1864: Mary Anette Halley to Samuel Newton

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How Mae Halley might have looked in 1864

This letter was written by Mary (“Mae”) Annette Halley (1836-1888), the fiancée of Samuel Newton (1835-1922). Mae was the daughter of John and Jessie (Spital) Halley of Markinch, Fifeshire, Scotland. She came with her parents as an infant to Vermont in 1836, was educated in the local schools, and then graduated from Newbury Seminary in Newbury, Vermont in 1858. She served as the preceptress of Xenia College, in Xenia, Ohio, from 1858 to 1864. She married Samuel on 22 September 1864. After She died, her husband married her sister, Elizabeth Halley (1842-1927).

This letter was written in 1864 while Samuel Newton served in the 154th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). “The couple became the parents of three boys and two girls between 1865 and 1874. The first two boys, Paul and Earle died at the ages of three and four respectively, probably from diptheria. The three surviving children were Frances Halley (1871-1962), Samuel Donald (1872-1962), and Mary Leslie (1874-1944). As stated in Kathryn Jean Tyrone’s Dear Ones, Newton Family Letters, 1862-1940, (page 31) Samuel’s dream was to own a sugar-cane plantation in Louisiana, but “he never abandoned his civic duties to Xenia. He entered the business community first as an apothecary and later as a bookseller. He was a founder of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and played a vital role in planning its construction.” Mae Newton taught at Xenia Female College and also found time to help organize the Xenia Woman’s Club in 1869 (the club fictionalized by Xenia native, Helen Hooven Santmyer in the novel, And Ladies of the Club). Mae Newton, after a brief illness, died in September 1888 and two years later Samuel and the three children move to Ooltewah, Tennesee. There Samuel built and managed a blasting powder plant. Samuel’s mother, Catherine Newton as well as Mae’s sister, Lizzie Halley, soon joined him. In 1893, Samuel married Lizzie. Catherine Newton died at her son’s home in December 1901. He died in July 1922.” [Source: Newton Family Papers, BGSU Libraries]


Addressed to Mr. Samuel Newton, New Creek Station
154th Regt. O. V. I., West Virginia

Xenia, [Ohio]
July 31st 1864


I received on last Thursday a note dated New Creek Station and on Friday your letter of the 24th inst. My rule “to answer immediately” has proved fallible this once, but it makes a difference of only two days.

I had anticipated your question with regard to the “Faculty” for next year in my last letter. It will probably be as therein stated unless you conclude to let me keep the position of preceptress as you have lengthened out your waking hours from sixteen to twenty, I suppose it won’t make much difference to you anyway. Please let me know quickly before it is too late to make arrangements. Sixteen or twenty waking hours a day! I am afraid if you attempt anything of the kind you will be haunted. I am morally certain that a “wraith” will work mischief dire & awful. Be persuaded then, I beseech you, tempt not the fates.

I had intended going away from Xenia this week but various untoward circumstances have prevented. Shall go next week if no adverse providence interferes to Washington Court House. You may continue to send my letters to Xenia—it is so uncertain about my going. They will be forwarded in case I leave.

“Do people gossip?” I do not know. I hear very little. My “reporter” Mrs. Canwell is out of town now visiting her mother. Besides, I have not been to see her but once during vacation. From some rumors that floated to my ears I had reason to think she was not “true” and so to keep myself out of the way of temptation, I quit going there for awhile. We have not quarreled. I do not think I am angry—just “spunky” a little, though I knew before that Mrs. Canwell liked to talk and when people talk, they must say something. All of which is mostly interesting to you I have no doubt.

I have scarcely been “down town” this week so I have no news to write. The only sign that “the world still wags” cognizable from the college are the mingled sounds of singing, praying, and shouting in the “colored” church opposite. The weather is warm enough for a revival and consequently from sunrise till midnight the work goes on.

I had only one letter last week which I didn’t think was exactly fair. Do you?

Yant a vous, — Mary

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