Letter From Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks – 2 Nov 1855

Another letter written from Braco, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on 2 Nov 1855 by my 3x great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks Duff to her cousin Mary Martha Fairbanks Twining in Halifax.  This is probably the saddest letter out of all of them, as Jane and Mary discuss the recent death of their mutual first cousin Frances “Fanny” Allison.

There is also some ominous foreshadowing.  In the letter Jane writes: “It is indeed a solemn warning to us who are in health and strength to be also ready seeing we know neither the day nor the hour when death shall come.” She would die only months later.

[Transcription follows the letter itself.  Click on the images to enlarge or download.  Letter courtesy of Catherine Duff & Family.]

Pages 1, 4, & 5

Pages 1, 4, & 5

Pages 2, 3, and 6

Pages 2, 3, and 6

== Page 1

Braco Nov. 2nd [1855]

My Dear Mary,

If I had not been very much engaged for the last week, I should certainly have thanked you very much sooner for your kindness in writing [words crossed out]  at a time when you knew I should feel very anxious to hear although you did not say anything in your first letter to alarm me about Fanny.  I felt quite uneasy about her after receiving it and thought frequently that there was cause for apprehending danger.  I don’t know that I should have thought so much about it had it not been for the death of a young person here in somewhat

== Page 2

similar circumstances – she was just Fanny’s age and died in an equally sudden manner, she too was sick for a day and then was seized with vomiting and after your mentioning that I could not get her out of my thoughts.  Although I cannot say I was in any way prepared for the sad reality when your second letter came.  Poor Aunt Mary. I feared almost to hear again dreading what might be the effect of such an overwhelming blow as this, we all know her intense affection for her children and although she has been sorely tried before this in the removal of younger ones, former afflictions must have been light in comparison to this.

[Frances Elizabeth “Fanny” Allison was the daughter of Jane’s aunt Mary Ann Fairbanks Allison (1800-1896).  Fanny died 21 Oct 1855 at the age of 24.  My records indicate Fanny died in Bermuda, but I’m not sure word would have gotten back to Halifax so quickly as to be sent to Jane before November 2, 1855.  Jane mentions that Mary Ann was “sorely tried before this”, making reference to the fact that Mary Ann’s children Ellen and Agnes died in 1836 at the ages of 1 and 2 years respectively.  They are on the same tombstone in the Old Burying Ground in Halifax.  Mary and her husband David Allison also lost their son Joseph at age 3 in 1839. ]

== Page 3

Fanny must have been everything to her this summer while dear Aunt Eliza’s loss [“must have been” is crossed out] was so fresh and the want of her society so keenly felt, and now my heart aches to think of such a desolating bereavement as hers.  [words crossed out here] her death under any circumstances would have been an awful hole but it seems so very sad that she was not aware of her danger at least as far as friends could know, for many hope at least she was not unprepared by the many of Him with whom nothing is impossible.  It is indeed a solemn warning to us who are [crossed out word] in health and strength to be also ready seeing we know neither the day nor the hour when death shall come.  I have thought more of Aunt Mary’s

== Page 4

sorrow knowing the intensity of her feelings, but alas there are many to share in it.  Her husband and children so suddenly bereaved, the latter can have at present little sense of their loss but poor Sam [Fanny’s husband, Dr. Samuel Wells] will be utterly unprepared for such dreadful feelings and his friends will deeply sympathize in the grief of all.  May he who has sent the stroke administer consolation also, for earthly friendship can do but little.  Mrs. Cossman was here the evening I received your letter telling of her confinement and she told me thought she had never seen any person look so strangely as Fanny.  She said her face has such an unnatural color and appeared to her to be very much swollen so what she said alarmed me also, but still I hoped

== Page 5 [sideways on page four]

all would be well.  It is so natural to hope for the best.  I have had letters from all at home since, but yours contained the most particular account and I must again thank you dear Mary for your kindness and thoughtfulness in writing for I daresay you did not feel very like doing so at the time.  There was some hair in the envelope was it Fanny’s?  Perhaps you intended saying but closed without [saying].  My poor baby has been quite ill for a whole week and although she is better she had two days she will scarcely let

== Page 6 [Sideways on page 3]

any one look at her and for hours will not let me put her out of my arms.  She is so very cross.  Her teeth have been the cause of it but I hope the worst is over now.  We are all tolerable well, but  Aunt Margaret and myself have been very busy with house cleaning getting up stores and other arrangements necessary at this season.  We shall have more leisure soon, I hope.  It did not matter at all about the chemises, just send them when quite convenient.  I must not write more today but with much love to Martha and all at Dartmouth.

Believe me dear Mary your ever affectionate

Jane E Duff

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

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