets my sight.

East Herrick(13) Sept 27th 1855 M. Ellen Peat


"I miss thy greeting, gentle Viola,

Thy kiss upon my cheek—thy tender care—

Thy clasping hand—the love that blest me, Viola,

Imissthee everywhere!

Sept 5th 1856 M. Nellie P.

Let not coming years dim the memory of Now;

Let not the friends of youth be forgotten.

(13) Herrick Township, Susquehanna County


Dixon(14) Oct 16th 1855

Aunt Letitia(15)

You will see from the date of this that my other [letter] is quite old, the reasons are these. Just after I finished my [other] letter I was taken sick again for two weeks and it was court weeks. Pa(16) worked in the office day and night for two weeks and was so busy he didn’t have time to see about getting the money to send in it until now. I am a great deal better than I have been for some time, although I had the ague(17) lightly yesterday and do not feel exceedingly bright today. I take quinine regular every week or two to keep the ague off but sometimes I wait a little to long and then I have it. Ophelia(18) has to take quinine regular also. Mother has been quite sick but is getting better now. Ophelia is waiting for me to finish this to take it to the office. Please to answer this immediately so we will know if you get the money.

I should have written to Grand Pa(19) before [obliterated by a fold] had I been well and all the rest, it is quite sickly here this season, a great deal of ague and billious(20) fever. Mother(21) and Ophelia send their love to you all.

Yours Truly,

Julia Campbell(22)


(14) Lee County seat, in Northern Illinois

(15) Mary’s mother, Letitia CAMPBELL Burns, wife of Orry Burns and sister to Julia & Ophelia Campbell’s deceased father James.

(16) Her stepfather who apparently worked in the court or a law office in some unknown capacity.

(17) Chills, fever and sweating associated with an active episode of malaria.

(18) Julia’s sister, age eleven.

(19) Cephus Campbell, b. March 29, 1777 Blandford, Mass d. March 5, 1857 Burlington,Pa.m.1st Sarah Bingham b. 1786 d. 7 Feb 1821, m. 2nd Eleanor Miller b. 1788 d. 27 Jan 1875.

(20) A loose term for illnesses with vomiting, fever and sometimes jaundice. Could be typhoid, malaria, typhus or hepatitis.

(21) Anna Crane ROBBINS Campbell

(22) age fourteen at this writing.


Dixon, March 8th 1857

Dear Aunt Letitia,

It has been a long, long time since we have heard from any of you folks. The las letter that I received I answered and have waited anxiously this long while for another. But as none has come I again wait, hoping that if you cannot answer, some one, or all of my cousins will, for nothing pleases us better than a letter from any of those kind aunts & cousins of Burlington. There is no other place that I have ever been around, [to] which such hallowed recollections cling. Many a pleasant yet lonely walk I have had from Grandfather's(23) to your house. That year and (a) half spent at Burlington was a period of my life over which time will never cast a shadow. It is a time of which I love to think and when my mind turns to the past, scenes which occured at grandfather's and Uncle Orie's(24) are (the) first that present themselves; and in imagination I am again with you, perhapse gathering wintergreens with cousins or following the path through the woods that leads to Jane's(25) or having a merry time gathering apples or climbing around in the barn, following close every hen that cackles to discover, if possible, her hidden treasures. But sadness strays into those merry scenes and I am again in the sickroom standing beside the large rocking chair drawn up before the fire and there with countenance pale and wan sits my invalidfather.(26) Presently, a sound is heard upon the stairs. We know it for it is that of my grandfather climbing up with staff in hand to aid him. Soon the door swings back and the oft repeated questioning pronounced, "James, how are you", and with effort to appear as well as possible the cheering answer comes, "a little better I think". From those lustrous eyes bright beams of hope shine as the sentence is uttered, for although disease reduces his body, still within the soul hope never relinquishes its firm grasp. And even when the hope to live longer here with friends and family is driven away by the rapid progress of disease, and friends were shrouded in despair, Then those lips spoke words to cheer the lonely friends, telling of a more lasting and glorious hope coming from a source that never fails. Then many mournful thoughts follow in rapid succession and scenes arise in which my dear, good Grandmother(27) takes an active part. Aunts, uncles and cousins too, do all within their power to cheer lonely friends and feelings of gratitude arise.

