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Mary Angeline BURNS Gorham 1844 -1916
Copyright © David V. Kester, 2001
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Letters sent to Mary BURNS Gorham
Township: Burlington Township, Bradford County PA
Transcribed  by David Kester
Year: 1857-1869
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Part II. Love and Marriage 1861-‘62 (B)


LeRaysville May 29th /62

Dear Friend,

I am again seated after the labor of the day engaged in writing to you. I do not hesitate to admit now that my pleasantest hours are spent in thinking of and writing to you and why is this? I cannot explain it better than to say there is at such a time a contented home feeling, which I experience at no other time. I have received your letter of May 15th it was delayed 6 days. Perhaps you thought I was rather hasty in writing again so soon, but I was satisfied there was some mistake. I am much pleased with your final decision with regard to the 4th and am anticipating a verry pleasant time, one as long to be remembered as we thought last Christmas would be. I have a little news to write which may be interesting. Eliza has lost all claims upon the old bachelor’s(71) big house and broad acres when he received her final answer in the negative. Instead of getting crazy like the rest of his family he changed his line of march and besieged the fortifications of an other Ladies heart and one week ago last Sunday he was married to a Miss Marlah Chaffee.(72) I don’t know what Eliza will do now unless she leaves the world and climbs a Beach tree. Last Monday Joseph(73) moved his wife home and at noon that day I started an arrangement (which I must describe) to surprise Joseph a little. It took but a short time to get 5 Ladies together who proceeded to get up as noble a specimen of a rag baby as their ingenuity could invent, which was prepared cradle and all, as a present to Mr. And Mrs. Pease. At evening a delegation of 6 couples of us went to present it in due form. On our arrival we found they had retired. I constituted an advance guard and succeeded in finding their chamber. They were soon up and prepared to receive company. After receiving an introduction to the Bride, 2 couples marched in with our present preceded by our spokesman who made some verry appropriate remarks upon the occasion. After cracking some dry jokes—tending baby, rocking the cradle, singing lullaby &c.,&c. for an hour, we adjourned to one of the public houses in Leraysville where we spent a couple of hours and returned home satisfied that we had had rather of a loud time for a land of steady habits. I was strongly tempted last Saturday to visit you. We did not come up but I had full as good a chance to go within 4 miles of you, but thought it would not answer for fear you might suffer by the gossiping portion of community. We have talked considerable and I have written a good deal to you and believe me I have not written or spoken a word that I did not mean and feel. I know that the course I have pursued is not according to the art of successful love making as practised at the present day for that branch of business is almost universally done by rule as much as any other. And it seems to me that with young people generally it is studying to see how much they can deceive each other, but do not like that way of doing business. I do believe in dealing honestly at all times and under all circumstances. I think I will close here. Eliza is writing to you and as you are receiving quite a No. of letters from Leraysville I have asked her to put her letter in my envelope. Will you write to me the first convenient opportunity? I like to write letters but like to receive them much better. Write often, goodnight. J.J.G

To Mary B.


(71) A playfully derisive name that J.J.’s sister, Eliza sometimes calls him which he now uses to describe her former intended whom she had rejected to marry Myron Beech.

(72) Marlah (or Maria) F. Chaffee b. April 1838, d. Sept. 1980, d/o Daniel and Lydia (?) Chaffee

(73) Joseph K. Pease b.Dec. 1821 in Enfield, Conn., d.2 June 1905, a close neighbor of J.J.’s when he lived with his grandparents Zina and Ruth Ann Beeman in the northern part of Pike Township.


Monday June 2nd /62

Absent of mind

As I have a few moments to spare I thought I would write you a few lines. I was verry much disappointed to hear that you had not got my letter. It must have been delayed for I had written long enough before for it to have got there. You have probily got it before this time. If you have you know what my mind is of your arrangement the 4th . I say as Mr. Beach does that any arrangement that you and Eliza will make you may count me one of your number.

