Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
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Mary Angeline BURNS Gorham 1844 -1916
Copyright © David V. Kester, 2001
Mary BURNS Gorham Photo at right
Letters sent to Mary BURNS Gorham
Township: Burlington Township, Bradford County PA
Transcribed  by David Kester
Year: 1857-1869
Photo Source : David Kester

Part II. Love and Marriage 1861-‘62 (A)

Trancribers Note: This section of Letters to Mary Angeline BURNS Gorham is dedicated to the memory of James and Mary’s granddaughter Leola Mabel VANORMAN Kester, born 3 Oct 1908, at LeRaysville, PA, died 6 Dec 2000, at Elmira, NY. Leola began the initial transcription of these letters in 1985 and wrote a short story of their courtship. She contributed valuable first hand information for the footnotes of this section and also provided a great deal of insight into the minds of James J. and Mary Angeline Burns Gorham in whose home she was born.


LeRaysville Nov. 29th /61

Miss Burns,(1)

You may think strange of my sending this to you. I judge you to be one anxious to properly cultivate your mind. And I send this book with a request that you will, in connection with your studies this winter, peruse it carefully and understandingly thinking that you will find your mind materially elevated by so doing.(2) I have been benefited by this work.(3) Eliza(4) gave it a careful reading. I know, with her, it engendered a course of moral thinking which elevated a standard of original ideas, which at least done me good to observe and you appear so much alike I think it will benefit you. Mary, I want you to receive this just as I mean it, as an assistance in the cultivation of your mind, which I would render to anyone willing to receive it. Eliza and me are in pardnership in almost everything. I shall let her scribble the remainder of this sheet if she chooses and send the book. Your Friend, J.J.G

Sister Mary,

James requests me to scribble the remainder of this sheet if I chose, but as it is after eleven oclock I think I will postpone writing until sum other time when I am not so sleepy and then I will tell you all the knews, providing thare be any to tell. Eliza


() J.J. addresses her formally.

(2) Is this any way to woo a girl?

(3) Whose title and author are lost in antiquity.

(4) J.J.’s sister who has been helping him raise his 2 year old son Johnnie since his wife died 59 days before the date of this letter.


Leraysville December 8th [1861]

Friend Mary

I now take my pen in hand to fufil my promise of writeing to you. In the first place I will say that we arrived home in safety with the exception of being well plastered with mud and tired and sleepy, for I did not sleep to hours out of 24 while I was there. But, a happyer weak I never spent than that.(5) To look back upon it, it doesn’t seem more than a day, but the time has seemed long enough sins I came home. The days seam like monotinis weaks.(6)

Mary have you seen our friend Hill(7) yet and how do you like him? I hope he is having a fine time in his school. He is coming out here to attend the musical convention held at Leraysville between Christmus and Newyears. He told me he would fetch you out with him if you would cum. He intends to stay a weak when he cums. You must shuerly cum if he asks you to and if you do not want to stay so long, just get on the right side of him and he will do just as you say. He is a clever soll (soul). He will run his legs of for the girls if they will youse him half way decent. Well, I am giving friend Hill quiet (quite) a compliment, am I not. But as far as his morral caricter is concerned, he is just as good as you will find. I can say that for him.

Little Johny was verry much interested in his visit out their. He talks about Mary Burn and of the man with the big face, meaning Philander. James felt verry bad about not going to that party. He mourns about it yet. He seams to like my Burlington friends verry much. He thinks they are not so bad after all; [even] if the place has rather a hard name.

I never had such a time to think of anything to writ in all my life as I have today and my old buch is not here to take my attention either. I guess he has forgotten me entierly. I have not seen him in three weaks, strange to tell of.

I guess that will do. Now Mary, I shal look for you when Hill cums, don’t disapoint me. Write soon and tell me if you ar cuming, if you know. Tell Sarah E.(8) That I am going to write to hur in a few days.

good night

From your ever true Friend Eliza


(5) Eliza has been to visit Mary in Burlington and has taken little Johny (J.J.’s son) with her, while J.J. has remained in LeRaysville.

