30 August 1842

Baltimore [Maryland]
30 [August] 1842

Dear Cousin,

I received in due time and was gratified to hear of your enjoying yourself with the ladies though it [is] your disposition to enjoy yourself on all occasions. I suppose you have been to the camp meeting near Johnsville. I had contemplated on coming up to that to have some fun with you but you know A. G. Warfield’s wedding took place on the 25th of this month which I had to attend to of course. We had quite a time of it.

You recollect what a tremendous rain [we had] Wednesday the 24th, Thursday, the river was so monstrous high that we could not cross. We left Albert’s at six in the morning and got to the river at 7 o’clock. There we was brought to a stop. I took Copper and forded it. The water came over his back. Then we was on a quandary what to do. Do you recollect he was to be married at 9 o’clock in the morning? Well, then we had to march. When we got back to Albert’s, I took Copper out to give him some feed while we went to get our liquor and something to eat and left the boy to mind the horses and to hitch him in. When he was done eating, the damn infernal nigra, instead of bridling the horse before he hooked him up, hitch him in the buggy on, then slipped the bridle from over his ears to put the bit in his mouth, but he missed it the damndest. No sooner than he slipped the bridle from off his ears, he put off as if all hell was after him, ran over great stumps, and about two miles through the woods and over gullies. At last he ran the dashboard of the buggy against a tree and broke loose from it. Did very little damage to the buggy. Five dollars will repair damages. Some expected the horse [would] kill himself but I knew damn well the horse would take [care] of himself but I expected to of scene the buggy knocked all to hell.

When I found the horse, he was eating leaves as if nothing was the matter. I took back and hooked him to another and went ahead like the Devil. We got him down there at 12 o’clock and they were married at 1 o’clock. Got to his fathers at 7 o’clock to dinner. There we cut up until 11 o’clock and then I took some fellows to my house which was James Wood, Doctor Watkins, and Mister Riggs. There we played bluff until most day.

The next day we all went over to Albert’s and spent the day dancing on the green and drinking our brandy and on Saturday James Woods, William Watkins, _____  ____ until most day. Then we got on our horses and went over to Albert’s and took a gate off the hinges and carried it about a hundred yards up the big road and propped it there. Then we went over to William Warfield’s and built a fence right across his lane and a hell of such trails. James Woods is one of the finest fellows I know. I want you to become acquainted with him from the recommendation I have given you. He says he knows you are a first rate fellow.

My dear cousin, you must excuse my not coming up. The girls are anxious all to see you. Miss E. L. Watkins wants to come up and see you all in that hundred. She told me to give her love to you. You may look for us up soon but you must not wait for our coming up. Come down as soon as you can. My home is your home. All the boys got religion but me so I am in the Devil’s claws yet.

You must write soon. Jane in Boltine attending a camp meeting near Franklin. & I am going to cover a pretty girl tonight. That is, I think I see myself covering her. Now farewell, my dear cousin. I will tell you more things another time.

Your affectionate cousin, — R. W. Crapster

Postmarked Baltimore, Maryland, September 15 [1842]


13 January 1840

Reading [Pennsylvania]
January 13, 1840

Dear Friend,

Your favor of the 23rd ultimo has been duly received. It is a remark of a celebrated writer that “anything that is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” And allow me to say that your neat and elegant, but nevertheless, kind and natural letter fully verifies said remark. Verifies it! Yes! A little more — it is a triumphant rebuke to the topsy turvy stuff that I had the boldness to transmit. I can assure you it afforded me not an inconsiderable share of pleasure to hear from the beloved inmates of Pennsylvania College. Though not now a member of that Institution and not willing to tread the “beaten track” of the “certain few,” yet the character of some of her members is interwoven with the very texture of my heart. Some of them have been the parent of pure and holy pleasure. And there is Hugh D. Downey — a magnanimous companion! And there is John Radebaugh * — a citizen from the same.” Officina “gentium”! Remember me to these noble spirits.

You have at last determined to enter Pennsylvania College and graduate. What a determination! Full of nobleness!! If God give the increase, it is highly probable that you and I will, at some future day,”shake hands as professional gentlemen.” I said that your determination is full of nobleness — so it is. Nothing in my opinion is more desirable, although I myself have not been honored with a strip of parchment with a blue ribbon, yet the advantages resulting from it are numerous and incomparable. You will understand me when I speak of the advantages flowing from the being honored with a diploma. I do not mean the diploma itself but the steps requisite to the getting of it, to be the fruitful sooner of these advantages. These advantages are such as can never be the pride of a really self-made man. Distinguished self-made men are generally (if not always) sui generis — created by our Maker for particular purposes and therefore endowed with minds peculiar to themselves. Men of such mental constitution are, however, few in number.

