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 Children of Thomas and Margaret White
[John White] [Sarah White Glendenning] [George White] [William White] [Thomas White]
[Ruth White Howsley] [Edward Ocean White] [Margaret White Williams [Mary White Robinson]
[Dorothy White] [James White] [Barbara White Patterson]

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Letters From the Past

In 1981, I visited with Mr. Bob Lehr, [Gyrlie White Lehr/Edward Ocean White/Thomas White] at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  While I was there, Bob brought out a box of treasures that he had salvaged from the old Signal Hill farmhouse before it was abandoned in 1971.  The box held a veritable buffet of our family history.  One of the most exciting was a series of letters written by George and Sarah March from Wisconsin back to their daughter and son-in-law, Thomas and Margaret White who were still in England.  These letters detailed their new lives in America and advised Thomas and Margaret about the particulars of their impending immigration.  Not only are these letters a treasure to our family but they also reflect the lifestyle of English immigrants to Lafayette County in the 1840's.

Bob very graciously allowed me to borrow the letters to transcribe them.  Having languished in the farmhouse attic for so many years, they were in very fragile condition.  I attempted to photocopy them but the ink on most had faded and the paper discolored to the point that there was barely enough contrast to read let alone photocopy.  I was able to make a fairly good copy of one letter which I have now scanned electronically.  Click here to see jpegs of that original. In many places, particularly along the folds, the paper had simply disintegrated leaving the modern day reader to guess the contents from context.  On the whole, the handwriting was fairly easy to read--when I could make it out.  I returned the originals to Bob a number of years ago.  What is below is a third generation copy from my original typed transcriptions.  I have not corrected spelling or grammar which may well reflect the spelling or grammar of the time nor have I made many attempts to guess at the missing words.  I have used empty brackets to denote missing or illegible text.  In some cases, I have guessed at words from context or from appearance.  In those cases, the "guesses" appear in the brackets.  I am particularly excited to have a fourth great grandmother who was not only a literate but an articulate writer for a woman of her time.  [I have been told by older family members that the Marches placed a strong emphasis on education for their children and for the community.] I am also amused by the contrast of George's lofty prose and Sarah's list of practical instructions for the trip.

One difficulty that I had in the transcription was the inability to read the units in the various prices for items for sale in Wisconsin.  They obviously represent a translation from US currency to the British pound system but I was not able to make out the symbols in many cases.  If anyone wants to research this and make some suggestions of what might have been typical equivalent values, I'd be happy to include them here.  I do not have the original letters nor do I know who does.

I believe I have remained true enough to the original letters to give the rest of the family and others interested in the history of Lafayette County Wisconsin a glimpse into our ancestors' personalities and the life of the times. 

Addressed to Mr. Thomas White
Mossdale, near Reeth
North Rideing of Yorkshire
England                                                                        SPEED

White Oak Springs, Wis.
March 2nd                                                                    pd. 25 J