But finally my mind turns to the last parting with Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandfather when mother,(28) with her two little girls, bid farewell to that place where was left all that remained of a father(29) and sweet little brother.(30) But I have said enough upon this sad, but to one, interesting subject. To be sure I have now a stepfather(31) and as kind a one as any child ever had, one that I think a very great deal of and I have too, everything to make one happy that it is within his power to give. But still this does not in the least effect the remembrance of him who was my ownfather.

I received a letter from Sarah Ellen(32) sometime since, which I answered, but have not heard anything from any of our friends in the east since. We had a letter from Uncle Owen(33) and one from Letitia Campbell a few weeks ago. They were all well then, I suppose you have heard before this of Uncle Owen's getting hurt by having his leg shot.

I am now going to school here. Libbie Boardman(34) is a going to Mt Morris(35) to school, she goes in a week. We all want Ophelia(36) to go too, but she can't make up her mind to leave home and Ma. Pa says that he intends that we should all have equal chances at obtaining an education. I am going here the remainder of this term and then Pa thinks that I better go east some where to school. They have not decided where yet. I am at present studying Algebra, Geometry, Mental Philosophy, Latin & French.

Mother's health is very good this winter and us children are just as healthy as we can be. I have quite a long ways to walk to school, about a mile, and it has given me red cheeks to go this winter through the cold. We have had some very cold weather this winter but about three weeks ago it commenced to thaw and the river raised and the ice went out and carried away the bridge. It has again turned cold and the river is covered over with ice and it has snowed all day today. We have no way of crossing the river but by the railroad bridge and we find that very inconvenient as well as unsafe. I have not room to write much more, therefore hoping that you will soon answer this.

I close. Ma. Ophelia and all of us send love to you all. I suppose little Julia Floretta(37) is getting to be quite a girl. I wish that I could see her, but good night.

Your Affectionate niece,

Julia Campbell(38)

Aunt, if you cannot write ask Mary(39) to for I would like to hear from her at any rate and we shall wait anxiously for an answer.

(23) Cephas Campbell who died three days before the date of this letter.

(24) Orry Burns (1798-1861) Husband of Letitia CAMPBELL Burms b.27 Apr 1807, d.28 Mar 1887 d/o Cephus Campbell.

(25) Jane A. BURNS Kendall d/o Orry and Letitia Campbell, w/o Lawrence W. Kendall.

(26) James Campbell b.21 Apr 1814 d.16 Nov 1851, Sheriff of Lee Co. Ill. 1842-1848, m.Anna Crane ROBBINS 4 Jan 1840, 3 children.

(27) Actually step-grandmother Eleanor MILLER Campbell who married Cephus Campbell in 1827 after his first wife, Sarah Bingham died 7 Feb 1821 in the 35th year of her life.

(28) Anna Crane ROBBINS Campbell.

(29) James Campbell died of malaria while on a visit to Burlington in 1851 and is buried in Luther’s Mills Cemetery.

(30) James Harvey Campbell b.26 May 1850, s/o James and Anna Campbell, d.28 May 1851.

(31) Whose name and vital statistics have not, as yet, not been discovered.

(32) A cousin, age 16, d/o Josephus Campbell b.13 Nov 1818, d.4 Apr 1874 and Asenath MILLER b.14 May 1823, d. 16 b.Sept 1905, m.9 Sep 1841, d/o Isaac and Beulah MORLEY Miller.

(33) Anning Owen Campbell b.23 Apr 1809, brother of Letitia, Cephas, James and Josephas C.

(34) A friend in Dixon, Illinois.

(35) A village ten miles north of Dixon.

(36) d/o James and Anna Campbell, b.13 May 1844, d.16 Apr 1920 at Wooster, Ohio. M. Dr. Joseph Henry Todd I Oct 1872.

