Find your ancestors on free databases on Olive Tree Genealogy
brings you

Past Voices Letters Home. Find your ancestors in letters!

Find your ancestors letters

Find ancestors in Civil War letters, War of 1812 letters, Revolutionary War letters. Search your ancestry and find your genealogy. Find your roots and hear your ancestors' words. Discover your origins in old letters as ancestors tell their stories and details of family history. Learn how to preserve old documents, family treasures and heirlooms.


Death Finds a Way: A Janie Riley Mystery by Lorine McGinnis Schulze

Janie Riley is an avid genealogist with a habit of stumbling on to dead bodies. She and her husband head to Salt Lake City Utah to research Janie's elusive 4th great-grandmother. But her search into the past leads her to a dark secret. Can she solve the mysteries of the past and the present before disaster strikes? Available now on and
Home | Share Letters| Ancestor Letters USA | Ancestor Letters Canada | Ancestor Letters UK | Search | Free Newsletter | Genealogy Tips

Your DNA
Find Ancestors

Free trials are a great way to find ancestors. Try the Ancestry Free Trial
Find Your Ancestors

Google Custom Search
Search Olive Tree Genealogy Family of Websites
Spotlight on....
Account Books 1772-1925 Find your ancestors in unique collection of original ledger books from stores, schools and individuals in USA & Canada
Ancestor Photographs
Lost Faces Civil War era ancestor photo albums online
Genealogy & Historical Documents
Paper Trail Assorted Documents: Wills, land records, marriage certs, passports, indentures, slave records, estate inventories...
Family Bibles Births, Marriages & Deaths Family Registers
AncestorsAtRest - Death Records: Wills, obits, funeral cards, memorial cards, death cards...
Must see!
Coffin Plate Collection Private collection of over 400 coffin plates with names of ancestors plus birth and death dates
Olive Tree Newsletter
JOIN the FREE Olive Tree Genealogy Newsletter. Be the first to know of genealogy events and freebies. Find out when new genealogy databases are put online. Get tips for finding your elusive brick-wall ancestor.
Quick Links
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestorsOlive Tree Genealogy - Ships passenger lists and more!
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestors Naturalization Records
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestors USA & Canada Census Records
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestors English Genealogy Records
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestorsShips Lists Online
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestorsCanadian Military Heritage Project
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestorsAncestors At Rest - find death records
Search Ships passenger lists, census, vital stats, church records, military, find your ancestorsOliveTreeBlog - Tips, New Databases...
Brick Wall Help
Your Name in History
Enter your surname for a list of genealogy books with fascinating facts and history about your family name


Letter to Mrs. Henry W. “Martha” Taylor, Care of C. C. Trowbridge, Esqr., Detroit, Michigan, from her father, M. O. Masters, Montgomery, Alabama, December 20 and 24, 1840

Montgomery alabama.

20 December 1840.

My dear Martha

It is now nearly two weeks since I wrote to you last – and I begin to think you would like to hear from me again & as it costs no more postage to write from hence as from New York I feel not any hesitation on that account. How far are we now seperated – we are literally at the two extremes and yet I have flattered myself that even this day we have been permitted to hold sweet communion together before the throne of our God & Saviour – in spirit – and I trust that both of us have been brought nigh by his grace.

This morning it has been my privilege to unite with Gods people in the prebyn Church in the breaking of bread. – This morning a Committee of the presbytery of So. Alabama attended for the purpose of installing the Revd David Finlay as pastor of the church here – A sermon was preached by the Revd Mr Cater & afterwards the installation service was attended unto by the Revd Mr Martin & then these two gentlemen administered the communion – I should not wonder if this Mr Finlay should be a son of Dr Finlay of New Jersey – who came out to Georgia with his family about 19 or 20 years ago. – The old gentleman wanted the call to Spring St. Church in 1810.

– The Church is a barn of a place – and doors are never shut in this country & today it was cold – and I was placed near a window with a broken pane of glass in it – and I had no overcoat so that I was chilly & cold & uncomfortable & did not enjoy my privilege as I would have wished. – The bread was administered on porcelain plates & the wine in very common tumblers, but O such bread & such wine – I never tasted. – I know the place is poor & apart from civilization but they might do better.

