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John Densmore Letter - 1854 - of Elmira NY

Letter from John Wilson Densmore
Township: Elmira, Chemung County NY
Transcribed by Jane Spencer Gerber
Year: 1854
Photo Source : Joyce M. Tice

Letter written by John Wilson Densmore (1795-1867) to his sister Ann Densmore. John and his 10 siblings were born in Claremont, NH. Ann lived her whole life in Claremont, and never married. Their brother Caleb lived with her. Also mentioned in the letter are Pamelia (Jane?) Densmore (1798-1863), John’s wife; Joseph Dunn Densmore (1831-1899), their son; Jonathan Densmore, another of John’s brothers. Pamelia Densmore was blind for the last several years of her life, and lived with her son Joseph and his wife Sarah in Elmira, where she died. I believe that John returned to Claremont after her death, since he is buried there. I’m not sure who the Jane is who is mentioned in the first sentences of the letter. Either Jane is Pamelia’s nickname, or perhaps she is a daughter.

Elmira, Jan. 28, 1854

Dear Sister,

I have once more made an effort to answer your letter to Jane. She has dinged me for this two weeks past to write-- We are all well as usual or nearly so. My health is not very good this winter -- I have had the rheumatism in my arms & shoulders very bad this winter. I think it will wear away when warm weather comes round. Pamelia’s health is about the same as it has been. She has had a great deal of pain in her head & eyes this winter. Joseph is in Pennsylvania. He went away about four or five weeks since. He does not gain much -- his nerves are so paralized that he can only raise his hands as high as his shoulders -- Charles has a bad cold settled on his lungs with some cough. I am in hopes we can doctor it away -- the rest are all well and at home. I did think this fall that I should get to come home this winter or spring but I see no chance for [me?] at present. It is about as much as I can do to weather it through the winter and as soon as the frost is out of the ground I must fence my lot. My front stands in the frame and as soon as spring is fairly open I shall have enough to do to inclose it and get my garden in made.

I bought a cow the forepart of the winter and I have to paint a house for it though I have the inside partly done. I am now doing a job of paperhanging in the Village. I get a little work to do in town though it does not amount to much. It is bad work for the rheumatism. We have had bad weather this winter for rheumatism. It has been verry {sic} changeable but verry {sic} mild except the forepart we had a few days pretty cold and for the last ten days it has been cold enought to suit people generally -- I don’t know what people will do if flour & grain and provisions keep up or get any higher. Flour is now 10 dollars per barrel and probably will soon be 12 dollars and perhaps higher. However we [don’t?] trouble the wheat much. I can have work enough in town if I was able to do it. I cannot stand on the ladder therefore I am obliged to give up outside painting -- I don’t expect to have any one to help me this next season -- Charles thinks he ought to work for himself next summer. He helps me a little in hanging paper -- I suppose I must tell you how tall he is. He measures 6 ft. & 5 inches. He weighs 188 lbs. He is beginning to thicken up -- if he should get rid of this cold & remain well I should not be surprised if he should come up to 200 or over in a year’s time -- Since I commenced this I have perused your last letter to Jane. I find that I have not described Joseph’s complaint as particularly as I should have done. He has what his physicians call paralysis. He was to work in Towanda, PA. He did a hard day’s work lettering on a ladder reaching verry [sic] high and then took cold and it settled near the spine just below the left shoulder blade. It is not a real spinal disease. It is the nerves around the spine and in fact his nerves generally. He was taken ailing in August. He was completely helpless for 3 or 4 weeks. He could not feed himself or turn himself in bed. His physicians caused a poison sore on his back which came verry [sic] near killing him although it did him good. He gained fast after it -- they now want to burn a spot on his back to cause a sore and I don’t know but he will let them do it. I never saw a person suffer so much in the same length of time as he did with that sore for about ten hours. I don’t think he could have lived 4 hours longer if he had not got relief. I am in hopes he will get over it but it may not be in one two or three years if ever he does. The last I heard from him he gained verry [sic] slow. I expect him home every day. I think it may be that he has got a sign or two to paint in Pennsylvania.

I do not think of much more to write. I have not heard anything from our relatives in Geneva or Riga or any other place. If Uncle Josiah should get that property in England, he probably will have as much as one person ought to have. There is a man in Ohio by the name of Jennings that has had willed to him 60 millions and he will probably get it in about two or three years.

Remember me to all. Tell Caleb & Jonathan I should like to see them much but I don’t know when that will be.

Please write as soon as convenient.

Your affectionate Brother

J. W. Densmore

Chemung County NY
Published On Site
By Joyce M. Tice

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