(37) Julia Floretta Kendall d/o Lawrence Washington and Jane BURNS Kendall, b.15 Oct 1850, d.29 Sept 1927 at Toronto, Ontario, Canada. m. Noel Wilcox Lane s/o Rev. Alexander Jr. and Catherine SHOEMAKER Lane 6 Apr 1870 (She was one of Mary Burns’ closest friends in later years and namesake of James and Mary’s youngest daughter Floretta Grace GORHAM Van Orman.)

(38) d/o James and Anna Campbell, b.15 Jul 1841, d. Jan 1877. M. Eugene Pinkney of Dixon, Ill.

(39) Cousin Mary Angeline Burns, age 12, d/o Orry & Letitia CAMPBELL Burns of Burlington Twp.


Clifford(40) Feb 28th/59

Dear Cousin Mary(41)

Although I have never seen your face, yet if it be like the picture you sent, I think I shall not repent of having made your acquaintance (by letter) as you see there is no other way of doing business. I Am at school and it is noon and as you would naturealy suppose, there is considerable noise. I must acquaint you with some of the affairs of last week, as it may be of interest to you. The subject on which I am about to write is relating to your picture, which I brought to school, and with which a certain young man fell desperately in love. Now this is truth, and as it may be of interest to you, I will describe him, So here goes.

He is tall, and of a commanding figure, finely proportioned, with dark brown hair, dark blue eyes, full of expression and tenderness. He wears a black coat cut in the latest style, brown pants, (forgive the immodest expression) and boots of the smallest possible dimensions. Such, and such only, is the description of Fernando De Coeoleo Cardnes(42) (and I forgot to add) a good scholar. Now if you don’t think this worth noticing, please tell me your mind on the subject.

I am at home again and find Aunt Letitia has started for home. I should like to have seen [her] once more before she went, and heard Uncle sing. But I am in hopes I shall see them again at some time not far distant. Cousin Ira(43) wants I should speak a good word for him. What shall it be? Well he is a good scholar and quite a frank open hearted fellow. You have many other cousins here, you had better come out and see them. We would have a high time, see the top of Elk Hill(44), and the bottom of the Old Brook(45) (if you were willing.) How is it about valentines out your way. Here the comics flew all sorts in the time of it. Our school is nearly out, we have had a very good school, A Gentleman teacher-with all. I found my Mother feeling very lonesome when I came home to night, for Uncle had just gone.

It has been some time since I commenced this letter and now if all is right I will finish. We have had many anxious thoughts about your folks since they left. I would like to hear from them very much. We have replaced that wagon by a $190 one. There has been much sickness here since your people left. hard-colds and fevers, not in our family, but in the neighbor’s, most of which are better now. Oh! I wish you and your brother(46) would come out here next summer, see the cousins and get acquainted. Now don’t slight my...

Transcriber’s Note: Apparently there was a second page which has been lost and as a result, the writer is unknown. It is possible, but not conclusive that she was the daughter of Mary’s father Orry’s sister who married a Cotteral and settled in or near Susquehanna County.


(40) Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania

(41) Mary Angeline Burns, d/o Orry & Letitia Campbell Burns, b.3 Sept 1844, d.20 July 1916.

(42) Unknown, perhaps a schoolmate, perhaps a figment of the adolescent female imagination.

(43) Ira Campbell, age 19 of Liberty Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

(44) Highest peak in Susquehanna County, elevation 2,693 ft.(Ref National Geographic Map of New England-June:1955)

(46) A local place name not widely known, nor long remembered.

(47) Jimmie,Burns age 17, Mary’s closest brother.


