Monday, August 23, 2010

Amanuensis Monday- A 1870 letter from Massachusetts to Hawaii

This letter was such a genealogical treasure! It is one of the many letters from relative in the Boston area written to Mary Dominis in Honolulu. I found it amongst the boxes of letters in the Hawaii State Archives, but only recently transcribed this gem. At the time this was written, Laura was almost sixty years old, and she hadn’t seen her sister for over twenty five years.

Bridgewater Sept 10 1870

My Dear Sister,

Perhaps you have got out
of patience waiting an answer to your very
kind letter that I received some time ago
and I was surprised when I took up your
letter to see the date and to think I have
neglected it so long! Well I hope you will
excuse me this time for I am always so
busy this time a year that I do think
of much else but my work.
I suppose you have seen Mr. Treadway before
this time since his return and he has told
just how I look what sort of a place
Bridgewater is. I hope you have got well over
your sickness and enjoying good health.
I think your old cook must have been
pretty faithfull to have served you so
long and his wife to take such good care
of you and your house. It would be pretty
hard finding such ones this way I guess

they like their Mistress pretty well to
stay with her so long! You say you are
puzzled to know about my girls. You remem
ber I had three girls, the oldest was named
Laura Agnes she has always been called
Agnes she married a man by the name of
Wheeler he is a hard working man, she
has got a excellent husband. She has five
children four girls and a boy. Her oldest girl named Laura
is eighteen year old in March the next named Ellen is 16 in April
the next named Katie is 11 years old next month now the boy named Robert
is 8 years old the next the youngest her name is Mary is two years
My next girl was named Catharine we call
her Kate she is married to a man by
the name of Morse they live out west in Omaha Neb
Her husband keeps a store there, she has one
girl her name is Anna 7 years old you have the picture of her
They are doing very well out their she has got
A good husband also. My next girl was named
Mary Ann she died when she was 10 years old
Then I had three boys, William, John, Thomas,
John Boy has been with me since his

Father died, he was five years old then he
is now twenty! He is a clerk in William’s
store. Thomas is a shoe maker lives in a
town called Abington, he has a wife and
two children he has to work pretty hard to
get a living and not much at that
So here is the name of my family. Agnes’s
husband has been very miserable for over 8
months so that he has not been able to work
and the two oldest girls has been to work in
a Tack factory this summer and helped
support the family now their father think he
will be able to go to work soon if he can get
any to do it is awfull dull times here for a man to
get a living, I have not heard from Sister
Agnes nor the Snellings this summer for I
seldom go down to Boston and I do not hear
anything unless I do go their you ask if Agnes
is so very poor I will tell you what I
think but never ?? it to no one, they like
to live pretty genteel and the boy dresses very
nice and like for Aggy to dress the same

and when I was their last they told me Aggie
earned eleven dollars a week when she worked
steady they pay a great deal about four
hundred a year and Agnes will live in a
nice house! Well Mr. Hart does no
work all winter, only in the house and
Agnes does only the work of ther family
and they are sorely depending on the boy
unless Mr. Hart saves anything in summer.
He has good pay, that is all I know about them
You would not think they was poor to see
them! So now judge for yourself but for
the love of money do not even hint one word
that I write you for I find that Agnes is kind
of jealous now that you write to me. You
known Agnes always had a good way of pleading
poverty. I never tell how poor I am for William
provides me a good comfortable home but I feel
that I should work when I can get it to do, for
I dislike to go to him every time I want money
Although he never would refuse me. Anna his wife
sends her very best love to you and your family and
ays she would like to come and make you a visit if she
could get William started but his business is all he thinks


He also sends lots of love to you all.
I suppose John’s wife Lydia has lost her grand
Mother, I believe I see her death in the paper
Queen Dowager what was the matter
with her did she die of old age? Does John
think of coming this way this fall
You must excuse the girls sending you their
pictures this time as they have such a hard
time this summer they will not be so put
to it for money if their father gets to work
I have a picture of William I will send
you he has been a promised me a better
one to send you, but his promise is like pye
crust made to brake This is pretty good of him
You see I have wrote you a good long
letter for waiting so long hopeing this will
find you enjoying the best of health also
John and his wife my very best love to them
Also a great deal for yourself!
With much love from all my family

From you affect[ionate] Sister
L. W. Lee, Bridgewater
Plymouth County


In this letter I learned the following new facts.

• Confirmed that Laura Williams (Jones) Lee was the sister to Mary Lambert (Jones) Dominis.

• Confirmed the names of Laura’s six children.

• One of Laura’s daughters was named Catharine Y. Lee. Could she be named for her sister, Catharine (Jones) Younger? (Catharine was my 4x great grandmother)

• Confirmed naming patterns in the Jones family. The six sisters were Sarah, Catharine, Mary, Laura, Ann Marie and Agnes- all repeated in the grandchildren and nieces, except for the name Ellen and one Mary Ann (not Ann Marie).

• The Hart, Morse and Wheeler families were all found in the 1870 and 1880 censuses of Massachusetts. Previously, I only knew of the son William Lee, the publisher of Queen Lili’uokalani’s autobiography “business is all he thinks of”. The other son Thomas Lee was also found in the 1870 census. Son John Lee is still a mystery, he lives with mother Laura in 1870 and then I cannot trace him (yet) in the 1880 census.

• In the Wheeler family (daughter Laura Agnes Lee), she named her daughters Laura, Ellen, Kate and Mary – all Jones sister names but Ellen

• Was Ellen named for another relative?

• Laura included a nice mention of Lydia (Lili’uokalani) as Mary’s daughter-in-law

• Who is Mr. Treadway?

Source for the letter: Hawaii State Archives, Queen Liliuokalani Collection, M-93, Box 11, Folder 91, Letter from Laura W. Lee to Mary Dominis, 10 September 1870.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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