Recently I wrote about the diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott, a Baltimore man who married into a Hunterdon family, and traveled with his family from Baltimore to Flemington in 1861.1
This article will feature some of Ellicott’s preoccupations, starting with his family’s health, local news and the weather. One of the most interesting topics in the diary was Ellicott’s reports on the progress of the Civil War. I am saving those comments for a future article. I am also saving Ellicott’s comments regarding his father-in-law’s finances. More research is needed before I can write intelligently on that subject. In his Diary, Ellicott made reference to some people only by their surnames, and since I have not yet been able to identify them, I am leaving them out of my articles for now.
In my previous post, I observed that Ellicott wrote in his diary every day. That was true for awhile, even if all he had to report on was the weather, but eventually he began to skip a day here and there. Still he was a remarkably steady diarist. As far as the weather goes, Ellicott paid such close attention to it that I suspect climate scientists would be very interested in what he wrote, if only he had had a thermometer.
When we left the Ellicott family, they were living in “The Swamp,” as Ellicott called it. That was the common term for the neighborhood. More specifically, they were living in the Locktown Hotel, under the management of William Nixon. Ellicott’s first concerns were with his family’s adaptation to the different climate of Locktown, compared to Baltimore. In February 1862, son George seemed to have recovered from his teething troubles, but a few days later (Feb. 22d) he was “still ailing from an affection of his bowels or stomach, caused by his Teething, two having come through and two others being about to show the Ivory above his Gums.” The rest of February and March went by without health problems, but things would get worse in July.
There were many days in a row when Ellicott had nothing at all to say except to take note of the state of the weather. Especially in April 1862 when the weather was quite chilly, with frosts, and snow (April 8-10), and another freeze on the 24th-27th. Here are some selections:
April 3rd – Clear and pleasant all day during our mornings walk found and Killed 3 Snakes which with the one Killed on the 1st Inst. makes Four Snakes form the same den destroyed by us.
April 4th Clear and pleasant all day. The Ground having become settled the Farmers hereabout are preparing to commence ploughing which has been
May 3rd Beautiful bright morning pleasantly warm without much wind – few if any fruit Trees yet in blossom in “the Swamp” – but some of the earlier species are said to show bloom in the Valley –
May 5th clear & pleasant this morning and until 4 o’clock P.M. when a gust arose with considerable rain and some lightning & thunder. Which has again dashed the hopes of the farmers who have calculated on commencing, if not completing, their ploughing & seeding this week. But little Garden Work has been attempted, and less accomplished, up to this time, in “The Swamp” – “Angling” Stock has risen – Bud having caught 13 Fishes to-day, before the Gust – Gus. Fields fell in the Creek whilst fishing this afternoon, & would have drowned if Frany Myers had not been at hand and rescued him when he was almost exhausted
May 6th Clear bright morning and for a part of the day became cloudy and showers in the afternoon with quite a moderate temperature – Barn swallows and chimney birds have made their first appearance about the 1st Inst.
May 10th Clear and pleasant to-day with the same smoky atmosphere that prevailed yesterday; The wind being Westerly by North this smoke has proceeded ; most probably from fire upon the Mountains in Pannsylv.
May 11th Clear & cool this morning the wind having changed in the Night Northerly, and the Smokey haze has disappeared – but towards Midday the action of the West Wind brought the same smoky haze as of from some fire in that direction –
June 5th Cloudy with slight showers all day – The Delaware has raised very high & the freshet is running within a few inches only of the height of that of 1841, causing much destruction of Property which has been floating down to-day.
June 6th Cloudy this morning and until towards evening – Millions of Dollars are said to be lost by the Flood in the River – besides several Hundred lives of Persons
I was curious about this flood. But Bill Hartman wrote that “there were no items of interest” in the June 13th issue of the Hunterdon Co. Republican. There was also nothing in Hartman’s abstract of the Hunterdon Gazette for June 1862 concerning the flood. And the Gazette of June 11th had no deaths to report as a result of the flood. So was Ellicott really talking about people’s lives? I’ve studied that page (p. 28) several times, and it really does say “lives of Persons.”
June 16th Clear and cold this morning quite cold enough for Frost had it not been prevented by the high wind prevailing during the night – Nevertheless E. Warford went off on horseback this morning early in his shirt sleeves after staying with us all night – Frost was seen this morning near the watercourses & fires to sit by are necessary for comfort this evening, tho’ the air in the middle of the day was quite warm under a bright sun.