Wednesday, June 16th, 1859

Dear Friend Mary,

I Received your reply to my letter in due time and with much pleasure. I did not expect it much, from the fact that you said you would not write. but I suppose you concluded a bad promise is better broken than kept, and am heartily glad that you thought so, and hope you have not changed your mind yet. I intended to write to you before, but I commenced my school the next Monday after receiving your letter, so if you will excuse me this time, I will try and do better next time. I am teaching near Mr. Barnses this Summer, have fifty scholars only, most all between 7 and 10 years old. Don’t you believe I have a delicious time of it? I had to whip a scholar the first day. a little boy about 7 years of age, the bigest piece of spunk you ever saw. You better believe I have my hands full. Don’t like it near as well as I did last Winter, if ever I get out of this alive I’ll stay out a while I reckon. I am near home this Summer, so when I get real homesick I jump onto a load(48) of boards and go and see my Mommy. Pa scolds me every time [I] come because he is afraid the people will think I don’t like the school, but it makes no difference, I will come twice a week anyhow; that is as well as I can do. But pshaw whatt noncense to tell you all this, it does not interest you. I will try and tell you something more interesting. Uncle Charles(49) is teaching singing school down to the Corners(50) this Summer. I was down last Friday night, had a good time. Had a regular train coming home. There was about forty of us formed on behind an old drum and marched up to the Center(51) I haven’t laughed so much since I left your house. Never got home till the clock had struck one. How I did wish you was with me, but that could not be, so I had to content myself.

Sophrona Gates(52) said you were coming over this Summer, how I do wish you would, wouldn’t we visit though? I have so much to tell you. Now do come wont you? Our folks have moved since you was here. They have moved up into Mr. Baylors house on the hill where Jimmy(53) went to put out the horse. Much pleasanter place than where we was before. Mary where are you going to spend the fourth(54) where is Philander(55) a going and who is he going to take? Now tell me, but you need not let him know it without you are a mind to. And Jimmy where is he going and Sarah Ellen(56) Janie(57) and all the rest? I haven’t heard much about the fourth here this year, for some reason, I don’t know what.

There, It is eleven oclock soon and here I am yet. O! dear, I have so much to tell you, I wish I had four hours more to write, but I have to do everything I do in a jerk, you will know that by the looks of my writing. I don’t know when to stop. I suppose it would be so if I should write four hours longer, so I might as well stop first as last. If you wanted to see me as well as I do you, you would come over, I know you would. Now do come wont you? Let me know when you are coming so I shall be sure and be at home. I don’t have school any Saturday so I can be at home any time. Come Friday if you can and come to school. Good by. I can not write more (at) this time. Now answer this as soon as you receive it.

Yours Truly

Eliza M. Ross,(58) Granville, Penna

Mary A. Burns. Burlington ,Pa

PS – Give my love to all and tell them to write



(48) A railcar load on the Elmira to Williamsport Railroad, completed in 1852. The Granville Summit Station opened in 1856.

(49) C.D. Ross of Granville.

(50) Granville Corners.

(51) Granville Center, sometimes spelled Centre.

(52) A friend and possibly a close neighbor.

(53) Mary’s seventeen year old brother.

(54) The fourth of July was an important occasion in the 19th century and for 14 year old Mary, would take on even greater meaning just three years hence.

(55) Mary’s nineteen year old brother.

(56) Sara Ellen Campbell, an eighteen year old cousin.

(57) It is not known precisely to whom she is referring, perhaps it is S. J. Kendall a fifteen year old female cousin.

(58) Age seventeen, d/o Darius B. and Rosina SHEPARD Ross.


Saturday, January(59) Dec 6th 1860

Dear Cousin Mary

I have just finished a letter to Julia(60) and so I thought I would write to you. I told you I would wait two weeks before I wrote but(I thought I wouldent).

I am getting lonesome and I want to hear from somebody. Annie Morley(61) promised to write to me but she has not written yet. You must fulfil your promises. I wrote a composition today, you may call it yours, and if you come down next Friday you may hear it read. I think I wont send it to you though.

They had a festival here last Tuesday night for the benefit of the Institute.(62) It was attended by quite a large company. I suppose you have heard of the fire here at the Institute, the second night I staid here, quite a time.

I havent been out today, I have staid in the house and wrote most of the time. Mrs. Kellog(63) granted the young ladies permission to go down town today if they chose, but I don’t like to go with the teacher.

Night before last, the lady boarders started from the fourth floor and ran down stairs as fast as they could go. I looked back expecting to see the teachers after us. They were getting ready to go to a sociable and would not let any schollars go that had an invitation.

Please answer this as soon as you receive it and when I hear from Julia again I will send you the news. excuse mistakes. Give my love to all the friends

S E Campbell

Mary A. Burns


(59) Her confusion over the month and date is not understood. It is all clearly legible, but neither date fell on a Saturday.

