Letters to Emily – Letter 31

William Wallace Johnson was born in Buckland, Massachusetts in 1813. He received his academic education at Franklin Academy, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. In 1842 he moved his family and settled in Greenfield, Milwaukee Co. Wisconsin, where at various times he held the office of School Commissioner, Town Clerk and Town Treasurer. In 1850, at Whitewater, Wisconsin, he was ordained by Bishop Ames, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1876, he published a book entitled "Records of the Descendants of David Johnson, of Leominster, Mass." with original poems; and in 1879, he was a member of the Wisconsin Legislature. In 1884, he compiled and published, "Records of the Descendants of Thomas Clarke, Plymouth 1623 - 1697," and is the author of the "Records of the Descendants of John Johnson of Ipswich and Andover, Mass 1635 - 1892". He resided in North Greenfield, Wisconsin, where all his children except the oldest were born. His wife, Abigail, died in North Greenfield on 24 September 1889. William Johnson passed away in 1900 and was buried in Wisconsin.

This letter is from Willam Wallace Johnson (1813-1900). William was the son of Othniel Johnson (1778-1851). Othniel was the brother of Emily’s father. It is interesting that in this letter he refers to Emily and himself in the third person. You may also tell that William is an educated man. This is the first letter that doesn’t have any misspellings and uses punctuation and capitalization.

Dear Cousin Emily – Emily Johnson Dwight (1808-1886)

Edwin – Edwin Johnson (1818-1906) , brother of William

Our grandmother – Anna Phillips (1763-1812), William and Emily’s grandmother

NOTE: William and Emily’s fathers were brothers who married sisters. William’s mother Anna Elmer and Emily’s mother, Betsey Elmer, were sisters.

Anna – Anna Johnson (1811-1868), Williams’s sister.

Good old grandfather – Josiah Johnson (1746-1827), William and Emily’s grandfather.

Othniels – Orthniel N. Johnson (1778-1851), William’s father and Emily’s uncle.

Your father – Josiah Clemmons Johnson (1781-1856), Emily’s father.

My father – Orthniel N. Johnson.

Aunt Susanna – Susanna Johnson (1793-1872),

Greenfield, Wis. Feb.28, 1880

Dear Cousin Emily,

As I was sitting this Saturday evening thinking upon the storm that is prevailing outside, and of the very condition of the roads, and revolving in my mind whether on the morrow I should be able to reach our place of worship which is four miles distant – the thought occurred to me where will brother Edwin, who is always in the congregation when at home, attend the sabbath service tomorrow. And as he is in Massachusetts, the thought came that he may be with Emily, and this thought revived another, namely, that I wrote to her nearly four months ago and have received no answer. And then the whys, and the wherefores, would present themselves, and they would be followed by a multitude of scenes and incidents of early life, interesting, and joyful and sad-and although you had attained to womanhood before I entered upon my teens, yet these incidents of my early life are doubtless many of them fresh in your memory also The cap that our grandmother wore is well defined in its outlines in my mind, and the dish of apples which she so frequently brought from that old cellar to feast the appetites of her grandchildren, almost looks tempting, even now in my vision and the care which she took of her old gray hens, in providing them a place to lay and to hatch their young, might be adopted by the poultry men as a model at the present day.

And then the early apples, and the Seek no further and the Bills grafts that made the side hill to the east of the well most interesting to me and Lem’s grafts out by the lane, and the Holden sweets just back of Mr. Smith’s the currant bushes that grew by the stone wall and the old willows that bent gently in the evening breeze and the shed by the barn whose southern side was the everlasting rock and upon whose roof I so often played with my youthful cousins. all these and numerous other scenes, now rise before and as the storm howls without; memory becomes more vivid and intense.

One incident which has always been fresh in my mind, I can hardly omit. The occasion was the birth of one of the younger members of the family. The place was the old stone house the individual actors most interested were your cousin Wallace, and his now departed sister Anna (Peace to her memory). It was night, and we were in a strange chamber, and enough of the nervous existed in our temperament to Banish sleep from our presence long before the morning came- our bed was abandoned our clothes were put on and we were out in the moonlight, on our way across the road to the brick house, but suddenly we were arrested. Do you remember that old dog who wore a bell when he went a coon hunting? And was his name Tiger? If it was not, his presence brought about a retreat in us as quick as if he had possessed a tiger’s nature. We went back and disturbed our good old grandfather, who kindly told us that it was not morning and that we had better go up to bed again which we did but as soon as the first ray of the dawn appeared our grandfather was on the move below and we were soon with him and he took us to the door and showed us Venus which appeared in the heavens over birch mountain, saying to us in his blandest tones “it is morning now don’t you see the morning star! and glad no doubt that Othniel’s children did not disturb him any more than they did. But leaving out other incidents, I will now say that I have with much labor traced out the records of our grandfather’s descendants and embodied them in a book for the instruction, and for references, of those who now Iive and for those who shall come after, and that I am desirous to do one thing, more, and that is to see a gravestone erected in the old graveyard at Buckland Centre “Sacred to the memory of our grandparents and the means for doing this have, in a great measure, been secured by subscription, and the names of those who have subscribed for this purpose are found among the descendants of your father and of my father, of Aunt Susanna, and of Aunt Lydia, but as the full amount has not yet been raised, and you doubtless will like to possess an interest in that stone, and will desire to give something according to your means, you still have an opportunity to do whatever your sense of duty, or your inclination may dictate. That stone will be placed over the graves of our grandparents if they can be found and will at all events be placed Sacred to their memory in the “city of the dead” within whose consecrated enclosure their mortal remains do surely rest. Shall I hear from you when you receive this, or shall I desire, and watch and wait only to be disappointed in the end. Please let not the latter occur.

Most truly your cousin,

Wm W. Johnson

The next letter is also by William Johnson. This time he writes to Emily’s daughter Elizabeth, “Lizzie.” Within that letter, he says he doesn’t have time to write Emily a respectable letter, so he includes one in this letter.