(6) J.J. is intentionally misspelling words with greater frequency and more imagination than usual in an attempt to disguise his identity should his letters fall into the wrong hands. His penmanship has taken on a decided lean and the height of his tall letters is greatly exaggerated. In the last letter before their marriage he declared "I shall not try to

counterfeit my handwriting anymore" All of these affectations are noticeably absent from the two letters written after their marriage.

(7) A music teacher who later boards with J.J. and, to whom he refers as "Professor Hill".

(8) Sarah Ellen Travis, d/o Myron and Phoebe BAILEY Travis, a Burlington neighbor and a very close friend.


To Miss Mary Burns

If we might be friends together,

Oh then I never shall forget

The night at Mr.Lane’s(9)

Where, as strangers, first we met.

The memory of that meeting

Its blessings to ascend

Where should wake the transient smile or tear

If you and I are friends.

And if we should be friends together,

We need no castles build in air.

May your heart be light as a feather

And not weighed down with care.

Oh may you have happiness in womanhood’s prime

To you, I pray God’s Joy descend,

Fore shadowed in the primrose time

For you my dearest friend.

If we should be good friends together

And the friends we loved of yore

Should with leaves of autumn wither

And are gone, forever more.

How blest to age the impulse given,

The hope time ever lends

Which shall take our souls from earth to Heaven

Then Mary, we certainly shall be friends.

Cummings R.(10)


(9)This meeting occurred at the home of Rev Alex Lane Jr., in Burlington, on December 17, 1862.

(10)James Gorham being ever conscious of the potential for scandal with his wife so recently deceased, adopted the nom de plume, Wm. Cummings Riley of Clinton County when writing poetry and such to Mary Burns.


LeRaysville Dec 31st /61

Well Mary(11)

I write to you this evening for too reasons; 1st it is a pleasant employment, 2nd I am lonesome and at such a time, my mind instinctively turns upon you. I am lonely and alone, keeping house alone for the first time since my marriage Sept 22nd/57. Eliza has been rather too bad. Our teacher,(12) Eliza , and myself were anticipating a visit to my wife’s friends at Merryall and Browntown(13) the last of next week and my Bro in law was going today and they have gone with him, Jonny and all, leaving myself, the dog and cat to keep house. They thought I could go now, but my business was not in proper shape to leave and my motto is business first-then pleasure. They will be gone 3 days. I shall be tired of getting my own dinner by that time. I don’t know how Eliza’s Joseph(14) got along keeping bachelor hall 3 years in succession, but he has now come to his senses. He says now he never will live where there are no women. Mr, Right(15) staid with us last night. I got considerably acquainted with him-like his appearance. Well, he gave me some good advice, its nature I cannot state here, but will tell you when I see you. He is probably with his wife and baby. I know what such happiness is, yes! I had a wife and a little one(16) once. How my heart would leap when I had been absent and was returning to their embrace. And when seated with them around my humble fireside, I was just as near Heaven as I have any desire to be in this world. How transient, how fleeting are all the hopes and aspirations of time. Those loved forms that I have so fondly carresed now lie mouldering side by side in the village church yard. Their spirits have gone to the God who gave them. And Mary I have been so thoughtless to myself, my friends and the little promise still left me as to wish myself at rest by their side. But I am now getting to be a man again. I never expected death would enter my little family circle When I thought of the grim monster it always seemed afar off. I don’t know but you think I am always looking at the dark shade of the picture. Well, I feel perfectly free to hand out my thoughts to you, just as they come along. And that future which came looming up before me 3 months ago, clothed in midnight blackness is fast giving way to many bright spots that illumine my future horizon. I have not a bit of news to write and had better close.

From your Bro J.J.G.

To sister Mary(17)

When evening comes I think of thee

Though far away thou art

And deeply shall thy friendship be

Enshrined within my heart. Goodnight.


(11) A new greeting, not too familiar, not too formal, just…comfortable.

(12) Professor Hill.

(13) In Wyalusing Township.

(14) Eliza’s former beau.

(15) Another of Eliza’s former beaux.

(16) Their first child, George Arthur, died 17 March, 1859 at the age of 2 years and 4 days.

(17) It is unknown why he used these familial titles unless he meant brothers and sisters in Christ, or perhaps it was another foil to disguise his identity.