You must excuse me this time for writing so long a letter. I will try and do better next time. Yours in haste, Good night J.J, Gorham

Sister Mary


Le Raysville June 8th 1862

Well Mary, I do not consider that I owe you any letters but perhaps the more I write the more I may receive. You said to me the last time I saw you—write often—write whenever you feel in a mood for writing. I feel in a mood for writing just now, but upon a little reflection I think it is not a verry sensible mood. I am apt to be troubled with that quality. I acknowledge the reception of a note enclosed in Eliza’s letter received last week. I don’t don’t know as I ought to acknowledge that as a letter, but I think I will this time, from you. Your letter contained a remark like this—any arrangement you and Eliza will make For the 4th you can count

me one of your number—thank you—we contemplate marrying(74) I declare that is such a big word that I must go back and fence it. I believe that is properly enclosed and I will proceed—but the big words and sublime phrases have all escaped from my mind. At 9 O,Clock this morning we started for Prattville(75) where we listened to the funeral services of a young man by the name of Smith who died a short time since in the army. Pike has now contributed her second Martyr in the cause of liberty. We returned home and while Eliza is getting supper I am occupied in writing to you. If my letters were bombshells perhaps you would think they were flying pretty fast. I have no excuses to mention. I don’t like excuses but I do like to write letters and perhaps I don’t like to receive them [excuses] from one whom I esteem. If however, your post office department is becoming inquisitive or anything unpleasant that you do not wish me to write so often please say so, it will be kindly received. The manner of our spending Sabbath afternoons is at 3 O,Clock. We attend—what shall I call it—well, a grand musical display at our schoolhouse led by Prof. Hill that I will not describe. As from personal experience, you can imagine better than I can describe. Oh! What melting strains of discord break upon the ear, for an hour, especially from our Chorister. I think if I had a peacock and a guinea hen yoked together I would challenge him for a display of musical sound. Perhaps this is too bad. I would not do it were I not one of the band. At 4 we have a Sabbath school. I will leave that for someone else to criticize as I stand there in the relation of superintendent. Supper is ready and I must postpone my cogitations. Perhaps after the remaining exercises of the day I may have something sensible to add this evening. If you knew what a beautiful headache I returned with from Church, you would know how to make allowance for this writing and all mistakes.

It is evening and I am alone. Eliza has gone to Wales(76) to meeting with her little Welchman(77)—or might be her Prof. Hill has returned from Burlington but not in time to attend his musical drill. He has had considerable trouble on my account a few weeks since he heard me ask my Uncle(78) for his buggy the 4th and has labored dilligently but got no clue to my business until he went to Burlington. Him or someone else have guessed some things rather direct. Well, thank fortune I never yet went in company I was ashamed to have known nor I never will. What is your opinion, are the days of wichcraft not yet fully past or does Satan whisper certain things into certain individuals ears correctly sometimes? I have made up my mind that a person might as well try to coop up lightning in a hog pen as to keep certain matters strictly private from a certain class of gapeing inquisitive persons. Well, who cares! There are some persons in this world who I wish could be obliged under penalty to stop once in 15 minutes and ask themselves this question—is it anybody’s business what another’s business is? The past week has been spent verry pleasantly by us. Frank Easterbrooks(79) has been out making a general visit. Last Saturday we went with her to visit her friend in Wepasooning(80) creek. We spent a verry pleasant Sabbath. We have some excellent friends there which I think it will do your soul good to visit with. I think I have written enough this time, considering the quality. Now Mary please write often as you feel disposed—can spare the time and 3cts.. I don’t know, strictly speaking, how many there are due but I will venture to say one good long one will cancel the debt. J.J. Gorham

To Sister Mary


(74) For the first time, since he began writing to her nearly seven months ago, he uses the "M" word. And yes, he really did draw a fence around "marrying". He also tended to use a lot of dashes to punctuate his words when writing of a subject for which he held great passion. (see also letter #24 in which he rails about slavery and intemperance).

(75) Two miles east of Leraysville near the border of Susquejhanna County.

