1863: Ethan William Davis to Betsy A. Allen

This letter was written by 26 year-old Ethan William Davis (1836-1890) of Greece township, Monroe county, New York. He was the son of Harry B. Davis (1810-1876) and Elixa Green (1810-1883). Ethan was married to Betsey (“Bessie”) A. Allen (1841-1905) but it was sometime after this letter was written in 1863; perhaps just prior to their marriage. Their first child was born in 1865.

Ethan claims to have been working for a firm headquartered in Milwaukee but he does not give the name. He later returned to Monroe County, New York, and became a farmer.

[Note: This letter is from the collection of Aaron Greene and is published by express consent.]


New Lisbon [Wisconsin]
February 17, 1863

Dear Bessie,

It has been some time since I heard from you so I will improve the opportunity and have a chat with you. The last letter I received from you I had forwarded from Cedar Falls to Marion, Iowa. In my last I said that a letter could reach me at Dubuque but was disappointed and did not get any and come on to this State (Wisconsin) with a heavy heart.

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Ethan and Bessie’s Headstone

I have been traveling for a firm in Milwaukee. I have been north nearly two hundred miles among the Indians where the snow was two feet deep and among the tall pines 100 feet high. How cold and dreary it would seem—much unlike home—when the wind would moan through the tall pines and not see a house for ten miles expect Indian wigwams by the roadside.

It is very pleasant here today. It rained all day last Saturday and nearly spoilt the sleighing and today will finish it.

It must be hard soldiering it now-a-days. When I came through Mineral Point, I saw a company of soldiers that had been out after forty drafted men and got one. So much for drafting. Mineral Point is in a great lead region. I have some of the mineral in its natural state—it was a great curiosity to me—and have also some small pine cones. They will do to look at when I get home and refresh my memory of what I have seen.

I have that letter that you wanted me to get. Now Bessie, you don’t think that of me, do you? What Kit said about me? You have more confidence in me than I never thought of the thing. I wonder if the street cars run in Rochester.

Oh, when you [go] to your cousins after sugar, fetch me a tooth full. I shall be home in three weeks. Direct your next to Dundee, Monroe county, Michigan. I have relatives there and will leave here next week.

Ever yours, — Ethan W. Davis

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