LeRaysville Jan. 1st 1862

Sister Mary, I wish you a happy new year. And propose conversing a short time with you from the point of my pen. I fear I shall write rather of a sad letter. I have been inspired with sad thoughts today. Another eventful year of my earthly pilgrimage is passed, never to be recalled. How much better satisfied the majority of young persons would feel, with the past 20 years hence, if instead of hailing the annual return of this day as one of universal mirth and frivolous amusement, they would carefully review the history of the past and compare it with the anticipated and form their resolutions for the future. How different are my circumstances from what they were one year ago. One year ago today I was struggling with the sure convictions that the pulsations of that heart which beat in unison with mine would soon be silent in death—One short year has realized that conviction true. But our loss must have been her gain, so gentle, so loveing, ready and willing to meet the summons. If I live like her, I expect one day to hail her happy spirit where death dare not enter. If good resolutions are of any consequence, newyears day one year hence will find me a better man than I am today. Mary, you will allow me this time to follow the drift of my imagination. What a world of change we inherit as my mind wanders back over the past to my schoolboy days-what continual change. Where are the associates of youth? Some few are still permitted to bless our neighborhood with their presence. Some are engaged in teaching, endeavoring to impart to others that knowledge which their teachers have labored so faithfully to endow them with. Others have gone out to bustle(18) with the cold formalities of the world in distant climes and there is yet a sad few which my imagination pictures as they as they once appeared, the picture of health and happiness, the gayest of the gay that are gone. Their merry laugh is heard no more. The narrow precincts of the tomb enclose their last remains of earth. Their spirits have winged their way to the God that gave them. In view of the uncertainty of life [and] the certainty of death, is it not necessary that all should seek a preparation for that great change? The majority of mankind, it would seem from their action, hardly thought of the great source, the fountainhead from which all those showers of divine blessings flow that they continually enjoy and deign to look up but little more than the hog that never looks to see who knocks down the acorns. Pausing here to see what I have written, I think I shall have to write the caption or you will not know what it is. This is a letter(19)


(18) To move or act with a great show of energy.

(19) No matter how philosophically he waxes, J.J. never loses his sense of humor.


Towanda(20) Thursday Eve, Jan 8th, 1862

Dear Cousin Mary,

I told Aunt Titia(21) I would write to you. I have often thought of it and of you to. I wanted to come to your house the last time I was home but could not. I had to be so busy I did not go even as much as I wished to with Uncle John.(22) I suppose Philander and Jimmie(23) are home now. Tell them to write. I have just finished a letter to Uncle John, He is in Cohocton(24) now, and expects soon to see his home in Belvidere.(25) Tomorrow afternoon, I am one of the editoress’s, have not seen a composition yet, and we have them all to copy. I dread the job it’s awful muddy, and I am rightly glad. Maybe the visiters will think it wont pay to come in tomorrow. If they do, they surely will have their trouble for their pains

There are thirteen gentlemen boarding in this building besides the teachers, no young ladies yet, excepting teachers, one expected next week. I have been waiting with all the patience of Job for her arrival. She has been coming all the term, my hopes begin to falter, am afraid she never will come. Had I known Mrs Adams(26) was going to leave I think I should have left Sara Campbell at home. I am almost as bad off as was Robinson Cruesoe, all the difference is he had something better to eat. Well if I do not talk something I ought not to, I should not say much, that’s evident. I do not ask for any better living than I have here if I always get along as well, I think I shall be contented, consequently happy, only I was thinking he was situated very nicely in a region where lemons, oranges, grapes, venison &c abounded in abundance. Then he was alone and far from friends. That seemed to spoil all his fun, & well it might. But these story telling books I do not have much sympathy for.

I hear from Wm Campbell(27) occasionally, he appears to be the same jolly fellow. Such folks I like to see, that is, if they are so all the time. He tried to make me believe he dare drink Prussic acid(28) the most deadly poison, and it would not injure him. I told him I believed it. I could relate an incident I once heard of to prove it. That is, a man by the name of John was working for a farmer, being thirsty, he went in the house for a drink, found a tumbler filled, setting on the table, took it up and drank its contents, supposing it was old rye, [and] soon after returned home. Next morning, on making his appearance, the farmer, much surprised at seeing him said, Why John I thought you were dead. John wished to know why. He (the farmer) asked him if he drank what was in the tumbler. John told him, he did. The farmer asked him if he did not know it was aquafortis.(29) Well, John said [he] thought [it] rather queer every time he blowed his nose it burned a hole in his pocket handkerchief.