(76) Welch Settlement in the northeast corner of Pike Township where the Welch Congregational Church was located. (The present day village of Neath).

(77) Myron Beach, who was not Welch. This was merely one of the nicknames J.J. was fond of assigning to his friends.

(78) William Eastabrook of North Towanda Township, husband of Julia Ann Gorham, a sister of J.J.’s father John B. Gorham of Towanda Township.

(79) This could be a reference to his cousin Frances Eastabrook in which J.J. uses a nickname for her, as was his wont.

(80) Wappasening Creek which rises in Warren Township, flows through Windham Township and empties into the Susquehanna River near Nichols, New York


LeRaysville June 13th 1862

Mary, it is an old adage that a bad promise is better broke than kept. I told you I should not write again until you answered some of my letters, but I am alone tonight. My little pet(81) has gone to bed and I have not felt so much like writing to you in 2 months. It has been but 2 days since I saw you yet I would give my old boots(82) if you could spend the evening with me. You don’t know how much I would like to say to you but I can’t begin to write it. You can not imagine what a change our little interview has made in my feelings. It has been for some months my highest Earthly ambition to know that at some future time Mary would consent to become my bosom companion for life, a mother to my little boy—the sharer of my joys and sorrows, a companion in prosperity and adversity. The few, plain heartfelt words you spoke has lifted the vail which hung like a pall over my future. Again life has charm—hope has been again picturing a bright future to me. You had talked and written to me in such a manner, I dared hardly venture to hope. I do not suppose I can supply the place of all your friends but I will be a true faithful companion. It shall be the chief study of my life to add to your happiness. I think I can realize the magnitude of the step you promised to take. I have in this abundant proof of the sincerity of your love for me. I wish I had swore to offer you wealth, I have not. Worldly honors do not cluster around me. All I have is this poor heart and that is all your own, now, henceforth and forever and time can not roll to fast until I can enjoy your society without restraint. Perhaps I am anticipating too much. I know I am more than I ever was before, but I have known what the enjoyments and contentment of social happiness were. I have known what contentment cluster around a quiet home free from family discord and when I can not enjoy the comforts of such a home I want my earthly stay to be short. I told you I was alone tonight, Eliza and her little Welchman has gone to a party at Leraysville. This is rather of a sad neighborhood at present. I carried 5 of our young men to Towanda who enlisted and there are now too more, comprising every young man 21 years of age in this school district and three that are under age. That, I think, is as clean a sweep as you will often find. And tonight my Brother-in-law(83) in Leraysville invites them to a free party given expressly that they may enjoy themselves together one more night before leaveing and they will no doubt have a good time. The whole neighborhood, nearly, think of going to Towanda Monday to see them start. The land is talking serious of going but I don’t know whither they will or not. I suppose Eliza will go and if I could spare the time I would go and take her up to Burlington and stay over night. I don’t know but I shall have a hard time hereafter as the girls were threatening me pretty hard last night as I was going to be all the beaux left in the neighborhood. I would suffer Mary. Come and protect me soon as you can. There’s one thing I want to tell you but cannot without betraying a trust. No, it will not be betraying a trust provided you will not mention it. I told you Prof. Hill was perfectly ignorant of my affairs and Eliza’s as far as really knowing anything was concerned. It was not so, he knows all about them. I will ask you a question and you may guess how he learned. My private matters, and Eliza’s, are kept in my chest, locked up. But did you know that a trunk key of proper size and shape would open a chest lock? I learned this before I got a mile from you. Him and Seth goes in the same company and it is necessary they go as friends and I promised not to mention it so he would hear of it and to treat him as I have done. It is a bitter pill but I promised to swallow it and I will. It would do my soul good to give him a blowing up. I cornered him at supper upon what you had told me but he lied himself out. But he done it with a good grace. He is the smallest specimen of humanity I have ever met with. Has he a soul, and if so, is it large enough to be worth saveing. Now Mary, don’t mention this. If it should be told it would make Seth a bitter enemy to me as long as he lived. I know the nature of the creature. Now I shall not try to counterfeit my handwriting any more and since you think enough of the name, J.J.G. to consent to accept it as your own, you are not afraid to write it upon an envelope should you choose. Now, with regard to your objection to my wishes the 5th or 6th of July, will you overrule all these objections you can consistently? Now I want you to take this just as I mean it. I am not anxious to get you bound. My situation is not desperate but I want to stop this everlasting gossip which we will suffer until the vows are spoken which will unite us here. I have a call to go after the Doctor in great haste, Goodnight. J.J. Gorham


