November 17, 1902 letter to Sarah Keith from Edna Allen

(This post was updated on 09-21-2021)

November 17, 1902

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Edna Allen, Kalamazoo, MI

Edna is writing her Aunt, who unfortunately died on the 18th, before the letter arrived. Edna is updating Sarah on her family. She was in Wisconsin, but missed seeing Uncle Robert, although she has received a letter from him. She saw in the paper that Hiram had been in Galesburg visiting.

Scan of 1902-11-17 Edna Allen to Sarah Keith

[Postmarked November 17th, 1902][1]

Dear Aunt Sarah,

Doubtless you will be much surprised to hear from me as I have been silent so long. You have often been in my thoughts and I have promised myself meny times to run down and spend the day with you. But my health is not very good and I go very little. Mrs Mills, boards here where Madge[2] & I are boarding so I often inquire of Mrs Dr McBeth as she visits the Mill’s. We are living in Kalamazoo since we left Sycamore. Madge finished school 2 years ago. I hear that Nancy[3] has lost her Husband[4] and that her two daughters[5] are married. She must feel quite alone in the world. Henry was a good Husband and Father. How is Hannah[6] and the rest of the family? Madge and I were in Wisconsin a few weeks last year. I did not see Uncle Robert[7] but got a nice long letter from him. I saw by the paper a few weeks ago that Uncle Hiram[8] was in Galesburg. I have been in Dowagiac some since my return from Sycamore. It’s grown to be a delightful place to live in. I had about live there as here. Emmet[9] is quite well. His mind is worse[10] I think but his general health seems to be about the same. I am here alone tonight. I wish you might step on and we would have a good old fashion talk. Madge is up to her Grandma’s.[11] She expects to stay untill Monday. She thinks a great deal of them and they of her. Her Father[12] is in South Carolina. Jolley Allen[13] wife[14] has seperated from her husband and he is South. She and her two Children[15] are living in Jackson. The youngest son, Glen[16] his wife[17] seperated from him a year ago last November. She has gone to her home in Peoria, Ill. She was a beautiful woman. Judge Macklivanes daughter, she had a little daughter but it died two years ago. They all had the same trouble that I had with O.M.[18] There is but one boy left that is living with his wife. Its strange they can not behave when they have good wives, don’t you think so? Mr Allen[19] is building several stone houses for rent. Mrs Allen[20] health is much better than it has been for several years. Mr. Allen is in very poor health. I guess I must close this letter as its quite late and I am very tired. I wish you could come and see me sometime. After a while I may run down Saturday night and stay untill Monday but I will write you the day before so you can meet me at the Depot. I should like to see you all so much. It would give me much pleasure. My love to you and the family. I remain your affectionate neice.[21]

Edna Crawford Allen
415 South West Street

P.S. Please excuse paper


[1] While the letter itself was not dated, the envelope was postmarked November 17, 1902

[2] Her daughter, Madge Allen

[3] Sarah’s daughter, Nancy (Keith) Brown

[4] Henry Brown died May 22, 1901 at the age of 51

[5] Edna was under the impression that both of Nancy’s daughters were married, however Nancy’s daughter, Lela Mae Brown, was engaged to Samuel Boyer. Nancy’s youngest daughter, Bess Rae Brown, married Julius Recoschewitz November 6, 1902. Edna probably had heard about the marriage of Josephine Meredith to Fred Dean (see the November 14, 1902 letter to James Keith) and confused the two girls

[6] Sarah’s daughter, Hannah (Keith) Towne

[7] Sarah’s brother, Robert Crawford

[8] Sarah’s brother, Hiram Crawford Jr.