I don’t think myself a Franklin. I am persuaded you are something of that stamp. Let the men of such minds, as the generality of mankind have, here entirely excluded from the walls of a college or such like seminaries of learning and depend upon their own resources and be assured that training — that expansion and that maturity of mind, which, in our days, ensure success in professional life, belongs not to them. I indulge this metaphysical turn because your determination speaks as exaltedly proud intellect. This then is my opinion of your determination. May it minister encouragement. I almost forgot the “better season” of which you speak. If I mistake not you stole that from “holy writ.” Go give the Devil his due, don’t linger too long. G___ is always active and generally successful.

Cornell! On good terms!! What posterior magnaraimus” deserving our gravest consideration and most servile imitation!!!!!! Will it cross the Atlantic and disturb the shades of Nelson? Will the Gov. of Maryland present him a sword?


Judge Robert T. Conrad

This leads me to society matters. Your question is a good one but very extensive. The affirmative, in my opinion, is by much the better side. Can man — immortal man — be always a slave? No! Never! Never !! Never!!! The aspect of the present age fully shows this to be a fact. This is my favorite theme. I dare say no more. Allow me however to repeat what was said on the evening of the 30th ultimo by Judge Conrad ¹ in one of the most splendid lectures on Liberty that I ever heard. That highly florid and graceful speaker on that evening made use of the following language — “The revolutions of ’68 and ’80 were the Mount Ararats on which rested the Ark of Freedom ——-.

You have been elected secretary — the best choice ever made! I am glad that my name, though “l_____” was nevertheless warmy defended by my friends. Tell me all about the Society in your next. remember me to the Juniors and such as you know I have loved &c. &c.

As to Reading, in point of situation, it is as far as I [paper torn] surpassed by Jew-towns in the Union. On its base flows the Schulkill — a large stream of water. Its streets are spacious, well-paved with a certain kind of gravel that is to be had a short distance from the town. It is particularly celebrated for its various factories. Hats are the staple production of a numerous class of its population — a number of which are annually transported to the South and Southwestern country. ² It is well furnished with newspapers — “The Berks and Schulkill Journal” — “The Reading Times” — “The Democratic Press” — “The Jefferson Democrat” (English) — the “Reading Adler” and another German paper — the former of which has 40,000 subscribers. We have a Lecture room — five or six public libraries, Mechanics Institute, and Cabinet. In my next I shall give you some of its other characteristics.

Your friend, — Samuel Sohl ³

In my next I will forward the money and give you the necessary directions. I presume the “Old Gentleman” almost has come to the conclusion that I have forgotten him. Let that be as it may. Let Gen. Radebaugh know that I received his present — the “Iron Gray” — and that I only received it and that “Iron Grayism” in not always representative and incorrupt Democracy.

¹ Judge Robert T. Conrad (1810-1858) who was a prominent Philadelphian and semi-professional man of letters; he wrote plays and contributed to the magazines of the day. Later he became a judge and a mayor of Philadelphia (see Mott, History of American Magazines, I, 551). 

² Sohl states that “hats are the staple production” of Reading, Pennsylvania. According to one source, there were as many as 40 hat factories in Reading in 1806 with a combined annual priduction of 56,000 hats!

³ Samuel Sohl (1819-1858), of German extraction, was from Berks County, Pennsylvania, and attended Pennsylvania College from 1836-1839. He became a lawyer and practiced in Reading, Pennsylvania. His parents were John Sohl (1793-1876) and Eleanora Fischer (1797-1837)

∗ John Radebaugh graduated in 1844 from Pennsylvania College.

13 October 1841

Bedford [Pennsylvania]
October 13th 1841

Respected friend,

I have suffered some time to elapse without replying to your letter but did so on account of the scarcity of matter as our town is almost as scant of news as the Alps are of diamonds. You will, I hope, pardon me for this procrastination, and bear in mind that I am still your friend and have resumed my pen to address a short, but sincere epistle to my old friend. Our town since yesterday has been the scene of great bustle and clamor owing to the election for Governor and Representatives which took place, and has, I regret to say, resulted in the defeat of the Whigs by a majority of about 200 in the county. The State has in all probability gone the same way. This will no doubt be glorious news to you, but as regards myself, I would fain have wished it otherwise as I verily believe that the prosperity of Pennsylvania depends in a manner upon a change of rulers. The present “powers that be” in Pennsylvania have increased our State debt to the stupendous amount of forty millions of dollars! and if it should increase in the same ratio by the time their legislation is over, it will be about 70 millions! — an amount at which ever lover of his state cannot help but feel surprised! But enough of politics.