 New Diggins February 26, 1844  

Dear son and daughter, I received your kind letter of the 9th of February and was glad to hear of all of you being in good health as this leaves us at present. Thanks be to the Lord for his mercyful goodness towards both you and us in spareing our lives to this present time as wee have been such unprofitable servants so long toward him but he is wonder working God and his grace is sufficient for all who truly believe in him. Dear children you seem to think that you would be much more content if you were with us and not more so that wee should be to have you with us. But if far distant from us and the seas betwixt us roar you are not out of thought for our prayers ascend a throne of grace in your behalf both night and day. As respects our situations the house is made of wood logs and planking with lath and lime plaster within. Our fireing is likewise wood which costs us no more than labour.  Yet the climate much the same as with you only a few days a little colder in winter and warmer in summer. This summer I paid 2 [?] per acre for hay land which produced 200 stone per acre for 13 acres. The remainder of my hay land I had given. I payed 4 pounds for a twelve acre field which I sowed with oates except 2 acres that I let Wm. Bushby have and about 1 acre I planted with potatoes. Wee are feeding 16 head of cattle and 4 horses besides comers and goers. We have no snow at present nor not like for any more the sun hath taken it all away without rain. I think we can spare about 1500 stone of hay. The land is a rich strong clay in general laying on Limestone Rock only needs once ploughing a year. It produces great crops of every kind of grain without either lime, manure or any other things. We can grow popkins and mellons of every kind. Onions and cucumbers and every kind of garden bettageable with the least trouble imagineable. The country is healthful abounding with plenty of water springs, little creeks and large rivers. Wee are getting a large village very fast. There is 4 good stores with a good supply of both wearing apparel and all kinds of eatables. Flour 1 per stone.  Beef and pork 3 cents per #.  Coffee 12 cents per #. Tea and shugar a little lower than with you. All kinds of cottons about the same as with you.  Shooes and Boots cheap. Hats much the same as with you. Butter you can sell for 1 per lb. to the stores now.  In summer 6 per lb. always good sale.  Cheese 4 per lb. about half new milk. You can buy cows with good calfs with them in the spring for about 30s per couple.  Good sheep for about 8 shillings per lb.  Sheep clips out 4 lb. each. Horses from 8 to 10 pounds each.  Harnesses much the same as with you but a great deal of the work is done by oxen about home and the Diggings. A good yoke costs from 5 to 6 pounds. Wm. Bushby and wife sends their kind loves to you. Ann is like to be confined every day. They are milching 3 cows and hath half of [ownership?] of Yoke of Exen and cart with me. They like the country well. No more of Old England for them. They have bought them a good House, which stands them to about 5 pounds. His hay only costs him the labour. There is beautiful pastures in summer. Free for everyone and an excellent butter country. Good land can be bought of Government for 5s per acre with as good a title as any free land in England without improvements on.  I think you could rent a farm for 10 pounds per year that you could keep as much stock on as you do on yours. No poor rates or taxes of any kind except property taxes which is very small.  Bushby lives quarter of a mile. Son Wm. and Dorothy, Thos. March and John Hillary hath bought themselves a house about 200 yards from ours but Dorothy and Thomas March still sleep with us. Wee got all our hay together and keeps all our stock together.  George and T. March says they could like to come and see all their Relations friends and old acquaintances once more but if John March comes too Amerrica this spring as he is Expected to do it is a a great chance that either [     ] or you will ever see them again unless you [     ] to see them in Amerrica. Mary hath got married and is liveing about 3 miles from us. Your brothers and sisters and all old acquaintances are well and sends their kind loves to you. Your mother hath had her health very good for a long time. I had some illness in the biginning of winter which was brought on by violent wetting to the skin when from home seeking some strayed cattle but all of us in Good Health at present. Thank God for it. Wee have a Sunday School where the Children goes every Sunday. Four of them got new testaments for saying the Ten Commandments. We have a free school about 9 months in the year. Free for all children. It is a free country and newcomers have the same priveliege for their children as them that hath been thare for all their lives 

ln your next letter let us know all perticulars about your children. Give our kind respects to Brother Edward and wife and Mary says she is going to rite to them this week. Likewise to Sister Nancy and family and wee could like to have them with us. John could like to have them come on as soon as possible. They can get them. Likewise to Nephew John Richardson and family. I could like to have a letter from him to how he gets on and what family he hath and whether he could like to come to Amerrica or not. You never name what anything about your Brother John nor whether he would like to come to Amerrica with you or not. Give my respects to Thos. March and tell him I have looked for a letter from him for a long time. Give our respects to all of our relations all old neighbours and all Enquireing friends. I should be Glad to have a letter from any of them that will rite to me as they will never have an oppertunity of seeing me again in Old England.  If you think of comeing let me know in your next letter that I may be able to provide a situation for you. I think it will be one year from this before you can get your affairs settled. 

George and Sarah Marsh
New Diggings, Wisconsin Territory

New Diggins Wednesday November 14th, 1844

Dear son and Daughter, I rite to you hoping to find you in good helth as it leaves us at present. Thanks be to the all mighty god for it. I have wanted to rite to you some time since but we looked for one from you as it is near 15 weeks since your father sent his first letter and than he sent one with William Edgewhite we hope you have got. John Bunskel had got a letter that his father was very ill so he was coming to see him so John Hilliary came last night and said he would go with him.  So the next [          ] back in the spring and if not you can come with William Edge