Now Mary, please write soon and much oblige your cousin. Sara.(30)


(20) Site of the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute where writer Sarah Ellen Campbell is enrolled.

(21) Letitia Campbell Burns, Mary’s mother.

(22) John Miller, brother of Sara Ellen’s mother, Asenath (Miller) Campbell

(23) Mary’s older brothers.

(24) City in New York’s Finger Lakes region (northern Steuben Co.) approximately 75 miles to the north.

(25) City in Illinois, 65 miles northwest of Chicago.

(26) Teacher

(27) Sarah’s cousin, age 27, s/o Alanson and Susan GREGG Campbell of Luther’s Mills, Burlington Twp.

(28) Hydrocyanic acid; so called because it was first obtained by heating Prussian blue with sulfuric acid.

(29) Nitric acid; literally strong water

(30) Sarah Ellen Campbell of Burlington.


Jan 18th 1862

The letter I [last] undertook to write reminds me of the boy’s picture. He was fearful it would not be readily guessed what species of the animal creation his production was intended to represent and wrote over it, "this here picture is a hoss". I will now write a short letter to accompany my previous spasmodic effort.(31) I hope you returned safe from your Christmas tower.(32) Was it not a merry Christmas indeed, one long to remember. I think those days were as happy days as I ever spent. How is the Elder(33) and how does he get on with the sparking lessons received, does he reduce them to practice? How have you spent your newyears? We have had a variety of business. My boy, Eliza(34) helped me harness my colt the first time it was ever handled and we had rather of a musical sleighride—did not get run away with but come nearer to it than I ever wish to. Every day we succeeded in tameing the animal considerable. Our sleighing leaveing us so suddenly has interfered verry much with our arrangements. My brotherinlaw(35) and family and James(36) and his little family were going to spend a couple of days with our Father & Mother Goodwin.(37) I have no news to write of importance.

At this point I wish I could converse a few moments with you. This talking with pen and ink is but a poor substitute for verbal conversation.(38) You must have been somewhat surprised at the manner in which I addressed you. You no doubt thought I was in a measure governed by the impulse of the moment. I will do myself the justice to say I don’t think you was listening to the impulse of a fickle mind. You have no doubt reflected somewhat upon the matter. I don’t expect you to be as plain as I have been. The morning you left here you said you had nothing to offer. If you deign to answer this you will not leave me so far in the shade whither there is any affinity, any correspondence of feeling or impassable barriers.(39) J. J. G49h17(40)


(31) His letter of Jan. 1, 1862 ended with the caption "this is a letter".

(32) Tour, during which she came to visit him in LeRaysville for the first time.

(33) Probably her older, and as yet unmarried brother, Philander Burns

(34) His seventeen year old sister.

(35) George Goodwin

(36) Himself. His sister Eliza and his son Johnie

(37) His deceased wife Viola’s parents

(38)Not only due to its inherent slowness, but also for its lack of security, after all, their fledging courtship is still, of necessity, very secretive.

(39) Apparently he came on a little too strong, was mildly rebuffed and now wonders if he has damaged their fragile relationship.

(40) Up until this point he has never signed a letter to Mary with his full name, just initials or a pen name. This is a partially encoded version of his surname Gorham, in which the o and a are represented as the fourth and first vowels in the alphabet The consonants r and m are obviously indicated by the numbers nine and seven, but the complete code has not, as yet, been deciphered.


