Monday, August 30, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - A letter from 1867

Catherine Y. Lee was the daughter of Laura Williams Jones and John Lee of Boston. She was born about 1835 and married Lorenzo Virgil Morse on 2 March 1857 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Laura is the sister to my 4x great grandmother Catherine Plummer (Jones) Younger, and the Kate (Catherine) who wrote the letter is probably her namesake. I'd love to find a document that tells me what her middle initial "Y" stood for.

Kate wrote this letter to her Aunt Mary (Jones) Dominis in Hawaii, and it is obvious she had never met Mary. Because they had never met, she gives a great deal of genealogical information, much to my delight! The Morse’s were very successful grocers in Omaha, Nebraska, and I found much information about Mr. L. V. Morse in the city directories, newspapers and other sources.

You can see that Kate kept the family tradition of naming her own daughters after her mother's sisters.  Here she has named her daughters Annie and Mary, and later another daughter Kittie (Catherine) was born about 1875.   Before I found this letter in the Hawaii archives, I thought that Mary Dominis was the only family member to leave Boston.  Now I have found this and other letters that show how the family scattered across the United States.  This letter also describes the hardships the family faced during the Civil War.  It is quite a bit of American history!


Dear Aunt,

Doubtless you will be
greatly surprised to receive a letter
from one of your nieces who never
seen you, but I have had a very
great desire to see both you and
cousin John and to hear from you.
I am your sister Laura’s daughter
Kate. Was married eight years since
to Mr. L. V. Morse of Massachusetts.
We have had two children, one named
Mary who died four years ago, our
little girl living is nearly three years
and a half, her name is Annie.
You perceive we have kept up the
family names.
My husband is in the
grocery business in this city.
Omaha is the capitol of Nebraska
and is situated on the western side
of the Missouri River, number fifteen
thousand inhabitants and is increas-
ing in wealth and population very fast.
We have three national banks,
churches of every denomination and
some fine first class hotels and last
but not least it is the terminus

of the great Union Pacific Railroad
of which doubtless you are aware
extends to California now. The
track is laid to Summit, Cal.
The first “China Mail” passed over this
Route last week. Now you see, I
Feel, Aunt, quite near you as it
Is only two thousand miles from
Omaha to California.
We have been from Massachusetts
Over two years, and I have not
seen one of the family since.

When we first married we went
to Tennesee, and intended to make
that our permanent home, but the
War, which broke out in ’62 shooed
us from home, we left all, and
came away penniless, leaving fifteen
thousand dollars there because my
husband would not desert the
Union. I need not describe to you
Our flight or its consequences.
You often hear from William, no
Doubt, and know a good deal about us all.
And my dear Aunt, I hope you
will at least answer my letter and
though we know nothing of each
other personally let us establish
 relationship by our letters. I
wish you would send me you photo
graph and we will return the com
-pliments. I forgot to tell you, I am
at present, preceptress in our finest

school in Omaha.
Write us all about your country
and how you live, to be sure we
read all this in journals but we
cannot rely upon the statements.
A letter from you would give me
the greatest pleasure. My husband
joins with me in love to you
and our cousin. I hope this
will find you enjoying the greatest
of blessings, good health, and
may a speedy answer be returned.

From you aff[ectionate] Niece

Kate L. Morse

P.S. When you write
Omaha, Douglass Co.,

Please see my blog post for an 1870 letter from Laura Williams (Jones) Lee to her sister Mary (Jones) Dominis in Hawaii. 

Source for the letter: Hawaii State Archives, Queen Liliuokalani Collection, M-93, Box 11, Folder 91, Letter from Kate Lee Morse to Mary Dominis, December 1867.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Nothing like old letters to really give you a feel for people. This is great!

  2. WOW. What a find!

    Reading that over, I could sure sympathize with Kate. I've written more than one letter to a newfound relative I didn't know, hoping to get a reply. These days we do it by Facebook or email, but that sense of trying to hook them in is exactly the same.

    I wonder if her aunt wrote back, and whether they did strike up a relationship.

  3. Kerry, I did find another letter from Kate to Mary, and it referenced letters back and forth. There were many letters from Laura and Mary (they were sisters!) but I'm amazed at the correspondence! Imagine the route a letter had to take from Boston to Hawaii in the 1860s. I wonder how long it took to get there?