September 9, 1884 letter to Sarah Keith from Mary Wickersham

September 9, 1884

To: Sarah Keith

From: Mary Wickersham, Waukegan, IL

She received Sarah’s letter of July 21 telling her of Nancy’s death. She wrote to Stephen telling him. Says her “time is next by age.”

1884-09-09 1884-09-09B 1884-09-09C 1884-09-09D

Ill, Waukegan Sept 9 /84

Sarah my dear Niece,

Your most welcome letter was duly received mailed the 21 of July. It touched my feelings very much for they where so like your own only I can realise that she is dead[1]. I can picture in my imagination her body lying in the grave mouldering to dust but it always looks light there in the night. I often when awake think of her. The same light appears in my mind because I know that Jesus laid in the tomb lighten and made it a resting place for the bodies of those who has believed in and excepted Him as their salvation. Her soul is safe with Him in whom she bleived and as He arose the third day and triumphed over Death, hell and the grave, so in the morning of the resurrection we are told in Gods word that all who sleep in Jesus untill the time when He will come to Judge the world in righteousness then will the trump of the arch Angle sound forth and awake the sleeping dust. The dead in Christ will rise first, their glorified bodies like unto their saviors in the twinkling of an eye. The Apostle sais body and soul shall unite and be caught up with the Lord in the air. So shall we ever be with him. What glorious thruths such causes light to shine on my pathway of lonelyness toil and sorrow buoys up my sinking spirits and enables me to look forward with antisipated hope of rest with Jesus and all the blood washed throng which John in his vision saw standing on the sea of glass who had come out of great tribulation having washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. These truths I meditate on by day an night when awake or I would long since been in the insane Asylum or sleeping in the grave. These thoughts make it look so light to me when I look in your Mothers grave which often do. The darkest night it is always light. I seem to see her so plain always have since her death.

Dear Niece dont think because have been slow in answering your kind letter that it was carelessness or lack of sympathy. No far from that. I am as anxious to keep up correspondence as you and will as long as able so to do. Was sick in the spring, sick spells often, over worked some times, because of age alone. None to do a chore but myself. Last winter had nine correspondence, now have five. Will drop more. The lady who lives in part of the same house with me has been sick for nine weeks. Three weeks and half since she was taken to a friends house to be nursed. For five weeks I done her work and mine and and waited on her throug the day. Now I have the care of her house, also watering her plants with my own. It is hard for me so you can see why I have not written sooner. Br S.[2] wrote to me as he said. I answered and told him of your Mothers death. Hope you are all well as usual. Write soon. I like to hear from you. It will not be long. My time is next by age. Oh I long to rest. With much love to you all.

Yours Affectionately

M W Wickersham

[to] Sarah Keith

[1] Mary is referring to her sister, Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts, who died June 4, 1884.

[2] Brother, Stephen Comfort

Obituary of Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

From the June 6, 1884 Supplement to the Enterprise (Galesburg, Michigan):

Mrs. N. B. Betts passed from earth life last Wednesday evening at 11:15.  Funeral at half past two to-day at Baptist Church.  Only two of her sons, Prosper and Hiram Crawford, were able to be present.


From the June 19, 1884 Omro Journal, Page 1:


Mrs. Betts died very suddenly at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. C. L. Keith[1], on June 4, at 11 p. m. She had been unusually well during the day, had been visiting her grand daughter, Mrs. H. A. Brown[2], and others, and at nine o’clock returned home and in two hours she passed away.

Her maiden name was Nancy B. Comfort. She was born in Orange Co., New York, August 6, 1802, and removed to Beamsville, Canada, in 1812, and was married to Hiram Crawford July 25, 1820. In 1846 they moved to Galesburg, Mich., and from thence to Dowagiac, Mich., in 1851. Mr. Crawford, her husband, died September 2, 1852. After his death she went to Omro, Wis., where she married Rev. Platt Betts, a Baptist minister, on November 8, 1857. Mr. Betts died December 29, 1861, since which time she has lived in Galesburg, mostly with her daughter Mrs. C. L. Keith. She has reared a family of eleven children[3], nine sons and two daughters. Six of these are now living, one daughter and five sons[4], all of whom are good, substantial citizens. She was the mother of a noble family of children. Could there be a greater evidence or a more fitting testimony of genuine worth than the bringing up of such a family as she has. When we reflect the life of this old lady dying at the age of eighty-two, and think of the suffering and care she has endured for these long years, the life of a true mother, we feel that she deserves the blessings of Heaven and our greatest admiration. —Enterprise, Galesburg, Mich.