Friend John, I have often reverted to the merry meetings which you and I had whilst you were here — meetings alas! which may never return! I often think of the happy communion of disinterested friendship we have had together and as my memory presents those scenes, which may never return, I almost deliver myself up to hopeless despondency. But John, you may think from the tenor of this communication that I am a little melancholy — that is not the case. I am only brooding over the happy times that have been added to the past; and times which the future may never again bring to my sight. But one thing I am certain of — they shall dwell upon the tablet of my memory until the lethean waters of time shall have washed my “mortal coil” into the ocean of eternity — or as Shakespeare says: “Till my body shall have become the food for worms.”

I am still reading medicine but do not know that I will attend the lectures this winter, some unforeseen events having occurred which may prevent me from so doing. But next winter I shall attend for certain and I only hope you and I may get to the same institution.

Henry Leader commenced studying about a month since and appears to progress very rapidly. He is well but had been afflicted with about twenty boils on various parts of his body from which he has entirely recovered. The fellow to whom the letter which we wished to get printed was given, has never printed any and I believe never will as he is a very dilatory fellow.

I wish you would send me a paper from your place occasionally as news from that quarter would always be acceptably received and I will reciprocate the favor by sending you some one of our papers in return.

The weather has been cold enough here for fire for the last few weeks. Is it so with you? Below here I am stalled, not knowing what else to write about and surrounded by all the paraphernalia of a drug store which should I think suggest something. But on the street one politician bawls out Hurrah for Porter: a Whig exclaims Hurrah [paper torn] brawlers around him, he must have the presence and concentration of a Napoleon. Stuff up [paper torn] “auditory externus” with lint. If I go to the streets, I see a loco[foco] laughing and saying, “You can’t  c___ it,” or see some Whig whose phiz. is as tristful and long as my own. So I will bid you goodbye for this time asking you to excuse my brevity and to write soon.

I remain with great regard and esteem, — Geo. H. Keyser ¹

N. B. Mr. H. Leader has just called in to see me and requests me to give his best respects to you. — G. H. K.

To John C. O’Neill, Esqr.

¹ George H. Keyser (182o-1894), the son of Benjamin and Mary Keyser, was married to Jane Amelia McDowell (1822-1878) in May 1844 in Bedford, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was enumerated in Pittsburg’s Ward 3 in the 1850 Census and his occupations was given as Physician/Druggist. An obituary says that Dr. Keyser was born in Chambersburg and graduated from the medical college in Philadelphia. He managed a drug store in Pittsburg for twenty-five years and then practiced medicine exclusively in his later years. He was said to be a “great practical joker and very eccentric.” 

19 July 1841

Baltimore [Maryland]
July 19th 1841

Respected Friend,

Having just returned from a long trip to Philadelphia, your letter and the papers which you were so kind as to send me were received. In a few days I hope to be able to send you the 5 & 6 numbers of Insubordination as also some of the numbers of Yen thousand a year.

I have left the Apothecary’s store and am now engaged in a splendid business doing nothing. I wanted more liberty and they didn’t want me to go out so much at night so my old jent [gent?] and they fell out and I left.

Bob Leslie wears long hair and cuts a sewell [swath?] and is getting to be a dirty, mean squirt. Phil is also and Ben is as lazy as ever. Davy Martin has made quite an excitement here among the Lyceums here. He is a talented young man. I heard him speak the other day before the Monumental Lyceum ¹ and my head felt glad not for Pennsylvania College but for the students of Pennsylvania College. I thought that if I only had our John] W. C[rapster] & Charlie Baker, I would show them something of a different nature altogether in the shape of Phrenakosmianius.

As I have nothing more to say, I will close. When next you write, tell me how democracy takes in Carroll County.

From your sincere friend, — J. F. K__


¹ The “Monumental Lyceum” was one of many lyceums in Baltimore (the “Monument City”) in the mid 19th Century. The Monumental Lyceum met at a hall on Exeter Street near Pitt on Wednesday evenings.

