Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

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1860s: 1860186118621863 • 1864 • 18651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits



Wentworth, N. H., Dec. 13, 1863.

Dear Uncle Merry:—Please allow me to enter the Merry circle and become a member of its famed band. Don’t it possess, like omnibuses, the property which makes it able always to contain one more?

I live in the old Granite State, beneath the shadow of lofty mountains. I suppose many of the cousins have visited the noted White Mountains to witness the glorious sunrise or sunset view, and have clambered to the top of Mount Washington, and have beheld with wonder and awe the Old Man of the Mountain, which the Indians worshiped as the Great Spirit. But it is not alone in the summer time that this part of Uncle Sam’s domains possess attractions. In winter we have sleigh-rides, and skating, and coasting. Skating is a grand amusement. I should like to have some of the fair cousins join me some bright evening.


[Editor: ] I would gladly exchange “Union Pond” skating, or even Central Park, for one of the good old times when we used to coast and skate, wild and free, among the much loved mountains of the old Granite State. Take a game of “I spy” on skates some of these moonlight nights, and charge it to the account of Uncle Robert.

I spy, a game in which a player who is “it” searches for others who have hidden, shouting, “I spy” and the player’s name, at each sighting. “It” then chases the player to an established goal, trying to “tag” him or her with a touch. [Lydia Maria Child. The Girl’s Own Book. New York: Clark, Austin & Co., 1833. (Repr. Old Saybrook, Connecticut: Applewood Books, 1992); p. 55.]


New York, Feb. 6, 1864.

Dear Old Friends:—Is there still a “vacant chair” for Willie? So many months have passed away, and so many new cousins have joined the circle since last I entered the good old sanctum, that I have thought perhaps my place has been better filled by a fresher face. Yet I believe you are among those who love “old wood to burn, old books to read, and old friends to talk with,” and will therefore welcome back the “oldest inhabitant” of the Chat—if ten years of pleasant intercourse will justify the title—to the cheerful group so dear to him of old.

Since the Ex-Nurse left the Hospitalic Halls of Washington he has been a wanderer through the great West; rattling over the broad acres of Illinois; staging it across the green swells of Iowa; painfully steamboating it up the Mississippi; fishing and hunting on the crystal lakes of Minnesota; and last, but not least, attending the great fair at Chicago, and wondering at the energy and endurance of the Western women. But why, oh, why, was not the idea of a Merry Badge conceived a year ago? Had I possessed that token of my belongings during this Western tour, how many a dear cousin might have taken me by the hand who, for lack of knowledge, has passed me coldly by! It will be long ere I shall have such an opportunity again.

Do you ask whether the attractions of the Western land have been strong enough to win me to a settlement in Prairiedom? Not quite; and yet I recall a wooded nook by the bright waters of Lake Calhoun, in Minnesota, near which I lingered for many days, well-nigh persuaded that there should be my future home, and needing but to say the word which should make it mine. Yet I resisted the temptation, and have returned to settle down in good old Orange County, in sight of the beautiful hills up whose sides I clambered in schoolboy days. And there, if God prospers me, I hope some time to welcome many of the dear Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins of the Museum to the homely hospitalities of Ridge Farm. Meanwhile, a seat in the circle may occasionally be filled by your old friend,

Willie H. Coleman.

[Editor: ] No, not “vacant,” Willie, for the “chair” is well filled by our “oldest inhabitant,” and, we trust, will be as long as we are permitted to have charge of the “seats.” Here’s our hand for Ridge Farm, and a prosperous and happy settlement. Hereafter “Orange County” shall not be to us the “milk-and-water” affair of former times, for we shall know that it produces the genuine article—at least in the Cole-region.

“old wood to burn, old books to read … ”: Francis Bacon Apothegms New and Old (1625), number 97: “Alonso of Arragon was wont to say, in commendation of age, That age appeared to be best in four things: Old wood best to burn; old wine to drink; old friends to trust; and old authors to read.”

“oldest inhabitant”: used throughout the nineteenth century, usually in a jocular manner.

badge: A pin made available in 1864, which featured an open book with “M” on either page. It was available round or oval, in silver or in gold; engravings appeared in the January 1864 issue. The pins cost between $1.50 and $6; they were also premiums for those finding new subscribers for the Museum. The design was later used for stationery sold by the Museum’s publishers.

Cole-region: a play on the name of William Hoyt Coleman, then living in Orange County, New York; probably also a reference to American landscape painter Thomas Cole (1801-1848), who devoted several canvases to the Hudson River, which borders Orange County.