(81) His little boy Johnie,

(82) Truly a thing of endearing value.

(83) His first wife, Viola’s brother ,George Goodwin.

Transcribers Note: There were no letters handed down for the period from mid June to mid August 1862. This is not to say that none were written, but it is reasonable to suspect and one can only hope that in their wedded bliss, the two couples had better things with which to while away their time. After all, there was war on, and the ever-present draft was threatening to cast a pall over their bright futures.


Burlington, Aug the 17th

Sister Mary,

I now seat myself for the purpose of fulfilling my promise of writing to you, and to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. Well, you wanted me to write and tell you about your folks, but I have not been on the hill(84) yet so I don’t know much about them. Almost all of the folks around here have gone to war. Bill rite has gone and Ekie Lane,(85) ‘long Ek, Loring Travis, Jo Morley, Adolph Knapp, Tracy Knapp, Lorense Hill, Jerome Hill, Mason Long, Albert Long and two of Myron’s brothers(86) hav gone.

Well, they hav not drafted yet nor I don’t hardily think they will. I guess James [Gorham] and Myron will not hav to go after all, but they may, there is time enough yet. We had a real pleasant time coming out here.(74) We stopped at Towandy and got our pictures taken and got dinner, cut brand-way swell around Town(88) about an hour, and then went on and called at father’s(89) a few moments and came from there to Myron’s brother’s(90) whare I have ben most of the time since. Went up to Troy Friday, brought the whole store home with us, bought all the Coton cloth and leather ther was in Troy. We got sheeting there for one Shilling(91) a yard and best Calico for the same. Mary, I think this going a visiting is a paying business, at least it has been for me, for I hav had too new bead-quilts given to me since I have ben here. One of them is the friend-ship quilt and the other is the star. I was very thankful for them but should [be] more so had they ben quilted. But I hav got lining and bating and Anthony’s wife is going to help me quilt one this weak. Well, how do you get along keeping house and how menny black berrys have you picked. When are you coming out? I should like to come home before long but don’t know when I can come. But I think I am doing well whare I am. I am doing more than I should were I at home. Well, it is getting late and I am tired tonight and I will close this letter. I could write lotts of trash to you if I only felt like it tonight. I forgot to tell you, I have been up to mother Beaches(92) today. I was at granpa Beaches(93) last week. Mary if thare is enny letter come thare for me from the South or from Waverly I wish you would send them to me. Kiss little Johnie for me.

From Eliza to Sister and brother.


(84) Kendall Hill in Burlington Township.

(85) Alexander Lane 2nd, age 20.

(86) James, 22 and one other. Myron had several brothers old enough to have enlisted.

(87) Apparently Eliza and Myron made the grand tour of both of their families enroute from Leraysville to Burlington where they eventually made their home.

(88) While this phrase is quite legible its meaning is uncertain.

(89) John B. Gorham who lived in the northwest corner of Towanda Township along the route to Burlington.

(90) Anthony Beach, 25 who owned a large farm with his two younger brothers, Alanzo 16 and Heratio 16.

(91) Although the famine in small coins was somewhat relieved when, in 1853 Congress reduced the weight of half-dollars, quarters and dimes by 7 percent, there was still a paucity of loose change. British coins still circulated and were quite acceptable for small purchases. Remember, coins were once worth the value of the metal contained in them.