If you think of coming the sooner the better when you are young as i think it is not so well for people when they get up in years to change their country. But I myself never  enjoyed better helth than what I have this last somer.  Your father has not had as good helth as me. Bushby and Ann has not had good helth this sommer ti1 after hay time.  William and Leah is well and they have got a daughter and they call it Sarah.  William [Ball] and Mary is well.  She has been confined 3 weeks and she has got a daughter and calls it [Baby Ann?].  Thomas Gray and Dorothy is well.  George and all our children are all in good health and Cathrine is going to be the talleth of her [              ].  Edward and sister Jane [                    ] never heard if he got it.  you tell him to rite to us and [                    ] how his little son gets on and all our old neighbours.  And Bushby rote to Edward Hird a year since and they never heard if they had got it.  You must remember us to John Ritchison an dfamily and your father wished him to rite to him but he never has.  We send our loves to David and Betty Siddle and tell them rite and let us know how they and her Mother and uncle and ant Ann and all is getting on.  Remember us to sister Nancy and family.  Tell them to send what Mary calls her child and if she gets any [pay] for it.  Remember us to William Blades and family and tell him to rite to us.  You must sned us how old ant Ann is if she be living .  Remember us to John Hilleary and George and all frends.  Your father could like to have a letter from Thomas March or any of his cusins to hear how all his frends are getting on.

Now Daughter as our famely is like to sittuate themselves in this country we thought if you weare hear all our family would be near. We would not perswade you but as you thought yourselves if Thomas did not like the country it would make us very unhappy.  John Hillary says [one whole line missing]  [                    ] bring your beds as you will want them every night. You need not mind what the ticks is if they be whole for tickin is as [lawl] hear as with you.  You may put the fethers out of the pillers into the beds and put the ticks in your box as you may make your children's beds without pillers less you have louse the bess cover you will have. You must have something strong to wrap the beds in either [harden] or thin beds covers and it will [dow] for a [hop].  You will not need so many bedclothes after you get out of the ship. I wish you not to have your boxes as small as ours but to have them bigger and stronger. You need not matter to have them fine. Shoes is the worst artical we have. I would wish you to have good shoes and not strong, but if your children have good clogs I would bring them. [      ] get them new ones. Bring yourself a pair like boots and clog pattens and what stockings [you have]. Needful hear is wool stuf, dresses for yourself and children to travel in. Have your children slips with sleves in to keep them clean. Check is dear and not good hear. Flanel is dearer. Thomas you must have good overcoat for winter and you a decent cloak before you come for the making costs almost as mutch as the cloth.  The talor will not cut a vest under 25 cents and make yourself colored caps. Get you and sarah each a coulered straw bonnet line them and trim them with dark colour. If Thomas or you have any good hats to bring you must have a little thinwood box to set inside of another or you will have them spoiled. You must have caps for your boys to travel in. Men must have caps to wear in the ship. If your children have old sherts [               ] whole to keep them warm. Let them wear them as long as can be on the ship and if they be to no use you can tos them away. It will be the least trouble and be not too free of chaingen at first as you will want many changes. I wish you to take your own beef and bacon and butter. You have jars or tin cans and chees. You will have to pay dear for it at Liverpoul and very bad too. Make plenty of oatmeal bred. It keeps the longest. You will want something for tost when you are sick. Our children was very sick. You must take plenty of mint with you as nothing will take the tast of the water but mint. Take plenty of oil of mint from home with you. You must have currants and [        ] apples but don't forget mint. I wish you to bargan with the cook of the ship to cook your meat as you will find enoughtto make it without minding the fire. Besides it will make your children's clothes so dirty with smoke and grime. Take your tea kettle, dripping pan, every tin thing you have. They are bad tin at Liverpoul. If you have a wood bucket you must take it. You cannot do without one. Take as many of your pots as you can for it will pay you if you pack them well in your clothes. I put my cups in a little basket with papers or rag between them only had one broken. I tied up one dozen of plates in a hankercheife and put them in the middle of the clothes. Blue-edged dish cost 50 sents and 6 bits for blue ones, common blue-edge plates 3 bits and same for jugs you can get for 5 pence.  think of your butter [boxes] and a pare or 2 of clipping shears.  When you get out of the ship you will have to put your louse clothes into a box. Do not have bags for they are in danger of being lost. All these last people that came has lost bags with dirty clothes in it. Cover your old quilts and make them good and cord your boxes well. Don't pinch on cord. As we came we lost William's little trunk with all our stockins but what we had on except thin ones. You must have [onngall]for yourselves.  Stockin as we cannot wear yarn in somer.  Cotton stockins as low as 2 bits that is [               ]  If you have a good basket i would take it will be useful on the way.  If your brother John comes with his little chist will be right to hold clothes.  I don't know whether he can make it or not.  I must conclude with my blessing on you all.