U. S. Ship Courier, Brooklyn, Jan., 1864.

Uncle Merry:—Once more I am waiting at the door for admittance to the circle. While at New Orleans I had the good fortune to meet our “soldier cousin, Geo. T. McK.” I supplied him with some late Museums, and after having a good long chat we parted. [ … ]

Yours truly,

U. S. S. Courier: a sailing ship purchased on 7 September 1861 and used as a storeship by the U. S. government. It was 556 tons and 135 feet long, with a depth of 15 feet. The Courier sailed from New York City to the Gulf, delivering along the way supplies which rarely included the copies of the Museum that Osceola delivered to George McKinney in 1863. The Courier was a total loss after running aground on Abaco Island, in the Bahamas, on 14 June 1864. (U. S. Navy, series 2, vol 1: 67; series 1, vol 21: 476-477, 720, 721)

Geo. T. McK.: George T. McKinney’s letter, dated from New Iberia, Louisiana, January 5, 1864, was printed in the same issue: “Tommy, I should liked to have seen you when you were in New Orleans; write and let me know where you are.” (1864.1.92)


Brooklyn, Feb. 23, 1864.

Dear Uncles:—Were any of the cousins present at the entertainment given by the “Poly Boys?” If they were, I suppose they will heartily concur with me in thinking that Gustav Fincke is a very noble boy. I should think there were not many boys who would act as he has done.

Hattie Lee, aint you coming over to our Fair. I assure you it is well worth seeing. Wilforley, of course you will be there; don’t forget to put on the “Merry Badge.” Are you going to be a “Marshal?”

Mamie E. M.

[Editor: ] Of course Wilforley and Hattie were there and wore their badges. Were you in the New England kitchen? You could have seen us there almost every day of the Fair.

Gustav Fincke (1848-1893): American soldier. Born in Germany, he grew up in New York City and Brooklyn and enlisted in the U. S. Navy in February 1862, at age 14. During action on the Cayuga in April, he was wounded in the left foot; it was eventually amputated. After being transferred back to Brooklyn, he was appointed as a Mate on 1 June 1864 and then attached to the Post Office in 1865. Unfortunately, the appointment was revoked when he was accused of stealing. Soon after, he emigrated to Australia, where he died in poverty. [Terry Foenander. E-mail correspondence, 4 Jan 2000, 6 Jan 2000. • Terry Foenander. “Veterans of the American Civil War Buried in Australia.” page accessed 4 January 2000.]

Poly Boys: perhaps students at the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute, on Livingston Street in 1864.

Sanitary Fair: Organized to raise money for the Sanitary Commission, the Fair opened on George Washington’s birthday and featured tableaux and exhibits honoring the spirit of 1776. Among these was the New England Kitchen, which served such “New England delicacies” as crackers, doughnuts, pies, pickles, apple-sauce, cider, and pork and beans. Paintings, engravings, and mechanical devices were exhibited in several buildings, along with a 336-pound bale of Sea-Island cotton, “the product of free labor”; and a bazaar offered “more than 10,000 sofa-cushions” and, probably, “a pin-cushion for every pin in the city.” Susanna Newbould took part in the Fair, appropriately enough in the “Post-Office”—“where any body can find as many letters as he desires—postage not paid.” [Robert Merry’s Museum; 1864.1.122. • “Brooklyn Sanitary Fair.” Harper’s Weekly, 8 (5 March 1864): 152-158.]

Hattie: Harriet M. Lee, a subscriber who married the office boy—Eugene Fales—in 1865. She also worked in the offices of the Museum.

Wilforley: “No, M. e. m., I was not a ‘marshal’ at the fair, though I marshaled some fair through it several times, more or less.”—Wilforley (1864.1.152)


Dear Aunt Sue:—Please let me slip in on the blind side of the Uncles, and let me whisper a few of my troubles in your kind ear.

I’m a six yearling, who loves fun and frolic with all his heart.

This winter I have had a jolly nice time skating; but now the ice is gone, and I want very, very much to learn to swim. Mamma promised to let me try when the weather became warm. Yesterday I was playing on the piazza, when Jamesy came along and told me he would teach me to swim, and catch bull-frogs, too. Of we ran to a nice place—undressed, and plunged in.

The water didn’t feel cold, although there was some snow on the ground; and though I wince terribly when washed in the house, if the water hasn’t had a good smell of the fire. I was trying with all my might to swim, when Tom the coachman spied me, and told my sister I was in a frog puddle, and would get my death of cold. Out she rushed and called me in. We popped out and hid ourselves in the barn; but I was soon caught and led to mamma.

