Sunday, March 25, 2012

Letters from Olivia Noyes Osborne

While Olivia Noyes-Haskell-Osborn was not a direct ancestor of mine, the fact that she wrote so many informative letters back in the late 19th Century, which have been well preserved and passed down through the family, makes her most definitely worthy of a page of her own here.  Likewise is true concerning Olivia's son William as well as his daughter Ruth.

Olivia Noyes was born in the summer of 1819 in Deer Isle, Maine, in Hancock County, to Joseph Noyes & Olive Morey.  Pretty much every one of the few hundred people living in this small town were involved in the granite industry, and it's likely that Olivia's family was no different.  The granite boom in Deer Isle is credited for helping to build the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the US Naval Academy, the Manhattan Bridge, and the tomb of JFK at Arlington.  The town was split at the end of the 19th Century into four smaller towns:  Stonington, Deer Isle, Little Deer Isle, and Isle au Haut.

Also, Deer Isle was home to a band of Indians during the time of the Noyes, and family legend states that one or both of Olivia's parents were part of the tribe.  Of course, this is always a popular legend in white American families, and is almost always impossible to prove.  I have done some research here and it appears that Olivia's father, Joseph, originally from NH, was a son of the Revolution, and is listed as a Free White person in all census records (but none of that really disproves the Indian claim).  

The following is some detail about Ezekiel Morey, Olivia's maternal grandfather (no mention of Indians here):

Town of Deer Isle, Maine page 89
Ezekiel Morey Sr was one of the very early settlers. He came here about 1767, from New Meadows River, in the vicinity of Brunswick, Maine. From what information I have been able to gain, he built the first framed house in the town. Mr. Morey was twice married, and had a large family, 13 children surviving him. The time of his death I have not learned. (He passed in 1815). After his death, the principal part of his farm, a large and valuable one, passed into the hands of the late Hezekiah Rowell, Esquire, who built a house upon it, which was afterwards purchased by the late Joseph Sellers, 3rd, and is now the estate of his two deceased sons, George W and Mark H Sellers. The lot they own contains some 6 acres. The residue Mr. Rowell sold to various persons, who have built upon their respective lots. His sons who survived him were Elias, Ezekiel, Isaac, Joseph, and James. The daughters were the wives of Mr. Charles Sellers, of this town; a Mr. Calderwood, of Vinalhaven; two were the wives of a Mr. Wooster, of the same place; one of a Mr. Edson; one of a Mr. Sweet; one of a Mr. Day, who resided on the island of Mt. Desert; and the youngest of the late Mr. Joseph Noyes, of this town, a native of Atkinson, New Hampshire. who came in 1804 and died not far from 1850. Mrs. Noyes survived her husband a few years. She was a lady held in much respect, a sincere Christian, and beloved by all who knew her. The children of Mr. Noyes, with one exception, have removed from this town, and the land an buildings he occupied are now owned by Mr. William C. Gray. All the above sons and daughters, except Mr. Elias Morey, Mrs. Sellers, and Mrs. Noyes, removed from this place. Ezekiel and Isaac to the town of Hope, Maine, and afterward to the state of Ohio; Joseph lived and died in Castine; and James lived in the town of Levant, not far from Bangor. Mr. Elias Morey died not far from the year 1844; Mrs. Sellers in 1832, aged 83; Mr. Morey, the father, was very tall in stature, being nearly 7 feet in height, and a very worthy man.

Source: An Historical Sketch of the Town of Deer Isle, Maine
Olivia married Joshua Haskell of Deer Isle in 1840, and they had five boys (one died at 3), eventually moving to Fairfield, Maine, to start a farm.  In 1850, both of Olivia's parents died two months apart (he of cancer, she of phthisis, or TB).  In 1852, Joshua was crushed on his farm in Fairfield by a boulder he was trying to wrangle in order to clear his land (his death had been witnessed by poor Olivia). 

