October 1, 1890 letter to Ethan Keith from Hannah Comfort

October 1, 1890

To: Ethan Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hannah Marie Comfort, Campden, Ontario

Ethan had sent Hannah a picture of himself, which she has been showing to a young lady who lives in Campden. “Perhaps I may succeed yet in getting a lady who will be willing to share your fortunes.” She mentions her sister Mary’s death and enquires about her Aunt Mary Wickersham’s health. Her sister Jane, who has been nearly helpless at times, is waiting for a bath and rubbing. She uses salt and water, besides dog’s grease and liniment and yet does not get cured. The doctor says she has muscular rheumatism.

1890-10-01A 1890-10-01B 1890-10-01C 1890-10-01D 1890-10-01env

Campden, Oct 1st/90

Dear Cousin Ethan

Perhaps you think it strange why I have not written sooner. I should have replied immediately after receiving yours with the photograph. But it seemed I scarcely had a minute to spare just at that time. My sister Jane[1] has been nearly helpless at times & I have had the whole care of waiting on her besides doing our housework. She is very much better now, so that she can dress her self with a little assistance. She gets up to take breakfast with me sometimes.

She did not sleep very well last not & is takeing a rest this morning, so I had to take my breakfast alone. And before she gets out, I want to write a little to you. That photo is good, it looks like you, & I thank you very much for it. I have been showing it to a young lady who lives here. Perhaps I may succeed yet in getting a lady who will be willing to share your fortunes. I wish I had one to send. It never seems to be convenient to get mine taken. We are having lovely weather. Soon it will time for the fairs & then we may expect rain. We have all been interested in a great murder trial that has been going on in Woodstock, a city west of here. You may have seen it too in the papers, on account of it I mean. A young man, a married man, murdered a young single man, both Englishmen. The trial I think is about ended & the man is condemned to be hung next month. There were both of good families, well connected in England, so the papers state. And it was all done for money it seems.[2]

Did I write you about sister Mary’s[3] death. I think I did. She died on the nineteenth of February last[4]. I hope Aunt Mary[5] is comfortable where she is. I would like to know her address. Not that I want to write to her. But I promised to try & get it of you for Cousin Alexander Patterson[6].

Jane has come out & is waiting for me to give her a bath & rubbing. She uses salt & water, besides dogs grease & linnament & yet does not get cured. The doctor says she has muscular rheumatism[7]. Besides her general health is not good. I told her she must wait until I finish this. Jane says remember her to your mother[8]. I would like to hear from Uncle Stephen[9] but he never writs to us. With my love to all the family.

Your Cousin,

H. M. Comfort[10]

When I get a photo of my own will send the first one to you.


[1] Eliza Jane Comfort, third child of Francis and Jemima (Wilcox) Comfort. Francis Comfort and Ethan’s grandmother, Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts, were brother and sister. According to Botting’s Comfort Families of America, Jane died of cancer March 13, 1892

[2] According to Wikipedia, Reginald Birchall (aka Lord Frederick A. Somerset) (25 May 1866 – 14 November 1890) was born into a situation of some privilege in Lancashire, England. He became heavily indebted and sold off his inheritance at a discount, purchasing a farm in Woodstock, Ontario. He traveled there with his new wife after an elopement, arriving in 1888. He soon fell into debt there and left again for England, where a scheme to defraud several wealthy people led him back to Canada with one of his victims. He supposedly murdered Fredrick Benwell in order to silence him. Birchall professed his innocence to the end and even wrote a long account of the affair while in prison. This memoir was published in an attempt to create an income for his wife after his death. The murder took place in Princeton, Ontario in a swamp that would later be called “Benwell Swamp” by the locals. Hunters in the area found the dead man on February 23 1890, who was apparently dressed quite well. Birchall had told authorities that Benwell had returned to England, so his story did not add up. The body was exhumed in order for Birchall to identify it. The trial of Birchall took place in Woodstock, Ontario and was a world wide media event. Birchall was sentenced on September 30 and was hanged on November 14, 1890 at Woodstock, Ontario. He was buried in the court yard of the Woodstock City Gaol, where he still remains

[3] Mary Catherine (Comfort) Haney, second child of Francis and Jemima (Wilcox) Comfort

[4] According to Botting’s Comfort Families of America, she died February 23, 1890

[5] Mary (Comfort) Wickersham, Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts’ sister

[6] This most likely is James Alexander Patterson, fourth child of Elizabeth Comfort and John Patterson. Elizabeth and Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts were sisters

[7] In the 19th century muscular rheumatism was used to refer to symptoms resembling those of fibromyalgia

[8] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[9] Stephen Comfort, Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts’ brother

[10] Hannah Marie Comfort, eighth child of Francis and Jemima (Wilcox) Comfort

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: October 1, 1890 letter to Ethan Keith from Hannah Comfort – Letters & Diary Entries From the 1860s through the 1890s

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