[9] Emmett Patrick Crawford, Edna’s younger brother

[10] The 1880 census listed Emmett as “insane” and his uncle Emmett Hamilton’s probate records referenced Emmett as being a resident at the Asylum for the Insane in Kalamazoo; however, in later years he was able to live either with Edna or near her

[11] Her mother-in-law, Hannah (Smith) Allen

[12] Oscar M. Allen Jr. He and Edna were divorced

[13] Oscar’s brother

[14] Lizzie (Merriman) Allen

[15] Ralph and Duane Allen

[16] Oscar’s brother

[17] Priscilla McIlvaine

[18] Oscar’s nickname

[19] Oscar’s father, Oscar M. Allen Sr.

[20] Oscar’s mother, Hannah (Smith) Allen

[21] Edna’s father, Edwin Crawford, was Sarah’s brother

May 15, 1901 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

May 15, 1901

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Chicago, IL

Hiram is responding to Sarah’s news of D.C.’s death. He had sent a letter to Robert and had received a copy of D.C.’s obituary from Henry. He has sent condolences to Amanda.

Scan of 1901-05-15 Hiram Crawford to Sarah Keith

Anthracite-Bituminous Coal Co.
Miners and Dealers in Coal.

Chicago, May 15, 1901

My Dear Sister

Your letter with the sad news of our Brothers death[1] reached me Saturday morning. It was a great shock to me for somehow I hadent thought of DC passing away. He was a strong active man and was comparatively young amongst old people. I feel it probably more than the rest of the boys for we being so near the same age.[2] All during our boyhood and young manhood when we could be together we were very chummy. He ought to have lived ten or fifteen years longer and undoubtedly would if he had taken care of himself. No one ought to fool with the grip[3] or pneumonia. When he does he practically commits suicide. Well, Sarah, our circle has been broken for the first time in a good many years.[4] We have stood at a half of a dozen for a good while. May we stand at five[5] for many years yet. But we are like the grand army. We are at that age when we must expect these events to naturally happen a little oftener. It is the fate of the human family and we must take it as it comes and as philosophical as we can.

I wrote to Amanda[6] as soon as I got your letter expressing my condolences and sympathy as best I could and asked her to write. I also wrote Robert.[7] Amanda must have sent Henry[8] a paper and perhaps written him for I received a South Bend paper with the obituary in exactly as it was in the Denver paper you sent me, which by the way I gave to Nancy[9] last Sunday. I shall however write Henry today and send him Amanda’s letter with directions to return it to you. We are all as well as usual. Received a letter from Blanche[10] yesterday. She was well and happy. I mail you some chop today. Please let me know if you receive it. Love to all

Affectionately your Brother

H Crawford

215 Dearborn St


[1] David Caleb Crawford, who went by the nickname of D.C.

[2] Hiram was two years younger than D.C.

[3] Grippe, another name for mild influenza which was an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus and associated with running nose, sore throat and cough, temperature elevation and aches and pains throughout the body

[4] Their brother James died in 1858 and brother Edwin died in 1866

[5] Sarah, Robert, Henry, Hiram and Prosper

[6] Amanda (Thornton) Crawford, D.C.’s wife

[7] Their brother, Robert Crawford

[8] Their brother, Henry Clay Crawford

[9] Sarah’s daughter, Nancy (Keith) Brown

[10] Hiram’s youngest daughter, Blanche (Crawford) Hessey

(This post was updated on 02-18-2021)

January 19, 1868 letter to Sarah Keith from Henry Crawford

January 19, 1868  

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Henry Crawford, Niles, MI

Didn’t know they had moved to the timber farm. He was gone about 10 weeks in the fall in the roofing business in Laport. Got a job at home making one hundred sets of wagon wheels. Was in Chicago and got to meet their new sister. Virginia was at Mary’s; she was helping her father since her stepmother died. Everything is different from what it was a year ago. Mary’s health is poor and she is wearing herself out very fast. Mary gets up in the night and goes up to the graveyard. She told Virginia she would wake up and find herself nearly frozen. Her cousin, a young woman who is staying with her, told Virginia that she would sometimes get up from the table and go into the next room and drink her tea alone.