March 23rd, Sunday – Tolerably pleasant day, with some sunshine and Road drying off gradually – The absence of the usual March winds is a cause of general remark – Eleven (11) Converts under the ministration of Rev’d Mr. Pitman, at the Chapel of “Soft Shell” Baptists [my emphasis] were immersed in the Creek, near this place (Lock Town) at Noon to-day, in the presence of a large number of Spectators
I hope these converts had a warm place to go after their drenching in cold water. “Soft Shell Baptists” were members of the congregation that broke away from the Kingwood Baptist Church in 1839, under the leadership of Rev. James W. Wigg.2 However, Rev. Pittman seems to have been ministering to a different church, the Locktown Christian Church, which had been established in 1828. Perhaps by 1864 the congregation had aligned itself with the New School Baptists. In 1866 there was a revival at “the Christian Chapel in Locktown,” presided over by Rev. Wm. H. Pittman, according to the Hunterdon Co. Republican, Jan. 19, 1864.
Here is an explanation for “soft-shell” from Wikipedia: “Those that hold to the doctrine that an individual is first begotten or quickened into life at the start of their travail are called the “hard shell side” of Old Regular Baptist, or the Old School Regulars. This appears to be the original view of the first Regular Baptist in America. Those who hold that life starts at the end of their travail (repentance) are called the “soft shell side”.”
April 1, 1862 – “Steven W. Larg [sic] has recovered from [word left out?] and Richard Williamson takes possession of the Tavern Lot.”
The Tavern Lot was owned by Elisha Warford from 1861, when he bought it from Ely Britton, to 1868, when Warford sold it to John Picker.3. William Nixon was the innkeeper when the Ellicott’s arrived in 1861, but a year later, on February 20, 1862, Ellicott wrote: “Wm. Nixon has executed a Lease with Joseph West for Dwelling, Wheelwright Shop and Lot of Ground at $50 per acre and leased to Mahlon Fields and John Harden the Dwelling and Grounds for $37.50 per acre.”
The Joseph West dwelling was at Locktown, today the home of the Waverka family. Nixon must not have been living there since he rented out the dwelling. He turns up in Union Township in 1864 when he was named poundkeeper there, so I presume he had definitely left Locktown.
Richard Williamson (1797-1876), son of Cornelius Williamson and Styntje Demott, was married to Catherine Gulick (1797-1886). They were living in Hopewell in the 1820s, but relocated to Delaware Township in time for the 1840 census, where they remained until around 1870 when they moved to Kingwood. It appears that their children were not born until the 1830s. Richard and Catherine were buried in the Flemington Presbyterian Cemetery.
Stephen W. Large is a mystery—I found no entry for him in Ancestry.com, although there were several for Stephen K. Large.
April 14th – Town Meeting held to day at Sergeantsville for Delaware Township. Not being a Voter, & having no invitation to attend, I was not there, but understood that some excitement attended the proceedings owing to the contests for some of the offices – The result left Austin C. Servis out of all the offices to which he aspired by overwhelming majorities – The contest between Nixon & Moore for Constable was a close one – 79 for N and 81 for M. Judge Shrove died this morning of a protracted sinking after Typhoid fever.
I do not have an identity for Judge Shrove; perhaps this was David Shrove who was a previously referred to.
Austin C. Servis is better known. He was a saddler and harness maker of Delaware twp., born about 1822, died July 15, 1878, buried in the Sandy Ridge Cemetery. His wife was Elizabeth Lair, born March 1826. I have not identified which Lair family she was related to. She died after the 1900 census was taken, when she was living in Delaware township with her son George L. Servis. She was the mother of 7 children.
All of that information is fine, but doesn’t tell us much about what sort of person Austin C. Servis was. Now we know that he had political ambitions. But Mr. Ellicott has left us wondering why did people vote so overwhelmingly against him. I found no mention of him in the Hunterdon Gazette for 1862.
The Hunterdon Co. Republican reported that Servis was elected Constable and Overseer of the Poor for Delaware Township at their annual meeting in April 1860. There was no mention of him in 1861 or 1862. He served on a couple juries after this, but there was no obituary for him when he died in 1878.
May 15th Clear and cool – Easterly winds having prevailed for several days past – Having borrowed “Old Jim” we went to Flemington on a shopping expedition – spent $14.31
May 16th Warmer and foggy this morning – clearing away before noon. Bespoke shoes from Housel for Bud. Visited Mrs. E. Warford at Quakertown this afternoon.
May 17th Clear and pleasant today but rather warm at Midday; Rachel, George and myself went through Sergeantsville to Centre Bridge, thence through Prallsville & Rosemont to Kingwood and Locktown, between 10 and 10 [sic] o’clock
May 25th Cool and clear this morning with some frost sufficient to stiffen the grass, but supposed not be severe enough to injure the fruit or blossoms A large collection of People have come to attend the Laneite Meeting today – At 12 O’clock 150 Vehicles were in Locktown and quite a crowd congregated in and around the Chapel Rev’d Mr. Lane, the Founder of this Sect, preached upon this occasion —
When Ellicott referred to the “Chapel,” he meant what we know as the Locktown Christian Church. As for the Laneites and Rev. Mr. Lane, I have no information.
