This letter was written by Dr. Charles Spencer Duncombe (1821-1894), the son of Elija Eli Duncombe (1795-1870) and Catherine Lawyer Bouck (1802-1860). Charles was born in Elkhorn, Schoharie County, New York, and graduated at the Geneva Medical College in 1844, and from the Hahnemann Medical College in 1861; he came to Wisconsin in May, 1844, and settled in Lyons, Walworth County, where he lived four years, and then went to St. Thomas, Ontario (Canada) and practiced there until the fall of 1858; in May, 1860, he came to Racine. He served as Assistant Surgeon in the 22d Wisconsin Volunteers during the Civil War. He married 24 January 1844, Susan A. C. Barker, daughter of William Barker of Geneva, New York, and they had three children — Wm. E., Kittie E., and Jennie.
Dr. Duncombe adds a note to his father describing the Free Mason celebration, dinner, and Lodge meeting held in Elkhorn, Walworth County, Wisconsin Territory on 24 June 1847.
Addressed to Mrs. Charles S. Duncombe, Geneva, Ontario County, New York
June 27, 1847
My dear wife,
I received your welcome letter yesterday and was very much pleased with your account of your journey, that it was so pleasant, and of your safe arrival at Geneva — the home of your childhood — and of your happy greeting by those dear parents, brothers and sister. I felt confident, however, that they would almost go off the hooks when you would appear before them. I can appreciate your feelings, also, upon holding those dear friends from whom you have been so long separated.
I am glad that you took the cars at Rochester on account of the speed. There would not have been much difference in the expense and you was so much sooner clasped to the bosoms of those best of parents. Would you have known William and Edward had you met them in the street? Were the rest of your friends much altered?
What do you think? Henry Van Slyck has returned; he was sick at Buffalo about a week and for fear that he should be sick longer he came home. He and Caroline it seems got down the lakes cheap, “gratis.” I am very glad that you saw your fare discharged. I went to Geneva on purpose to go to the post office when I got your letter. I got one for Martin also. I went to Geneva last Monday and received a letter from home. They were all well, and was anxiously awaiting your arrival there. Adelia intends returning with you if nothing happens.
Caroline wrote from Lyons where she intended remaining two or three days. She said that one of Esq. Eggott’s daughters cut her arm off and drowned herself in a small pond. That is horrible. She is very anxious that Martin and Angeline should come after her, but Martin thinks that he cannot go. I see by your entreaties that you are very anxious that I should come after you. My dear Susan, there is no one that would enjoy a visit east amongst your friends and mine as much or more than I would in company with you, but I am afraid that it would be bad policy for me to leave at this season of the year. I should not get started until the middle of July very well and I would not get back at that rate until the first of September. During the month of August, last year, I charged $100. I do not imagine that it will be so unhealthy this year, however, I cannot tell. I have nothing of consequence to do now. I might as well be at the East as here, but how long it will continue so, I cannot say.
About four rods of embankment on the mill race went off yesterday at the same point that it was broken when we came here. That has drained the pond off and if it remains down long, it will set us all shaking. They are at work at it and will soon have it good again, I think. If I could have been ready and gone when you did, I might have left as well as not, but I think that you will conclude that it is best for me not to come this time. Jane & Theron & I have talked over the matter. We think that you had better start when William does for Lexington and he can see you safely upon a Canada Boat. That will leave you but a short journey to travel alone. I have written to Canada and told my father to write to you and tell you the exact time that the Canada Steam Boat leaves Buffalo that you need not remain there more than one night. I told him that you would want to start for Canada about the first of August. When you get a letter from him, if you have time, you might answer it if you choose and tell him what week you will start and, if convenient, he will meet you at Port Stanley (or some of the family will). If you do not write, you can take the stage at Port Stanley which will leave soon after the boat stops. Penn has received a letter from Adelia quite lately. She says that she shall accompany you to Wisconsin; therefore you will have company nearly the whole route. I would advise you to return to Buffalo the same way that you went to Geneva, if you can make the time come right to meet the boat. When you write to me again, I want to know what time you intend leaving Geneva that I may know where I shall direct my next letter, in which I shall forward a ten dollar bill. You will probably leave so soon that I shall not have time to write again while you are at Geneva.