Scan of 1868-01-19 Henry Crawford to Sarah Keith

Niles    Sunday 19th/68[1]

Sister Sarah,

I received your welcom letter in due time & was glad to hear from you all once more. The day befor I receved it I was thinking about you & wondering how you was all getting a long. I did not know but you had mooved to the woods on that Timber farme that Luke[2] was a going to clear up (in a home). Well, we are living in the same place living about the same as of old. I am to work in the shop building wheeles for Murry. I was away from home for about ten weeks in the fall, was in the roofing business, was at Laport[3] the most of the time. I done verry well considern the time of the year I went at it. I came home as soon as cold weathe set in & found a job ready for me. Murry wanted me to build him one hundred set of waggon wheels. I took the job hired a helper & went at it. I hav got sixty set done. I will hav work as long as I want to stey for. I intend to go at roofing as soone as spring opins. If nothing hapins I will mak a few stamps this next summer. Tell Luke I will send him one of the Company Circulars as soon as I can. Mr Rogers the Propriator in in Ny York. When he return I will get some & send him one. If he can se any money in it & dont have anything that will pay him better I can put him on the right track. I was in Chicago twice this fall but did not have the pleasure of seeing our new sister[4]. She was not at home the first time but she was the second. Comments is unnessary. I have nothing to say. Virginia[5] was at Marys[6] in Desember. She is living or keeping house for her father[7] since her sep mother died[8]. Every thing is different from what thay was a year ago. She dont have them girles thar now. Mary health is poore. She is wareing her self out verry fast. She gets up in the night in her sleep in the night close & goes up to the grave yard[9] & all aroung. She told Virginia she had wok up and found her self nearly frozen. Her cousin, a young women is staying with her, told Virginia that she would get up from the table some times & go in the other room & drink her tea alone. She is verry poor in flesh.

We are all well. Virginia health is good as it ever was, so is mine. I have not heard from Mother[10] lately & dont expect to till I write to her, which I am a going to do in a bout five minutes. Virginia & childern send thar love to you & childern.

Your Brother H C Crawford


[1] Although no month is given, in 1868 the 19th fell on Sunday in only January, April and July. Based on the context of the letter, it appears to be written in January

[2] Charles Luke Keith Jr., Sarah’s husband

[3] LaPorte, Indiana, where Henry originally met his wife, Virginia

[4] Brother Hiram’s new wife, Katherine (Atcheson) Crawford

[5] Virginia (Worley) Crawford, Henry’s wife

[6] Mary (Hamilton) Crawford, wife of brother Edwin

[7] Patrick Hamilton

[8] Lovina (Taylor) Hamilton died September 5, 1867

[9] Edwin Crawford died in Burlington, Iowa, on October 4, 1866

[10] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

January 30, 1865 letter to Luke Keith from Edwin Crawford

January 30, 1865

To: Charles Luke Keith Jr.

From: Edwin Crawford, Burlington, IA

Checking to see if Luke had put the spring beds in and if so to let him know and he will send the money but will do it on the sly. His health is good with the exception of his foot, which has given him a good deal of pain and trouble. The nail has come off causing him to hobble around. He thinks it will bother him all winter.

Scan of 1865-01-30 Edwin Crawford to Luke Keith

Burlington Jan 30th 1865

Brother Luke

Dr Sir

I told Pros[1] to give you the size of my Bead Sted and Father Hamilton’s[2] when he went to your place and as I havent heard from him since I left home I thought I would write you a few lines to enquire of you wether you had put the spring Beds in and if you have or as soon as you put them in let me know and I will send you the money but do it on a sly.

My health is good with the exceptions of my Foot witch has give me a good deal of pain and trouble. The nail has come of and as I have to be hobling around it heals slow. I think it will bother me all winter. Give my Love to Mother[3] & Sister Sarah.

From your Brotherinlaw

E.W. Crawford


at East Burlington Repair Shop

[1] His brother, Prosper Crawford

[2] His father-in-law, Patrick Hamilton

[3] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

August 19, 1864 letter to Sarah Keith from Edwin Crawford

August 19, 1864

To: Sarah Keith

From: Edwin Crawford, Burlington, IA

He is railroading as usual. Spent a week with his family in Dowagiac. Mother was there too. Speaks of Mary. Mother has gone to Niles to visit Henry.