Mrs. Betts was mother of Robert Crawford of our village.


From Charles Luke Keith Jr.’s 1884 diary:

June 4: Sarah and her mother went over to Nancys in morning. I drawed some stone from corner. Went over to burg in Evening after Sarah and her mother. Got home about ten oclock. Mrs. Betts Died about Eleven in Evening.

June 5: Went over to burg in morning to get casket and make arrangements for funeral. Hiram and Kate came in afternoon. D. and Lou came in evening.

June 6: Took Box over to cemetry. Got Mr. Miner to dig the grave. Pros came this morning. Mrs. Betts Buried to day.

June 7: Henry came this morning from South Bend. They all left for home on the 11. Oclock Train.

[1] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[2] Nancy (Keith) Brown

[3] In the Keith archives there is a picture showing a young couple standing in front of a monument with the following inscription (it was very faint and the dates may be in error):

In Memory of

Walter Crawford Died Aug 31, 1823

Francis Crawford Died Aug 10, 1832

Nancy M. Crawford Died June 6, 1844

It is believed that these were Nancy’s and Hiram’s children, who died in childhood; research is ongoing

[4] Sarah, Robert, Henry, David, Hiram and Pros. Besides the children listed in Footnote #3, Edwin and James had predeceased Nancy

March 6, 1884 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

March 6, 1884

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Chicago, IL

Sent $75 and talks of sending some “Balm of Gilead … which may amuse” their mother. Also mentions Ethan being sick all season and Eugene being sick since the first of the year – possibly from lead poisoning while working in the mines.

1884-03-06 1884-03-06B 1884-03-06C 1884-03-06env

V.C. Turner, Pres’t. H. Crawford, Treas.
North Chicago City Railway Co.
Office, 430 North Clark Street,

Chicago, Mar 6th 1884

My Dear Sister,

Your letter was received today and agreeable to request will enclose you Post Office Order for Seventy five dollars. The balance, of course, you can have when you want it.

I think I fully appreciate the misery and suffering you endure and wish that there was some way in which you could be relieved. I have at last found her[1] Balm of Gilead and will send it this afternoon, which may amuse her for a little while. Will also write her. As you suggest I will consult some Physician, although I know that his answer will be that its simply the dying out of her vital powers on account of age, but perhaps something may be done to relieve her suffering.

I guess, Sarah, that this is one of the crosses which Kate[2] talks about, which is apportioned off for you to bear. I hope it wont be so heavy as to completely crush you. I am glad that Henry[3] visited you, and that everything was so pleasant. After what happened I was afraid he would not want to come.

If the weather was pleasant and warm, I think Ethan[4] would get along faster. This season of the year is against anybody getting well and in favor of everybody getting sick. However, I think he is doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

I heard through Minnie[5] brother that Eugene[6] had been quite sick much of the time since the first of the year. He didnt let her know anything about it until she got home. I believe his sickness was caused by lead poisoning while in the mine.

Love to Mother and all.

Affectionately your Brother,

H. Crawford

I have made the PO Order payable to Mrs Sarah C Keith. You must sign it as above. HC


[1] Their mother, Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[2] Katherine (Atcheson) Crawford, Hiram’s wife

[3] Henry Crawford, Hiram’s and Sarah’s brother

[4] Sarah’s son, Ethan Keith

[5] Minnie (Crooks) Crawford, Eugene Crawford’s wife

[6] The son of Hiram’s and Sarah’s brother, Edwin Crawford. There is a reference in a letter dated 6/12/1879 from Edna Crawford to Eugene’s work in the mines in Leadville, Colorado

Winter/Spring 1884 letter to Nancy Betts and Sarah Keith from Stephen Comfort

Winter/Spring 1884

To: Nancy Betts and Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Stephen Comfort, Northboro, IA

Was glad to hear that Nancy’s health was improving. Is thinking of going back to Canada. Last July a tornado destroyed all the crops. In February he helped his grandson move to Nebraska by driving his team while his grandson drove the stock. They were on the road six days in cold weather and it affected his health. He is getting better now.



