Letter from Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks – 30 Jul 1855

My cousin Catherine Duff has a series of letters sent by my 3x great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks to her first cousin Mary Martha Fairbanks Twining.  Mary married Henry Charles Darling Twining, and they had a son Charles who was born in 1849 and would have been six when the letters were written.  Mary lived in Halifax, and the letters mention her receiving or sending items when Jane’s husband Reverend William Duff went to Halifax.

This particular letter was sent 30 Jul 1855 from Braco, the Duff family home in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  My grandmother talks here about visitors in the family home, the difficulty finding help for the homestead, plagues in nearby towns, and bonnets.  I believe the “Miss Duff” she refers to in her letters is Margaret Duff, the spinster sister of her husband Rev. William Duff, who came from Scotland to help with the children.

[As always, you can click on the images to enlarge or download them.]

Pages 1 and 4.

Pages 1 and 4.

Pages 2 and 3.

Pages 2 and 3.

Braco, July 30 1855

My Dear Mary,

Many thanks for your last kind letter.  It was a real pleasure to hear from you so soon again and be so kindly sympathized with me over solitary condition.  Mr. Duff leaves us again tomorrow morning but I hope we shall see him back again on Friday’s coach.  We have had Mr. Wilson with us since last Friday.  He seems a very nice person and we have greatly enjoyed his visit and he is very much liked in Sydney where he had been

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for some years.  I hope we shall see Mr. King soon as he has been promising us a visit also.  I am goodly indebted to you for inquiring about servants for us but I hear from all that it is a most difficult thing to get a decent one even there.  I suppose when the harvest is over the country girls will be going out and we will be able to get one then, but it seems a long time to wait when in such need.  We have a woman working here today and for a wonder Miss Duff and I have found a few minutes for writing.  She is writing home, but I

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am in the midst of such a commotion I scarcely know what I am saying.  The heavy showers have prevented the children from playing out so Sarah and Maggie and the boys are making a great noise around me.  Mr. Wilson and Mr. Duff are away to LaHave [islands], the fear is spreading and several deaths have occurred.  It seems something worse than Typhus.  Mr. Duff has gone to the parish of a young woman who’s brother died and nearly all her relatives are lying ill.  I am much obliged for your offer of getting another frame.  I intended sending but it has just occurred to me that as Mrs Duff is going he could take the bonnet and as he is to be in Halifax Wednesday and Thursday will you be kind enough and ask the

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Lanson’s if they will put it in another frame.  I fear the girl here will spoil it if she attempts it and and I am no bonnet maker.  Perhaps they will be obliging enough to do and it can come back with Mr. Duff.  I don’t suppose it would take them long.  About the size of the frame, I would like a deeper one from front to back.  It scarcely goes upon my head at all, although it seems long enough around.  I daresay one large enough for you will fit me.  If you are not well dear Mary or anything prevents you from sending it, don’t give yourself any trouble about it, but I thought I would send as it was a good opportunity.  I will put a pinch of Maggie’s in the basket as you requested, it is one she wore all last Winter and it fits her very well, although

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[written sideways on first page]

since Mr Duff returned from the country he has changed his arrangements and does not go to Halifax after all as Mr Wilson is to attend to the business that was to take him there.  As he is not going I will not send the bonnet but I will trouble you to send me something larger framed. The packet will be leaving about the last of the week, but send it any way that is convenient.

Yours ever,



About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

3 responses to “Letter from Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks – 30 Jul 1855

  • Greg van Slyke

    Hi Charles,

    This is the first time that I have been able to positively connect our Duff’s with the Earls of Fyfe. Braco, the family home in Lunenburg, NS is obviously named for the Braco Duffs in Scotland. I just wish that we had something more solid to go on.

    It’s great that you have been able to obtain copies of these letters and I thank you for your efforts in mining these gems and bringing them to the surface.

    All the best,
    Greg van Slyke

  • Pauline M Bailey

    I wonder if she might have been running a boarding house?

    • cthomas1967

      I think it depends on your definition. “Braco”, the Duff family home was basically an estate with extensive lands. It seems clear from Jane’s letters that they had travelers, friends and family staying with them regularly. But, the diaries of Jane’s father, John Eleazer Fairbanks, show that it was common in that era for families along the coast or on larger land routes to put up travelers for a day or several at a time. I can imagine it was a good way to have some entertainment in the days before radio, TV, movies, etc. Travelers brought stories and conversation, news from other parts. They would carry mail and packages from one place to another, etc. It was a mutually-beneficial situation. I don’t know to what extent the motivation was financial, or simply a sense of hospitality.

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