Now, Aunty, don’t you think it was rather severe to put a hungry, active, chatty little boy, supperless in bed at three o’clock, and not even allow him to speak?

Worst of all, I had to dress in the morning without first jumping in papa’s bed to have my hugs and kisses as usual.

I didn’t take cold—wasn’t it lucky?

They all told me I would[.] I’m rather frowned on yet; but you will soothe me, won’t you, Aunty? for I’m real sorry.

Sans Souci’s Little Brother.

[Editor: ] Yes, indeed, my poor little six-year-old, I always try to comfort any one who is “real sorry for a fault;” but are you sorry you were put to bed at three P.M., or that you were hurried out of the “frog puddle,” or that you were disobedient? Because, you see, it makes a difference; if the latter, I’ll give you a good hug; if for the other reasons, we will talk a little further on the subject.


[Editor: ] H. A. D., the “Navy” predominates in the Album since the latest arrival H. A. D-anker-ed there.

album: Photographic albums were kept by editors John N. Stearns and Susanna Newbould; they quickly filled with photographs of the Cousins.


[Editor: ] The battle-field and the hospital make us realize that man is mortal, and familiarize us with death; still I was much startled one morning, and my heart made very sad, on receiving a paper containing the following:

OAKLEY.—In Brooklyn, July 11, William F., eldest son of the late Robert S. and Mary E. Oakley, aged 26 years and 11 months.

Funeral services from Clinton Avenue Congregational Church, corner of Clinton and Lafayette avenues, on Wednesday, the 13th inst., at 3 o’clock P.M.

Gone! and yet through our tears we can rejoice that he was ready, and that though man is mortal yet he is immortal; and if we all follow the bright example of Wilforley, and trust in Christ, we can meet him

In those everlasting gardens,

Where angels walk, and seraphs are wardens,

Where every flower brought safe through death’s dark portal,

Becomes immortal.”

The following letter is from a mutual friend, who knew him best, and could judge of his life and character:

Uncle Robert:—The pen of Wilforley will never send you another greeting. The last line it wrote, in his diary, was the initials of his lamented father (who went from the altar of his household about two years ago, after morning devotions, to the heavenly world), with these words:

He walked with God, and was not, for God took him.”

With these Wilforley laid down his pen, forever. Yesterday (July 13) I attended his funeral services in the church where he early professed his faith in [p. 61 ] Christ, and where he continued to worship till “God took him.” The last time I spoke with him was at the close of a parlor entertainment in aid of the late City Fair, where I had noticed him in company with a lovely and loving girl, to whom, some one whispered to me, he was engaged. “Wilforley,” said I, “what would the originals of those photographs of the Merry circle say could they have seen you this evening in yonder seat? Wouldn’t they be jealous?” Will was startled at the unexpected salutation, and, blushing, was eager to know where and how I discovered his identity, etc., etc.

But I wish to say to the circle of his friends that although he has, at the age of twenty-six years, been summoned to the heavenly rest, he was fully prepared. His pastor, standing over his coffin, said, “He had matured his own character, and established his influence upon others. I would never erect as a monument over the grave of such a young man a broken shaft, emblematical of an unfinished life, but a solid, perfect column, symmetrical and complete. ‘His life and conduct were of crystal purity.’ It was remarked by one who had known his late honored father from his boyish days, that he never uttered an impure thought or word, and the same might have been said of the son, whose lips, smiling, are sealed and cold in death.”

Uncle Robert, will it not be a profitable suggestion to the Merry circle for you to commend to them the bright example Wilforley has set before them? “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”


a paper: “Died.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. 12 July 1864; p. 4, col 2.

“He walked with God … ”: Bible, Genesis 5:24, “[A]nd Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”

“In those everlasting gardens … ”: Sir John Bowring, “Hymn: From the Recesses of a Lowly Spirit” ln 33-36: plant the seeds of holiness,

Then place them in those everlasting gardens,

Where angels walk, and seraphs are the wardens;

Where every flower that creeps through death’s dark portal

Becomes immortal.

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”: Bible, Psalms 90:12.


June 6, 1864.

Oh, dear! I am getting lonesome—have been sitting in the corner since the first of February, and not one of the cousins has spoken a word to me; but as I am tired of keeping in the background, I shall come forward and speak to you. Will I be intruding, Uncle? Taking it for granted that I will not, I proceed.

If there are any persons present who love music and enjoy reading the works of Longfellow and Gail Hamilton, I will shake hands with them, and we will be fast friends immediately.