Feb 2nd [1862]

Sister Mary I am so lonesome I don’t know what to do with myself. I have written all the letters I care to write, read all the news I can find--have had too days to do it in as it stormed all day yesterday and I don’t go to meeting(41) today. I don’t like to enjoy such privileges alone. Since I have been a man of a family I don’t like to go anywhere alone. An idea has just popped into my brain which I proceed immediately to execute and shall thereby kill a few hours time if nothing more. In my younger days I used to like to write composition but have been out of practice a long time. I heard you say, I think (if not, someone from Bur.) that you had composition in your school and was going to get up a paper at its close. Now I propose writing a composition and provided I get up one, I would not be ashamed to hear read. [I will] open your letter, which I have not mailed yet and send it. You can have it inserted anonymous and thus give me a representation in your literary budget if you choose. You will say this is a strange idea—well you wont doubt its originality, and if you become better acquainted with me you will find my mind verdant with strange ideas – Now for a subject. After tumbling over in my brain all the big words and phrases I can think of for 15m I select this. Estimation of Character(42)

Eight O,clock my composition is written, corrected and copyed and the other branches of my family have not returned yet—Guess they will not come to night. You will probably think this composition business verry strange, well I cant help it-it has helped me to spend a verry pleasant afternoon. There are times when ones thoughts are all the company they need. I shall send it and you can do what you please with it. Shall I hear from you again soon?


(41) Church

(42) While this particular composition has not survived, it can be surmised from those which have that it is among his favorite subjects.


February 14h /62

To Mary

If aught(43) to me is pleasant

Among the list of names

That ever I hear mentioned

It is the name of Mary

Perhaps you’ll ask the reason

I’ll give it good and true

Because it is the one with which

Your Mother christened you

Except in friendly manner

This well ment valentine

And my true love shall give thee

A better half for thine

Oh! May the frost of sorrow

Never blight that noble brow

And may each coming morrow

Find thee as blessed now

May you be blessed with health and peace

And may your wealth and friends increase

May Heaven its choicest blessings send

These are the wishes of St Valentine


(43) anything


Leraysville Mar. 30th /62

Friend Mary

Agreeable to my appointment 15m before 2 O,clock finds me seated in my room for the purpose of conversing with you for a while through this rather poor medium. I have just returned from church where I listened to an excellent sermon from one of the best men living. He preaches to us but once more and his loss will be deeply felt by all. I wish our discipline(44) was different. He would not leave us verry soon. I wish you could attend meeting with us next sabbath, we have far better advantages in this respect than you have at Burlington. I fear my appointment has found me in rather poor mood for writing—all the big thoughts have flown from my mind. But punctuality is my motto. I am also writing to one to whom I feel perfectly free to hand out my thoughts just as they occur without apologies. We arrived safe at home—found the Professor’s(45) trial at keeping bachelors hall had proved an entire success—succeeded in emptying the cupboard of all eatables and supplying their place with dirty dishes. Other things to correspond. Johnie was almost well and is today, for the first time glorying in trousers. He is strutting across the floor with both hands in the pockets-in estimation large as any too legged dandy. He had a great time with Lucy.(46) She was homesick as any person you ever saw. If you had seen her eyes you would not have doubted it. I sent my team to take her home the next Saturday. We received a letter the next day after we got home from Mariah(47) -her little Bernice has gone to the spirit land. She died the Sunday morning we were at your house. While we were enjoying ourselves so well our beloved Sister was in the midst of the deepest trouble she ever knew or ever will know. You may think that expression strange but my experience can not be questioned since I have had one little Angel(48) above, death has been robbed of half its terrors. Since that it has seemed that upon hearing a second call we would not feel that we were going alone, but that we had a representative in advance—that though our Earthly flower had withered, yet faith could point toward Heaven and say he will be transplanted—bud and blossom again, in the garden of Heaven. Well we are now equally divided, Viola and Georgie, James and Johnie. Last Wednesday we attended a quilting at the parsonage (when I say we understand it means Johnie, Eliza and James) we did have a good time. I enjoyed myself better that afternoon and evening than I have before in any gathering of young company since my family was broken up by death. And a pleasanter, more intellectual company of young people I never saw together than there is at present in Leraysville, particularly the ladies. Our circle was saddened by the news of the death of one of our most promising young men at Port Royal(49) He was born and lived in Leraysville until he enlisted to serve his country but I trust he inhabits a better land than this. He was one of the No. that early gave their hearts to God. There was one thing we intended to mention to you that was forgotten by both and that was whether you did not intend to teach this season and if so whether you would not like to come to this town. If you had a certificate and were here I could establish you in our school immediately for four months at $8 per month.


(44) Denomination. He was a Congregationalist.

(45) Hill, a border.

(46) Lucy Gorham, d/o John B. Gorham and Emily C. LANE Gorham, J.J.’s half sister, age 22.