(92) Sarah KELLY Beach

(93) Jesse Beach


Le Raysville Aug 28th 1862 (94)

Dear Mary. It is not Sunday it is thursday night but I feel just as if I wanted to talk with you and I’m going to do it as well as I can through this medium. If I don’t have a chance to send this to the [post]office tomorrow I can mail it Sunday and it will be just as acceptible as if written according to appointment. It is eleven O,clock. I have just returned from a political meeting addressed by Mr. Piolettt(95) and Tracey(96) for the express purpose of killing my old friend Landon,(97) but in my estimation he has got to big a soul to be disturbed much by them. Well Mary, matters plod on with me about as usual, but I tell you I want you with me. I know now, better than I once knew, how necessary you are to my verry existance, for believe me Mary, without you life to me would be not worth the asking. This is the honest sentiment of my heart. I thought I loved you before we were married, but compared with my present feelings I knew the word only by name. And Oh how much I want to say to you now that this dreadful vote of preparation is progressing with all possible speed toward [that] which is, in a few days, to tear so many of us from home and loved ones. Yes I say us, for soon the lots are to be drawn which will tear the heart-strings of so many families. Already nearly all the names in this town are enrolled and my name with the rest. And am I not just as likely to receive the summons, (your name is drawn to place your life, if necessary, upon the altar of your country) as any of my neighbors? Mary it is well for us to look this in the face as if we expected such an issue. How different are my feelings from what they were little less than one year ago.(98) Then I would have welcomed such a message and but for my little boy, would have welcomed a friendly bullet as a messenger of peace. I don’t feel so now, my future holds out bright promises again of happiness and prosperity. And what has wrought all this change? It seems strange to me to think that this change of feeling, of aspiration, is all caused by the society of that gentle loving girl whom I call wife. I want you to come to me as soon as you can. If Mr. Beech don’t get ready soon as you want to come let me know and a way will be speedily provided. Now if you don’t come till after this draft is mad[e] and my name should be drawn as one of the No., don’t come to me then and I shall not go to you. It would be more than I could bear. I havent wanted you so much before as I have the past week. When we got home George Goodwin and his wife and little girls were here visiting. They stayed with us saturday and sunday. They were quite disappointed at your being gone. Yesterday old Father and Mother Goodwin came here, the first time since Viola’s funeral. When the old lady went into the other room it seemed as if her heart would break, everything looked so natural. Viola was the youngest and the idol of their old age. She said "Oh! I am so glad you’ve got someone to live with you again and that Johnie has got a ma. They tell me she is verry kind to Johnie and that is enough to make me love her." I have promised that we will go down there the first opportunity after you get back. You know I had some fears that our matters were considered rather hasty and you were not verry well received by the family. It is not so, it is all right. I have not time to explain all these things, but were you here I guess I could talk you blind between this and morning. The clock is striking twelve and I think I would feel better to postpone till morning, then if I have any big ideas add them, goodnight.