Pertine says to Uncle Robert, “If any of your soldier boys happen to fell homesick and blue, just sit down and write to your loving cousin.” So say I.

Aunt Sue, I hope your little girl is better.


persons who love music: Marcus stepped forward in September 1864: “Juno, if being an admirer of Longfellow and Gail Hamilton insures an acquaintance, you may consider me as a fast friend, for they are my favorites.” (1864.2.91) Other Cousins also evinced interest in the works of these authors, including Jolly Jingle, who suggested that the “Longfellow-ites” gather in a corner of the Merry parlor and read the works of Longfellow, Whittier, Lowell, Mulock, Proctor, and Browning: “Oh, Juno! don’t you love Mrs. Browning? If you don’t know her writings, read the ‘Rhyme of the Duchess May,’ and then thank Jolly Jingle for the treat you’ve had.” However, he was not “ ‘up’ to” Beethoven, preferring “word music to piano music. Please don’t say I have horrid taste.” (1865.1.91)

Gail Hamilton: Mary Abigail Dodge (1833-1896), American essayist. In pieces alternately humorous, satirical, and sentimental, Dodge covered domestic subjects, the American Civil War, and women’s rights. Gala Days was a popular collection; see 1867.2.93.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882): American poet. His lyrical poetry was instantly popular. Among his most popular—and parodied—was the epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha (1855). The Museum reprinted two of his poems.

Pertine: Her offer appeared in May 1864 (1864.1.188)


[Editor: ] A gloom comes over our loved circle again this month. Some of you know that Henry A. Danker was assistant surgeon in the navy, and assigned to duty on board the ill-fated monitor Tecumseh, which went down so suddenly in Mobile Bay, just at the moment of victory. Mr. Danker was probably on board, and undoubtedly lost.

He was one of our “bright particular stars,” and adds another to the names of heroes who have died that their country might live. May we heed the warning which these sudden deaths would teach us.

Danker: Henry Danker’s last letter to the Chat was, in fact, dated from the “Dissecting Room.” (1864.1.28-29)

battle in Mobile Bay (5 August 1864): Admiral David Farragut’s Union fleet captured three important forts here. Alabama’s only seaport, the Bay was guarded not only by well-armed forts, but by two lines of torpedoes that forced ships to pass near Fort Morgan. Farragut’s fleet consisted of four iron-clad monitors—including the U. S. S. Tecumseh, where Henry A. Danker was assistant surgeon—and fourteen wooden steamers lashed together in pairs. As the fleet advanced past Confederate gunboats, it drew heavy fire; at one point, said an observer, “the whole of Mobile Point was a living line of flame.” After the Tecumseh hit a mine and sank with almost all hands, one ship hesitated; Farragut ordered his own ship ahead with words that became famous: “Damn the torpedoes! Jouett, full speed! Four bells, Captain Drayton.” Besides those on the Tecumseh, Union casualties included 52 dead and 170 wounded; casualties in the Confederate fleet included 12 dead and 25 wounded. [Commodore Foxhall A. Parker. The Battle of Mobile Bay. Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1878.]

U. S. S. Tecumseh: single-turret wood and iron monitor launched in 1863. At 7:40 a.m. on 5 August 1865 it was struck by a torpedo in Mobile Bay, Alabama, and sank in 30 seconds: “A few of her crew were observed to leap wildly from her turret; for an instant her screw was seen revolving in air—and then there was nothing left to show that the Tecumseh had ever formed one of that proud Union fleet but a small boat washed from her deck, and a number of half-drowned men struggling fiercely for life in the seething waters which had closed over their vessel forever.” [U. S. Navy series 2, v 1: 220-221. • Commodore Foxhall A. Parker. The Battle of Mobile Bay. Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1878; pp. 89, 26]


Dear Uncles, Aunt, and Cousins all:—I’ve been listening quietly all this time, waiting for my turn to shake hands with Pearl and other new-comers, and speak to some of the cousins. [ … ]

Uncle, dear, good Uncle Robert, how much I love you for caring for our brave boys who have fallen in battle and on [p. 88 ] the long weary march! God bless you for your kind acts, your untiring labor, and for the sacrifice I know it cost you to leave home and its duties! I think the August number was unusually interesting; but I’ve been sad since. Can it be that Wilforley is dead? Shall we never read another of his bright, good letters? And more, those of us who knew him personally, can we never see him again? O, how sadly we miss him! But one sweet thought soothes our grief. He was ready to go home, and with him “all is well.” And H. A. Danker, must we give him up too? He died nobly in the defense of the dear old flag. Let us ever honor his memory!

