This letter was written by Sarah (Gilkes) Richards (1801-18xx), the wife of Robert G. Richards (1804-1875), a tobacconist, who emigrated from London, England, in 1843, aboard the ship George Stevens. The couple emigrated with five children to Penfield, Greene county, Georgia, but finding country life not to their liking, relocated after two years to New York City. In the 1850 and 1860 US Census records, Robert and Sarah were enumerated in New York City’s 16th Ward, District 3.
The youngest son was William Gilkes Richards (1837-1895). William was machinist and in 1875 he was elected engineer of the Atlanta Water Works—later superintendent of same. “Willey” was married to Mary Jacqueline Haynes (1840-1919 in 1860. The child of 11 months mentioned in this letter was Emma Y. Richards (1863-1852).
The eldest son was Robert H. Richards who returned to Georgia and started his career as a book seller in LaGrange, Georgia. He married Josephine Rankin in 1852 and lived most of the time in LaGrange until after the war though he had a partnership with Mr. McPherson in an Atlanta Book business. Immediately after the war, Robert partnered with General Austell to organize the Atlanta National Bank—eventually become the Vice President.
The author’s parents were William Gilkes and Hannah Walford of Oxfordshire, England. She wrote the letter to her sister Mary (Gilkes) Goffe who was married to a farmer and must have emigrated either at the same time (1843) as the Richards or just prior to the date of this letter in 1847. It appears the Goffe family settled in western New York State.
[See also—1847: Sarah Richards to Mary Goffe]
Address to Mrs. Goffe, Oakfield, Genesee, New York
My dear sister,
I dare say you think it strange that I have not written to you for so long but when I tell you the reason, I know you will forgive me. Early in the spring my husband and myself were both taken ill—so ill that we were both confined to our bed and obliged to close the store. My husband is still sick sometimes—able to sit up and then again abed for days altogether.
In a few weeks I recovered to my present, feeble state of health, but my trouble of mind about my husband and my children and I am suffering awfully from dyspepsia all combined together quite unfits me for anything.
When that infernal Sherman took Atlanta—as he ordered all the white people out—my Willey with his wife and youngest child, a very lovely little girl of 11 months, came on home. His wife and child are still with us but Willey has been from the city for the past 3 weeks in a shop but I expect him home on Saturday. It was a great loss to Willey. He lost a comfortable home and very nice furniture—very likely all now burnt up—and his little boy for a time, no one knew how long, is lost to him. When the city was being shelled, Robert took him to LaGrange for safekeeping and the soldiers came into the city before they expected them so that their little boy with my Robert is lost to us for the war. Such, my dear sister, are my trials through life.
Jake Milley’s wife don’t know what is become of her mother and her family.
Robert’s store with all its stock was burnt down several weeks before they took Atlanta. He could have got the insurance money but it had run out the day before.
We have had a doctor all summer and with the high state of things and such an increase in our family, I find it an awful expense. Mine has been to you a tale of woe and I anticipate nothing else the very little time that I shall be here. I trust, my dear sister, we shall meet in a better world.
Sarah and her family are well. My husband joins me in love to you all. If brother is with you, give my kind love to him. I have heard nothing from England. Write to me as soon as you can. Hope that your prospect is bright for both worlds.
I remain, my dear sister, your affectionate sister, — S. Richards