Dear Sister

Your letter of the 20th January last was duly received written by your daughter[3], my respected niece, which informed me of your sickness but that you was slightly better when she wrote which I was rejoiced to hear. We cant expect to get up as soon as in youth but even though the constitution may long hold out and health continue yet advancing years bring with them infirmity and decay which point in no doubtful manner to the close of life. I myself am very sensible of it. Yes, the flattened eye, requiring the opticians aid; the ear failing in its sensibility to sound; the palate loosing its keen relish to savory viands and the olfactories of sweet odours; the blood coursing sluggishly along the vains; the brain torpid and heavy in its movements; and the shrunk mussels easily tired and moving heavily the failing limb – all, all tell the traveller that he has almost reached the end of his journey. But we know that there is a world where there is no sickness and we trust it will be our inheritance. O, with what earnest desire do the Christians thoughts stretch forward and anticipate the time when he shall enter the building of God – the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Once, in the buoyancy of health and youth this world put on enchanting smiles, but now the dream is passed by and heaven only is clothed in beauty.

I have some idea of going back to Canada soon. And when I do I shall see you all once more.

To My Dear Niece

I do assure you your letter of 20th Jany last was received and very welcome though unexpected as we had never corresponded though I was none the less gratified to hear from you all particularly.  Sorry to hear of your ill healths but anxiously hope you have all fully recovered. I presume the weight of years is beginning to tell on him. Mr. Keith[4], I am refering to, hopeing his health has improved. Now Dear Sarah C, I beg you will [not] let the thought enter your mind that I am forgetting you in consequence of my negligence in not writing sooner or when I should have done so. The only palliation I have to offer is that we are three miles from store or post office. I have frequently written and dated letters and not have an opportunity to get them mailed until they would become too old and then thrown asside, but beg your forgiveness knowing to err is human; to forgive divine. I will try to be more punctual in future.

We have had a very severe winter here but not over two inches snow at any time though frequent flurries but would go off before any more come. The lowest the mercury indicated with us was 28° below zero. I have realized the cold here as much if not more than in Canada. This Prarie wind is what plays the duce with me. We had on the eleventh of last July a sweeping tornado with heavy hail cutting all the crops to the ground. Elias[5] had about sixty acres of corn literally destroyed. Also wheat and oats. He gathered of corn about eight hundred bushels when a common yield would have given him four thousand. The storm was so severe we fled to the cellar for safty.

My health has been only midling not having been serious ill at any time. I took a trip of to Nebraska in February. Elias’s son[6] sold out and went there. I drove his team out while he drove his stock. We were six day on the road. It was rather too big an undertaking in cold weather. It set pretty hard for a while but I am comeing up again. It is getting warm and that agrees best with me.

Now Dear Niece I have stretched this out pretty well and conclude to wind up by requesting to be rembered to all enquiring friends. And my highest esteem to your self & husband. And regards to sons and daughter though not having had the pleasure of meeting her.

And may the blessing of God rest upon all is the sincere wish of your most affectionate uncle.


To my respected Niece Mrs. Sarah C. Keith Galesburg, Mic

[1] Believe this might have been written in late winter or early spring 1884 based on other letters concerning Nancy’s ill health

[2] Northboro, Iowa

[3] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

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

[5] Stephen’s son, Elias Woodruff Comfort

[6] Charles Comfort. Charles’ son Merton was born in March 1882 in Iowa, while his daughter Minnie was born in April 1885 in Nebraska, which suggests this letter was written sometime between that time period. Charles’ youngest son, Claude was born in Northboro, Iowa, so it appears that the family left Nebraska and returned to Iowa sometime after April of 1885

December 17, 1883 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

December 17, 1883

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Chicago, IL

On North Chicago City Railway Company stationary. Wants to know if Mother is better.

1883-12-17 1883-12-17env

V.C. Turner, Pres’t.                                H. Crawford, Treas.
North Chicago City Railway Co.
Office, 430 North Clark Street,
Chicago, Dec 17th, 1883

Dear Sister,

I received Nancy’s[1] Postal today. As I have not received a telegram I assume that Mother[2] is much better for I believe you would send for me if you thought it was necessary and wouldnt without you did. I have been intending to write to her for sometime but have been pretty buisy and thought I would wait until Christmas. I hope I havent waited to long. Please drop me a line with regard to her health and remember me in love to her.

Family all well

Your brother

H. Crawford

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

[2] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

February 27, 1882 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

February 27, 1882

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Chicago, IL

Mother has decided to end her visit. She has had no complaints this time but has spoken well of everybody.