Dear Auntie Sue, I trust you’re quite out of trouble long ere this. I know you have had the love and sympathy of the whole Merry band in your daughter’s sickness. You know we always love you! But here comes Uncle Hi with that hatchet so much dreaded; and not far away is Uncle Will close by Hattie L., with that horrid, hateful, clickerty-clunch manipulator.

So here I go,
Jessie Bell.


In the “Sanctum,” Aug. 2, 1864.

Dear Merrys:—I know you will all envy me when I tell you that I am now sitting in the very identical chair that Uncle Robert has so long occupied. But still I am not satisfied, for no “Uncle Rob” have I seen as yet, for he has worked so hard for our poor soldiers that he now lies upon a bed of sickness. But I have seen dear Hattie and one or two other cousins, and am in hopes I shall see Uncle William. But to-morrow I follow Winnie to the “Land of Gold,” and I could not leave without a parting word to you. Pearl, you differ from the rest of your kind, for they have to be dug out, while you come of your own accord. There! I wish you could see the dear old lady that is in the sanctum now. Eighty-five years old, and still merry. Saucy Nell, I want you to send your picture to Uncle Merry for me. Calleta, I want you too. But I see that basket under the table, and think I will stop. Good-bye, all ye Merrys.


“Land of Gold”: California. The earliest example in Mathews is dated 1857. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]


Death! death in our midst.

Suppress’d be the laugh, silent the jest.

Wilforley’s gone from our circle—gone to his rest,

Sought and obtained a home ’mong the blest.

We shall miss him, ah, yes, and o’er our loss weep,

While fresh in our memories his image we keep.

One who knew him well has told us of his personal worth, and his bright, Christian example. Let us emulate his virtues, and, like him, seek until we find the Pearl of great price, the only gem that can, when worn, make us radiant with beauty and loveliness.

Bella B.


Dear Cousins:—Sorrowful, in spite of our name, will be our Chat this month. My consternation and grief were great, as on joyfully opening our mag. at the Chat, the first words I saw told me one of our dearest cousins, brightest stars, would never more meet with us in this world. What can we do without him?

Let us try faithfully and earnestly strive to follow the example he set us.

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints in the sands of time.”

But judge of my surprise to find that I had often seen him, was his neighbor several years, attended the same church, and that his sisters were among my most intimate friends. Do any of them belong to our family? If so, I should like to renew the acquaintance. At all events, I can sympathize with, though I may not comfort, them.

Dear Flib, before seeing your letter, I had written, offering A. N. my support. Let us be, though a small, a brave band, determined in our resistance of the monarchists, and worthy to be republican girls. Will both of you ex.?

Many thanks to those who have cared [p. 89 ] enough for me to write. I am always ready for a “scrape” or ex.

W. A. R., your photo is forfeited for circulating false reports; another time, please know yourself, before telling.

I’m not half done, but still must wait.

Sans Souci.

“Lives of great men all remind us … ”: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” (1839) stanza 7.

“queens”: candidates for the “pretty girl” contest inadvertently sparked when Daniel H. Burnham asked, “Will the best-looking cousin in the Chat favor me with his or her carte?” (1862.2.28) The candidates included Fleta Forrester and Winifred.

X: verb abbreviated from “exchange” and usually referring to the exchanging of photographs between Cousins.


Is it true? One whose bark had for so long sailed down the same stream as ours? One who was noble and true, and whose life seemed to those who knew him so much like a sweet song? O Wilforley! though you are happy and at rest now, yet you have left behind mourners for the brave boy-heart that too early went home. What shall we say? Let us thank God that when the messenger came he found Wilforley ready, with a good and pure life, to be offered up. “He giveth his beloved sleep.”

Juno, here’s my right hand for our mutual enjoyment of Abi-gail; my left for mutual fondness of music (when it’s the right kind); and my love, as far as admiration of Longfellow. Isn’t he beautiful? Have you ever seen the dear man? I think I have. All the great men live near Cambridge, and my uncle-in-law is—guess what!

Flib, dear coz, couldn’t you manage to make the nod something more—a k—s, perhaps? If you are at New Ipswich, come and see your Concord cousin. Fact is, something has been hinted as to leaving the house by-and-by with precious few in it—for a short time, in course; and “when the cat’s away,” etc. So I am going to make a grand “invite.” Fleta and Minnie may have the best bed-room, if they won’t quarrel. A. E. D. and Nellie Van can have father’s room, provided they’ll fix it up. I’ll “vamose” and give mine to Fiddlesticks and Romance. Leslie and Dan can have F.’s room, and I’ll open the attic to W. A. R. and H. A. D. If Flib, L. W. C., A. N., Unsteady, and Harry Bowles will consent to sleep anywhere (on the floor, for instance), my doors are open; heart ditto.

