News and Insights from Old Family Letters

Old family letters give some great information and wonderful insights into the lives and relationships of our ancestors.

Some family letters written to Samuel Eggleston were included on typed sheets I found with records of Theron Eggleston at the home of his daughter Ruth. With these letters were others with genealogical information that Orson Hyde Eggleston gathered while on his mission and genealogical correspondence. These had all apparently been transcribed by Theron or his wife. I don’t know what happened to the original letters.

I found this correspondence to be quite interesting. The family letters give some insights into personalities and family relationships as well as provided some genealogical clues which were helpful in my research.

The Family Letters – First from Eliza Barron

This earliest letter, dated 1862, was to Samuel Eggleston from his sister Eliza Barron. Samuel had recently migrated from Iowa to Utah. Eliza passed away in 1869. Eliza mentioned their brother Ansel, who was somewhat of a mystery – to us, and possibly to them. This letter provided clues to help me find him in records in Michigan, where he died in 1871. We also get a glimpse of personalities from the things Eliza said about her brother as well as the colorful way she expressed herself. I would like to have known Aunt Eliza.

Eliza also mentioned a letter from Rev. A. Eggleston, who would be the Ambrose Eggleston mentioned in later genealogical correspondence. This letter to Eliza may have begun that correspondence.

1862 family letters from Eliza Barron to Samuel Eggleston

Family Letters from brother Ambrose and his Daughter

These letters from Ambrose H. Eggleston and Elvira E. Towsley were probably sent together. Samuel left Iowa in 1862 and migrated to Utah. Samuel might have written to inform his brother of this move and this may be why Ambrose thought it interesting that he had moved to Iowa after Samuel left that state (though they lived on opposite sides of the state).

I recently took another look at this letter from Ambrose’s daughter Elvira. She mentioned the loss of her children. I was able to find her oldest son Chester on the 1860 Census, but the little two-year old girl is not on any records. The 1870 Census includes Gertrude who would be the five year old she mentioned as well as 2 other children born after this letter was written. The five month old daughter she mentioned was not with them in 1870, so she may have died young also. I wish she had mentioned their names.

This letter was written in the midst of the Civil War, which apparently influenced her sentiments. Sadly Elvira passed away in 1872.

1863 family letters from Ambrose Eggleston & Elvira Towsley to Samuel Eggleston

Letter Home from Orson

Orson sent this letter to his father while serving his Mission in Michigan. He mentioned that his brother Edwin had a visit from Ansel’s son. More clues but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any more about these sons of Ansel.

1876 family letters Orson to Samuel

News From the Townsend Family

Olive Stewart, who was a daughter of Samuel’s sister Electa Townsend, sent this letter to her uncle. (My note questions the date of the letter. According to dates in the letter it should be 1873. It may be a typo) Olive’s youngest sister Mary, with whom she was living at the time she wrote, died in January 1874. Olive later married Mary’s widowed husband, Charles Jeffers. The (Jeffers) at the end was probably added by the transcriber.

1873 family letters Olive Stewart to Samuel Eggleston

Orson Eggleston visited many family members while serving his Mission in Michigan. Apparently he corresponded with some of them after his return home. This post card from cousin Sarah Townsend Cole was in response to one he sent.

1879 family letters S E Cole to Orson Eggleston

Sarah shared information about the Skeels family. Anna Eggleston Skeels died in October 1874 and her husband Isaac died in October 1877. James Skeels’ son with consumption was probably Dorr who died May 15, 1879.

More News and genealogy from Ambrose H. Eggleston

Ambrose sent this letter to his brother Samuel. He mentioned the death of his daughter Elvira Towsley, who wrote the letter above. The birth and death dates were probably in response to a request by Samuel who was gathering genealogical information.