I thought of you my dear daughter in more ways than one, when in this new country – the trees of the original forest are those which grow up round about – and in coming here from Columbus a distance of 85 miles I passed through a range of country whence it is not longer than five years the Creek Indians were driven – we passed a place only 20 miles from Columbus where you will remember in their that period a stage coach was attacked by indians & burnt – one if not more of the passengers were murdered & the rest escaped by getting upon the horses or running into the woods. – It is a wicked dispossession – the country is a beautiful one – the original owners of the soil – were making rapid progress in civilization & in the cultivation of it – it is a rolling country – the trees chiefly pine tall & stately – but there is much of oak & hickory – we passed many large fields of cotton – indicating great luxuriance – where in the garotted forest had never been removed. – It is an healthy country too – the negroes we have seen are diminutive – & ugly – the females also very cadaverous – but the white man farmers are so barely a race of beings as ever I have seen – tall healthy & good looking – but as rough and unpolished as were the sons of the forest whom they have driven away.

– I will now give you a little hasty detail of my movements altho I think you have already received an epitomy – extracted from my letters written home. On the 8 December the Cars from Petersburg having cleared, the rail road track of snow & come in to Richmond the night before – I was permitted to leave that place this morning – we passed through Petersburg & went on as far as Gareysburg in N. C. – the road running nearly in a strait line and through a level country which must have cost very little to grade it. – This place consisted of nearly a solitary house in a large clearing, skirted by pine woods – the residence of a Col. Garey – they made us stop here until the next morning – and altho there were 40 passengers he contrived to put us all to bed. – I slept upon the floor in the parlour before a large fire which negro Isek [?] was ordered to sit up & watch – but he too stretched his limbs upon the bare floor before it & fell asleep.

On the 9th Decem. in the morning early – we left Gareysburg & proceeded upon a long monotonous road – through a flat level country covered with pines to Wilmington, which we reached being 140 miles distant only at 9 in the evening. On the 10th December having taken my lodgings at Mrs Hills – I remained in Wilmington – and saw all our friends & correspondants there – and in the evening at 8 left in the steamboat Gov. Dudley to go by sea to Charleston.

On the 11 December – at the rising of the sun – I was upon the decks of the steamer I saw this beautiful sight – the sea perfectly still – and the motion as slight as possible – clear & balmy – a gently breeze from S. W. off the land we entered the bay of Charleston at noon – the entrance is very fine only surpassed by New York & that merely because there is less of it – On your right going up the Charleston people & on your left the place were vessels are quarantined – in your front rises Charleston – we landed about one o Clock – I was pleased with Charleston – there were indications of antiquity & substance – both which items as you know interesting to me.

– Tuesday morning 22d Decr I am now on board the Steamboat Southerner on the Alabama River on the way from Montgomery to Mobile. You perceive how I am shaken – but as I have plenty of time – I think I shall be able by perseverance to finish this letter expecting to be busy when I reach Mobile. I have been uncommonly favoured with the weather – there has been no news since the snow storm & this morning is very fine – clear – the sun rose beautifully & it is warm & genial as May. – I will now presume my narrative.

In the afternoon of the 11th Decemr Mr Lucas sent for me to the Hotel – and I spent the evg there. Mrs Lucas whom I had never seen before recd me very kindly – and Annie Lucas also I only saw one of Mr L’s G children. – Mrs Hume (Ellen Lucas whom you know) what just confined with a sore – she expressed to Turnbull, who told me of it, much regret that circumstances prevented her seeing me. – I conversed with Turnbull a little – she seems very well & very happy. She thinks herself gaining flesh but I did not see it.

