This letter was written by George Johnson (1845-1875), the son of Edwin Johnson (1814-1883) and Ann E. Eastburn (1817-1900) of Upper Makefield, Bucks county, Pennsylvania. The Johnson family were members of the Wrightstown (Quaker) Meeting House in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. George’s siblings included: Richard Henry Johnson (b. 1842), Samuel A. Johnson (b. 1847), and Benjamin E. Johnson (b. 1852). George was married to Mary Shoemaker (1844-1935) in June 1874.
Johnson wrote the letter to his friend, Hugh B. Eastburn (1846-1915), the son of Moses and Mary Anna (Ely) Eastburn. Hugh was born in Solebury Township, Bucks County, Pa., on 11 February 1846. He was educated at the schools of Solebury and the Excelsior Normal Institute at Carversville, Pa., graduating at the latter institution in 1865. He afterward taught for two years in the Boys’ Grammar School at Fifteenth and Race Streets, Philadelphia, and later at the Friends’ Central High School. He studied law under Judge D. Newlin Fell, now of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in 1870. In June of the same year he was appointed Superintendent of Schools of Bucks County, and was elected to the same position in 1872 for a term of three years and re-elected in 1875. He resigned in 1876, and after taking a course in the Law Department of the University of Pennsylvania, was admitted to the Bucks County Bar in August, 1877, and practiced his profession at Doylestown.
Addressed to Hugh B. Eastburn, New Hope, [Bucks county] Pennsylvania
July 15th 1864
My dear friend,
Thy response to my last letter reached me on the 9th inst. Though we generally say of most letters, I can truthfully say of thine, it was welcome. I received and read it in the harvest field.
Yesterday we finished our wheat and today our hay. How relieved one feels when so much of what is usually termed hard work is over! Our wheat and grass crops were very heavy and as laborers were somewhat difficult to obtain, the idle moments might conveniently be indulged at long intervals of time. However, we “put it through” finely for which we may, in part, thank the propitious weather, and are about laying siege to the oats fields. There! I won’t bore thee any longer with what possibly (not probably) may not much interest thee.
I see by the county paper that D. N. Fell ¹ has assumed his “soger clothes” again and is raising men for the state defense. The present invasion appears to cause but little excitement in our township. Perhaps it was expected as we annually have an incursion of the rebels and the thing is getting old. We are not entirely apathetic, however, as quite a number of volunteers have gone from our midst in response to the Governor’s Proclamation.
Hugh, did thee get to the Great Fair? ² I remember telling thee in one of my letters that I could not attend. But I did, and was much pleased with [the] whole enterprise. As thee told me thee expected to go, I thought when I went down I might by a possible coincidence see thee on the cars but I looked in vain.
Hugh, I heartily thank thee for certain complimentary allusions to those pieces that appeared in the Intelligencer. ³ I know thee well enough to feel assured thy praise was earnest and I know them well enough to be equally confident that they did not deserve it. How did thee know that I wrote “Three Years Ago” & “The Homestead.” No name was attached and I do not recollect that I have given reason to justify anyone in implying that the articles were mine. I hope my “mannerism” isn’t so marked as to enable a reader to recognize me thereby.
Doesn’t it appear foolish to be writing rhymes and publishing them? I sometimes think it does but I censure the editors and not myself for their publication. Now that I have hit on literary topics, let me ask what kind of a book — that is, in its general character — is [Horace] Bushnell’s “Nature & [the] Supernatural?” I have very frequently heard of but never saw it.
I am at present reading [Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné’s “History of the Reformation.” I find it most intensely interesting and an agreeable change from the war-like and exciting literature of today. I should perhaps say variation rather than change as I always strive to keep myself informed in regard to our stirring everyday events. One effect of reading such works as d’Aubigné’s is to increase our faith in the world and each other. I frequently think that men are bad enough but after reading of Luther’s trials and labors, I conclude that they are certainly not as bad as they once were. Rome in the time of her military, literary, and pontifical glory, far exceeded in corruption any modern nation or city.
But I must close. I have an idea that this letter is not as good as it might be and as I am not going to re-read it, please excuse all deficiencies. Write again soon and believe me truly thy friend, — G. Johnson
[to] H. B. Eastburn
¹ David Newlin Fell (1840-1919) was born on November 4, 1840, in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to Joseph C. Fell and Harriet Williams. He attended Millersville State Normal School and graduated in 1862. Subsequently, Fell served in the Union Army as a member of the Pennsylvania Infantry Militia, Company D, 31st Regiment in 1863. He married Martha Trego on September 1, 1870, and had seven children with her. Fell served as an Associate Judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, having been appointed in May 1877. Fell was elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in November 1893. He assumed office in 1894 and served as an Associate Justice until 1910, when he was elevated to Chief Justice. He served as Chief Justice until 1915. Fell died on September 22, 1919. [Wikipedia]
² This was probably The Great Sanitary Fair held in Philadelphia from 7 to 28 June 1864. It was a giant exposition intended to raise funds for the United States Sanitary Commission. The fair combined a ladies’ bazaar with an industrial and manufacturing exhibition. Though the planning was directed largely by men, women performed much of the footwork, soliciting donations of items for exhibition and sale at the fair. The event featured dozens of departments and booths, all housed in a 200,000 square foot complex, constructed in some 40 days by volunteer tradesmen.
In Bucks County, women worked tirelessly canvassing and soliciting their neighbors for donations of money, as well as for items to sell and display at the Fair. Local aid societies networked and coordinated their efforts. The Fair attracted a quarter of a million visitors and raised in excess of $1 million.
³ This was probably the Bucks County Intelligencer published weekly in Doylestown.
My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.