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Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Diaries & Letters of Tri-Counties
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Copyright © David V. Kester, 2000
The photo at right is the family of Mary Burns and  James Gorham. They are in the center. The photo is dated December 1893. Mary would have been 49 in the photo.
Letters sent to Mary BURNS Gorham
Township: Burlington Township, Bradford County PA
Transcribed  by David Kester
Year: 1857-1869
Photo Source : David Kester

Mary Angeline BURNS Gorham 1844 -1916

This is a collection of letters, poems and notes which, for the most part, were sent to my great-grandmother Mary Gorham during the period from 1857 to 1869. She was born and reared in Burlington Township in the area formerly called "East Burlington". The Burns’ lived up on Kendall Hill, just north of the present day village of Luther’s Mills with the Campbells, Kendalls and Lanes. I have referred to them as the "Burlington Bunch" in the chart below. They, along with the Gorham families of LeRaysville in eastern Bradford County’s Pike Township and in other neighboring counties had been many times joined by marriage. They kept in close touch with each other and wrote letters in between their frequent visits. These letters are presented in chronological order, divided into five distinct periods as follows:

Part IA Past is Prologue (1852-1857—Here I have included four letters written by John B. Gorham from Lycoming County because he was to become Mary’s father-in-law and the letters were to his second wife’s family, the Alexander Lanes of Luther’s Mills. Additionally, John B’s daughter, Eliza Jane, befriended Mary during the time that they both lived in Burlington and remained close even after she married Eliza’s half brother James J. Gorham and moved to the Gorham homestead in LeRaysville.

Part IB School Days (1859-1861)—contains letters written by Mary’s former schoolmates, neighbors and friends in surrounding townships. It begins however, with a poem "To Viola" Goodwin, first wife to Mary’s future husband J. J. Gorham which seems to foresee the tragic death that opened the door to Mary’s happily wedded life with him.

Part IIA Love and Marriage (1861-1862)A—includes eighteen letters and poems which weave a story of the ten month period between Mary’s introduction to a grieving James by his half sister (and her old friend) Eliza Jane, and their subsequent "secret" out-of–state marriage.
Part IIB Love and Marriage (1861-1862)B

Part III War Hits Home (1862-1863) A—(War Hits Home (1862-1863) B)details the hopes and fears of those on the home-front of the Civil War and the equally sad tales of a widespread diphtheria epidemic and the shocking death of Mary’s beloved brother Jimmie during the siege of Vicksburg. Also, during this time a three day skirmish known locally as the "Pa battels" brought the war practically into their backyards.

Part IV The Draft, Disease and Death (1863-1864)—chronicles a period in Bradford County history when every woman feared losing her husband to the war effort and her children to disease simultaneously.

Part V Lee on the Lamb, and Life Goes On (1864-1869)—tracks the course of the war’s final days through the descriptive letters of Mary’s brother Philander P. Burns and ends with a hopeful missive from Mary’s favorite niece Floretta (Kendall) Lane.

In addition to the Burlington Bunch chart, I have also included an 1869 assessment map of Burlington Township showing the location of each family as well as the dozens of others mentioned in the letters. The photograph is of James and Mary Gorham and family taken on December 25, 1893.

The opportunity to bring this amazing window on nineteenth century Pennsylvania life to untold numbers of people has been a thrill beyond description. Obviously I didn’t do it alone. I have to thank my wife for her encouragement and her insistence that I do it right whenever I got impatient. I am also appreciative of her discriminating eye, that was able to decipher one hundred and forty year old writing, some of which was in faint pencil and had been written by candlelight on a squatting soldier’s knee, in a desolate Virginia swamp. I am eternally grateful to a Bradford County researcher for her tireless effort in finding details of my ancestors’ existence which made them truly come alive. Mostly I have to thank the three generations my family who had the wisdom to preserve this historical treasure until the technology to spread it throughout the world became available. Dave

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 01 JAN 2001 
By Joyce M. Tice
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