(47) Maria (Gorham) Lyman, his third half sister, age 21, of Lynn, Springville Township, Susquehanna County

(48) He and his first wife Viola lost their son George Arthur in 1859 at the age of 2.

(49) Port Royal, South Carolina was captured by the Federal Navy late in 1861 and served as a base of operations for the blockading fleet.


[No date, approximately April 1862]

It is pleasant to think (Circumstances not interfereing) that there is one at this hour thinking of and writing to me. If so, I hope you are not having as serious a time as I am. Eliza has, for the past half-hour, been trying to torment me according to the best of her ability, but she will get her pay if she writes to Mr. Beech.(50) Mary how happy should I be could I spend this evening with you. My home is to me a verry pleasant one yet how lonely, Oh! What a vacancy I realize there. I never supposed (until Dec 17th last) that vacancy could be filled, but I begin to think it is not impossible. But my measure of happiness may yet be full. Happiness, a name that is how seldom realized by mortal[s] to the extent of all its anticipated beauty. It is not wealth it is not fame that can secure happiness. I ask not this world’s wealth—I ask not the fame of a Napoleon arrived at by wadeing through seas of blood, I ask not worldly honor. There are three things that could fill my measure of happiness to overflowing. Let me be blessed with the approving smiles of a Savior, your society and health—this would be the height of my ambition and would not that be enough. Possessed of the 1st—The Pearl of great price(51) and though I be poor as Lazarus yet am I richer than Croesus and more powerful than a Caesar. The 2nd I should be strong in purpose, energetic in business, the word home would again have charms of which it is now almost bereft. And, bereft of the 3rd, though a person be cradled in the lap of luxury yet are all his capacities for enjoyment destroyed. Mary, you have endeared yourself to me. While life shall last, time nor distance can never change the feelings I cherish for you and a prayer must ever ascend for your welfare. Although our friendship has been of but short duration, yet if the decree should go forth no more, I should consider I was losing the dearest Earthly object. You may think this the passionate impulse of the boy of 16, but it is not. It is the conclusion of the sober thinking mind of 30, a conclusion arrived at by bringing all the powers of mind to bear that I am in possession of. When you answer this I want you to tell me what you think of Mr. Beech. I heard him spoken rather lightly of by several at Burlington. I pay but verry little regard to such things generally, but this is a tender point—my sister is worthy of an honorable man. I never want to see her married to a man that I do not consider the soul of honor and principle. I am a little puzzled to know what to think of her mind at present but I know she thinks she is acting perfectly honest but she has been deceived in herself once and may be again. The next morning after we saw you we went to Uncle Wm Easterbrook’s(52) and found them all sick with the measles. Avery(53) asked me if I was sparking Mary Burns. He said he had been asked the question and wanted to know how to answer it. I said tell them to keep their mouth shut and eyes open and they may find out. Today I found at Church that it was quite extensively circulated that I was married but no one knew who to or where but supposed our Schoolmarm. I begin to think, let a man lose his wife and if he even goes to meeting half an hour behind a lady and don’t get over the fence and go acrost somebody will talk. Or if a lady chance to look at him except through a spyglass of the longest range it will trouble somebody. Oh! I do think the greatest thing a person ever yet learned was to mind their own business. If your patience is not wearied by this time it is strange, but if it was verbal I should feel little like pausing here. I want you to answer this query as you feel disposed and I hope by this time you are well enough acquainted with me so that you can feel perfectly free and frank to express your thoughts whither in favor or opposed to my wishes. J172s J. G49h17(54)


(50) Myron Beach, age 27, s/o Ebenezer and Sarah (Kelley) Beach of Burlington Township.

(51) See Matthew 13:45-46.

(52) Husband of Julia Ann Gorham who was a sister to J.J.’s father John B. Gorham. The Eastabrooks lived in North Towanda Township.

(53) Eastabrook, J.J.’s cousin who was later killed in the Civil War.

(54) Another encryption of his name (see letter 22, footnote 40).


LeRaysville May 2nd /62

Friend Mary.