Poor traumatized Olivia married Timothy Osborn in 1854, less than two years after Joshua's death and she and the four boys (Herbie, Joseph, Alvin and Charlie) moved in with him at the Osborn Homestead, and they had four children together (Eva, Mabel, William, and Clara - none of the girls ever married), in addition to Timothy's surviving two children (Mary and Lydia-my 2nd great grandmother).  Olivia lost her oldest son Herbie in 1870 at age 22.  She lost her daughter Mabel in 1882 at age 25, when she walked through her bedroom doorway and was struck by lightning during a late summer storm.

Later in life, Olivia got lonely and enjoyed writing from the Homestead to her daughter Clara (nicknamed "Caddie") who lived with her, and worked as a schoolteacher (like her sister Eva) and  was often visiting family elsewhere, and at one point was in "Andover", according to one of the letters (possibly a teaching job in Oxford County?).  Below are transcripts of these letters, with clarification notes written in brackets:

November 22, 1883, Thursday,  Signed “With love Mother”
Dear Clara:
Will write a few lines before I commence tea.
I have just returned from dear little Walter Burrill’s funeral. Only think how hard for May to have her baby drowned. Last Tuesday Albert Low’s wife wanted to go over the river to carry her father home and wanted Mrs. Low to take care of her baby, as she calls him. But she wanted to go out to John’s so May Burrill told her to leave him there. When Albert’s wife got to Clum’s [nickname for Columbus Burrill, cousin to Olivia's husband Timothy Osborne - Clum and his father Benjamin Burrill were also neighboring farmers on Skowhegan Road in Fairfield] she went right by with her boy, but they call to her and went out and took Wilson out. He and Walter played all the forenoon around the house and had a grand time as two little three-year-old boys could have. After dinner she took them down from the table and let them go out again, never dreaming that they would go to the river. (Wallace was 3 last September. Wilson 3 next week).

Clum was in the barn doing his chores. Before she got her dishes washed she went out to look for them, and the Low boy came to her and said. Walter is on his face in the water. She thought it was in the half a hogshead where they watered the sheep as they had been sailing ships in it.  She called Clum and he tracked them to the river where he saw him floating on top of the water. The ice was frozen on the shore out some ways hard enough to hold Clum. He ran right in as far as he arm pits and caught his scarf as he was drifting into the river a dripping lifeless form.

Little Wilson says they went onto the glass and he slipped down and Walter slipped and hollered papa papa papa and his face got wet and he didn’t say anything after that. So he ran up to tell them. Wilson is no larger than Courtney. Mr. Burrill and his wife and Rebecca had gone to Wat [probably Waterville].  If she had been down at home she might have seen them when they wandered off. It is a sad house. It was a large funeral for a child. Mr. Emery officiated. Mr. and Mrs. Plummer, Mr. Rowell, Nell Burgess and Hattie G. sang and Edith played. The last piece they sang was “Go Bury Thy Sorrow.”  I hope it may be the means of uniting the neighbors. They need it. Ann Coleard went right up though she hadn’t been in the house for more than five years.

Mattie ran all the way down here to get me to go up bare headed though she was in there the night before and May scarcely spoke to her. Mrs. Low has set every one against Mattie telling every thing she ever said and more I think. And May had said that it was a disgrace for any one to go in there and no one in the neighborhood did but Mrs. Osborne and Mrs. Burrill. Mattie was saying the other day, she would give any thing to know what made May B. treat her so coolly. I knew but didn’t say so. I think as Christ told the people when the woman was accused to him that he that is without Sin among us better cast the first stone at her. Last week I was real miserable so got Cora to help me this week. But she had to go home to help Ann part of the time, so she will help me some next week. I like her first rate for she works all day and knits in the evening when she isn’t gone somewhere. You know that’s my kind of girl Diligent in business. Cora says you promised to write to her but haven’t.

We have had Mr. Gifford all last week [this would be Charlie Gifford, wife to Timothy's eldest daughter, Mary Ann Osborn] and this making shovel handles and this week Horace Cain is here. We were laughing at Will at the tea table tonight about getting so many letters. When Horace said he wished some one would write to him. Said if he lived till Sunday he was going to write to you and see if you would answer it. There is a time at town tonight. Will and Horace have gone.

I cured my rheumatism or dropped stitch in my shoulder by pulling so hard on the cloths line as to make it slip off the stake and I went backward my whole chest into the entry. It really cured me and I am as well as ever this week. Get your visit done and come home. What is the use of staying so long doing nothing?