1882-02-27 1882-02-27env

V.C. Turner, Pres’t.                             H. Crawford, Treas.
North Chicago City Railway Co.
Office, 430 North Clark Street,

Chicago Feb 27th 1882

Dear Sister

Mother[1] has decided to leave here Thursday morning. She evidently has had her visit out and is ready for a change. She has had no complaints this time but has spoken well of everybody.

Love to all

Your Brother

H Crawford

[1] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

March 15, 1881 letter to Sarah Keith from D.C. Crawford

March 15, 1881

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: D.C. Crawford, Alma, CO

D.C. writes that he is extremely busy with operations in several districts and headquarters in Alma. He is expecting to run for County Clerk in the fall. He is glad to hear that Mother is living with Sarah. Amanda and Ida are living in Golden and Eugene’s wife is in Chicago. Eugene is prospecting in Gunnison County.

1881-03-15 1881-03-15B 1881-03-15env

Alma Mch 15th 1881

Dear Sister

I am almost ashamed to write you yet I know my letter will be welcome. I am one of the busiest mortels living. I am in the Mining and Brokerage business operating in sevral Districts but make my head quarters here. I am expecting to engage in Politics this fall by running for County Clerk and Recorder of this County of Park. The office is worth some $6000.00 per year. If I get it I can hold it for four (4) years at least.

I am so glad Mother[1] is with you and I will do all in my power to assist you both. Please write me how you all are commencing with Luke[2]. We are all quite well. Amanda[3] & Ida[4] are in the Valley at Golden & Denver visiting until May. Eugene[5] wife[6] is in Chicago & my wifes sister[7] that has lived with us for several years returned to her home in Utah Territory at Telluride[8]. Her Father[9] moved there several years a go.

Eugene is prospecting and working some mines this Spring. He expects to engage in some business at or in Gunssin Co in this State commencing about May 1st.

Ida is attending school this winter for the first time. If she lives will be 8 years old in May next.

Please write soon. With love to you all not forgetting our Mother.

From your Brother

“D C” Crawford


[1] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

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

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

[4] Ida Crawford, D.C.’s daughter

[5] Eugene Crawford, the son of D.C. and Sarah’s late brother Edwin

[6] Minnie (Crooks) Crawford

[7] Sarah (Thornton) Jameson

[8] The city appears to be Telluride, although Telluride was in Colorado, not Utah Territory

[9] Christopher Thornton

January 10, 1881 letter to Nancy Betts from Mary Wickersham

January 10, 1881

To: Nancy Betts

From: Mary Wickersham, Waukegan, IL

Was glad to hear Nancy was better and her life spared. Most of the letter was praising Jesus. Her health has been better than it was in the fall.

1881-01-10 1881-01-10B

Ill Waukegan Jan. 10/81

My dear Sister

Your ever kind and welcome letter was received by me in propper time bringing the good news to me that you were better and when I comsidered it was your own hand wrote it I could see how mercifully the Lord had dealt with you to restore you so spedely and give you strength to write to me. I fell down on my knees before my God and gave thanks to Him for the mercies bestowed on you in sparing your life and raising you again from a bed of sickness. Let us give Him all the glory for that and all other mercies and consecrate ourselfs truly and sincerely anew the begining of this year. Our time is short here, not many years left for us if any. We may not live to see the end of this, if half of it. Let us see to it that we are ready, having our house in order, our hearts right through faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus, and our Lamps trimed and burning, watching for the call to go home to the mansions prepared for those that love Him. Oh I want to be like Jesus, transformed to His heavenly Image, having a pure heart, poor in spirit will lost in His passive in His hands as a child weaned of its mother. My health is better than it was in the fall. I applied to a Physician. She gave me prescriptons for medicine twice. Been better since with treatment for my head and throat. Weather verry cold part of the time. No snow, once an inch and half. Some sickness. Many quite sudden deaths. Week of prayer past. No additions to the churches. Mrs How sends love. My love to you dear Sister, to Sarah[1] and family. Write again.