Scan of 1864-08-19 Edwin Crawford to Sarah Keith

Burlington Iowa          Augst 19th 1864

Dr Sister

It has been a long time sinse I have had a letter from you, and for fear I am in debt to you, I thought I would drop you a line to in form you that I am well and Rail Roading it as usual. I spent a week with my Family in Dowagiac the first of July, when Mother[1] come. We was all glad to see her and I think she enjoid herself well. I bid Mother & Mary[2] good by on Sunday morning July 10th and left them all well. Sinse I learned from Mary that Mother has gone to Niles to spend a week with Henrys[3] folks and then I expect she will come and stay to or three months with Mary. I have no news that would interest you. I suppose Luke[4] has gone to Wisconsin. I hope he may Do well with his Pattent Bed[5]. I hope these few Lines will find you and your Family enjoying good health. Give my respects to Luke and I will bib you good by for this time.

This is from your affectionate Brother

E.W. Crawford

[1] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[2] His wife, Mary (Hamilton) Crawford

[3] His brother, Henry Crawford

[4] Sarah’s husband, Charles Luke Keith Jr.

[5] At one point, Luke spent quite a bit of time on the road selling “bed bottoms,” a form of rubberized bedsprings

June 7, 1863 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

June 7, 1863

To: Sarah Keith 

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Belle Plaines, VA

Was surprised to hear Mother had gone to Canada for a visit. Jennie wrote that Ed had given up farming and that Pros was running the farm. “Mary always thought more of him [Pros] than the rest of the family.” The fight on May 3 was the hardest. He believes no battle on record shows a musketry fight of so lengthy a duration.

Scan of 1863-06-07 Hiram Crawford to Sarah Keith

Camp 20th Ind Vol near Belle Plains

June 7th, 1863

Dear Sister

Your welcome letter was received last night. I had almost despaired of hearing from you or Mother[1]. I wrote Mother twice, one just before the fight and one since and thought it very singular, for Mother is much more prompt than I be (and that you know is saying a good deal for her). Thought that the twenty dollars had stopped somewhere on the road and am glad to hear that it is all right. The first knowledge that I had of Mother being in Canada was by a letter from Jennie[2] received the 4th. I was much astonished. Mother had written something about such a journy in some of her letters but I hadnt any idea that she seriously entertaind any such an idea, much less going. Well I hope she will have a good time generally, and come back satisfied with everything and everybody.

Jennie wrote me that Ed[3] was running on the Burlington and Quincy R R and that Pros[4] was running the farm. I guess that Ed has made up his mind that the old Gentleman[5] will out live him[6], and that it aint going to pay to punish himself any longer by hoeing corn and potatoes. Well I dont think the farm will suffer any by the change for I guess that Pros is the best farmer and Mary[7] always thought more of him than she did of all of the rest of the family. I should have written to Pros if I had known where he was. He will hear from me soon.

That was a tough old week that we spent across the River[8]. I was as near used up when arrived back to camp as I ever was. The fight on Sunday (May the 3d) was the hardest on record. A continual roar of musketry was kept up from sunrise to 12 Oclock am. I believe no battle on record shows a musketry fight of so lengthy a duration. The Artilly was not idle although not quite as heavy as at Malvern Hill[9], it was enough so to make it very interesting. I might with propiety say decidedly interesting. Our supported Batteries for five days, in fact all the time most, which account for our small loss. One shell struck in my Company, knocking the arm off from one and severely wounding two others. We was very much surprised when we received the order to retreat. We supposed that we was whipping the Rebs all the time.

Everything has went on quietly since we returned up to the lst of this month when we received orders to be ready to march at short notice, sent off all our superfluous baggage, got ready and are quietly awaiting the final order. Which way where or when remains to be seen.