In the middle of this letter is a mention of uncle Benjamin Eggleston. Interestingly Benjamin was not included in other records of Orson H. Eggleston, including records of Temple work he did in 1914. I first found Benjamin through Onondaga County Land Records and determined that he was a son of Samuel Eggleston Sr. He was a brother of Samuel Jr. who was the father of Samuel and Ambrose. They obviously knew Uncle Benjamin well, but somehow this information was not well known to later generations.

I find it interesting that Ambrose tells his brother that he and his sons were preachers of the Gospel. He even takes the opportunity to preach to Samuel. Samuel had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1841. In 1877, he was called to be First Counselor in the Bishopric of the Ogden 2nd Ward.

1873 family letters from Ambrose Eggleston to Samuel Eggleston

I have to wonder if there were more of these letters that have been lost. I also wonder if these particular letters might have been sent and kept in response to requests from Samuel for genealogical information, since they include many reports of deaths. We are fortunate that these family members made an effort to keep in touch as they moved away from each other and that someone made the effort to keep these letters.

Note: Highlights and pencil notes were made by me on my photocopy of these letters.

Family Genealogies Gathered by Orson Hyde Eggleston

Early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were encouraged to search out their family genealogies in order to provide baptisms for their dead family members. Samuel and Lurania Eggleston were the first of our family to join the LDS Church. I am not sure if Samuel did any active genealogy, but it does appear that he encouraged his son Orson in efforts to gather information. While on his Mission in Michigan during 1876-1877, Orson visited family members and obtained names and dates. He wrote to his father several letters with such information.

I don’t know what happened to the original letters. It appears that at some point Orson’s son Theron, or his wife, transcribed these letters. I found several typed pages of letters when I visited Theron’s daughter Ruth. I made copies of them. They were all typed on numbered legal size sheets and include some notes made by whoever transcribed them. Included with these letter were correspondence with W. E. Hagens and other letters from Orson to his father and from family members to Samuel.

There is also some question about whether Orson kept this information himself or simply sent it on to his father in these letters. Orson went to the Logan Temple in 1914 to do proxy baptisms. The records of the work done then do not fit exactly the information in these letters. There is a possibility that some of the handwritten information was misread or typos made when typing them up.

Family of Electa Eggleston and Robert Townsend

Electa Eggleston Townsend was a sister of Orson’s father Samuel. They moved to Litchfield, Hillsdale, Michigan where Robert died in 1860. Electa’s children and their families lived near her in MIchigan.

Townsend Family Genealogies

 

Cole & Richardson Family Genealogies

Family of Ambrose and Abigail Bryant Eggleston

Ambrose H. Eggleston was a brother of Orson’s father Samuel. They lived in Allegany County, New York and then were in Iowa during the time Orson served his mission. They later moved to Dakota Territory. Some family genealogical information was included in a 1873 letter from Ambrose to Samuel. Orson’s Missionary journal mentions that he visited his Uncle Ambrose in Parksersburg, Iown November 23, 1876. He probably gathered this information from him then.

Notes on Charles Davis Family

These “pencil notations” assumed to have been written by Orson were included at this point in the transcription. These people were not relatives. The mention of the marriage of Alice Davis and Moses Nixon in 1860 in Crescent City, Iowa would indicate that these were people that the Eggleston family knew while living there. Orson may have visited them when he stopped in Iowa on his way to Michigan.

Family of Anna Eggleston and Isaac Skeels

Anna Eggleston Skeels was Samuel Eggleston’s sister. Isaac and Anna remained in Springwater, Livingston, New York where they both died. Many of their children migrated to Michigan.

Eggleston, Skeels & Burgess Family Genealogies

Burgess Family Genealogies

Harvey and Polly Burgess were the parents of Orson’s mother, Lurania Powers Burgess. They moved to Shelby, Macomb, Michigan where Harvey and Polly both died. Many of their children and families were in Michigan when Orson was there. For some reason Orsen sent information on the Burgess family in two different letters, with more detail in the second.