I did not finish my letter this morning. The fact was I over-slept myself. Well, where shall I begin? I guess where I left you. We went from Burlington to Uncle Wm. Easterbrooks, stayed till after dinner, had an excellent visit for one of its size, then we went over to Father’s accompanied by Frank Easterbrook, stayed until 6 Oclock and went home comfortable. I am going to say one thing to you, which I would not say to another living being. I have had the poorest housekeeper, since I got home, that I ever had. You cant think how near crazy she is to get back to Burlington and bedquilts is all you see or hear. She has peaced one since she got back and it is part quilted. I will tell—no I wont either—I come pretty near scolding Wednesday night. Mr. Willson was helping me get up my wheat. We waited till late suppertime and on coming down found that Eliza and the old lady had gone visiting all right. I supposed I could get along as she set [indecipherable] in the morning and had baked as I supposed. But every mouthful cooked that I could set before him was a boll of milk and half a cold jonnycake. Mary, don’t never tell even your great Grandmother(99) of that. I felt bad. I can get along with anything alone. I know I never was particular. Eliza just said to me—if I knew what homesickness is. I believe I am getting homesick. She thinks she will be ready to go back in too weeks. She is going to make a big quilting next week. She worries more about the prospect of Myron having to go to war than I ever knew her to before. Well really, it is a serious subject. It is all guesswork yet, but according to what information I can get, it is my opinion that after casting off the cripples and exempts, it will take every 3 rd man in this Co. There has been more news in this neighborhood than I ever knew before. Since I got home I could write a whole sheet of news that would be interesting if you knew the circumstances as well as I do. The day we came home Crit & Seth Humphrey were at Towanda and delivered themselves up. They then came home and after quarreling too days, cleared Mrs. Brumley out. They gave her a certain time to leave in, or take a coat of tar and feathers and Mr Humphrey has wrote the country faithful to clear up her character. I guess he finds it very much like an old tird, the more it is stirred, the worse it stinks. But he will marry her certain as the world. He is perfectly bewiched after her. The boys have told her that if she ever comes there as Mrs Humphrey her days will be few and full of trouble. This has been the means of healing all the previous family breaches and are all arrayed against old Mother Brumley.(100) The boys started back for Ft. Hamilton yesterday. I wrote a letter to Prof. Hill(101) and sent [it] by them, I told him, in a few plain words what I thought of him. It was lucky I commenced on a half sheet or I should have blowed him so high, it would have taken him as long to get to the judgement as the man Mr. Smith described in Leraysville. I told him, hereafter, henceforth and forever we were too men, that a man who would stoop as low as he did to acquaint himself with my private matters, I could not trust as far as a blind man could see him and it was not the act so much in itself that I cared for, as it was for the mean, meddlesome, unmanly principle shown. It would do my soul good to give Elick Lane(102) just such a blowing up, but I never shall do it. Our blackberrys are doomed to fall short. I have only picked a (?) twice. Once I picked till the dew was off and got 10 qts and this forenoon was plowing and rested the team twice and picked 8 more. I havent written half enough but must stop. J.J. Gorham


(94) One might wonder why Mary is back in Burlington while her husband of six weeks is writing from his home in Leraysville. While it impossible to know for certain, one might conjecture that she had to be at home for some unknown reason and he couldn’t accompany her at this time for either personal, business or political reasons or a combination thereof. It is known that they all lived in fear that a draft could come at this particular time.

(95) The Piollet family was prominent in Bradford County and Pennsylvania business and government circles from the early Eighteenth century until well into the Nineteenth. Victor E. Piollet, a Democrat, was a representative in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, 1845-47. His 1890 obituary stated "He was a politician of the old school which believed majorities could be made and molded by stump speeches and personal persuasion." It is conjectured that he was supporting Tracy (a Republican of wavering loyalty) on the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. He, with his brother, Joseph M. (who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1876) lived on the family estate at the junction of Routes 6 and 187 near Wysox. (see The Reverend Mr. Craft’s History of Bradford County 1770-1878)

(96) Henry W. Tracy originally a Whig was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1869 served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1861-62 and was elected as an Independent Republican to serve in the Thirty-eighth Congress 1863-65. (see Seven Counties Outline of History and The Political Graveyard Website)

(97) The Reverend George Landon was elected to two terms in the Pennsylvania State Senate 1860-63 and 1866-69. J.J. Gorham was a staunch supporter of Republican politicians and was, in a sense Landon’s campaign chairman for Pike Township.

(98) His first wife, Viola Goodwin died September 10 1861.

(99) A figure of speech, since Mary’s great grandmother was not living.

(100) This was, apparently a family feud of long-standing and great notoriety in Leraysville Boro.

(101) J.J.’s former boarder, who had betrayed his trust.

(102) One of the Burlington Lanes, who was spreading rumors regarding their secret courtship. This, quite possibly was the Reverend Alexander Lane who did not approve of J.J.’s father John B. Gorham’s marrying of his own daughter Emily C. Lane. (see letters 01 through 04).