2 May 1840


1840 William Henry Harrison Campaign Poster

Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]
May 2nd 1840

Dear John,

I was very much gratified at receiving a letter from you. I had a letter from Will Paxton the day before so that I was taking my time up in writing Will yesterday. Will wrote me in good spirits. He invited me up to see him, Intend going up the latter part of next week or the beginning of the week following. I hope you will excuse this as I am in my old way after dining. You say it is good to make the hand steady but I find the contrary effect. I write his in great haste as I have made an engagement to walk in the country this afternoon with the Ladies — that is from 2 o’clock till 6 — with Miss Cox, Miss F. Wilson, & Miss Tunis. They are the handsomest girls in town but I don’t care a bit about them. I have forgotten them since at Gettysburg. I wish the Vacation over so that I might get back to see my old cronies & friends — and the girls also.

I hope you will find out the mistake that you are in about the re-election of Van Buren. I fear you have been misinformed. If so, I hope your informer will correct his mistake. I suppose you have heard the accounts from Virginia. Not quite what the Locofocos expected. I think Van Buren has but a slim chance.

You mentioned in your letter that you intended going to Baltimore on the 4th. My brother is there. I wish you were acquainted with him. He is just what you like — full of fun. J. Wallace, W. Kerr, both intend. Acquaintances are there also. I hope you will have the satisfaction of seeing all the the fiends, the procession &c. Go home delighted and become a true & good Harrison man. Perhaps I have said too much on this subject. If so, excuse it as I do not want to advise as you know me better than that.

I hope you are enjoying yourself among the Fair Sex as much at least as you had anticipated.

Excuse this as I have not more time to write you. My next will be more and better written as I’ll take the morning for it. Write soon.

Yours truly, — J. Elder

Sunday afternoon

Had a pleasant walk yesterday with the ladies, but had a fall out also with Fanny. She said that if she fell out with any gentleman that she intended never to make up, and that she thought I was trying to fall out with her. I just told her that she might believe what she pleased, and I did not care if she ever spoke to me again. She said, “Are you in earnest?” I replied that I was, so she turned and went home to the satisfaction of J. Elder. She thought she had me but was mistaken. She was at church looking somewhat down. I gave her a look or two so as to see the effect. She caught my eye and laughed. I turned away. Miss Cox noticed it and said she pitied her but I told her I did not.

I have gained my end now. That is just what I wanted. This is off forever, — J[ohn] Elder


4 May 1840

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
May 4, 1840

Dear Jack,

How are you? How have you been? I arrived in this city on Saturday morning a week since just about one o’clock — pretty much “worse for wear.” I left Ben and Charley at York where they remained until next morning as we did not arrive in that place until the Baltimore cars were two hours on their way. They told me they intended to pay a visit to some of those houses of high fame where they would spend their evening. I suppose they went in for it strong.

After you had taken your departure from all splendid Gettysburg, Ben and I looked about a little, then repaired to Charley’s room where we held “sweet converse” until the well known “ring-a-de-ding” summoned us to “tea.” But alas! what a slim party! My heart sickened within in me. Charley looked Pale & Ben nearly fainted. We sat down and after eating perhaps half an hour we were perfectly stupefied or in the words of Virgil — “Obstupuerant, Steteruntque comae” when we found that our appetite had departed.

After supper, went to town to the Post Office of course where we remained a short time. By & by, two young ladies passed walking over the hill. Ben & I wanted a drink of good water very much & of course we went over the hill too & accidentally encountering the aforementioned young ladies, we took a long, long walk towards Baltimore. Returning, we dropped in to hear Mr. Hellar. I forget the text. After church, escorted the damsels home, bid them farewell, & went down to Thompson’s. There was Charley.

Pennsylvania College in Gettysburg (as it looked about 1840)

Pennsylvania College in Gettysburg (as it looked about 1840)

The “trio” then went up to the P. O. to await the arrival of the Baltimore mail in which they (Ben & Charley) expected some “Rhino.” The mail arrived. Charley’s ticket drew the prize. Ben’s was blank. But the latter “[paper torn] the wind” on tick. The “trio” went back once more to the once frequented & happy but now mournful and forsaken walls of Penna. College.