Your letter of Apr 24th was recd. The 29th and now don’t you feel better satisfied with yourself for being punctual even if it was some trouble to you. I presume you are now congratulating yourself upon your escape from another scolding. If so you labor under a mistake. You have received the last scolding you will ever receive from me. I had such poor success upon my prior attempt I shall never dare under take again. You would laugh if you knew the circumstances under which I am writing. I thought I was tired tonight and went to bed early but soon got over being sleepy and considering a waste of time not in accordance with strict economy here I am, while all the rest are locked in the arms of Morpheus,(55) writing to you. We got home from your place dry, safe and sound before bedtime. We made better time than we did going out although I don’t think we felt in as much of a hurry. One week ago tonight I spent I spent a verry pleasant evening with my sisters Lucy and Mariah at Lynn. I went there to assist in moveing our new Preacher onto the charge.(56) Although my Sisters are but half sisters (we were not brought up together) yet what a blessing I consider such privileges when we have an opportunity of being together. Last Sabbath we attended the funeral service of Augustus Blackman(57) —the young man whose death I mentioned to you in my last letter. This Town is now called to mourn its first Martyr in the cause of Liberty. We listened upon that occasion to a verry effecting discourse, from the Congregational Minister in Leraysville, from these words of our Savior to Martha(58) "Thy Brother shall rise again."(59) I wish you could have heard the picture he drew in the imagination upon that occasion. If I think of it when I see you I will describe it. Burlington has been called to mourn upon several similar occasions—and when we pause and ask why is this—what has done this, the answer comes back to us with power and rings in our ears—‘tis Slavery—it is Slavery that is making hundreds and thousands of Widows and Orphans—it is Slavery that is sapping the foundation of our National greatness—the canker that is gnawing at its verry vitals—even the word Slavery now sounds like a death knell to me. Our National Character would vie with the Sun in its noonday brightness were it not for its too great national sins, Slavery and Intemperance. The former is deluging our Country in blood while the latter is yearly destroying its thousands of the noblest minds of the Nation—both sustained and protected by law. Is it not a picture to horrible to be drawn, the first trampling upon all social rights—not regarding even the most sacred of all rites, Marriage. While with the latter, a man may (by paying into our County treasury a few dollars) obtain License to damn a mans soul and body by enticing him under its influence—dealing out the accursed poison to him, thereby forming an appetite which in verry many instances reduces its victim below the brute. Its victims are deserving of great sympathy in view of the powerful influences brought to bear upon them. Yet I hope never to see Sister of mine married to a man who has so little regard for himself, his family, the name he bears as to be in the habit of reducing his manhood in this way. I must say goodnight here as I hear a little voice calling "Pa" to which I must ever respond. J.J.G.


(55)In Greek mythology, god of dreams, the son of Somnus, god of sleep.

(56) A congregation committed to the spiritual care of a pastor.

(57) Enlisted in Co. G, 50th Pa. Vols. 9 Sept 1862, attaining the rank of Sgt. He was killed 15 March 1862 at Beaufort, N.C. during Gen Ambrose Burnside’s amphibious foray to secure the N.Carolina Coast and capture Ft Macon, an important strategic victory.

(58) Sister of Lazarus, of Bethany, whom Jesus raised from the dead.

(59) John 11:23


Saturday evening May 3rd 1862

My cogitation’s were disturbed last evening before I got to a good stopping place. Eliza and I have today arranged our flower beds and mounds. I flatter myself. Should you visit us next Sept. we could exhibit to you a choice collection of flowers and this afternoon I have planted flowers and evergreens upon that plot of ground beneath which sleeps my loved ones. Such little tribute to their memory is all that henceforth I can do.

Well Mary, Mr. Beech has been here. He spent last Sabbath with us and before he left I had the impudence to ask him when he would be out again and he thought he would like to spend the 4th of July(60) in this location. I proposed to him an arrangement similar to the one I mentioned to you. The proposition pleased him much. I merely mentioned this matter to you with a number of conditions and now I wish a positive answer to the question.(61) Can I have the pleasure of spending the 4th and 5th of July with you agreeable to the following arrangement(62)—the evening of the 3rd Eliza and myself will appear to you. The evening of the 4th will find us at Owego(63) after which we will be governed by circumstances (I don’t know what Mr. B will think when he learns that instead of his coming after Eliza I shall take her to him).(64) For certain reasons I would like your answer the first convenient opportunity after receiving this. I heard Eliza say yesterday "Oh! How I want to see Mary. I never wanted to see her so much before. I never had so much I wanted to tell her. I hope Mr. Wright(65) is not making himself unhappy at all upon my account." I should think by the looks of my writing the fingers upon my former hands had got to be almost all thumbs.(66) goodnight J.J.Gorham

To Sister Mary


(60) Yet again we see that annual query regarding the nation’s most celebrated holiday, only this time Mary’s answer is critical and she must therefore ponder her reply carefully. Read on, keeping in mind that every word may have a hidden meaning.