(60) Campbell, another cousin

(61) Eighteen year old friend and neighbor, d/o Jacob and Harriet KNAPP Morely of Luther’s Mills, Burlington Township.

(62) The Susquehanna Collegiate Institute in Towanda, PA

(63) A teacher/"housemother" at the Institute.


Friday May 11th 1860


I thought I would venture to write again with hopes of receiving an answer. It is Friday and I am happy to think that I hav,nt any more lessons to recite this week, but it looks so scary out that it makes me feel somewhat lonesome too. Once in a while and when I get a letter such unpleasant feelings pass away. I havent received any in over a week but I expect one from Annie Morley Monday. If she was here I shouldent be lonesome at all. We have exercises in the oratory this afternoon I think they are pleasant. The school is very interesting this term. There are only a few boarders but they are all very agreeable. I believe there is twenty-four teachers and all. Last evening we went down in the parlor and had the best kind of a time and also had ice cream cake & crackers for refreshments. I presume the teachers will not consent to having any more public sociables. At the last one about half the Gentlemen were tight or top heavy, I couldn’t tell which but appeared ridiculous at any rate. We meet in the parlor every Saturday then we can talk to the gentlemen without leave or license from the omnipresent faculty. I received letters from Ophelia and Jane Campble(64) not long ago. I left them at home or I would give you the particulars but their children were well and their people all at home I think and Ophelia is Ophelia yet. Mr Morgan was here a few days ago and gave a lecture, the subject, penmanship of course. I presume he will get a class in the Destitute(65) Professor Dean(66) seemed to like his style of writing. How does your William Penn(65) prosper, does he walk in the straight and narrow lane? (and never reel) You mus,nt get offended Mary, he is a pretty nice fellow I think. I just thought I would remind you of him. I did,nt know but that you had forgotten him. I presume it isn,t necessary though. I was home a week ago last Saturday, I saw Your Mother and Philander at church. I do not know when I shall go again. Pa told me when I come to write school classes the 3d of July. Where do you think [you are] going the 4th(68) I expect to go home, Pa(69) is coming after me then, I presume likely. I would like to have him come about three days sooner so I would,nt have to stay here [for] examination. I’m afraid Mrs Kellog(70) will make me read an essay. I care more for that than anything else. I have more studys than I had last term so I have to keep pretty busy. When I go home it puts me back some and I don’t like to get behind time, it does not dignify examination.

Please write soon about matters and things in general and yourself in particular Address me at the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute, Towanda, Sarah Campbell and I guess if it don’t go the wrong way it will arrive here safe. Yours Affectionately, Sarah

MB Do think of having a school in your district this summer. Dear me I have got to write a composition today and I had to write last week too. The young ladies and myself went over the river with Professor Dean this morning in search of shells, we had a very pleasant time. If you can make this letter out, you will do well, especially if there were a few more mistakes.

Good bye, SEC


(64) Cousins, however Ophelia Campbell 16 is unmarried & has no children and it is uncertain who Jane "Campble" is. Ophelia’s older sister Julia was also unmarried in 1860.

(65) A play on words, a pet name for the Susquehanna Collegiate "Institute" she attends

(66) One of the Dean brothers, W.H. and O.H. who were co-principals 1858-1861

(67) William Penn Lane 18 y/o s/o Zephania and Polly CLARK Lane and possibly more than just a friend of Mary’s

(68) The perennial question re the date which in two years will become the most important date in her life.

(69) Josephus Campbell of Burlington.

(70) Aparently Mrs Kellog is a teacher who commands even more authority than a mere housemother.


Transcribers Note: This is a small, quarter sheet of paper folded into a rectangular envelope, which is 1 5/8" by 2 1/4". On the outside is written "Miss Mary Burns Burlington".

Valley Mills(71) Sept 18 / 60

Miss Amelia Melville(72) presents her

compliments to Miss Burns, and

wishes you to attend a Honey party.

At Gorsline Holow,(73) Friday evening,

And present the same to Miss Kendall,(74)

Philander (&) James Burns,(75) Henry

Kendall(76) they do not want you to tell others

for it is a pie company--come to our house

in the afternoon Amelia M.