The night was dark & tempestuous — the winds howled — the lightening’s flashed & the thunder crashed. Two, only two glimmering lamps told us that the castle yet contained human beings. As we drew near, music struck our ears. We spontaneously & involuntarily halted. We listed. The winds were hushed — a death-like silence prevailed. When one long, soft & sylph-like strain  broke upon the silence. It went thus, “”pur mew! pur mew! mew! ” After satisfying ourselves that it was but the nocturnal strains of grimaellin, we continued our journey. After proceeding about twenty steps, we hated at the foot of the front steps. We ascended but sudden;y Charley yelled out, “Who are you?” He pointed to a tall, white form who seemed to roll his fiery eyes about in great fury. I also imagined him to hold in his hands two huge serpents. We immediately prepared for the conflict. New drew his dirk. Charley cocked a pistol, & my fist was raised above my head. I was waiting for Ben to give the word “Charge” when it would descend and crush into atoms whatever our foe might be. “Whether a spigot of health or a goblin damned.”

“Charge!” shouted Ben. Snap went Charley’s pistol. The aimer fainted. Slap went Ben’s dirk and stuck into the brick and mortar, while he imagined them to be flesh & bones. Slam-bang which I imagined Ben had spilt. I missed my aim & just shaving the teeth of one of the serpents (as I supposed) I fell headlong & “ass over head” down the steps. By this time it rained, the cool drops falling in Charley’s face restored him. He, raising up, staggered & fell against the Monster — our foe — and lo! and behold it was a pillar. We laughed heartily, then hallowed for Ben. No answer. We searched all about, no where to be found. Searched every room and at last we looked into the Phrenakosnian Hall where, hearing a deep moaning, we found Ben all crewed up in a little heap under the Secretary’s chair. He was pale and was [word missing?] and from their hollow cells half sprang his eyes that cast a lifeless ray. We “brought him to” & having obtained what we wished, we took our final adieu of Pennsylvania College.

On our way back to town, it being as dark as Egyptian darkness, Charley went in to the mud head over heels & fell off the bank. I feel down with a bundle & Ben got off the track. After righting ourselves, we proceeded — arrived at the tavern safe — went to bed — slept soundly until ½ past 4 when we arose, waited until six o’clock for the stage, when we bid farewell to Gettysburg. The following were passengers — Charley T. T., Ben Stoever, Garber, Gunkle, Mayor, [my brothers] Ed [and] Bart, a stranger, Mr. Smith of Yale, & myself. Oh yes, Charley Hay was also aboard. I met the “Old Maw” at Columbia. I am now home safe & sound.

Excuse my not writing before, also mistakes &c. and believe me to be your true & devoted friend. — Jack Brodhead

Write soon John! I wrote to Charley.

I would write more but fearing lest I might trespass on your good nature, I halt. Harrison will be elected. So will [David R.] Porter. Hurrah for Porter & Democracy.

21 May 1840

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
May 21st 1840

My dear Jack,

Pardon me, I pray you, for my very long silence, and be assured that it was not because your letter did not please me, not because I have forgotten you — far from it. Your kind epistle was very pleasing indeed and the reading of it gave me much delight. It was very interesting and humorous. And as to my forgetting one with whom I have spent many pleasant hours and to whom I have always been what I now am — a friend — & one who is — or rather was — a warm friend of mine would be the next door to insanity. No indeed, Jack, you are as fresh in my memory as ever — that good-natured, curled-headed, fine old Democrat, J. W. C. O’Neal!!!

Well Jack, how have you been since I wrote — I mean since you wrote me. I hope you have enjoyed yourself to your hearts content. I have spent a very pleasant vacation but I begin to feel as you do that the novelty is growing old. I shall be very happy to meet you all at Gettysburg.

I received a letter from our friend Ben which was very acceptable. I have also received one from that gambler, blackleg, drunkard, p_____ swindler, the turned away from six colleges, Jack Elder. I answered him today. I also wrote to Ben, Bill Hursh and 3 other persons, and I assure [you] I am nearly tired out. Yesterday I wrote to nine of our honorary members. What success will attend me, I am unable to say. I lost the circulars which I brought with me. Have you collected any help, eh? I hope so.

How is old Granny [William Henry] Harrison getting along in Carroll? Their hard cider is beginning to turn to vinegar here. They had too much of it. Van Buren is sure of New York & I think of Pennsylvania & Ohio. If so, he is elected. Go it Martin, go it.

Dear Jack, you must excuse this short scrawl but you know when a person writes five letters he becomes tired of it. When do you return to Gettysburg? I expect to go on Wednesday next.

Stroever was here today but unfortunately I was absent. Do excuse this laconic & miserable attempt and you will much oblige your dear friend and humble servant and regular built Democrat, — John Brodhead

Van Buren