1851: Alice Barnes to Ruth Ann Rankins

Alice Barnes Smith in later life

This letter was written by 17 year-old Alice Barnes (1834-1912), the daughter of Rev. Horatio Nelson Barnes (1806-1896) and Hannah Matilda Hunt (1813-1903). In the 1850 US Census, the Barnes family was enumerated in Greencastle, Putnam county, Indiana, where Rev. Barnes supplied the pulpit of the Methodist church. In 1851, Rev. Barnes was appointed to be the Presiding Elder of the Fort Wayne District of the North Indiana Conference.

Alice was married in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to Franklin Allen Hardin (1830-1921) who raised the 57th Indiana Infantry during the American Civil War, serving as its Lt. Colonel. Franklin was a blacksmith early in life but became an ordained Methodist minister after 1850, riding the circuit in Indiana and Illinois.

This letter was addressed to Ruth Ann Rankins (1836-1920), the daughter of Orville Rankins (1813-1852) and Melissa Fairchild Gray (1818-1893) of Greencastle, Putnam county, Indiana. Orville was a merchant in Greencastle. Ruth married B. Wilson Smith.

In her letter, Alice refers mentions her brother, William Horatio Barnes (1832-1879) and her sister Matilda “Mary” Barnes (1836-1896).

Addressed to Miss Ruth A. Rankins, Greencastle, Indiana

Monday, September 29th 1851

Miss R. A. Rankins
Dearest Ruth,

I had begun to think my Ruth had forgotten me but Saturday came and with it a letter from you which was a balm to my wounded spirit. I thought you probably was offended at me for sending that awful letter but I hope dear Ruth you will forgive that one and you will confer a favor on me if you will burn it. You say I ought to excuse Mr. Singley. Although I cannot help thinking he treated me in that manner on purpose to would my feelings, yet as I hope to be forgiven, so I freely forgive him, and all others who in any way try to injure me. He could not have shown greater disrespect to my feelings than by treating me so; and as I was leaving Greencastle — perhaps forever, would it not have looked better for him to have come and bid me goodbye? And as to his not being aware of our departure, I told him in Sabbath School that we were going to start Thursday so he had no other motive in the world than by treating me so to show me how much opinion he was to me. But I pray for him and I wish him prosperity and happiness in this world and eternal life in the next. But I see I am digressing. Therefore, I return to my subject.

I got a letter from our dear friend Matty a week ago since I left. She wrote a short and sweet letter. I hope, dear Ruth, you enjoy yourself well this session in Greencastle surrounded by true and admiring friends, while your poor Alice is wandering over the earth uncared for and forgotten. But why should I expect to be remembered or loved? I have nothing to recommend me — neither beauty, talents, nor riches. But if I am slighted by those I thought my friends, unloved and uncared for, I have a heart and a heart sensible to the least slight; already slighted by one dear to me, which has made a rent deep and lasting. And my heart is grateful. Never has a gentle word or a kind look been lost upon the tablet of my heart, is impressed every favor bestowed upon me. No dear friend, cold and confusing as I may appear, I have a heart not used to be slighted and a heart susceptible of gratitude.

Today, to pass away the time, I went to Dr. Farquhar’s to practice upon the piano as I have received several pressing invitations to come “whenever I could.” He has been to Cincinnati purchasing music for his daughter. She got $20 of music about $10 worth of loose music, the remainder is bound. Among it is the prize banner quickstep M. Sontag’s Waltz, the Bristol March, and a great many other beautiful marches, waltzes, &c. which his daughter plays. Her piano is an old fashioned German instrument made a great many years ago in Germany, about half as high as yours, and yet I think I never heard a sweeter toned piano. It is vastly inferior to yours in looks and as far as I can remember its tone is about the same.

Mary and I have been out to tea this evening the first time. We have been out since we came here to stay any time. We expect William to come home the last of this week to visit a week or two. He is going to teach at the Shawnee Academy ¹ this winter; at least they are very anxious to have him teach for them. It is situated a few miles south of Lafayette where a few wealthy families, tired of city life, have emigrated and for their own special use built a fine academy. They give a teacher $23 per month at the least.

You cannot tell, dearest Ruth, how much good your miniature does me. It is now before me and as I look upon that sweet face, the silent tear steals down my face as memory ever faithful to her trust, calls up scenes of other days. I think, my dear Ruth, of the happy, happy days now gone forever when with you I daily held sweet converse and when in company with you, I was happy and contented. But now I am as a lone star, far from dear friends, and long ‘ere this, my sweet Ruth, have I learned “there’s nothing true but heaven.” Dearest Ruth, can you ever forget me?

To me, “Thy name is linked with thoughts of gladness
Happiest thoughts of days gone by
Days eve yet a cloud of sadness
Cast its shadow o’er my sky

Oh my friend! I never, never
Shall forget to think of thee
And I hope that thou wilt ever
Midst thy joy remember me.”

Give my love to your Ma. [My] Ma and Mary unite with me in sending them love to you and your Ma. Give my love to Ann and Ruth Cowgill, Mat and Sue, Amelia and Tilly and Ellen and all the rest. I am still what I ever expect to be, your affectionate and faithful friend, and loving sister, — Alice

¹ Shawnee Academy (1832-1887) was located in Jackson Township, Tippecanoe county, Indiana. It started out as a log cabin but by 1850 the academy was a one-room brick building. The little settlement of Wheeler’s Grove developed around it but has is no longer on the maps.


Griff View All →

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.

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