54 June 16, 1867

Hackettstown and Washington New Jersey from an 1872 map.

Ralph writes to his sister Ella again in the summer of 1867, from a peddling trip in central New Jersey. He has been in Hackettstown long enough that it has begun to seem like home, but says tomorrow he and his partner Henry are going to move on to the town of Washington, about ten miles southwest. He mentions he has received a letter recently from their father Henry S. Ranney, but has not heard from her in a while.

Ralph observes that the successful people in the area seem to be always at work, but says the poor “loaf around and drink whiskey.” The region is called “German Valley” and the typical diet is salt mackerel, krout, and cheese. But the population of the region might be changing, because Ralph notes that almost every other farm is rented out, which means many are not as well kept up as they might be.

My transcription follows the images:


The original images are from the archives of the Ashfield Historical Society and are used with permission.

Hackettstown June 16th ‘67

Dear Sister

I have been waiting to receive a letter from you for some time but as it don’t come guess I will write a few lines as perhaps you may forget where I am. I rec’d a letter from father a while ago which was none the less welcome from the fact that most all the news items had transpired before I left A.

Henry & I have been operating around in this vicinity ever since we came out. Have been around on both sides of the R.R. the greater part of German Valley etc. The country is splendid & just the place for farming. There are a great many rented farms however, almost every other one in fact and such places rarely get much improvements like fruit trees, new buildings &c. &c.

I have done pretty well thus far nothing wonderful however, but shall be satisfied to average as well all summer. Gardner came up from Clinton where he is operating last night to see what we were up to. He reports entire satisfaction. Th weather for the last four days is very warm & it is rather hard time to work at such business.

Has the revenue collector been around to collect my special tax? If so please send the license to me in your next.

Please excuse careless writing.

The people are somewhat different here than in Mass. The richest people ie rich farmers, work hard all the time & the poor people loaf around and drink whiskey. The principal diet throughout the country is salt mackerel which in a warm day gives one an almost intolerable thirst. Sour krout, dutch cheese &c. &c. also disappear in large quantities.

My health has been good & have enjoyed myself as well as is possible in a business of this nature which you know is one of that class which are filled with trials and vexations, but not quite as bad in some respects as I had expected to find it. As I hadn’t heard anything from you I suppose you are all well & moving along in the same old channel as heretofore. We are going to leave Hackettstown tomorrow and going down to Washington N.J. to operate for the present where you may direct hereafter. I would rather stay in H. where it begins to seem like home but “business before pleasure” you know. I haven’t written much but it is warm and lazy weather and I must close. My respects to all the folks.

Your aff bro.




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