The next morning 12th Decem. at 7 o Clock I left Charleston to go per Rail Road to Augusta – where we arrived at 4 o Clock in the afternoon – and this being Saty afternoon I remained to open the sabbath – I took up my abode at the best hotel in the place – but it was full of horse racers & gamblers – this being the time of a two weeks races. – it was with difficulty I obtained a room – it was awful dirty – but Mr Townsend of N. Y. and myself got a room together. – at night when it was time to prepare – I called the chambermaid a great fat negro wench – but quite a fine lady in her speech & manners – if she was going to change the sheets, which I before observed were extremely dirty – & she said no – for to tell you the truth master I have no sheets that are dry to change with – we have been so crowded with the company – that the sheets have had no time to dry – and I am sure you would not have me put wet sheets on the bed, would you master – so I have thought it best to tell you the honest truth about it – isn’t that right, master – I talked a little to the landlord about it – and the lady at last found some sheets that were perfectly dry for they had lain in her closet a long time.

– at this city I found young Haines & his sisters who now live here – you remember Elizabeth Haines no doubt – The next morning being the sabbath day 13th Decem. – Haines took me to the Sabbath School – and introduced me to Mr Shear – the supt and an elder of the prebytn Church – where I found a school for both sexes of upwards of 100 scholars & 18 teachers. [It is now 10 a.m. – I found the shaking so strong that I was compelled to interrupt writing & took up my Bible to read & meditate for I am delightfully retired in a pleasant stateroom with a window in it – all at once the Boat took a sheer – and run butt into the woods & whilst rubbing along against the Bank – a Large tree carried off both our chimnies – and they of course have sunk – this will I fear detain us a long time – for we have returned to try & fish them up. – but it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, it will afford me the opportunity if finishing my letter to you – for now all is still. –]

Mr Shear was so kind as to take me with him to church – the pastor the Revd Mr Cunningham preached from Hosea XIII.9. “O Israel thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.” – and gave us a very zealous animated altho not a polished extemporaneous discourse. – In the afternoon we had a sermon from the Revd Mr Wooster of New Hampshire from an excellent text. Rev. II.4 “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” – The preacher was one of these monstrous, mechanical men – who give you a set commonplace discourse – full of hackneyed phrases & with scarce an original thought. How very irksome is such preaching – it is well then as Philip Hervvy recommends – that we should “take the text & preach unto ourselves patience”

– In the evening I drank tea with Mr S. & attended prayer meeting which was led by the pastor. – so that altogether I enjoyed a very pleasant sabbath altho in the midst of strangers. Upon Monday the 14th December. I had to remain until 6 in the evening before I could leave in the rail road & stage for Columbus. – at that hour I took my seat in the rail road cars which took us to Burkshead a distance of 85 miles & at 3 o Clock in the morning we took our seats in the mail stage to C. distance 150 miles – where we arrived at noon on Wednesday – two nights & one day through the woods chiefly – without any particular incident, the roads were good & the weather pleasant.

– I did not fail upon Tuesday the 15th December as we were riding along to think of your dear mothers birthday – this blessed saint – whom God has prepared for himself – her growth in sanctification and her extreme delicacy – causes me much anxious thought & fear in this separation – but she herself urged it & Dr Reitson encouraged it – and I feel that we may trust our blessed Lord that he will do all things well with regard to us.

– Upon Wednesday 16 December we arrd at Columbus & here I spent two days on business – the 17 dec – Here I met with the Revd Mr Cairnes – who is the minister of the Episcopal Church – he saw me passing & called after me – recognizing my person immediately – I did not recall him, not having met for 15 years – it was 20 years ago he attended our enquiring meeting when it was held in Mr Morse’s school room in Nassau St. – and must have joined the church somewhere about the time you did. at 7 o Clock in the evening on the 18 December I took stage for Montgomery & travelling all night got there on Saturday 19 December at ½ past 5 in the evening reached that forlorn southern town in itself altho beautifully situated, in our approach we behold it from the top of an hill & descend to it as it lies in full view before us – upon the Bank of the Alabama River.