(61) Proposed… arrangement… proposition… positive answer… question, as in "pop the"?!

(62) I wonder if he got down on one knee? You bet he did!

(63) Tioga County, New York

(64) From this comment it is surmised that it is to be a double ceremony.

(65) Eliza’s former sweeheart, who had married someone else.

(66) One might think he was a bit nervous at the enormity of it all.


LeRaysville May 18th 62

Dear Friend

I felt a little disappointed last night in not getting a letter from you. I dropped a letter two weeks ago today to you, requesting an immediate answer, for certain reasons (some reasons were good ones). I think there must be some mistake-you have not got mine, or your answer has been delayed(67) I wrote that Mr. Beech had been out, and I ascertained that he intended to come out again to spend the Fourth with us. I made a proposition to him similar to the one I made to you for spending a couple of days at that time. It pleased him much. He said that any arrangement Eliza and I would make, we might count him one. Our conversation when I was at Burlington was very conditional. I would like a positive answer whither I can spend the Fourth & 5th of July with you. If your answer is affirmative, Eliza and myself will visit Burlington the evening of the 3rd. The evening of the 4th we will be at Owego, and I think we can have a good time. I am writing to you with a led pencil, (but not on a shingle) seated in the woods east of the house, where I have been in the habit of wandering when in a pensive mood. From a boy, with this quiet place are associated the pleasantest recollections of my life. How many Sabbath afternoons have I spent in this quiet spot. Nothing disturbs the deathlike stillness which reigns in this secluded place but the rustle of the leaves and the music of the feathered songsters as they repose in the branches and warble forth their notes of praise.(68) Verry many Sabbath afternoons have I, with my loved Viola and little ones, spent wandering through this quiet grove. How many chapters has she read to us, seated on a mossy knowl, from her little bible, her almost constant pocket companion. The night she died(69) she said "Lay my little Bible up choice for Johnie, and when he is old enough, teach him to read it, and tell him it was his mother’s last gift." Oh! Mary you can never know unless you should live to be placed in circumstance similar to my own (which God grant may never be), the loneliness and desolation I feel with the return of birds and flowers and the pleasant associations of early summer. But enough of this strain for this time. Now, with regard to Mr. Beech, he has spent too evenings with us. I am now acquainted with him. I think I can tell you just what he is. I know not what he may have been, at present I think him a man of honor and principle, a man of steady industrious habits. But when you come to that big noble mind and brilliant intellect which I would like to see my sister united with, it is not there, but when you look at a persons happiness for life, those things are of but minor importance. In my selection of a companion, I sought a congenial mind and found it. The wealth I sought was a wealth of a mind well stored with useful knowledge—and found that also. I am aware that at present, such a selection is occupying your mind somewhat, and let me urge upon you again the necessity of an independent decision. This is a question upon which friends may counsel, parents advise, but you must decide. This is a question involving a persons happiness for a time, and to a great extent, Eternity. Do you recollect asking me some questions when I saw you last, about first impressions—how far they should be trusted &c. This has awakened quite a chain of thinking in my mind and I think I have a correct conclusion. From a philosophical point of view. I think I can explain it to you satisfactory. The cause of certain thoughts and feelings a person may have upon first meeting certain individuals. I must pause here for want of time(70)

To Sister Mary


(67) He’s apparently worried that either she has changed her mind regarding his proposal or that some one is influencing her to say no to it, (he’s 31 & a widower with a child and she’s only 17) so he repeats the details of his plan.

(68) What young woman could resist a man with a poet’s heart.

(69) September 10, 1861, at the age of 26.

(70) It is our great misfortune that he did not finish this thought.