My love to Luke[10] and the children. Answer and oblig.

Your Brother

Hiram C

P.S. Please accept the enclosed note and oblige.


[1] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[2] Virginia (Worley) Crawford, his brother Henry Crawford’s wife

[3] His brother, Edwin Crawford

[4] His brother, Prosper Crawford

[5] Edwin’s father-in-law, Patrick Hamilton

[6] Ironically, Edwin died in 1866 and Patrick Hamilton outlived him by almost four years

[7] Edwin Crawford’s second wife, Mary (Hamilton) Crawford

[8] Probably the Rappahannock River, returning from Chancellorsville

[9] A defensive battle fought in June 1862 as the Army of Potomac retreated following its failed attempt to march on Richmond, VA

[10] Sarah’s husband, Charles Luke Keith Jr

May 27, 1863 letter to Sarah Keith from Edwin Crawford

May 27, 1863

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Edwin Crawford, Burlington, IA

Edwin is telling his sister, Sarah, that he has written their Mother and sent a five dollar note, which he hopes will arrive before she departs for Canada. He is now living in East Burlington, Illinois, where he has accepted a position as foreman of the locomotive shops for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. There were some strange faces and whispering among the men in the shop when he first arrived, but he seems to be gaining their good will.

Scan of 1863-05-27 Edwin Crawford to Sarah Keith

Burlington Iowa May 27th – 1863

Dr Sister[1]

I received your letter with Mothers[2] Likeness and was glad to hear from you and Luke[3]. I mailed a letter to Mother the Day befour I received yours with a Five Dollar note[4] in it. I hope Mother will get it before she leaves for Canada.[5] I will send my Likeness as soon as I have an oppertunity. I cant send it to Mother for I dont know what part of Canada she will stop in so if I have no further Notice I will send it to you.  I received a Dispatch in march to come hear and Drive an engine. As soon as I arrived hear the Master Machinist wanted me to take the Foremanship of the Locomotive Shops at East Burlington, Illinois, the termination of the CB.&.Q RR.[6] I hesiteated for a while but finely concluded I would take it. So he gave me my passes and I started for Est. Burlington, my new home. When I arrived their I see nothing but strange faces. I heard some whipsering thats our new Boss and evry boddy was gaping at me – but still I carried a stiff upper lip, and read my letter of introduction and instructions to those I have in charge witch seemed to be satisfactory, and since that time I have started to please and gain the good will of all the men witch I believe I have accomplished and they have an idea that I know more than they Do. It is verry Dry hear, and quite sickly. I was very sick for a Week with the Billious Fever. I have gained strength since my illness. So I feel quite well at present. If you get any track of Hiram[7] give me his address. 

Sister I send my Love to you and Mr Keith. No more at present. Direct your letters to Burlington, Iowa.

From your Brother E. W. Crawford
Foreman – at
East Burlington – Illinois
Locomotive Shops


[1] Sarah (Crawford) Keith, Edwin’s older sister

[2] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[3] Charles Luke Keith Jr., Sarah’s husband

[4] $98 in 2017 dollars

[5] Nancy was most likely going to Canada, where she grew up, to visit relatives

[6] Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad

[7] Their brother, Hiram Crawford Jr.

May 23, 1863 letter to Nancy Betts from Edwin Crawford

May 23, 1863

To: Nancy Betts

From: Edwin Crawford, East Burlington, IL

This is his birthday; he is either 37 or 38. His father, on his deathbed, told him if he had money to spare he should give it to his mother so he’s sending her $5.00. He has charge of the locomotive shops. He boards in Burlington, Iowa, across the Mississippi so letters should be directed there.

Scan of 1863-05-23 Edwin Crawford to Nancy Betts

East Burlington Illinois           May 23” 1863

Dr Mother

This is my birth Day and I suppose my age is 38 or 37 years. How fast time passes away. I am enjoying good health at present and hope you, in your Declineing years, are enjoying the same blessing. I wonderd how I should celibrate my birth Day and as I was thinking of the past I rememberd what my Father[1] said to us when on his Dying bed if you have a Dollar to spair remember your Mother. So I this Day will compy with his Dying request and send you five $5 Dollars of my wages.