(71)Locally known place name in NE Cor. Burlington Twp, Bradford County, Pa.

(72) Friend, age 18, d/o Franklin W. and Artemisia (?) Melville.

(73) Another local appellation, not generally known today.

(74) Sarah .J. Kendall, Age 16, d/o Elam and Deborah KNAPP Kendall.

(75) Mary’s older brothers.

(76) Older brother of Sara J. Kendall.


November 18th 1860


Sister Mary, it is Sunday Morning so I thought that I would write you a few lines and let you now whare I am. I am fifty miles out of the world. I am 60 miles from Lockhaven(78) I wrode 16 miles in the Cars(79) up to Rattlesnake(80) then I footed the wrest of the way a cross the mountain. I and two other men, we wer all straingers to this Cuntry.

I am to work for Mc Donals. I got here thursday noon and commenced work Friday morning. the first night that I staid here I went to bed in a bed that had nothing but a straw tick on it and now [no] sheet over that, but I will tell you what it did have in it, it did have just about a half a bushel of sand in it. I got in and poked the sand to one side and I got in on the other. the next night I had a bed that had a sheet on it and not quite so much sand. this camp whare I am to work has got 80 men in it. I would like to give you a description of this Cuntry but I don’t know how to go to work. I will tell you one thing it is all mountains whare we are to work. It is as steep as that hill is there abuv Ayers Mill(81) I have nothing more to write at presant. I cant write here fore there is so many a round. You can tell all the folks that I am well and alive.

write all the nuse that you now [know] and a good deal more

Direct your leters to P(82) P Burns, Cameron Po Offis, Cameron County Pa

From your Brother


(77) A Township in Cameron County, Pa

(78) A City in Clinton County, Pa

(79) Railroad cars

(80) Possibly Rattlesnake Run, east of Lumber, which empties into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

(81) In Burlington Township near his home,

(82) Philander P. Burns, Mary’s older brother age 20.


Lumber Feb 8th /1861

Sister Mary

It is Sunday morning and I seat myself for the purpose of writing you a few lines to let you now that I am yet alive and enjoying good health and hope these few lines will find you the same. I suppose you think by this time that I have forgoten to answer your letter, but I have not. I thought that I would write one letter more before I left these woods. I don’t think that I shall stay here more than a munth longer in this place any how. Wee are looking for a fresh by the first of March, then I suppose I will leave this place if I don’t get killed before. I am to work on a steep side hill and it is verry dangerous. There was a man killed a few days ago. He was a drawing timber and the timbe stick slid around and struck his hand spike and knocked it against his head and broke his skull. But I have not got hurt yet so I am verry lucky so fare. We have verry good times here. I had quite a dance last night. I and the cuck (cook) wee danced a gig all alone. Wee would dance a while then cross over, then dance a while then cross over. Mrs Patterson said "make him sweet Lib." Wee danced half an hower steady. wee tiard the fidler out! I have been very healthy evry since I have been here. I waide 151 and a half when I left there, now I way 165 pounds. Now If I keepe on I shant cum out spring pour anyhow. I cant think of any more to writ at present but a little is better than nothing I suppose.

But before I close I must asked you to write as soon as you get this.

From your Brother P. P. Burns

To Mary A. Burns Yours Truly


LeRaysville Sept the 29th [1861]

Dear Mary

Again I take my pen in to write a few hurried lines to you after the same old style for, of course, you don’t expect anything new. I received your letter sum thre weeks ago but havent had an oportunity to answer it until now, for I hav had my hands full sinse that time my brother’s wife(83) died to weaks ago last Tuesday. She had been failing slowly for sum time. Her lungs commenced filling up Monday night and she did not cough from that time until she died at thre oclock the next morning. You can not immagine how I mis hur. I hav had the care of hur so long I can not forget hur.

In my last letter to you I sayed I did not intend to stay here if Viola did not liv, but I can not think of leaving James(84) alone now, for I no not what he would do if I should. He is coming out thare(85) with me before long and we shal stay and make a good visit. He says he wants to see some of my friends that he has heard me talk about so much and see what they ar made of. He thinks by my tell that you ar all angels though I am afraid he is mistaken.