October 29, 1885, Thursday, Signed “With love Mother”

Dear Clara:

Tried to get Eva or Will to write to you tonight but Eva was tired and she and father went to bed about seven and Will soon after.  So here I am the lonsomest of the lonely, keeping fire to boil cider and writing letters to keep awake. Have written to Enos O. [this would be Timothy's nephew Enos, living in Platte, Michigan].  Clara you can’t imagine how lonesome it is evenings here. My eyesight so poor I can’t read but a little and no one to speak to.

Why Sylvia will die of lonesomeness when she gets here [Sylvia might refer to Sylvia Burrill-Bell, from Dover, who would've been cousin to Timothy's first wife].  And then she don’t read much so I shant be much better off.  Lesley is gone to Dr. Twitchells to work but I shant miss him only meal times, he is so still. But he has seemed more like a live fellow for a few weeks and Eva sometimes says things before him awful.

She is getting along a little better this week. You can imagine how she has felt for a few weeks with Mrs. Getchell and Elba Hobbs down on her enough, to call the committee to visit the school it was so noisy and Ev G the worst one to keep still.

And when he came in Eva just as sick (as folks will be sometimes) and had just been punishing a boy and Ev G had slipped up into the back seat without liaf so that the committee thought the same as Mrs. G. it was a noisy school. Do you wonder that she let the children frase the sentence

Patriots love their country

Parrots love their country

Now if you tell E. I was to this I won’t tell you anything else. To save writing will put Joe’s letter in so you can read it and then send it back.

Sylvia was over here all the week last. She is at Ed Piper’s now. Report says Cora is going to be married this fall her Chase has gone West with his son.

Ann hasn’t been in since you went away or any of the other neighbors much.

Oh, yes her and her Buck were in Sunday evening.

Georgia Tate is in Rockland. She may be here now as they expect her. Will has got toe top of both chimneys off expecting a man today to fix them but he didn’t come and now it rains so hard he has had to get up and go on the house with the lantern and cover them up.

The select men are in a stew to know what to do with Aunt Louisa [this could be Louisa Osborn, who was actually Timothy's cousin, and probably 'like an aunt' to this family, and was getting on in years]. They say Mr. Eaton paid four dollars a week for her board. Isn’t it strange they keep calling on Will [her son] to see about her only a second cousin? William Osborne [probably Ephraim's son, not her own] says he will give 90 cts. a week. If all of her nephews and nieces would give half as much there would be enough. The town would pay half of her board and not let her know it.

It’s ten o’clock can’t stop to correct this so good night with love to all of my folks from Mother

February 7th, 1886, Sunday Signed “With love Mother”

Dear Clara:

Will try and write a few lines to you and Eva, today with one of the coarsest pens out.

Have been to church this forenoon. Called in to see Aunt Louise.  She is a little better but does not sit up more than ½ hour a day. Every one at church you are acquainted with inquired for you, and they all have such a time because Will and wife don’t go to church. Silvia says she would like to go if Will would. They have gone to ride this afternoon I guess on the river. It is pleasant today but two days last week the thermometer was from 19 to twenty below zero and though I had a fire all night and double windows and curtain down and a thick brown paper box over the Begonia it froze stiff. I let Ann C take half last fall. She also has the scented geranium and May B the fucia. The most of the geraniums I set on a bench in the boiler way and they have not frozen yet. I was sick week before last with toothache and ague. My face was quite puffy for a week. Haven’t been out of doors until today since a week ago Tuesday. Last Monday we was had two weeks wash. In the afternoon May P came in to say we were to have company in the evening. There was A Low and wife J Fuller and wife Clum and May, Ada Dyer and husband, Willie and Flory his friend and George Weeks, Horace and Mattie and Hattie and the Dr. I tell you Silvia had to work to put things to rights and warm the house. It being a very warm evening every room was warm enough to sit in, even the parlor bedroom.

Last Wednesday eve the same company at A Lows. And last eve at Clum’s, with the exception of H Low and J Fuller and the Dr and their wives. Silvia folks have not been here to stop. Sam hauled her chamber-set and other things over, and the three girls just rode over for an hour last Sunday. But this week there will be a moon, and she expects some of her cousins some evening.