LeRaysville, Sunday evening Aug 31st /62

Mary this has been the longest day I ever knew and tonight my loneliness is almost unendurable and my thoughts are, you may guess where. And to kill time I thought I would write some of them, but lo, Eliza has used my last sheet of paper today writing to her dear beloved. I shall fill this and if I send it to you [and] if you don’t like it please send it back, it wont cost but 3 cts. I did not go to church today, for well I knew, it would be a sleeping meeting. I have rejoiced some today, I attended the caucus last night and am happily disappointed by G. Landon getting the delegates of this town by a handsome majority.(103) I worked harder for him than I ever did for the election of any other man. Johnie has been inclining to a diareah the past week and yesterday went into the orchard and ate some green apples and soon after I got home last night he commenced vomiting and after a while it commenced the other way and, I guess, a sicker little fellow you never saw. It was almost morning before I began to get it chect. He is now almost well again, but pretty weak. How many times I thought of you last night. I was up alone stewing herbs, making tea &c. Such scenes remind me forcibly of the past. It is no new spot for me, but there used to be, in all such cases, too of us and Viola was a great deal better nurse and baby doctor than I ever thought of being. But I don’t give up to more than half of the old women. If you prove as good a doctor as she was, you will be worth a pention to me in that respect, aside from all your other good qualifications. I would give all my old boots and perhaps some other things as valuable to see you tonight I tell you, the past 12 days are the longest days I ever saw. I know we were just calculated to live together and in no other capacity. I would not give one old boot to live any other way and there may be no necessity for it. Governor Curtain(104) has postponed drafting 2 weeks and I begin to hope there is some prospect of its being put off all together,(105) but don’t dare to flatter myself much that way. Eliza has written to her Buttonwood(106) today that he can come after her soon as he pleases after this week, if you are ready. I hope he will come next Saturday or Sunday. I have promised, if possible, to commence threshing one week from tomorrow. Then for towards 3 months I shall be gone from home most of the time. If nothing happens, if you were here to be my company, I believe I would steal time enough to go blackberrying one day. There are great quantities of them over east. Mr. Chaffee broke the sabbath enough to go this forenoon and picked 2, 10qt pails full and I have not treated the sabbath any better, for I have read the news all day, what time I have not been asleep. I believe I don’t feel inclined to enlarge my cogitations even if I had space and will stop here, short as pie crust—goodnight. J.J.G.

Sister Mary


(103) The Republican County Committee had met earlier in the month and called for a convention of two delegates from each district to be held in Towanda on Monday Sept.1, for the purpose of nominating a Republican ticket. Primary meetings in each district were set for Saturday, the 30th for the selection of delegates. It was this "caucus" that J.J. had attended the night before. He was happy that George Landon had won the delegates which might nominate him for U.S. Representative, but at that same time disappointed that he would, if elected no longer be his state senator and would be spending much more time in Washington than at home. Three candidates were nominated at the next days convention with Landon receiving the most votes and Tracy second. (The Bradford Reporter of 28 August and 4 September, 1862). Tracy, chagrined at being turned down formed the People’s Party with other dissatisfied Republicans which promptly nominated him for Congress. (Heverly’s History and Geography of Bradford County, Chapter 13 Rise and Fall of Political Parties). Tracy won, probably with the help of many Democrats who had been out of power since Lincoln’s landslide victory in 1860 and no doubt saw this as a means of revenge. This local victory was presumably J. J. Gorham’s fifteen minutes of fame.

(104) Republican Andrew Gregg Curtain was governor of Pennsylvania 1861-1867

(105) In fact, the War Department did not authorize conscription until 1863, and J.J. was never called.

(106) J.J. continues to humorously refer to Myron as a tree, but we all know that he’s a Beech, not a Buttonwood.


Answer to Willie we have missed you

Yes Mary, I have come home love

A cross the dark blue sea

To our peaceful quiet home love,

Our little ones and thee.

I’ve watched and waited nightly

For the welcome hour to come,

When happily and brightly

All the delights of home

Should greet my listening ear

Upon my native shore

Then wipe away thy tears Mary

Thy Willie’ll roam no more.