Funeral of Elijah Warford
March 24th 1862 – Ground frozen in the morning – the day pleasant, drying the Roads, considerably – Received invitation to the funeral of Elijah Warford (of Quakertown) to take place on the 26th Inst. at 11 o’clock. It appears that he contracted a heavy cold from exposure to the weather and getting wet, about a week before his death, which occurred this morning about 8 o’clock, resulting in Pleurisy or Pneumonia : He is related to us, his Father being a cousin of Elisha Warford, and he appears to be a person respected and beloved by a large circle of friends, for his probity & sterling good quantities [sic] – He has died in the [left blank] year of his age leaving a Wife & one child to mourn his very unexpected demise.
Elijah Warford was only 49 when he died. He was born 1813 to John Warford and Charity Britton. He married Amanda A. Johnson in 1836 and ran the store in Quakertown where he was postmaster in 1852. Elijah and Elisha Warford were first cousins once removed.4
March 26th – Bright cool morning. Attended the Funeral of Elijah Warford at his late residence in Quakertown – found the roads thither in a very bad condition, with a large quantity of Snow still lying in drifts in many places ; and we found also a great assemblage of wagons, carriages and the People who had come in them congregated in & around the House – insomuch that it was very difficult to gain admission through the Crowd. The corpse was lain out and taken in charge . . . Discourse and the Prayers for it occasion, were pronounced by the Minister of the Baptist Church of which the deceased was a member. Prayers & discourses being delivered also by a Methodist and Presbyterian Minister respectively.
April 23rd Clear and cool with considerable Wind all day – The first Shad of this season was in Locktown to-day – caught at Centre Bridge this morning. Its flavor at Supper was good, but not at all superior, if Equal to the Bay Shad of Baltimore Market.
S[unday] May 18th Clear and pleasantly warm this morning – After leaving “The Swamp” the Roads are hilly and the appearance of the vegetation, & crops generally is not superior to that between Locktown and Quaker Town, although some of the Farm buildings are more substantial & complete than those found through “The Swamp” — Warford returned last evening from Jake Smiths, where he had been employed planting corn for his since last Thursday morning the 15th Inst. much pleased with this experiment of farming life and with the hope of earning money “honestly” as he says — Jacob having agreed to pay him 25 cents pr day and to forward? him — E. Warford visited us to-day.
This comment on Warford trying to earn money “honestly” by farming is so intriguing. As Egbert T. Bush has shown us, Warford got rich by making very shrewd investments in land, and by being somewhat parsimonious in his own life. He began his adult life working “honestly,” but I gather that by the 1860s, he no longer needed to. By then he was in his late 70s and probably had no business planting corn in someone else’s field. Could it be that the person trying to earn an honest living was Jake Smith? The problem with trying to answer that question is that there were far too many contemporary Jacob Smiths. One of them, Jacob B. Smith (1834-1916) lived on Pavlica Road and was owner of the old Williamson farm. That would be my best guess.
July 12th Clear and pleasant this morning – a good breeze prevailing most of the day – . . . E. Warford called as he has done for the several days past at short intervals – Besides working their corn and securing their Hay the Farmers all around are very busy harvesting their Wheat & Rye. Of the former their is a fine crop to be seen everywhere.
Benjamin H. Ellicott
Ellicott eventually grew restless in Locktown, and on June 18, 1862, he traveled to Baltimore to see to his properties and to make contact with people who might steer him toward some form of employment. He also sold household goods that were kept at No. 356 Lexington Street. Thanks to the difficult times, he was unable to find any suitable work, and did not realize as much on the sale of furniture as he had hoped. He then saw to the storage of the remaining furniture,
as follows. – The two large Pine chests filled with sundries and deposited at Mr Jno. B. Courson’s wareroom with out charge for Storage. The Piano & stool, Portrait, Clock, French China Vases, Family Tree, and about __ Volumes of our best Books are left with Eliza G. Early without charge and Mr. Roberts 3rd Story Room is more than half filled with Beds, Mattresses, Trunks, boxes, matting, Carpets, India and other Ware, and a great variety of Goods & Stuffs.
Whatever happened to that “Family Tree”? How wonderful it would be to have a look at it. The piano referred to was no doubt the one mentioned by Mr. Bush that was purchased by Elisha Warford for his daughter in 1824, for which he paid $1,000.