I want you all to calculate on making a big party for I want to danse onse more if I liv until that time. I have not ben to a party of any kind sinse I was out thare in the spring, nothing but meetings and lectures.(87) If they here of a lecture around here they all go if it is ten miles. Thare is to or thre loads goes some whare about thre times a weak but they do not seam like our folk in Burlington.

Thare is to be a big annimal show at the vill(86) next Tuesday. I shal go if nothing happens. We are going to Wyalusing the last of this weak to visit Violas friends. We shal be gon about a weak. We think of comimg out thare the last of next month, remember the party. Tell Philander, Jimmy, Ekie(88) and pen(89) that they must have a party somewhare. Giv my respects to them if they hav not forgoton me.

Why in the world don’t Sarah Elon(90) write to me, the ugly girl, if she don’t I shal cum and shew hur how one of these daze.

I should like to no what that scamp of a Gerome(91) has gone west for I warent thare must some of my friends be abscent every time I cum.

Transcriber’s Note: Here, Eliza put down her pen, turned the letter over and went to talk to a friend who had called upon her just at that moment. Her Brother James took up the pen and proceeded to write on the back of the letter, upside down as he didn’t want to be nosey and look at what she had written. He didn’t know to whom he was writing at the time, nor did he have an inkling that it was the woman he would marry after an 8-month courtship. A courtship conducted in secret for it was scandalous for a man whose wife had only recently died to even be thinking of another woman, let alone a girl twelve years his junior. He wrote:

Dear Somebody, Eliza(92) has got a spark which occupies her attention so close that by her command it devolves upon me to close this letter, not dareing to look upon the other side that I may know how to proceed. and so I must go upon my own hook and the first thing I discover is that I have commenced this page wrong side up Well no wonder, Eliza and her old Bachelor(93) are singing [on] the other side of the table and saying soft things enough to melt the heart of a millstone. If I should ascertain when too late that this was addressed to some nice young man I should never be able sufficiently to apologise for this breech of trust and get my hair dreadfully pulled to boot- Well she says I must give you some good advice. The best that I could give would be- Look well to the cultivation of your mind, prepare yourself for usefulness and to do good to all around you and as you do good to others you will be serving blessings upon your own head. Oh! They act so they drive all that is good out of my brain and I must close before my credit sinks any lower in the estimation of an unknown friend. In haste, goodnight.

From Eliza’s Brother J. J. G.

If James hasent ben writeing in my letter just to plague me because I left my writeing to talk with a friend. But I shall let it go so you need not believe one word he says for I don’t have anything to say to the old bachelor(94)

Well, it’s twelve oclock and the candle gives such a poor light that I can not see the lines and I must quit.

Now Mary write to me, don’t wait for me to write the second letter again.

From your ever true Friend Eliza,

To Mary.


(83) Viola Goodwin of Wyalusing. They had been married 12 days short of four years and had a little boy, Johnnie, now age 2.

(84) Her half brother James J. Gorham b.29 Dec 1831, d.8 Sept 1894, a LeRaysville tinsmith, son of John B. Gorham, and his first wife Dolly Beeman.

(85) Burlington.

(86) James was a very religious and scholarly man and believed that improving ones mind was of the utmost importance.

(87) Slang for LeRaysville?

(88) A nickname for Alexander Lane 2nd.

(89) William Penn Lane, a neighbor.

(90) Sarah Ellen, there were three girls by that name in their Burlington neighborhood, Travis, Campbell and Hall. Eliza new them all very well.

(91) Jerome Kendall, best friend of Mary’s brother Jimmy Burns.

(92) Eliza was James’ younger half sister from their father’s (John B. Gorham) second marriage to Emily C. Lane, daughter of Alexander Lane Sr., one of Burlington’s first settlers.

(93) Myron Beech.s/o Ebeneezer and Sarah KELLY Beech of Burlington Township.

(94) She sounds so disdainful, but she cleverly contrived this introduction of J.J. to Mary hoping that it would ultimately free her to marry Mr. Beech.