I have charge of the Locomotive Shops at East Burlington Illinois, the termination of the Chicago Burlington & Quincy R Road[2]. On the oppisite side of the Mississippi River is Burlington Iowa a sitty of twelve thousand inhabitents. Their where I board. I pass over night & morning on the Ferry Boat. So Direct your letters to Burlington Iowa. I send my best respects to Sister Sarah[3] & Brother Keith[4].

My Love and good wishes to you Mother.

Henry W. Crawford


[1] Hiram Crawford Sr.

[2] Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company was founded in 1859 by John Murray Forbes, who combined several smaller Midwestern railroads. It grew until it extended from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains

[3] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[4] Sarah’s husband, Charles Luke Keith Jr.

October 28, 1862 letter to Luke & Sarah Keith from Edwin Crawford

October 28, 1862

To: Luke & Sarah Keith

From: Edwin Crawford, Dowagiac, MI

Mother is leaving Dowagiac for Galesburg on Wednesday, October 29th. All are well but for some ague and fever.

Scan of 1862-10-28 Edwin Crawford to Luke Keith

Dowagiac, Oct 28th 62

Brother & Sister Keith

Mother[1] leaves our place for Galesburgh[2] Wednesday 29th. We are all well with the exception of some ague and feaver.

Yours respectfully

E W Crawford

[1] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[2] Galesburg, Michigan

January 1861 letter to Sarah Keith from Nancy Betts

January 1861

To: Sarah Keith

From: Nancy Betts, Omro, WI

She feels bad that Sarah’s family had to move in with Luke’s parents without a fair understanding. Tells Sarah about the poor health of her husband, Platt Betts. Robert has been gone lumbering all winter. Nancy had a visit from her sister, Mary Wickersham.

Scan of 1861-01-00 Nancy Betts to Sarah Keith

Dear Sarah[1]

I feal bad to hear that you have move over to the old folks[2] without a fair understanding. It seames verry singular to me that they will stand out and not willing to do the right thing. If I was in Lukes[3] place I would have them decide what they should do and that purty soon. Now Sarah I want you to take care of your helth as much as you can and remember you have ben sick all summer and fall and if you should over work your self and any outher diseas set in it mite take you of verry sudden. We have ben to home all winter. Elder[4] health has ben so poor and the snow has ben so deep that we could not git out to meating and no whare else. We thought if we could step into your hous and see you all how glad we would bee. Roberts[5] folks hasent ben here sence last fall. He has ben in the woods all winter. Your Aunt Mary[6] has been here and made us a verry plesent visit. She injoyes very good now. Write soon and tell me what Ed[7] said when you and Eugean[8] got back. My love to you both and the children. Tell them I wold lik to see them. Dont let this be seen. It is about dark so good night. This is from your mother.

[to] Sarah C Keith       [from] Nancy B Betts

N B Pros[9] send his love to you and yours and Louis and Henry[10] and the children and so do I

S.K. N.B.B.


[1] Based on December entries in Luke’s 1860 diary about moving from Galesburg, and the December 26th mention of sending a letter to Omro, it would appear that this letter was written in January 1861 in response to that letter

[2] Sarah’s in-laws, Charles Luke Keith Sr. and Hannah (Willcutt) Keith

[3] Sarah’s husband, Charles Luke Keith Jr.

[4] Nancy’s husband, Platt Betts

[5] Nancy’s son, Robert Crawford

[6] Mary (Comfort) Wickersham, Nancy’s sister

[7] Edwin Crawford, Nancy’s son

[8] Eugene Crawford, Edwin’s son

[9] Nancy’s son, Lucius Prosper Crawford

[10] Lois and Henry were Charles Luke Keith Jr.’s children by his first wife, Minerva Payson

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