Won’t I have some celebrities! I wouldn’t invite Monsieur Golden Arrow if I was put under torture, after what he said. “A little too full!” Mirabile dictu! Come, cousins, and help me settle him. I declare a horrible, bitter, burning war “agin” him.

Sweet Romance, please fancy me without a carte. Isn’t your imagination strong enough? Well, perhaps by-and-by.

Jolly Jingle.

P. S.—I’ve concluded Aunt Sue ought to come to make it proper. Will she?

“He giveth his beloved sleep”: Bible, Psalms 127:2: “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”


Providence, Sept. 13, 1864.

Dear Cousins:—The shadow of Death has fallen on our circle, and we meet with saddened hearts for the “faces we shall see no more.” Wilforley, our gay, bright, valued friend, has gone home—home to his Father’s mansion. We shall meet his cheerful face and hear his pleasant words no more on earth, but will not his memory be with us always as we gather monthly in the Merry parlor? Is not everything there associated with him? And when we think of him with tender memories, will he not look down upon us from on high, and love us as of old?

Nor will we forget to shed a tear for his memory who has died for the dear old flag—brave cousin Henry! Just as he reached success, the angel came, and he yielded up his life for “fatherland.” He has not lived in vain, or died in vain. We love our flag the dearer for the blood that has stained its sacred folds.

Others, too, have left us, to return again, I trust. Ellian’s voice has long been missed, while Oliver Onley, Cricket, and C. C. have been silent many months; and Wil. H. Coleman, where is she?

But new friends throng to fill the vacant seats, and surely they are very welcome, even while we sigh for the “old familiar faces.” To Jessie Bell, as one of these, I send a hearty greeting. Here’s my hand and a kiss, Jessie dear. We are friends, aren’t we. Harrie, Sue Friend, Sans Souci, Julia E., I have no cartes on hand at present, but any you will send will be thankfully received, and reciprocated as soon as possible. [ … ] [p. 124 ]

Uncle, forgive me, this time. I don’t write often at such length, so please let it pass. Don’t be sick, Uncle dear, but get well for the soldiers and for us all.

Daisy Wildwood.


Jacksonville, Ill., Sept. 9, 1864.

Dear Uncle Merry:—Are there any of my Merry cousins in St. Louis? If so, why did they not recognize my silver badge, which I displayed so boldly in my rambles through their great city?

How sad it is to think that we shall read nothing more from the enlivening pen of talented Wilforley! His Christian death alleviates the sorrow.

Loyalty, I am awaiting an answer to my second letter.

As ever,

Sigma: Not the original Sigma, this male correspondent from Jacksonville, Illinois, did not realize that there had been another using that “nom de guerre”: “ [ … ] no letters from ‘Sigma’ have been published since I took the Magazine. (March, 1857)” (1865.1.156)


Airy Castle, July 9, 1864.

Dear Aunt Sue:—I thank and love you very much for receiving me[.] Sister didn’t think you would, because you have letters from so many older boys and girls to look over.

Now, Aunty, I believe you must be a little like my father; he always likes to bring persons right to the point, and from your questions I guess you do too.

If I tell the real truth, I’ll have to say that I was sorry for all three reasons. I didn’t mean to disobey, only I ran off without thinking, which I know was not good.

I could hardly keep the tears from coming when I heard that your little girl was so sick. I hope she is well now, and that some time I may see and have a merry play with her. Please, Aunty, don’t forget

Sans Souci’s Little Brother.


Point Green, Sept., 1864.

Hark! Not a sound in the Merry parlor save that of woe and grief! See! not a countenance that does not betoken deep and heartfelt sorrow, nor an eye that is not bedimmed, nor a cheek that is not wet with tears. Two “vacant chairs!”—Wilforley and Danker, both gone! passed away from earth and our Merry circle forever. How we loved, and shall miss them! This, I know, has been the first thought of the cousins on reading the sad news. But only a few of you knew Wilforley personally; those of us who did, can realize what a loss he is, not only to our circle, but to the community in which he lived. Those of you who were present that evening at Minerva’s will never forget how merry and how full of life he was. Little did we think when parting with him that night, that he had attended his last Merry meeting on earth. But God takes the purest and best, most loving and loved, first to himself, and we must submit, no matter how bitter, or how much to be regretted in the demand, and in the true spirit of the prayer which He has taught us, say and feel “thy will be done on earth.”

