1840: Jane Ann Miles to Amanda Malvina (Beers) Diven

What remains of George Miles gravestone in Ann Arbor, Michigan

What remains of George Miles gravestone in Ann Arbor, MI

This letter was written by Jane Ann Miles (1807-18xx), the wife of George Miles (1798-1850) who was a former law partner of Alexander S. Diven in Angelica, Allegany County, New York. For a time, Miles was District Attorney for Allegany County, New York, but in May of 1837, he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and began practicing law. “When Justice Daniel Goodwin resigned from the Michigan Supreme Court, Miles was appointed to fill the vacancy. Miles was said to have a commanding personal presence and was extremely dignified. The opinions authored by Miles are notable for their conciseness and close adherence to the points of law involved and resemble his earlier decisions in the New York Reports. Miles served out the term but died in Ann Arbor on August 25, 1850, without knowing whether or not the Democratic Party would nominate him for another.” (Source: Beeson, Lewis, “Appointments to the Michigan Supreme and Chancery Courts 1836 – 1850.” Michigan History Magazine, Vol. 30, Oct. – Dec. 1946.)

Alexander S. Divan

Alexander S. Diven

She wrote the letter to Amanda Malvina (Beers) Diven (1810-1875), the wife of Alexander Samuel Diven (1809-1896). Amanda and Alex were married in Angelica, New York, in July 1834. She was the daughter of John Beers (1776-1819) and Keziah Moore (1783-1860). He was the son of James Diven (1741-1818) and Eleanor Means (1771-1836).

Alexander S. Diven was a member of the New York State Senate in 1858 and in 1861, was elected as a Republican to the Thirty-seventh Congress, serving until 1863. During his term, he was commissioned as Colonel of the 107th New York Volunteer Infantry, the corps he organized at the start of the war. He commanded the administration duties of the 107th New York and was brevetted Brigadier General of US Volunteers in April 1864. After the war he was the vice-president of the Erie railroad and the Mayor of Elmira, New York.

1840 Letter

1840 Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Amanda M. Diven, Angelica, Allegany County, New York

Ann Arbor, [Michigan]
April 5, 1840

My dear Mrs. Diven

I had commenced writing to you some days since but was prevented from finishing my letter, and the last 10 days have been spent in a sick room — my dear Pam has had a most painful and so far dangerous illness. She was attacked with a fever so sudden and violent that it set all medicine at defiance; the most active measures were resorted to. At first, there was danger of inflammation of the brain. Blisters relieved her head and it passed to the bowels for four days. There seemed a possibility of her recovery; yesterday her symptoms were more favorable, & today she is quite comfortable — and we hope with care she may soon be safe again. I can not express my gratitude to the Giver of all good for sparing her to us and trust her life may be spent in His service. I felt assured that she was in the hands of a heavenly Father who doth not willingly afflict us and should it be His will to remove her, it would be for our good. We are all in some way or other kept in remembrance of our mortality. Sin, misery & sorrow are our portion here. A brighter day will dawn upon us. I trust we are journeying to a better country. Oh, for more faith, patience & resignation to the Divine will.

I feel thankful that my own health has improved that I might endure the fatigue consequent upon her sickness. I have not been in bed but one night during the past week, and busy all day. The diseases of this climate are so active that unless all things are done that can be done, they are soon terminated in death. Dr. Wells ¹ has been with us day and night nearly since she was first taken. He is a most worthy young man. I had experienced his skillful treatment so effectually that I could place the utmost confidence in him. Pam is a favorite of his among the little girls, and he probably felt more on that account. He has always made his home with us if he was sick and has been a welcome guest.

All my neighbors were very kind in their offers of assistance. I procured a nurse and we felt that it was best to keep her room perfectly quiet.

We were making preparations to send her to Albany to school this Spring with Mr. Wilson. Whether she will recover sufficiently to trust her away is doubtful and our anxiety would be unceasing. Mrs. Wilson intends to go to Allegany with her children. The baby has been quite sick & Mrs. Wilson the ague. She has a beautiful child — all life & play when well.

Your kind invitation is justly appreciated, my dear friend, but I cannot think of leaving home again. While I live, I shall consult the comforts of my family more than my own pleasures and unless it should be absolutely necessary for my health, I shall remain with them. I cannot reconcile myself to the slavish life you lead — your strength is not sufficient to endure it long — and I am daily in hope Mr. Diven will think so.

We had a letter from Father last week. Maria has had another of her attacks of inflammation of the lungs which has left her in a very miserable state of health. They are in a tavern again & Mother has worked herself almost to death. Sister Catherine had been very ill with acute rheumatism [but] was some better. What is there in this world that we should be so much attached to it. I almost fear to open a letter lest it should announce the death of some of my dear friends and I have little to communicate that will not cause a pang in the hearts of my absent friends.

Mr. Miles & John enjoy good health this spring. As usual the garden is progress[ing]. Hot beds and fruit trees are the objects of attention at present. If we have a favorable season this year, we shall have a fine garden. If you could be here to enjoy it with me, I should prize it more. I had anticipated having [my sister] Maria’s company this summer but I fear that is at an end, although there has been some persons who were benefitted by a residence here in summer. I hope you may yet visit me in Michigan and I suppose this will be my home as long as I live.

Mr. Miles will probably go to Allegany in the fall. He thinks it necessary and I should be glad to hear from all old acquaintances. I never hear from there except through you and I hope you may find time to write often. Tell [your son] George, Aunty Miles often thinks of him and Ellen.

I have filled my sheet & I must close although I just think of a dozen things I want to say. I hope that baby is better natured. I think you might give that one to me as the prospects are dark in this quarter. Tell Mr. Diven he must write all he can think of to Mr. Miles, as he always has a fit of blues if he does not often hear from home. Pam sends love to all. My love to all friends and particularly yourself & family. Yours, J. A. Miles

I am happy to hear of your mother’s good health. Give my love to her and Susan. Why does she not answer my letter? What has become of A. Taylor? How is Mr. Thibon’s family? And many others I wish to hear from — D. Robinson, Colins, Welch, Hopkins & Mrs. Dautremont. Terephina promised to write but I have seen no letter. Where is Mrs. Loyd?

¹ Dr. Ebenezer Wells (1818-1882) was an early physician in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He became the mayor in 1863-64 and was also president of the First National Bank. He was married to Margaret C. Hubbard (1825-1916).

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