I want you, dear Susan, to remember that you have some anxious and lonely friends in Wisconsin who are awaiting your return. We feel as though we wished you to hurry your visit as much as possible, but do not spoil your visit. You cannot imagine how much I miss you, Susan, whenever I come in the house. I can scarcely content myself with books, writing or anything. There is a void that I cannot fill — an anxious feeling that I cannot explain comes over me. Come my own Susan and lighten my heart. You say that you will never go alone again. I must confess I believe it, because you will not very soon get a chance.
We will willingly forego the pleasure of your company a few days if you return with your health improved. I want the time to pass as pleasantly as possible for you that you may recover your bodily strength and spirits. I think that the change of air and climate will have a very beneficial effect. Susan, think of the pleasure that we will take this winter having Adelia with us. She will remove a great deal of care from your mind. Jane has had the ague chills but she is better now. The babe had a turn that seemed to baffle our attempts to break it until Jane commenced doctoring when it left little Sudy. Susan, she is one of the best babes you ever saw. She laughs aloud & knows me like a “mice.” Theron has been quite comfortable since you left.
O Susan, I have bought you a present. What do you think it is? Why a “nice ingrain carpet” to be sure. I got it of Levi Cole. You may have seen it. Come now, Sue, you must come right home and see it.
I am very glad that you found Mrs. Cook and Mrs. Lockwood on board the Hendrick Hudson who accompanied you to Geneva. Susan, I think you might persuade William to accompany you to Canada and from thence out here. If it is a possible thing, you can accomplish it. We would all like very much to see him and my folks would like to get acquainted with anyone that was related to you.
Give my love to Father and Mother Barker, to James and Ann, & to William & Edward, and Barnard and his wife when you see them, and induce them, if you can, one and all to come to Wisconsin. Fetch Father Barker back with you, if he would have a pleasant visit in Canada, and another in Wisconsin, and a third in Detroit. I don’t think that I shall have a chance to write again while you are at Geneva if you start the first of August. It took 12 days for your letter to reach here.
Susan, Theron & Johnny and I went out the day before yesterday and got three quarts of strawberries. You did not tell whether you had any currants or not. I suppose you do have plenty. Sue, we have some of the best radishes that I most ever saw. They grow in Theron’s garden, however.
You cannot imagine how much pleasure I would take in visiting with all those affectionate friends in Geneva and also in Canada, but Susan you must not look for me in the least. I cannot give you any encouragement in respect to my company with you.
Susan, I want you to make the best of it this time alone. We will manage matters so that we can all come in two years from this time. If you do not receive a letter with the money in it at Geneva, you will get it in Canada. I think that I shall not send it before you leave Geneva. Write soon. I remain your loving husband, — Charles S. Duncombe
On the 24th instant, the Free Masons held a celebration at Elkhorn. About 60 came out in uniform headed by the band. The order of exercises were as follows: 1, Music by the band. 2, Reading the scriptures. 3, Hymn by the choir. 4, Prayer. 5, Hymn by the choir. 6, Music by the band. 7, Oration. 8, Music by the band. 9, Anthem by the choir. 10, Benediction. 11, Music by the Band. At 2 o’clock they took dinner under a bower after which many toasts and some speeches were given & delivered. At night, I suppose that they held the lodge. The ladies took dinner with m___s and invited guts. There was a medical meeting at Elkhorn which called me out there at which I delivered a dissertation on the use of Tartarized Antimony. I wish that you would accompany Susan to Wisconsin. We all want to see you very much. We want you to view this country. Your loving son, — Charles
Sue, if you wish an introduction to anyone, you must take the Quaker fashion for it out West. A day or two since Mrs. Isaac Lyon was at David Lyon’s on a visit when Mrs. Houghten came over (they had never seen each other before) after sitting some time, talked about the weather &c. Grandmother Weber spoke up, “Don’t you know Eunice?” She answered, “no.” “Eunice don’t you know her?” pointing. Eunice answered, “no.” “Well,” says grandmother, “that’s Sarah Houghten.” Thus ended the introduction.
N. B. Susan, I wish that you would send your letters after this to the Hudson P. O., Walworth County, Wisconsin Territory.