Effie has shown herself out this winter. She would not show Arthur one thing and tried to get the scholarlies not to speak to him. The Getchell children have carried it out all winter. She thought he had no rights to go here. Arthur went to the committee three times before he could get a class made. All this winter infractions, review and review over and over again. There isn’t a family in the neighborhood but is congratulating Arthur to think he beat even if the school is most done. I hope you are not acting out the hermit, if you don’t know anyone in Andover [Apparently she was living in Oxford County for a time, not sure with whom, or why].

You say you hope will can fix up the sitting room. Don’t be so proud. The room is good enough if the plastering don’t fall down on our heads. But I hope we may have a new well house before that falls on our head.  Had a letter from Albert last week.

He says Alvan is in Prescott. Ann C was in about ten minutes this week the second time since you went away.   Annie Fuller is at home sick.  Edith took ether and had that bunch cut off of her toe. [Annie & Edith were teenage daughters of Lydia Osborn-Fuller in Fairfield - Lydia had just come back to Fairfield after burying her husband Charles Fuller in Iowa, 1878] Will got Harvey Wings wedding card this week who married in December.

Must get tea and write to E. With love Mother


Fairfield, November 20th, 1889 Wednesday Signed “With love to all from Mother”

Dear C:

If I don’t write fear you will not get a letter this week. It is just splendid weather and nice wheeling while there is snow enough at Portland for sleighing, also at the forks the other way. Have been to church all day. Ida and Annie were up to spend Thanksgiving. Annie didn’t go back until today she was so sick.   She is in a weakly way as she was when she boarded with her mother. She almost talked me to death about her dear friends too many to mention.

I have written one sheet over tonight to Eva Fuller in answer to one from her about Aunt Louisa. Have written twice to Mrs. Sheffers. Don’t hear one word from Alvan. Edna & Bess wrote to Eva last week. When do you think they will be answered?

It’s ten so I must leave this until another time.

Monday 8 o’clock

Aren’t going to wash. We are so neat don’t have to wash only once in two weeks. Eva and me are going to the Mills.   She to get herself some under vests and meself to get Will some cloth for winter shirts, and a table cloth so we won’t have to use a dirty one. It is lovely weather. Will is fixing double windows on the kitchen and sitting room windows in front. He is going to make a double door for the front.

Eva has not yet decided what to do. E. will take a long time to make up her mind as long as she can paint.  School at the two villages commence today. Effie Hobbs takes Eva’s, and a Goodwin girl Edith Hodgkin’s and a change all around at the Mills. Eva hasn’t touched her dress yet. Will has bought him a four year old colt the color of Lady. It never was harnessed but once and then by a girl. But W. has put it in the wagon and rode part of the way to town.

Report says Cora is to be married at Christmas.

Mr. Curtis called on us the day we cleaned the sitting room and found us so so.

Neighbors all well but provoked to think Eva didn’t teach this winter. She is better and ready to teach the first school offered though she never was going to teach again. Wish she could go among all strangers. They always do better.

Don’t be so extravagant about dress, but think more of the heart than body adorning. Do  you go to Sunday School or is your mind all taken up with rides and novels?

Eva is all ready [Eva was Olivia's other surviving daughter]

With love to all from Mother


The following letter of condolence was written by some cousin in Detroit, upon Olivia's death.

Detroit, December 10th 1891
Dear Uncle & Cousins:

We received the paper informing us of the death of Aunt Olivia. We little thought when we was there that we should never see her again. We thought that you Uncle [Timothy Osborn] would go first. She seemed so well at that time and such a worker, ready for every good work, helpful to those around her making all happy around her. Oh I think she will be mist so much in your home, and you Uncle how lonely you will be. I think of my Father when Mother died, he seemed so lonely. No one could fill her place. He only lived about one year and a half after her death. I am so glad that I had the opportunity of making dear aunts acquaintance. It seems to appreciate her is to know her and coming there as we did, how home like and comfortable everything was. Mr. Keeler often speaks of our visit and of Uncle and Aunt.  from your niece, Mrs. P. A. Keeler

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