George and Sarah March

Febr. 9th 1845 New Diggins

Dear Son and daughter I now take the oppertunity of writeing a few lines to you hopeing they will find you all in good health as they leave us as the present and all of our country people thanks be to the Lord for it and all other blessings we receive at his bountiful hands as this will be the last oppertunity of riteing to you that I shall, have for you to receive before you start but you must rite back in return when you start as a-letter will come about a month sooner than you can come and again rite from New York as two or three lines will come much quicker than you beside wee shall be uneasy to hear from you as soon as possibleand as their is so many comeing along with you wee think that you will be satisfied without one of us as it will be a great exspense beside loss of time at such a valuable season of the year and wee shall have a great deal of work both for ourselves and for you as it will be about the 1st of June before you can get to us John Fawcett says their is a man coming along with you from Swaledale head of the name of Rich Pattison which will bring Ralph Fawcett along with him and you will have seen both him and many more thatis comeing before you receive this letter you will have seen our Nephew [John] Hillary wee just befor this and he can tell you all perticulars to you better than we can by riteing.  Wee send our kind loves to our Sister Nancy and family hopeing that the Lord will have restored them all to their former health again and likewise to Brother Edward and family hopeing they are all well and he will now get all perticulars of his Nephew and if he should think proper to come to us wee any of us will be glad to give him any assistance that lays in our power and you must state in your letter all perticulars who is comeing along with you. Rite immediately after receiveing this letter and again when you start.   Son Wm. isexpecting a letter from John Hillary and Brunskill which if they have not rote before you receive this letter they must rite immeidately to let us know how they got home and how all was when they got home and who is comeing back with you whether any more than [orton] or not of them. I could like you to bring us about six potatoeonions for seed thus wee could get a breed of them I expect that Thos. March [hath] them if not they have plenty about Marrick likewise about  ˝ peck of short potatoe oates which you easily can get anywhere and as for other little things I named in our other letters which you will have received before this tell us in return what you have done about your Land and all other perticulars as wee are very desireous of knowing all wee can learn by riteing. I think the sooner your Brother John comes to America the better it will be for him as he now can buy almost as good a place as his for one years rent and as population increases land will all get dearer and if he waites till he gets an answer back from you it will not be as favourable one as very few likes at first that hath been used to an old country, at first John Fawcett likes well and all ways did.  All he rues is not comeing sooner.  Him and Nephew is doing well and I think almost everyone is doing well at present.  Wee have had the [         ] winter so far that every any of us ever [              ] bare all the time.  Wee have no rate [    ] or taxes except highway ratesand pr operty taxes which is low.  All your Brothers and sisters sends their kind love to you and all other relations and enquireing friends hopeing before long to see you once more in the flesh which will be a great pleasure to them as well as to me and your mother to see both you and our dear little grandchildren 'again so wee conclude with our blessings on each and all of you wishing you a good Journey and safe and happy landing here.

George and Sarah March

Added notes in George March's handwriting: If you have not sold your cur Bitch she would be very useful and some of the ships charges about 10 [shillings] while others charges not at all I think she will be rather troublesome on the way but if here she might be of great value so I will leave it to yourself to judge on as for a gun they are plentiful enough there and you will have to buy if you want one anyway you may bring your pistol if you choose.