And Henry A. Danker, too, noble soldier and sailor (for he has been both), has perished while nobly fighting in the cause of freedom, and to perpetuate the honor of that “dear, old, star-gemmed banner.” Angel bands from Paradise have caught up the departing souls; have sped upward with them through the almost boundless ether; have landed them safely on the shining shore, and now the voices of our loved and lamented cousins blend with the voices of the saints as they join in singing the anthems of the redeemed before the throne of the King of kings.

Death’s angel seems to be in our midst—two of our bravest and best have in succession fallen. Whose turn comes next?—ah, whose? Would that we could know! Let us turn from the world and the sins which beset our pathway at every step; let us follow the bright and shining example of Wilforley, and be prepared, as he was, to go when the summons comes.

Brothers, you have passed away

From a world of tears and strife

To one of endless, perfect day,

A never-ending happy life—

Gone where angels ever fair

Join to sing Jehovah’s praise,

Where spirits, free from grief or care,

Sing through never-ending days.


Minerva wrote from Green Point in 1862 and 1863.


Williamsport, Aug. 9, 1864.

Dear Uncle Merry:—It is a long time since I have “darkened your parlor door;” have you missed me any? I presume not, with the din of such a “W. A. R.” about your ears.

Now, taking it for granted you would like to know, I am going to tell you where I have been this long time. I have been in college, therefore have been so busy as not to have the time to come and see you.

How nice your visit to the soldiers was! Last Christmas our school sent a box to the prisoners at Richmond, giving up our annual Christmas tree to do it. Weren’t we “good girls?” It contained prepared chocolate, crackers, tea, coffee, paper, etc., and some money. Will you ask if any of the Merrys ever attended the E. F. College? If so, I claim “relationship.” [ … ]

Willie H. C., you shall have two chairs for taking care of our soldiers.

Yours truly,


Binghamton, Sept. 16, 1864.

Dear Uncle and Cousins All:—Will you not admit one more into your Chat? I have always been a reader of the Museum, but have never before ventured to address Uncle Robert. I was impelled to do so now by the notice in September Merry of the probable death of H. A. Danker. I had the pleasure of [p. 127 ] attending lectures with him the past winter at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and I can say truly that he was one of the most faithful students in the institution. He graduated with honor in the spring, and had his life been spared, he would have been an ornament to his profession. So the young and talented are every day passing away, teaching us to be also ready.

Now, cousins, that W. A. R. has emigrated to South America, let us have a reign of peace, and all remain loyal to our noble queen Fleta.

But I only designed this time to make my bow, so with the suggestion that I should be happy to exchange cartes with any of my new cousins, I bid you all a Merry good-bye.


College of Physicians and Surgeons: founded in 1807 in New York City, New York.


Oct. 3, 1864.

Dear Chatterers:—In looking over the Chat in the last Museum, I see that another of our Merry circle has fallen—a brave soldier boy.

Dear cousins, let us strive to imitate the noble example of Wilforley and H. A. Danker, so that when our time shall come, like them we may be found “ready and waiting.”

Mignonette, I am of the same calling (?) as yourself. Isn’t it pleasant to teach school? [ … ]

Juno, I too like to read the writings of Gail Hamilton. Can’t we be friends?

Cousins, remember

Mignonette: “Waif, I think it is great fun to teach school. Do you teach a country school and board around? if so, isn’t that the greatest fun out?”—Mignionette Wildwood (1865.1.61)


Oct. 5, 1864.

Uncle Merry:—Let me inform you that this is only the third letter that I have commenced to write to you; perhaps I shall succeed this time so far that my letter will be reckoned as a dead letter.

Em. Moore, did you know that your name sounded very familiar to me, as I have a friend of the same name.

Cousins, what do you think I did this afternoon? Why, clumsy thing that I was, tumbled out of my chair, jarring the whole house with my fall. I don’t know that I feel any the worse for it, though.

My school is just out, and I expect to enjoy myself hugely during vacation. I only wish it was good skating; I am anticipating much pleasure in that line this winter. How is it with you?

Does any one know what has become of Adelbert Older, that we have not heard from him in so long? Perhaps he, too, has been “stepping off.” Who knows?

With love to all the cousins and Aunt Sue, I will bid you adieu.

Addie W.


Illinois, Sept. 14, 1864.