Burgess Family Genealogies

Family of Eliza Eggleston and Carr Barron

Eliza Eggleston Barron was Samuel Eggleston’s youngest sister. Eliza died in 1869 in Michigan. Carr and their children and families were living in Michigan during the time of his mission.

Barron Family Genealogies

I found the information in these letters extremely valuable. Though much information was in FamilySearch because of Temple work that was done, some family members were not in the system. I realized that at the time Orson went to the Temple in 1914, many of these people were still living. Some may have died but he might not have known that.

So with the information in these letters, I was able to add people to the family tree. I also searched additional records and have added others based on what I found.

Note: I made some pencil notes and highlights on these sheets before scanning my copies of the copies that Ruth had. The darker notes on the last two pages were made by someone else earlier.

The Missionary Journal of Orson Hyde Eggleston

Discovery of the Journal

Orson Hyde Eggleston served a Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1876-1877. He was called at the General Conference of the Church on October 7, 1876. Years ago, after learning that Orson Hyde Eggleston had kept a journal of his Mission to Michigan, I went to the Church History Library to see this Journal. This was when the Church History Library was located in the Church Office Building, before the beautiful new building was built. The procedure to view items in the Archives required checking in with ID, leaving everything I had brought with me in a locker, except a pencil and paper. No electronic devices allowed, though a cell phone with a camera was not something I even had then. Items were requested and then brought to a viewing room. I painstakingly transcribed – by hand – the entire journal. It is not a very long journal, and in a very small notebook. I then went home and typed from my notes a two page transcription of the journal.

 

 

 

Early Mormon Missionaries Database

Then surprisingly the other day I received an email from FamilySearch:

“We’ve identified early missionaries in your family tree. Learn where and when they served and read their mission stories. Elder Orson Hyde Eggleston  Mission: Wisconsin Dis US” – with a link to a wonderful new Database on Early Mormon Missionaries through lds.org. This page includes links to the Missionary Registers and also a link to Orson’s Journal, which I saw years ago in the Church History Library. Now with a few clicks you can all see this journal.

The page of this Early Mormon Missionaries database includes some basic information about Orson and his mission, which apparently was taken from the Missionary Registers.

Orson was 35 years old when he was called to this mission. His call was to the Wisconsin District, though most of his service was in the State of Michigan. He was set apart on October 21, 1876 by Orson Pratt. He was a member of the 53rd Quorum of the 70 in Ogden, Utah at the time of the call. He served from October 1876 to July 1, 1877. Also included is information about his birth date, place and parents – though someone transcribed his mother’s name as Serana P Burgess. (It looks like an L to someone like me who has read the name many times)

I seem to have lost the computer file of my transcription, so I have posted images, which might be slightly less readable than the document copied and pasted here would be, but probably more easily readable than the handwritten journal. And since future generations might not even learn to read cursive script, this transcription will remain available here. For further discussion about this Mission and information about people mentioned in the journal, see The Joseph Eggleston Family: Seven Generations from Joseph (d.1767) of Stonington, Connecticut to Joseph (1885-1965) of Utah and Wyoming (Including Maternal Lines: Hill, Burgess, Titus, Sammis & Johnson) by Karen Eggleston Stark., pp. 412-414.

Harvey Burgess – Disabled War of 1812 Veteran

What an unexpected surprise to learn that Harvey Burgess, father of Lurania Powers Burgess Eggleston, not only served in the War of 1812, but was injured and left somewhat disabled for the rest of his life.

I recently joined the Daughters of the American Revolution, using Seth Burgess as my Patriot ancestor. His service in the Revolution was documented in the Joseph Eggleston book. In the process of documenting family relationships and birth and death places, the DAR registrar found in the newly digitized War of 1812 Pension Files this new information.

Harvey Burgess, the son of Seth Burgess, was living in Sempronius, New York at the time of the War of 1812. He apparently enlisted with some other men from Sempronius, including his brother-in-law Stephen Carroll. He served from August to October 1812. Continue reading