1857: William Wallace Stumph to H. C. Bowell

I assume this letter was written by William Wallace Stumph (1814-1880) from South Ottawa Township, LaSalle County, Illinois. William was married to Nancy Hyatt (1812-1901) in 1833 and resided in Uniontown, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, until 1857 when he relocated to Illinois.

Stumph wrote the letter to a woman he called “Hun” but did not address her by her proper name. The name on the envelope appears to be “H. C. Bowell” but may have been Boswell. We learn from the letter that she was from Ohio — probably from the vicinity of Waynesburg — but that she was in Jefferson, Greene county, Iowa when this letter was written in 1857.

It seems that in 1857, Stumph was working as a clerk in the [jewelry] store of B. & A. K. McCain in Ottawa. The gist of the letter is that Stumph desires his correspondent to marry him and live with him in Illinois though he is hopelessly incapable of expressing himself romantically. I’m not certain of the identity of  these correspondents, however, since Stumph was married at the time and had a large family. It should be noted that someone has written Ottawa, Kansas Territory, on the envelope which is an error.


Addressed to Miss H. C. Bowell, Jefferson, Greene Co., Iowa

Ottawa, [LaSalle county, Illinois]
October 24, 1857

My own dear “Hun,”

I read yours of 9th yesterday. I had almost given up of ever hearing from you. Nearly two months. Just think, Hun. Why it is enough to set a person crazy. I was just thinking of writing to you to see what was the matter. I was thinking probably that you had gone to Ohio and give me the (Miller) for some other dandy and worse, that my employers have been given me [     ] about you for not writing. They generally go to the post office and bring the letters. They say that you don’t write as often as you used to do & they say you must write or else the keep me any longer for they say also that I attend to business better when I get letters from Jefferson and everything else you can think of. They are asking me now while I am writing whether you are pretty or not. I tell yes of course and now they say that I must send their compliments. If I don’t do it, they [  ] shant write no more but I would be afraid to do it if they go out of the store. They are all out now so I will proceed and give all news I can tonight.

The first thing is you wanted to know what I was a doing. I am still here in Ottawa. I quit on the first of October to go and look out for myself and your dear self and after waiting — or rather loafing — around for about 2 weeks, I have concluded to go to work again for and with the advice of all my friends here, I have concluded not to start in business until for the times is a going to be very hard here this.

I suppose you are aware of that fact from what you say in your letter about having no good money — and now that I am making as much here now as I would to go into business for the winter. But I do not [know] but what I shall go into business here during the winter providing I can being out one of the partners here which I think I can do. All he has got o say is that he will sell out and the money is ready for him. The nag of it is the partners do not agree very well. One of them is a kind of a wild sort of a fellow and [the] other one don’t like him very well. And now the oldest partner wants me to bug him. If I do, he says he will furnish the money to me at 10 percent interest which is the lowest rate out here now. If your folks do not think that I attend [to my business], just tell them to write to Messrs. B. & A. K. McCain and see if they don’t say I attend to my business and whether I am much of a dandy or anymore so than my business requires. I just tell what it is.

Hun, I have been very saving this summer — as much so as I could to live well. I know if you was here you would not want me to be niggardly. I would not if you did. Now you try your best to get your friends’ consent for it would be so much better to get married — at least your Father’s & Mother’s consent. If I succeed in buying out the shop here, I think I shall be back some time for February or March so you may depend on that if you stay in Ohio this winter. I will try and  come see you about Christmas on a visit. I would give most anything in the world for your  dream to of been a reality. When you write that way, it almost makes me cry. But oh! how happy it would for me to go to see you tonight. Wouldn’t it be sweet? I would have as many of choicest kisses as I could get. But never mind, it will all be right some day. Think before a great while at I am determined it shall be so. That is providing you do not give me the slip. I see I can’t expect your picture until you receive mine. As soon as you get back home, I will try and send you one providing I can get time to go and get it taken for it is a pretty hard thing for me to get out through the day.

I have written so much tonight that I expect you will be tired of reading it before you are half done with it. But you can lay it to one said and finish it again for [when] I commence writing to you, I do not know when to stop. I [wish I] was with you tonight as you dreamed as I was. I would never get done talking so you must excuse me if I do write a good deal of nonsense. If this should reach you before you leave Ohio, I wish if you can you would get acquainted with that Mr. Stumph you say that is there. I have a good many relations through different parts of Ohio and some that I have never saw yet. If you can get acquainted with him, tell [him] you was acquainted with me and I have no doubt but that you will find he is of some relation of mine. When you go back to Green county, let me know what is going on there and all about the girls & [   ].

I must quit. It is so late and I have to be up early in the morning. One sweet kiss tonight from you and then how happy. Write me all about yourself immediately and I will answer it as soon as I get it for I have only about 5 letters from you this summer. Write soon and probably by that time I will have the good news to tell of my being permanently located here. If I do, all you will have to do is to lay low until we [   ] if we can get your friends’ consent and then if we can not get it, all you will have to say is that you will come with out it.

Oh dear Hun, I know we can get along so well and I could make more money than if I was not married. It costs me now from five to six dollars a week to live. 3 dollars per week for board and sleep in the store and everything else in proportion.

There is a young friend of mine here that has got married and he lives as happy again as he did before and he tells it don’t cost as much for him to keep him and his wife as it did himself before and if I was married, I would have much more influence with the majority of the people and now I am bound to live here, your sweet self and then we can live to suit ourselves. Now Hun, if your friends don’t think I attend to my business, get them to write to my present employer and see what they say and I think that they will be better satisfied or any person else in the city that I am acquainted with or that knows me. I am not that some wild boy that I used to be in Waynesburg. I will give you my word for that.

I must close up now. So good night, my own dear “Hun” and find enclosed 10,000 wet kisses for you and you alone. Good night. Dream about me tonight for I will about you. I won’t tell any of my dreams until I see you. — W. Stumph

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