M W Wickersham

[to] N B Betts

PS thanks for all kindness

[1] Sarah (Crawford) Keith, Nancy’s daughter

December 8, 1880 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

December 8, 1880

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hiram Crawford, Jr., Chicago, IL

Hiram is writing in response to a letter from his sister, Sarah, that their Mother’s general health has declined further. Although not surprised, he had hoped that his mother’s mind would remain clear to the end, but this seems to not be the case. He is also telling Sarah that if their Mother must remain in her home until the end, that “we must and will help you in every way that is feasible.” He would like to visit, but doesn’t feel that he can afford it at the moment unless it becomes necessary. He is also acknowledging Sarah’s anxiousness over some issue involving her daughter, Nancy.

chgo city railway

Chicago, Dec 8th 1880                                                          

Dear Sister

Your and Lou’s[1] letters reached me yesterday. I need not assure you that I was much pained to learn the unfortunate condition of Mothers[2] health, and the additional burdens which are thrown on you. It is not wholly unexpected for it was something which I knew was sooner or later to come, that is in fact. I was in hopes that her mind would keep clear to the end. Now Sarah if Mother has broken down so that she will have to stay with you until all is over, we must and will help you in every way that is feasible. I appreciate your position and burden in part, but am not on the ground and don’t know how to act, and I appeal to you frankly to state your view of what should and could be done to help you along with this trouble. Whether to hire someone to take care of her or any other way which you may think best, and I as far as I can will do my best to see your wishes carried out. I would like to come out and see Mother & you but in view of what may happen I don’t feel as if I can spare the mony, unless it should become necessary. I have just made the last payment on my house, but am in debt to other parties about three hundred dollars.[3] Nancy’s[4] case must be a peculiar one, and I don’t wonder that you feel anxious about her. The poor girl must suffer very much.[5] I presume Mr Browns[6] death had a bad effect on her. I trust she will come through all right. Please remember me in love to her.

Our family and LP[7] and family are as well as usual, nothing more than colds.

I shall expect to hear from you right off, and just as you think, plain and frank. As Mother might want to read this, probably you hadn’t better let her know anything about it. With love to all, I am

Your Broth

H Crawford

Please accept the enclosed $5


[1] Sarah’s daughter, Louese Keith

[2] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[3] This is $7,556 in 2017 dollars

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

[5] Nancy was pregnant at the time; her daughter, Bess, was born February 7, 1881, so perhaps she was having a difficult pregnancy

[6] Ambrose Brown, Nancy’s father-in-law, who died October 27, 1880

[7] Lucius Prosper Crawford, Hiram’s younger brother

November 15, 1878 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

November 15, 1878

To:  Sarah Keith

From: Hiram Crawford Jr., Chicago, IL

Hiram is writing to Sarah about the difficulties they are encountering with their Mother regarding living arrangements.

1878-11-15 1878-11-15B

V.C. Turner, Pres’t.                                                                                    H. Crawford, Treas.
North Chicago City Railway Co.
Office, 430 North Clark Street,
Chicago, Nov 15th 1878

Dear Sister

I dont want you to think because I have not answered your letter sooner that you have not my sympathies in your trials – for I assure you that you have, in the fullest sense. I was very much discouraged, for Mother[1] promised me faithfully that she wouldnt say any thing about what had taken place and would begin her new way of living without any further trouble or talk – but she was so full that she had to blow off and perhaps it don her good for I recevd a letter from her yesterday in which she spoke a good word for all of you. Said that you, Nancy[2], Henry[3] and the neighbors was very good to her, so I am in hopes that she has commenced an era of good feeling towards all the human race. I would like to hav you keep me posted as to the true state of her affair, occasionaly. I dont know how much it is going to take to keep her economecly. Dont want to give her to much but would like her to have enough. Wish you would giv me your idea.

Just one remark abot that ever memorable “Room“. Before she left I told her I was going to give you what we had put into it and after receiving your letter I wrote her that with the consent of the Boys[4] I had given you absolutely all of our interest in that Room to do with as you saw fit and that she nor anybody else had no rights then whatsoever and that I wanted her to distictly understand it. As for you I don’t want you to entertain any foolish feelings about it. It is yours absolutely and frely given as a very small compensation for shouldering the burden which you have during the past six years. Of course Sarah this is all confidential but for your satisfaction and information I will say that the remark about us wanting her to stay here was an “Error“. It was about the only thing in which I had my way and from the first I told her that under no circumstance could she stay here this winter.


Your Brother H Crawford

[1] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

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

[3] Henry Brown, Nancy’s husband

[4] Hiram is referring to his brothers

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