1863 Letters

March 8, 1863 letter to Matilda Brown & Julia Allen from Sarah Lunn

March 8, 1863            

To: Matilda Brown & Julia Allen, Galesburg, MI                

From: Sarah Lunn, Janesville, WI

Reminisces about their childhood and especially the fall of 1814 and the war.

Janesville March 8, 1863[1]

Dear Sisters[2]

We have not heard a word from you since John[3] was here until a week ago last night we received Matildas letter and you had not heard from us either. Well I have thought a good many times I would write to you, and I have wrote to Margaret[4] and sent her that letter of Julias 3 weeks ago to morrow. The reason I did not send it before I wanted to coppy it for there was so many things in from Sodus[5] and my memory is not wat it used to was. Well it is not likely that I shall ever see Sodus again. Julia, you wrote that Sidney[6] was a going to build a new house this year. Well I should like to see the old house that father and mother[7] went home from but I cannot that is sure. But there whispering spirits seem to say be patient and since I have so many ways to crook and turn to get along how often I think of them. I can look back on times that were not very prosperous with them and it seems as though they must have had some hard times to get along especially in 1814.[8] In the fall father was drafted to go to war but he got off without going by his haveing a sore on one of his legs something like a fever sore and after the Hudson River frose he teamed cannon and balls from the arsenal at Albany to newyork. I dont know how many load yes and thashed his own grain in the barn and drawed his firewood 4 miles for a very large fireplace and got out his flax all alone for half the men or more was gone to war. Well Mother spun the flax and tow and clothed us all and there was 6[9] of us besides father and mother. I[10] was in my 11 year and she had me try to spin some that winter and as there was no school that winter she had us read and spell a good deal. Oh one would think her patience was tried. Well she overworked herself in them days that was certain. Father came home one day and when John and Eunice had got on his lap and he was looking rather sober and us older ones was looking for bad news he spoke and said they were having another hard time in newyork and amongst the rest he said sugar was 18 pence per lb. Well, mother said we could do without sugar. Do without sugar, said father, that is a likely story. Well she laughfed and told him she has most a barrel in the cellar. Well it was no more nor less than a barrel of English sweet apples and she stewed them and mixed and made a good many batches of fried cakes without a spoonful of any other sweetning in them.

Well that was not a war of murmuring as this is. I lived to see that war begun and ended, but it is uncertain about this for I think it will be a 7 years war. We heard from Margaret last week by the way of William Stinehart.[11] He said they was well and George[12] had gone on to Tennesee. I think his time will be out in June if he lives and I expect if C L[13] lives to be old enoughf he will have to go and why is not our hearts lifted in one petition to God for peace. But no it is to be no union any more. I believe one party is as much to blame as the other. I shall try to think it is all right for there is one that knows better than we do. Mathilda you wanted I should go and see M[14] but that I cant do for we have not the means. We had 22 bushels wheat sowed last year and we have only 30 bushels from it. The bugs eat it so and we got only 8 cords of wood cut last winter and that sold for near 40 dollars by carrying it to Janesville. And then we sold our 4 hogs on foot for 25 dollars and then we had a note of 37 dollars to pay out of it and our taxes 12$ and now we have sold a heifer for 20 cords of wood chopping but that will do us no good now and we want to get a harness and a new plough and C L has traded off the oxen and got another colt. He wants me to write to you Julia and see if we can get 50$ of you this spring.

(Unsigned – believe it was written by Sarah Allen Lunn)


[1] The envelope is addressed to Mr. Ambrose Brown, Galesburgh, Michigan. While the year is hard to decipher, because she remarks that there “is to be no union any more,” I believe the date is 1863

[2] Matilda (Allen) Brown and Julia Ann Allen, who lived with Ambrose and Matilda for many years

[3] Believe she is referring to their brother, John Wood Allen

[4] Their sister, Margaret (Allen) O’Brien Stinehart

[5] Sodus, New York

[6] Their brother, Sidney Allen

[7] Jedediah & Mary (Pearsall) Allen

[8] At every place where the digit 4 appears, it is hard to determine in the original letter whether that number is a 9 or a 4. Because she talks of Father being drafted to go off to war, I believe that those numbers are all 4’s

[9] Sarah, Wilson, Sidney, Charles, John, and Eunice

[10] Sarah was the only child who could have been 11 in the year 1814

[11] Margaret married a John Stinehart, so this must be some relation

[12] Possibly George O’Brien, Margaret’s son by her first husband

[13] Believe Sarah is referring to her son, Charles Lunn. He did serve from August 17, 1864 until June 19, 1865

[14] Possibly a reference to their sister, Mary (Allen) Calkins

9 thoughts on “March 8, 1863 letter to Matilda Brown & Julia Allen from Sarah Lunn

  1. An amazing amount of detail to work through and get an impression of what life was like. The past was definitely different. It makes me wonder what it would be like if we tried to write a similar account of our childhood 50 years ago. What things would we write about? Would current events influence what we recalled?


    1. Interesting thoughts! I’m lucky if I can remember things from ten years ago – haha. Thanks for visiting my blog.


  2. We wouldn’t know how to survive if for some reason we couldn’t buy all our food at the grocery store! Thanks for stopping by.


    1. Thanks for looking and glad you enjoyed them. I realize how lucky I am to have access to all these letters. They bring my ancestors to life and I really have an insight into how they lived.


  3. Barb, Letters with so much detail are such a treasure! Like everyone has said, it gives such an intimate look into the daily living of your ancestors. Thank you for sharing this letter with us.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Diane. Glad you enjoyed them. They really help to bring out the big picture of their day-to-day lives.


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