This letter was written by Nancy Meriam (Conant) McKinstry (1839-1934), the recently widowed wife of Van Buren McKinstry (1835-1864) of Charlton, Worcester county, Massachusetts. Nancy’s husband served in Co. G, 36th Massachusetts Infantry. He was taken prisoner by the confederates near Blain’s Cross Roads in Tennessee on 15 December 1863 and died of disease on 15 February 1864 while a Prisoner of War at Andersonville, Georgia. [see also McInstry]
Nancy was the daughter of Rufus Conant (1805-1877) and his second wife Ruhamah G. Johnson (1813-1907) of Charlton. Nancy mentions the death of her brother, Corp. Charles Rufus Conant (1833-1864) who served in Co. D, 18th Connecticut Infantry. Charles left a widow, Ann Frances (Ross) Conant) and three boys.
Charlton [Worcester, Massachusetts]
October 2nd 1864
Dear Cousin Mary,
I now take the liberty to write you a few lines. Aunt Matilda said you wanted to know if I was dead. Well, I am not quite. I think I have wrote to you since you wrote to me but perhaps you did not get the letter was the reason you wrote so. I have had a good deal on my mind this summer & fall. I do not know why Maria does not write for I have not seen her to speak to this summer although I have seen her go by where I live & at church. She had an attack of the dysentery the last of July & was sick a few days but is well now & the rest, or was last week. She has a second cousin of hers living with her now. She has had her company, I believe. She has been there since last spring. I hear Maria gets along very well with her house work. I believe all the rest of our relation are well as usual in this vicinity.
Emory’s health is not very good. I suppose you have heard Adaline Colby ¹ was dead. She died out at the cold water cure at N. Y. There were none of her folks with her at the time but her husband. She died the 29th of August. We have none of us heard from them since or from Aunt [Clarissa] Foskett. I think she must be very lonely to be down there now Adeline is gone. I suppose you knew she moved down there last Spring.
[My] brother Charles died the 27th of June at Staunton, Va. He was wounded just below the knee & was then taken prisoner at Staunton & we have heard by those that was exchanged of his company & regiment of his death. His wife & 3 boys live in East Thompson, Connecticut. There was a funeral sermon preached last Sabbath at Thompson for him. Had an excellent sermon. We did not hear of his death until a few weeks ago for certain. He was at home on a furlough last Spring. It seems very hard for his wife & children to be separated from him, but God doeth all things for the best & I trust she may be provided for.
I am well & my daughter Melissa also. She will be 2½ years old the 4th of this month & is quite large of her age. Looks like her Father. I am at work at Mr. Aldrich’s—the one that bought Aunt Foskett’s place. I do not know whether I shall be there this Winter or not. Melissa is with me.
I hope this war will end soon & hope Abe Lincoln will be chosen President this Fall. Everything is very high here. It is very dry here this Fall, although it rains today & hope it will rain a number of days. Wells are all dried up & the brooks. Some people have to go ½ a mile or more to get water to use at all & very scarce at that. Uncle John Johnson has got home from war. All well at Dudley.
From your cousin, — Nancy M. McKinstry
¹ Adaline Foskett (1822-1864) of Charlton was married to James Franklin Pettengill Colby (1823-1897) in 1848.