[a different handwriting but unsigned]

you must bring Mary a pare of stays about your sise

From Wm. Thos. March
Included in the letter above from George and Sarah
March dated Febr. 9, 1845

Dear Father and Mother Brothers and sisters  I now take another opportunity of writing a few lines to you as this is the fourth letter I have rote without ever receiveing an answer from any of you and i am in good health as I hope these few lines will find all of you and all other relations and enquireing friends as my Brother John has lost his partner in life and cannot come I am very sorry yet if he does come I will do all that lays in my power for him [I would] like very much that you would [let my] Brother Geo. come along with Thos. White just for to see the country for one year which if it pleases God to spare me till one year and from June I intend to come back to England to see you all once more and I would be sure to bring him safe back to you if the lord should spare both of us that lenth of time it will be a great chance that as ever will have so good a chance of seeing so much of this world in so little a time and at so little expense.  Thos. White I think would have no objections of laying down the money that would bring him here which I would remit back to him as soon as he arrives with us which would save me a deal of trouble other ways.  I again send my respects to my Uncle William Littlefair hopeing that he will be so kind as to send me a double Barreld gun to [   ] for his sake not that guns is not plentiful [                    ] and I cannot get one myself [                              ]  wages and still liveing at home your [                        ] rote in one of my letters to you hopeing that you rite him back how both yourselves and all other relations and old neighbours are doing in perticular if you have never rote please be so kind as to answer this letter with speed as it is with great pleasure that wee receive a letter from any of you give my respects to my old friend John Hillary and tell him to rite us a letter immediately and let us know all perticulars.  I am Yours Truly Thos. March

This letter appears to have been from one of the March daughters to her sister Margaret White.

Dear frend now [ ] My Dear brother and sister I now take up my pen to inform you my well fare hopine to find you in gud helh as they leave me at present thank god for it my mother is getting well agane father is very well all my brothers and sister is very well sister and her familey is very well we ware in [galena?] on the fourth of July it was a grat day thear Gor and thomas Dorothy and I was thar we received your leter on the fourth of July we were glad to hear that you ware geting well agane you state in your leter that sum of ous sade that we wad com over sum satrday night but I think of coming yet and i don not care wheder it be satrd or sunday or what day it may be [ ] only could ever se you or took with you [ ] again you say thiat we al forgot to wright i have take up my pen manyey a time to write to you and i never could writ before my hand tremleled so viry bad and i am not a grat writer yet well now my father and mother is besid me and i can not writ for them tooking abut you and thay say that thay did not tell you that thay had bot 5 shep and they say that our Thomas also but 300 sheep [working] and he and my father thot that he could get beter then them for they wanted a Doler for them but that that thot could get beter for the money my mother gave him al the money thay she has in the house to by them. the children has just com from sunday school thomas sase that you have to tell John to com to se us and Barbry sase that sarah has to come i think that i would ike viry much to se john but more so to se saray i wold like viry much to see you all which sumtimes i think i shall see you before it is very long and sum times i think that i shall never se you agane babry has com upstase and sase [you] tell littl saray to come and play with me and she could say no more for crying and then she [run] downstase agane and i have bot my self a sid saddel and barbry gon over to sisters riding and then thinking aoubt little saray. Thomas has a horse John has a hors william has a hors i believe thomas got his to go a sparking on and then has got no plas to go to John went to Bebukes and we doonot now how he kame out and our geroge went to snake holow and he got sick and had to com home and i had got sum aquentens at gleneay [Galena] and i was thare 2 weakes in July i am thinking abut goin from home agane tomorrow to stay with a woman which abut to be put to bed and she has no family yet. She is a dressmaker and she said that she will give me 9 doler a month for as long as i will stay and have my sewing don it is about a mile from home Dorothy has a grat deal of soun you must give my best respectues to my ant march and tell her that John is a very god little boy and he will come home to see them all agane Thomas sends his best respects to all his frends. John and Thomas is taking about get mared for thar is a young man coming and is telling them abut a weding which has lately happened and so now i would ke to let you know that we are all couine just now i am siting writing thomas is plaking jack and all the foakes is from home that is just what we ar a duin just now you must wright to me and tell me how you are all geten on give my best respects to uncle edward and to

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Children of Thomas and Margaret White
[John White] [Sarah White Glendenning] [George White] [William White] [Thomas White]
[Ruth White Howsley] [Edward Ocean White] [Margaret White Williams [Mary White Robinson]
[Dorothy White] [James White] [Barbara White Patterson]

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This web is lovingly dedicated to the memory of my Grandpa
George Leybourne White
1889 - 1964