Sunday, July 17, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - A nephew's letter, 1883

Hawaii State Archives, Queen Liluokalani Collections,
M-93, Box 11, Folder 103,
Letter from William Lee to Mary Dominis, 23 March 1883 

[Engraved Stationary Letterhead]
47 Franklin Street (Up-Stairs)
New York Office                       Boston Mar. 23 1883
678 Broadway

Dear Aunt Dominis

                Your very welcome favor
reached me two or three days
ago- of course the photograph didn’t
look like me- I had it taken
on purpose because it would
not look like me!  You see I had
my hair cut as short as we do some
of the horses- and it altered my
appearance so much, I at one
had my picture taken, for a
memento= when my hair gets
grown out lengthy, I shall have
some other pictures taken, and
will send you one if you will ac-
cept it- then you will say this
thick-haired one is the best

               Mother is very well this


Spring and stays at Brockton
Like a hen among her chickens-
Our sister, Agnes’s only boy, Herbert, is very ill
Just now, and Mother is very anxious
About him-pneumonia- so a day or two
 will decide it.

                Mrs. William Lee, (my “Colonel”) has been very,
Very ill, but she is about again, in
Her usual health, which I regret to say
Is very poor.  She lives, so she says, in hopes
Of going to your beautiful islands to see
You- ever since she saw John & Tho. King
She has made you and yours her ideal.  She
Keeps John’s picture hanging in her rooms
To show her company her cousin, who is
Married to the sister of the King, etc., etc. etc.
You understand how these things work &
But I don’t believe we shall ever have
The pleasure & happiness of going to see
You, for we don’t get rich very fast
And one cannot leave business &
Home to go traveling unless he has
“the rocks” as our Yankee boys say.
You must tell John that both
Mr. Shepard & myself are very proud
of our invitations to the grand occasion
of the coronation- and perhaps if


they had reached us before the cer-
emony took place, we should have
been honored by attending.  As it
is we mean that it was a highly
successful affair- and we con-
gratulate you all “than it is done
 over” as the dandies say.

                I wish I knew what would cure
The rheumatism that you and
John might be relieved.  Now-
a-days the doctors say it is the state
of the blood that produces rheumatism and
its attendant pain.  Lemons is the
remedy here.  I have been so lucky
thus far I have escaped as such
complaints and have to thank
the good Father for a very com-
fortable life, with much more
happiness than I deserve but I
have greater hopes for the life to
come, just think of it, I am 57


years old and I can remem-
ber going to see you in Dorchester
more than fifty years ago! Ah!
Me! We must believe that the
good Father intends we shall meet
our loved ones to part no more-
This a good faith to have even
in this life and I have held to it
through thick & thin.

You don’t know unless your
ears tingle to tell you, how much
we talk about you and your
at home-

May God Bless You! With much
love to you and yours,

Love Very Affectionately
Your nephew,
William Lee

Mrs. Lee & Alice all send their
love to you- and charged me over
and over not to forget.

               W. L.
This letter was written by Boston publisher William Lee (1826 - 1906) to his maternal aunt, Mary Lamport (Jones) Dominis in Honolulu, Hawaii.  His mother, Laura William (Jones) Lee, is mentioned above, living in Brockton, Massachusetts.  There were six sisters in the Jones family, including my 4x great grandmother, Catherine Plummer (Jones) Younger.

Of all the letters I have transcribed from the Hawaiian Archives, this one doesn't give much new family genealogy information, but it is still a very important family letter.  I'll list the reasons below:

1.  It is dated after King David Kalakaua (1836 - 1891) had become King of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  He had visited Boston in 1874 when he had official business in Washington, DC.  No doubt he also visited with William Lee and the rest of the Jones family, since Mary Dominis's son,  John Owen Dominis was married to Kalakaua's sister, Lili'uokalani.   She would become Queen when he died in 1891.   There are references to all this in the letter.

2. Herbert, his nephew with pneumonia, must have survived because there is an 1887 marriage record for him in Brockton to a Miss Ida F. Norton.

3. William Lee's first wife, Anna M. T. Leavitt ( whom he refers to as "the Colonel") died not long after this letter was written, on 19 September 1883.  She was in her final illness mentioned here, and never visited Hawaii.

4.  The daughter, Alice, mentioned in the postscript, was an adopted daughter born as Alice Gookin,  daughter of Anna's sister, Mary Leavitt and George Gookin.  George died in 1861, but Mary didn't pass away until 1891 so I don't know the circumstances of this adoption.   The book "Seek and Find, or the Adventures of a Smart Boy" by Oliver Optic, published by Lee & Shepard, is dedicated to Alice Lee Gookin on page 3.

5.  I've been searching for the business papers or personal papers of William Lee.  His partner, Charles Shepard's papers are in the American Antiquarian Society Library in Worcester, Massachusetts.  I haven't found Lee's papers in any Boston library, but perhaps they are in a New York institution?  The letterhead here is the only one I have seen with a New York address, so they must have had an office in New York City.

6.  Dorchester is a clue to the family address of the Joneses.  In censuses and city directories they are found living in Boston's North End neighborhood through 1842.  I haven't found them in an 1850 census yet, but father Owen Jones died there according to a notice in the New England Historic Genealogical Society Register, (July 1850) Volume 4, page 293 "Jones, Mr. Owen,  Dorchester, 22 April, ae 82, formerly of Boston".   No death record has been found. 

7.  I have transcribed many of the letters written by Boston family members to Mrs. Dominis (you can find them by clicking on the keyword DOMINIS in the right hand column of this blog) and they all are very sentimental.  The great distance letters had to travel to and from Boston to Hawaii in this time period, and the fact that Mary had not been to Boston since the 1830s make these letters very poignant.

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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