How often since I left you love

In solitude and tears

Have I blest that love which clung to me

Through many changing years.

And while I paced the silent deck,

Forgotten and alone,

Has my heart recalled that loveliest smile,

Thy sweet and gentle tone,

Thy image love has been enshrined

Within this fond heart’s core,

But wipe away the tears Mary

Thy Willie’ll roam no more.

Dear Mary when in life’s Sweet morn,

In all thy youthful pride,

I loved thee a virgin, bathed in tears

By thy fond Mother’s side

And promised thee at the altar

To love through life as now

Say Mary, when life’s sorrows came

Did I forget that vow?

Your heart will own I left you love

Our fortune to restore;

Then wipe away thy tears Mary,

Thy Willie will roam no more.


William Cummings Riley,(107)

Clinton County Pa.


(107) a.k.a. James J. Gorham, date unknown.


Blackberry(108) August th 31st 1862

Dear sister

I received your letter last knite and o how happy I was to hear from home and to hear that all was well thear. It has ben to months sence I have heard from home. I am well and thank god for that. I am fealing Proudly in my heart as I am about to do my Duty in regard to my cuntry and as I feal that I have been backward in regard to my cuntry. I belong to [the] 3d Bord of Trade regiment called the Governors Guards. In the Bord of trade thare is 3 regiments and a batery. I have ben camp a little over too weeks in Chicago. I returned to Blackberry last knite on the midknite trane. I like camp life verry well. Our Capt name is L G Yates, leu first John Woodreff, 2 leu frank browne. The rest I have not learnt yet and I like them verry well so far. I have so much to write that I dont know what to write first but I will let all the camp stories go and tell you about the rest. We have a bounty in this state,(109) Kane County is 60 Dollars, the government 25, one months pay ($13) in advance and 2 Dollars for inlisting makes one Hundred dollars. I shell receive my munny this Week and shell send it home. You may look for it in about to Week from the first of september, I shell send it in a letter. Mate(110) you did not tell me about Bradford either, she give enny Bounty or not, I wood like to no. I git 13 Dollars a month as long as god spars my life. I have made arrangements to send 10 dollars a mounth home, they pay every to mounth. 3 Dollars is pade to me whear I may be and the outher is sente to Burlington, Bradford Co Pa, to Letitia Burns.(111) I don’t know but it will be 3 mounts from the 11 of august before you will receive the 20 Dollars for I wil git one mounts pay in advance you see. Sister Mary I must close so Good by sister, may god bless you in this life and when you come to leave this world may we meet in heaven.(112)

James A. Burns Esq

Dear Mother

Now I will speake a few words to you. Mother you will feel bad to hear my mind but I cant help it. Dear mother thay is menny of mothers that have to bare the same task that you have got to bear. Mother we can meet in heaven if not on earth agane. About a mounth ago I promist my God that I wood give myself to him and baugh to his feet and I have ceep my promused evry sence and god has blest me for so doing. As I was on my kness one Sunday a praying to my god to forgive, the teers rolled don my face and my heart jumpt into my mouth and god did bless my sole and I don’t fell ashamed to let you no my mind Mother. Pray for me, don’t write till you hear again.


(108) Site of an Army encampment on the outskirts of Chicago.

(109) It is not certain whether Mary’s brother Jimmie Burns went there to enlist specifically for the bounty. It is quite possible that he followed his older brother Philander into the Pennsylvania lumber camps and finding that not to his liking continued west until he reached Illinois. He did have relatives in Dixon and Belvidere Illinois not too distant from Kane County where he enlisted.

(110) A nickname for Mary.

(111) Mary and Jimmie’s mother.

(112) Jimmie, age 20 in 1862, seems to have had a premonition of his early demise while just a schoolboy. The following was found on a slip of paper in one of his books. "When I am dead and out of mind my name here in this book youle find and when my name you here do see how can you then but think of me." James A. Burns, Burlington.