On June 27th, Ellicott went out shopping for gifts to bring home to Locktown (a comb, a fan for Rachel, a pair of kid gloves, some “shooting crackers,” and toys. He stayed in Baltimore until June 30th, his visit lasting 12 days. On his return, he
Found all my little ones and my dear wife well but all were in great trouble by reason of the severe illness of Sarah Elizabeth’s adopted daughter of Mrs. & Dr. Nixon She was attacked by Scarlet Fever on Friday last 27th Inst. Mary was so engrossed by her attention to this case that we could have but little conversation. By the time that I had reached Locktown it was so cool that an overcoat was not out of place – A heavy rain having fallen here during the day tho’ none had fallen on the Whole route from Baltimore –
July 1st  Clear and pleasant to day the sick child continuing to get worse until she died in the evening about 9 O’clk. Her little sister has become ill also with the same disease. Between the grief of Mr Nixon – and Wife and Mrs Slout the mother of the children the excitement in the House has been very great.
An obituary for Sarah Elizabeth Nixon was published in the July 23, 1862 edition of the Hunterdon Gazette:
“Died At Locktown, July 1st, 1862, Sarah Elizabeth Nixon, adopted daughter of William and Delilah Nixon, aged 9, years, 6 months and 11 days.
“We had a little Libby once, she was our only pride.
We loved her─ah, perhaps too well, for soon she slept
This exhaustion of Mary’s turned into a serious illness. In July she consulted with Dr. Henry Nightingale of Rosemont, but seemed to get very little relief.
Before He came she had taken several prescriptions of our own stock, all of which he approved of as being proper in the case, and upon his careful examination of her symptoms, he recommended only a gargler? which he had prepared in addition to what had been done allready by ourselves – Every one who had come into contact with the recent fatal case has more or less of sore throat, but Mary’s exposure and attendance having been more constant, hers appears to be the most violent case, accompanied by so much debility as to prostrate her entirely.
July 4th . . . Mary’s prostration of nerves continues quite as much as yesterday and the soreness of her throat has in a good degree abated. The Doctor has pronounced her complaint to have no connection with the Disease that has proved so fatal nor with Diphtheria – but a case of nervous debility from overexcitement & fatigue, with aggravation from colds, & other __ ailments. Besides suggesting small doses of Magnesia and Charcoal he had made no change in his orders.
A few days later, she consulted Dr. Sullivan of Flemington. Although Ellicott did not give his first name, it must have been Dr. George R. Sullivan, born 1836 Maryland, who began his practice in Flemington in 1860.5
July 9th Clear and warm with a fresh breeze most of the day. Altho’ her mouth and throat appear better Mary feels weak and a good deal prostrated to-day in spite of the Tonics that she uses. Dr Sullivan called again to day and has taken leave of the case as being convalescent. But in view of the intermittent symptoms of the case, we have concluded to recall him on Saturday next.
August 12th Mary’s health has improved so slowly that she has become disheartened at times Although we have been driving about the Country almost every day especially since Dr Sullivan’s appointment in the Army precluding his visits, we have been compelled to go to Flemington for his advice. So far the rest of us are well.
Snell reported that Dr. Sullivan “entered the service of his country [in July, 1862] as assistant surgeon of the Fifteenth Volunteer Infantry Regiment.”
Aug 18th Rachel is complaining also today with some sore throat and a fever, so that we have sent for Dr. Abell to come see her. Kate has not been well, but appears to be better today.
Eventually, it was concluded that Mary was suffering from Diphtheria. On September 4th, she decided she must go to Baltimore to consult with “her old Physician Dr Buckler.” The family left Locktown on Sept. 24th, 1862.
Sept. 23rd Although the Diphtheric sore throat with which Mary has been afflicted ever since 2d July last, has so far abated as to indicate no dangerous symptoms, will they have returned several times, showing that the disease is still there and may at any time or sudden change of the weather be developed in spite of the best medical advice that can be procured here – Wherefore, she is so desirous of seeing Dr. Buckler; as well as to have the advantage of the climate of Baltimore to facilitate her recovery, that we have determined to go thither tomorrow morning – with the reluctant consent of our only Parent E. Warford . The weather is cool and pleasant now and we wish to make our journey before a change may make it too cold or too wet for us to travel. We have settled off every bill owing and will leave a clean record behind us at LockTown and in New Jersey. Sent our Baggage to Centre Bridge.
I have not yet determined how long the Ellicott family remained in Baltimore, but it was much longer than just a short visit. By April 4, 1863 (the end of volume two of the Diary), they were still there. But they did return to Hunterdon County before the end of the year. As it turned out, that was not a good decision for Benjamin H. Ellicott.
- Ellicott’s Diary. I also published Egbert T. Bush’s article on Ellicott’s father-in-law, Elisha Warford. ↩
- For a history of that event, see Baptists Divided. ↩
- H. C. Deeds 125-041 and 140-383. ↩
- He should not be confused with the other Elijah Warford, born in 1783 to James Warford and Rachel Cain, married to Amanda Holcombe, and father of Holcombe Warford. This second (or I should say first) Elijah was the brother of Elisha Warford, and died in 1833. ↩
- Snell, History of Hunterdon & Somerset Counties, p. 230. ↩