A Final Thought: Dear Father...


By Mitch Allen

I enjoy genealogy and spend a good deal of time researching my family tree. Last month, I discovered a letter written by my great-great-great grandmother Nancy Lathan Rodgers in 1846 to her father Samuel Lathan. She was age 43 living near Columbus, Georgia, at the time and was recently widowed, while her father, age 82, was living in Union County, North Carolina. He was born in Ireland in 1764 and had moved to America well before his daughter was born.

In honor of the recent St. Patrick’s Day holiday and my Irish ancestors, I now turn my pen over to Nancy:

November the 15th, 1846

Dear Father,

I once more take this opportunity of drawing you a few lines to inform you that we are all in reasonable health at present, hoping these few lines find you all enjoying the same blessings. I have nothing of much importance to write at present. My family has all enjoyed a reasonable portion of health this year.

Last July marked a year since Isabella was married to William Walling. She is confined to bed at present. She had her babe the 5th of this month and it was dead born and she was very bad of herself. She was so bad of herself that we had to send for a doctor and he said the child had been dead some 2 or 3 weeks before she was delivered, and also said it was the critticleest (sic) case he ever had to manage. She is as well now as could be expected or better. She is staying with me at this time. She lives about one mile from me.

James went to Columbus yesterday and got Doctor Wildmend to straighten his eyes. You know he was cross-eyed. His eyes is as straight as any person’s eyes now and he got it done for 3 or 4 loads of wood and never stopped him from doing business. You would hardly know him now he looks so much better.

Robert is going to move to Henry County, Alabama, shortly. He has bought land there at one dollar and a half per acre. I have taken my dower out of the land and expect to live where I am for some time to come.

This has been the driest fall I ever saw. There has been no rain here of consequence since August. Corn is worth here from 35 to 40 cents per bushel. Pork 5 cts. Bacon 12 cts per pound. Groceries is pretty high at present but the reason of that is the [Chattahochee] river is too low to boat, and another reason is Columbus nearly got burnt up in October. Six blocks got burnt and nearly all of the goods and groceries got burnt that was in them.

Write to me as soon as this comes to hand. I want to hear from you very bad and I would be better satisfied to see you. No tongue could describe my feelings if I could but see you once more. I would be glad if you could come out and live with me the balance of your days. Write to me and state to me how all of my brothers and sisters are getting along. Tell them all I want to hear from them very bad. It looks like they have all forgotten me. They never write to me.

I did receive a letter from sister Elizabeth and was truly sorry to hear that Death had visited her family. But that is a road we all must travel sooner or later, so we ought to be contented. The Lord giveth and He taketh away.

I have nothing of much importance more to write. I will come to a close by hoping if we never meet again in this world we may meet in Heaven where parting will be none no more.

Yours Until Death,

Nancy Rodgers

(Back to me): I should point out that Nancy’s father died less than two years after she wrote this letter so it is unlikely either of them made the 350-mile wagon ride to see each other again. Also, the aforementioned Isabella, James and Robert are three of Nancy’s 12 children.

By the way, if there is a medical professional out there who could explain to me how a doctor in 1846 would go about uncrossing a young man’s eyes (in apparently a single visit), I would appreciate hearing from you.


Categories: Smart Living