1878 Letters

October 23, 1878 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

October 23, 1878

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Chicago, IL

Hiram is writing his sister, Sarah Keith, and trying to address some issues that have apparently been raised by her daughter, Louese, about her living arrangement within Hiram’s household. Hiram senses that Sarah is concerned about the level of work and may want Louese to return home. Hiram also has the impression that Louese may feel that not enough is done for her in the way of clothing. If Hiram’s impressions are correct and Sarah wants Louese to return home, Hiram wants to make sure that she does it in such a way that Louese can leave with good feelings and return at any time and feel welcomed. Hiram then goes on to describe a very unpleasant conversation between their Mother, D.C. (who is visiting from Colorado), Prosper and himself about her living arrangements. She had been living with Sarah & Luke but apparently wanted to live on her own. They finally decided to agree to let her try and get a room in Galesburg for the winter.

Chicago, Oct 23d 1878

My Dear Sister

Your letter received this morning – The old adage that dreams are always contrary is fully verified in this case, at least as far as I know – if Louese[1] is troubled with pains and aches more than the average of us mortals, she keeps it to herself.

Now Sarah let us be frank with each other – what I write you is written in all brotherly feeling. To begin with there is quite a well defined feeling with me that you are not perfectly satisfied with Louesa’s position here – that in view of what is going to take place[2] at our house. She may be called upon to do more than you would like to have her do. As you might fear to the extent of being detrimental to her health. Of course for a spell her work will be more in quantity and unpleasantness, how much you can judge as well as myself. Also that we do not do enough for her in the way of clothing. Of course I know that the latter feeling did exist whether it does now or not. Also that Louesa entertains these feelings more or less, and that if you knew just how you could get her home without any trouble in the family, you would do so.

Now Sarah I may be wrong in all of these surmises, but if I am right, I sincerely trust that you will frankly let me know, and I send her to you without one unkind feeling to mar our brotherly and Sisterly friendship – for you are her mother and I am bound to fully respect your feelings. As for myself my conscience is clear. I know that I earn so much per month and I am equally certain that it all goes for the support of my family and contributions to Mother. Also that Louesa is dressed as well as Kate[3] my children[4] and myself, not any of us as good as I would like, but as good as I can do it with my present means. Not elegant but respectable. I am paying two dollars[5] per week for washing and ironing. With one dollar more I can hire a girl to do all of our work. It might not be as pleasant, but unless you & Louesa are perfectly satisfied – such an arrangement would be much more satisfactory to me – as the question then would be simply dollars and cents – so much per week and if things don’t suit: quit and no feelings hurt on either side.

Now Sarah I want you to read this over and I beg of you to not let any feelings of Kinship to weigh on particle in governing your decision on this matter, but be governed wholly by your true feelings, or to what you think best both for your peace of mind and your daughters good and it will be perfectly satisfactory to Kate & myself – Only if you do send for her do it in such away that she can leave with good feelings and feel that she can come back here on a visit at anytime and find a welcome which I can honestly assure you that she would.

Now, a word about Mother.[6] I am very glad that you have gone on with the room,[7] for if she don’t occupy it this winter undoubtedly sometime she will be obliged to and is liable to do so at any time. At any rate it is another comfortable room for yourself. You know it has been Mothers hobby for some years to live by herself at the Burg.[8] And she has thought so much about it and was so determined to make it come around on this visit of DC[9] that she is almost insane on that subject. DC, Pros[10] & myself had a consultation with her[11] and she felt so bad and cried so much about being so lonesome and not having any church privalegs and that she was so happy while living by herself, that we agreed to let her try and get her a room in the Burg and try it this winter, believing that it would be infeasible for her to find one, and if she did that she would be sick of the attempt before Spring, as we informed her that she would have to live on the same amount that we had sent you.[12] Also that when she got back and found it difficult to find any room, and found her old room as comfortable and everything pleasant that she would be contented for the winter. Now Sarah with regard to what Mother has said about that room and going back to your house, it seems to me that you hadn’t ought to care. She is but and over grown child, to be sure rather ungoverenable and decidedly unpleasant yet I think that we her children hadn’t ought to care one straw about her talk, particularly inasmuch as talking seems to be a great part of her existance. I will say one thing, Mother has talked less and acted different than I ever knew her to do before, and as DC dissappointed her expectations she finding out that she could do anything with him. I trust that when she goes back and finds everything pleasant, you folks treating her just as if nothing had ever been said or done, that she will be more contented and less trouble to you. From what I can learn, I think she intends to start sometime next week. With regard to that room of Nancy’s[13] of course we knew that to be the height of absurdity & knowing that it was impossible in this case and believing if they had forty rooms they wouldn’t want her. Then my dear sister I believe I have exhausted these subjects and will close with love to all.

Affectionally your Broth

Hiram Crawford


[1] Sarah’s daughter (and Hiram’s niece), Louese Jerusha Keith, who was living with Hiram while attending school in Chicago

[2] They were expecting their third child

[3] His wife, Katherine (Atcheson) Crawford

[4] Harry and Jessie

[5] $2 in 1878 is equivalent to $50 in 2018 dollars

[6] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[7] Luke Keith’s 1878 diary, during the month of October, has many entries regarding making improvements to the house

[8] Galesburg, Michigan

[9] Their brother, David Caleb Crawford

[10] Their youngest brother, Lucius Prosper Crawford

[11] On September 24, several family members, including D.C. and Pros, traveled to Dowagiac, Michigan, to attend the wedding of Edna Alice Crawford and Oscar Allen Jr., and so it was apparently during this time that they had this consultation

[12] She was apparently successful in her search as Luke’s entry for November 1 notes, “Mrs Betts came over packed up her goods. She is going to live at the burg.” And on November 2: “Moved Mrs N. B Betts over to Burg. She moved into John Freers house. Pleasant day.”

[13] Sarah’s daughter, Nancy (and her husband Hank), lived in Galesburg

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