This letter was written by Mary Elizabeth (Adams) Hart (1828-1883), the daughter of Joseph Adams (1800-1884) and Miranda French (1799-1873) of Cavendish, Vermont. Mary was married to Hubbard L. Hart, a commission merchant in Palatka, Florida. Their daughter, Mary (“Sissy”) was only 1 year old when this letter was written.
Hubbard was born in Guilford, Vermont. He was married to Mary Adams of Cavendish, Vermont until her death in 1883. He then married Cecilia Thompson of Boston, Massachusetts in 1884. At the age of 21, he moved to Savannah, Georgia, and then later Darien, Georgia. He finally moved to Palatka, Florida in 1855. In July of that year, he got a contract as a mail carrier for a route from Ocala to Tampa, even though there was danger of Seminole Indian attacks. This mail route took him by the emerging village at Silver Springs, and this gave him an idea—he recognized the region’s natural beauty and climate as a vacation draw for northerners, weary of cold, bleak winters.
In 1860, at 33 years old, Hart bought the paddle-wheel steamer, James Burt. He used the boat to transport people and supplies between Palatka and Silver Springs. The tourist route lasted 2-days, and went down the Ocklawaha River from Palatka to Silver Springs and back. The roads at the time were very poor, but boat transport was faster and safer. James Burt was also used to move lumber from Hart’s new cypress lumbering enterprise. His new business, the Hart Line, needed to clear the wood and debris from the Ocklawaha.
At the start of the Civil War, the Hart Line needed to adapt or die. Due to no tourism during the war, Hart decided to use his steamers to transport supplies for the Confederate States. He helped with blockade running, which was done by transporting supplies up the center of the state through a series of land and river routes. During the Civil War, he made a total of CSA$11,000, which he managed to turn into material assets by the end of the war to avoid losing everything in the collapsing government. Near the end of the war, the Confederates saw the strategic value of the Ocklawaha River and hired Hart to clear it of all debris and navigation hazards for a price of CSA$4500. He did not get a chance to finish before the rebellion was over.
Hart left the war with the title of colonel. He was cleared of any wartime crimes and allowed to resume his tourist industry. He used his boats to transport Union men and supplies in the winter of 1865-66, proving his allegiance to the federal government.
Mary’s brother, Capt. Richard Joseph Adams (1833-1912) came to Palatka when it was a mere trading post. He engaged successively in the mercantile business, orange growing and steamboating. In the earlier years of Palatka’s existence he operated a stage coach line between Palatka, Ocala, Orange Springs and Tampa.
Joseph Adams was the keeper of an Inn or Tavern in premises owned by Samuel Dutton, in Cavendish, Vermont. The location of Adams’ Inn is revealed on Hosea Doton’s 1855 map of Cavendish. A building labelled “S. Dulton’s Hotel” is situated on the north side of Main Street to the west of Depot Street.
Addressed to Mr. Joseph Adams, Cavendish, Vermont
December 23, 1855
Dear Father and Mother,
Will write you a short letter today to let you know how we are &c. “Sissy” is rather better than when writing before but is pretty sore yet, and badly broken out. We have decided it is the chicken pox that is the matter with her. The Dr. has said all of the time it looked so but he could not tell as she had scratched herself so much but says now it is the chicken pox plain enough. She is having it pretty bad but not as bad as some. She is quite worrisome yet and wants to scratch herself all of the time — is restless nights and gets provoked because she cannot scratch all she wants to. I do up her arms and legs in linen rags and sweet oil, and she wears rags for stockings. She is getting to sleep better days and her sores are healing considerable now. She has been so that she would not sleep out of my arms but a few minutes at a time, but hope now she will soon get back in the old track. She is quite playful a part of the time, goes out every day. Think in a few days more that she will get so that her sores will not trouble her. I did not know the chicken pox was so bad. I asked her about Jimmy. She remembered about him, put out her finger and pointed to the door. She has waked up after sleeping about two hours — has company now to play with her.
I have a sad accident to tell you about. The Seminole (the Wednesday’s Mail Steamer between here and Savannah) was burnt while lying at the wharf at Jacksonville. It was not discovered until she was almost a blaze. The passengers barely had time to get out. It happened Thursday night between eleven and twelve. They do not know how it took fire. Scarecely any of the passengers saved any of their baggage. In fact, nothing was saved. The anvils all burned. Hubbard has lost $325.00. He sent some money to Savannah by the Captain. He was to put it into the safe which he did. The safe burst open and it has all gone. Pretty big loss for us just now. A good many are losers here by the accident. It is said that she never left here so heavily loaded before. Will send you Savannah papers containing the particulars when we get them. She was the newest and finest boat on the line. It is a great loss.
We received your last letter last Sunday. Have always had to wait until Wednesday before for them. Also a paper. We are having some very warm weather for a few days. Think you have had much warmer weather than last winter this far. Would liked to have been home at Thanksgiving. Should think you had quite a French party, Would like to have seen them. Winslow has not written to me yet. By the way, I wis you would send me Ann Maria’s address. I have forgotten the number.
How did the Oyster Supper go off? How long was Father gone at Woodstock? Should think you had a pretty big boy. Am glad to hear the birds are doing so well. Would like some of your apples now. Get a few once in a while. How suffered Charley Wheeler to change his mind? Should think they treated Midd Taft rather bad. Is Helen married yet? We received the Lady’s Book papers &c.
I have finished Sissy’s dress and almost made another apron. My sewing gets along very slow — especially since Sissy has been sick. Have had to hold her a good deal. Hope to do more the next three weeks. Mr. Long and Henny are well. Mr. Long says he should like a glass of your cider. Believe I have told you all that has happened since writing you before. Hubbard’s cough is better. Takes cold pretty easy. Then he coughs more. Sends his regards to all. Recon you will not think much of our sending papers. I always take all my time to write and Hubbard generally gets in a hurry and forgets them. He has written seven letters and yet writing. Sissy has gone to play with the children in the hall. Believe now she in in Mr. Long’s room. Write soon. Excuse this. I have written in a great hurry and with a mean pen. Will try and send some papers this time. Love to all. Sissy sends her love and a kiss. Recon if we do fail, you will see us next summer. Will write again next Sunday.
With the love of Sissie