On sabbath 20 December I attended the presbyterian Church – a forlorn building – open & cold & they placed me next a window having broken panes of glass in it – while I sat shivering there I thought of you dear Martha. – it became insupportable & I changed my seat – after which I better enjoyed the service which was an interresting one – the installation of the pastor by the So Alabama presbytery – the Revd Mr Cater preached from 1 Tim. iv.16. and the Revd Mr Martin (these two constituting the committee of presbytery) put the questions & gave the charges to the minister & people – afterwards the communion was administered. I found it my privilege to unite with these people – but it was a cold business in contrast with those blessed seasons which we have been permitted to enjoy under the ministrations of our own beloved pastor – who on all these occasions seems to come forward imbued with the spirit in double measure – and which no doubt he received in answer to special prayer. – but O such bread & such wine!! – administered on Earthenware plates & in glass tumblers, but to this latter I do not object – but surely the former might receive a better care.

Again I thought of you dear child in the new country of your abode and supposed it might be so with you & wondered if your influence would not presently be made to bear upon the church so as at least to have every thing “done decently & in order.” – In the evening the Revd Mr Cater preached from the words “why will you die O house of Israel[”] – it was very animated. I have just found out I have stated all this about the church before – but never mind it must go so – excuse the forgetfulness of old age.

– We left Columbus yesterday the 21 December. at 12 past 2 – and I am now on board the Southerner a new boat – with 40 Horses – belonging to the travelling circus – and about 20 to 30 men constituting the company – I am truly in fine society – it permits me to see a little of the world – but I am out from among them & separate & I thank my gracious God that it is so – and and savour to think “who hath made thee to differ?” – but I must stop & reserve the rest of this paper until I reach Mobile.

– Mobile Thursday 24th Decr – I arrived here safely this morning at 8 o Clock – we had a pleasant day yesterday – which passed without incident – and I was taken quite by surprise to find shortly after my rising this morning that we were in sight of Mobile – this is a fine city – well laid out – but like all our other cities & places suffering greatly under the pressure of the times. – On my arrival here this morning I was disappointed in only finding that two letters from N. Y. had preceded me – of the 10 & 11 Inst. – but this days mail which arrived at noon – brought me two letters one from Mary Mulligan who is at Rochester & another from Sarah Lamb this the first I have received from her – dated 14th on the outside of the one postmarked 12th Jeremiah says “We have just got a letter from Marshall of the 30th ulto all well!” – and recommends my directing to you in Detroit, which I now do.

– I hope your intention of writing to me – has not been deferred – those particulars about the Caldwell farm – I should like to receive very much – I am gratified to learn – that you are pleased with the appearance of things there. – I have been round with my letters of introduction – and called upon some people whom I know here – it has been a fine day. – there is a peculiarity in this climate when the sun is up it is mild & genial – but at night & in the mornings & evenings the weather is extremely cold – with frost. – and it is a cold that pierces through & through. – In asking you to write to me – I suppose it is hardly worth while to ask a letter to be directed any where but at home – yet unless I am specially wanted I think it will be the 1st Feby or a little later before I am back to that abode of delights – but do write to me on receipt of this – and send it to New York & tell them to forward it where I may be.

– You cannot tell how I am cheered by any letters today to learn that your dear mother is so much more comfortable. – I expect to be here until Monday then go to New Orleans which we reach by Steamboat in 14 hours – then return here & back the same way I came to Savannah – then to Charleston & so on towards home.

– Ever Your affectionate father M O Masters. If not too late I would wish you a merry X.mas. how will it be with me, think you? –

Lost Faces Ancestor Photos from the 1800s

Wishing you had an ancestor photograph? Check out the 1800s photographs and antique photo albums on Lost Faces. There are over 3,500 photos in this growing genealogy collection

Notes: Letter to Mrs. Henry W. “Martha” Taylor, Care of C. C. Trowbridge, Esqr., Detroit, Michigan, from her father, M. O. Masters, Montgomery, Alabama, December 20 and 24, 1840; postmarked Mobile, Alabama; from the Phillip F. Schlee Collection.



URL is   All rights reserved. Website © Lorine McGinnis Schulze

FAQ - - Search - Contact Lorine at (Change the AT to @ in the email address) - Copyright - Partner Sites - Site Map - Privacy Policy