Dear Cousins Merry:—I say Hurrah! for Sharpshooter; glorious fellow I will bet—having the Stars and Stripes over his head, pecking away at the rebs. If we were old enough, wouldn’t we make a splendid regiment? Three cheers for Sherman and Atlanta! My best regards to all the cousins. Hoping to hear from Sharpshooter soon, I remain truly,

Out West Boy.

Atlanta: taken by Union troops under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman on 2 September 1864. Sherman’s headquarters here was a house formerly occupied by subscriber Louisa J. Neal. Though her father repurchased the house after the War, the family never lived there again. [Franklin M. Garrett. Atlanta and Environs. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc., 1954; vol 1: 127, 572. vol 2: 127, 638-639.]

Sharpshooter: Sharpshooter’s only letter to the Museum was dated January 1864; he mentioned making New Year’s visits to various Cousins in New York (1864.1.56).


Packwaukee, Marquette Co., Wis., Oct. 14, 1864.

Aunt Sue:—I address this to you, because my son Adelbert Older has been one of your correspondents. I inclose the money wherewith to pay for his Museum and Cabinet for the current year, commencing, I believe, with July. I also feel it a duty to announce to you, and through you to the cousins, that Adelbert re-enlisted in the Union army last February, and in company with a younger brother joined the Thirty-sixth Wis. Regt. of Infantry; moved to the Potomac in May, and on the 1st of June, their regiment went into a charge at a place called Turner’s Farm. The regiment was repulsed and badly cut up, and both our boys reported lost. On the 27th of July we read a letter from Adelbert, bearing date “General Hospital No. 21, Richmond, Va., June 5th,” saying he was wounded at the rebel rifle-pits, lay till after dark, carried to their field hospital next day and had his wound dressed, and next day carried to Richmond. He spoke cheeringly of his situation, said his wound was not deep or dangerous, and that he should recover. This is the last, and all we know of either. I want his Cabinet continued for the year, and then to close unless you ever hear from him again.

From your humble friend,
Amos Older.

[Editor: ] One more loved and honored name added to the noble band of Merry heroes who have cheerfully given themselves to their country, willing to suffer and die that she might live. Their names and memory will ever be cherished by all our Merry band, and our prayers ever ascend to the God of nations to watch over and bless the loved yet sorrowing ones at home. There is little hope for wounded ones in Southern prisons, yet, while many die, some live and may some time return. Our “Eugene” has been seventeen months a prisoner, and yet was alive and well six weeks ago in Charleston, S. C., and we hope and pray a kind Providence which has thus far watched over him, will in due time return him to us again.

Turner’s Farm, Virginia: a skirmish here was fought on 31 May 1864.


“My Snuggery,” Oct. 22, 1864.

Dear Museum:—My private opinion publicly expressed to the inmates of the sanctum is that the “cozes,” and all those who pretend and want to be, ought to do all in their power to help the “dear old little mag.” along, so that it may be the greatest, original, and most beneficial “Muse-um” existing. But, stop! I don’t know but what it is already the book of its kind in existence. In fact, I believe, that if it was put to vote by the people of the U. S., the “yeas” would be as plenty as the good things in the Museum, and the “nays” as scarce as other books of its kind and value. But, “nothing so good but what it might be gooder,” so if all cousins would take the trouble to note down every interesting, instructive, or amusing little incident that comes under their notice, and would put it in readable form and send to the M., then I think that by so doing they might render great assistance to Uncle R. in his efforts to make the M. what it is, besides making it more spicy and original.

The following little incident was told me by a friend, who was told it by a friend who was the mother of the “young hopeful.”

Little Arthur had been busily engaged in drawing the picture of a horse on his slate. After finishing it, he took it to his mother for inspection, who remarked that it was quite good for a first attempt. A little while after, Arthur was looking out of the window, when a vender’s horse and wagon passed by. The horse had evidently been a “vender” all his life, and looked as though it was about time for him to “retire.” Arthur noticed his shaggy appearance, and turning suddenly around to his mother, said:

“Ma, who made that horse?”

“God did, my dear,” answered his mother.

“God did?” said Arthur. “Why, it must have been one of His first attempts.”

Cousin I.

[Editor: ] Just the idea exactly, and I hope all the Merrys will take notice of the suggestion to note down interesting facts and incidents, etc., and send them in a condensed form for the Chat. Some of the letters are so full of long messages that the hatchet becomes dull with its work, and many kind words lost because the rule to “be short” is not observed.

a flourish

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1870s: 187018711872

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