55 June 16, 1867

Henry’s oldest brother Frank (Alonzo Franklin Ranney) writes him from Phelps, saying he hopes his letter will elicit an immediate response. He mentions that their sister Priscilla and her husband Randolph Densmore visited the previous winter. They had moved to Saugatuck, Frank says, a small town on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River. Densmore sold off his share of the mill he was a partner in, and probably retired. Densmore was President of the village organization from 1873 to 1874.

Frank also says Lemuel had visited and that he thinks his brother has become unstable from spending his life chasing wealth in western mining camps. He retells Lemuel’s story of being swindled out of his claim. Then he mentions that his own plaster business in Phelps has been quite successful, selling $56,000 worth of plaster in less than two weeks. Frank also mentions that family friend John Bement, who was a supplier of glass vials for Henry’s peddler business, had recently died.

My transcription appears below the images.


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


Phelps June 16th 1867

Dear Brother

After delaying it for a long time I now improve a few leisure moments of writing a short epistle hoping thereby to shortly hear from you. We are enjoying our usual health.

The last we heard from you was sometime last fall when you was engaged in a book agency. Should be pleased to learn what success you had. We here had the coldest wettest spring I ever saw but for the last 10 days the weather has been beautiful. Vegetation has grown rapidly. Grass promises to be heavy. Wheat a fair crop but of spring crops many were got into the ground late & much depends on the weather in order to produce a good yield.

Densmore & Priscilla made us a visit in Feb. They spent about a week here & some 3 weeks in Seneca & Hopewell among his relatives and friends. They are living at Saugatuck. He sold out his interest in the mill. He has 120 acres near the village a part of which he has surveyed into Village lots a small portion of which he has sold to the amount of $7000. Himself & son own 2 Tug Boats used for the purpose of towing vessels in and out of the harbor which they make quite profitable. The T. Boats the value of $3000 each. He says good luck has attended him for the last 2 or 3 years. He considers himself worth $20000.

Lemuel accompanied Ella home the last of April. Spent some 3 weeks here & then returned to Mich. He said Densmore had offered him some inducements to come to Saugatuck.

He has roamed over the wilds of the west so long in search of wealth that his mind has become unstable and unsettled. Says he has let chances pass which would have paid well to have sold at offers for claims that promised to be rich but held to them and did not realize from them according to expectations. Himself & 3 other partners had a rich claim which they opened and began to realize from it & there came a wealthy company and commenced a suit for an original claim and they were at law for sometime and they were beaten out of it at last. He says the Judge & their own lawyers were bribed. Lem intended going out to Saugatuck about the 1st of June.

There is a large Camp Meeting now in progress near Oaks Corners. Over 100 tents on the ground. I have attended one day. An immense crowd of people in attendance.

Our plaster trade has been very brisk for 2 weeks past. Sold in 12 days 140 tons at $400 per ton.

There is much building going on this season in the Village and country among the farmers. Jas. B. Flower has sold his farm at $100 per acre & is building in the village.

John Bement died last winter at Geneva. Probably you are apprized of it. The larger part of his property went to his nephews & nieces. Simeon Phillips is one of the executors of the will. There has been a cheese factory started in the village which promises to do well. The superintendent is said to be as good a maker of cheese as any in the state.

Remember us to all your family

H.S. Ranney

A.F. Ranney

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