Interesting 1843 stampless folded letter written in Springfield, Massachusetts and sent to West Granby, Connecticut. 

 

The writer talks about viewing a performance by a group of African American albinos - see footnote.  

 

FULL SCANS, TRANSCRIPT and RESEARCH NOTES follow.  

 

Postmark is a red Springfield, Ms. circular date stamp with a PAID 10 cent manuscript rate mark.  

 

This letter was written by Noble Danforth Frary (1823-1878), the son of Zenas Frary (1777-1848) and Keziah Pomeroy (1785-1872). Noble wrote the letter to Mary R. Kendall (1824-1871) whom he would marry in October 1845.

 

Noble and Mary had four children: Adella Dorcas Frary (1846-1878), Ossian Danforth Frary (1850-1941), Herbert Kendall Frary (1852-1860) and Anna Louise Frary (1858-1933).

 

Early in the 1850s, Noble and Mary settled in Elburn, Kane County, Illinois where Noble worked at his trade of wheelwright. During the war, Noble enlisted as a sergeant in Company I, 8th Illinois Cavalry in September 1861. Enlisting when his youngest daughter was only three years old, Sergt. Frary wrote a heartfelt letter to her just before the Peninsula Campaign to be read to her should he not return home:

 

Alexandria, Va.
Feb. 28, 1862

My Dear Little Daughter Anna,

 

That you may not forget Father in his absence and that you may have a few lines to read when you get big enough to remember Father by, I snatch a few hasty moments to write you just upon the eve of going into expected danger. How much I would like to see you and your older sister, brother, and mother. I cannot tell you; but you may some day imagine -- you have, like your Brothers and Sisters, always been dear children to me & anything I can do for your comfort and happiness, I would do most cheerfully. But now the distressed condition of my country demands my services -- perhaps my blood. If the latter, may God ever be a father unto you. Never in the future feel that your father was afraid to fight in the name of God for his country -- but with true woman's gentle patriotism and affection remember, -- Father

Noble survived the Peninsula Campaign and the remainder of the war but his first real encounter with slaves left a lasting impression on him and he taught his children to be grateful for life's blessings. [See 20 June 1862 letter in footnotes.]

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Addressed to Miss Mary Kendall, West Granby, Connecticut

Springfield [Massachusetts]
September 29, 1843

Dear Mary,

 

You may think very strange that I have not written to you sooner. I believe that I told you that if I did not come down to Granby that I would write in a few weeks, and I have been waiting until this week to hear from T. Wilcox and could not get time to write until now. I have seen L. Huggins this week and am very much obliged to you for that fruit which you sent by him. The rings and jewelry I have not taken because he thought that he should go to Granby within two or three weeks and I think that it will be doubtful whether I go as soon as that.

 

Mr. Wilcox write that he thinks that if we are not ready to come now, that he must wait until we are ready which I think will be perhaps some four or five weeks yet.

 

I have been thinking today, May, how long it is since I was in Granby. It is almost a month. I did not in fact think that it was so long. Perhaps you will say that I do not think of you much but it is not so. There is not a day passes or hardly an hour that I do not think of you.

 

I have just been to dinner, Mary, and now commence anew. It is a very rainy time with us today and I have not attempted to go to church today. L. Huggins is at work about a  mile from here. I have not seen him but once since he first come.

 

The second night that he was here, he and I went to a performance of four while negroes or albino boys.  They are curious looking creatures. They are of the African race and are whiter than our common people. They have the perfect feature of the African in every respect. Their skin and hair is almost as white as snow. But I suppose that you do not care anything about them if you cannot see them yourself.

 

The first night that L. H. was here, we were all called out to a fire. L. said he did not know what to make of it. He said that he awoke in the night and heard a good deal of fuss and three or four bells ringing, and got hold of his watch and found that it was about 1 O'clock and concluded that he would not trouble himself but let them work. One engine was hauled out of the house before I got dressed, but I was not long dressing.  We had about 1 miles to go and the fire was all out before we got there.

 

Lucky for us.

Please write soon. Good bye.

 

Yours &c., -- Noble D. Frary

 

 

Noble is referring to the performance which was billed as "The Four Snow-White Albino Boys." This act consisted of "two albino African American brothers who were partnered with two other albino African American brothers in a spectacle of melodic merrymaking and racial disorientation. A lithograph used to advertise the concert shows the boys in a classic minstrel arrangement: the middle children playing fiddle and banjo, the end children, like the minstrel show's endemic, playing tambo and bones."

 

A Fire Department was established in Springfield in 1830 but firefighting was done primarily by volunteers who responded to the fire bells.

 

Camp near Mechanicsville, Va.
June 20th 1862

 

[Speaking of the slaves they encountered] They have been told all kinds of stories that we would shoot them, that we would cut their heads off, and that we would carry them off to Cuba and sell them to pay the expenses of the war, etc. etc. But they did not believe all their masters told them and are very happy to know that it was untrue. Their masters all left and went with the Southern army to Richmond. I asked the little girl how old she was and she could not tell me. Nan, I want to say to my children and especially to Ossian, be ever good and kind to everybody and especially to your mother. Always be pleasant when she speaks to you, never let your angry passions rise, but always try to do right, and do always as you are told to by those who are older than you as near as you can. And remember how much better off you are than these Negroes. God has created you and them and will be ever mindful of your wants for which you should be ever kind and thankful. But I must close so goodbye. And remember your affectionate father, -- N. D. Frary

 


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