• Southerners Should Decide Slavery Issue; Grant Will Escalate the War -- 4 Letters

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    The NISSLEY FAMILY were early residents of Lancaster County, PA. A number of them were farmers, one was a school board member and president of a fire insurance company. Some were Mennonites, church trustees and clergy. 

    Offering four letters from various family members and the most interesting by far is a Civil War period letter dealing with one family member’s strong and articulate assessment of the Civil War and southern sympathies and a fear that the south could be wiped out.  L. Sharp writes of her distress about the human slaughter, that war’s end is not in sight, and that southerners alone should be able to decide the fate of slavery. She fears that Grant could escalate the war if he attempts to take Richmond. Sharp then warns her uncle not to show the letter to anyone “that will make harm of it.”  Another family member writes of his purchase of a hotel, of hiring two girls – “better girls are hard to get” – and of a show he is planning at the hotel. Of the letters’ authors, we could locate only one in research, but the other surnames seem tied to him.

    JOHN K. NISSLEY of East Donegal Township (Lancaster County), PA, was a member of the local school board and an extensive traveler having visited every state in the country.   He was also a prominent farmer and for many years was president of the Mt. Joy Fire Insurance Co.  He and his wife were members of the Mennonite Church, where he was a trustee.

    4 pp, 5” x 8”, Williamsport, [PA] June 3, 1864, L. Sharp, writes to her uncle.

    “…I am getting along…but living in suspense on account of this war. If I could see how things were going, I would feel much better. Those days of trouble have been prolonged beyond my expectation and human slaughter has exceeded anything that has ever been heard of. I had hopes there would be a treaty at one time but those hopes have almost failed me.

    “When all chances for a settlement is lost, there will be more inhuman massacreing carried on than ever was known among any heathen…this is the truth.

    “Uncle I have never said what I know but you know and every high minded thinking man knows that the spirit of the southern people is too show the world they live for their rights and they will fight for their rights and it is not in them to yield to any power or force. If there is not a nation on the globe that favors these institutions of slavery, it is a matter that concerns the southern states alone and it is their place alone to abolish it or prolong it. At the present time, some think the war will soon be over but how can they expect such a thing if Grant should try and take Richmond and get his army killed by hard fighting. He would be obliged to fall back and let the rebels repossess it again for he would not have an army sufficient to stay in an enemies’ country. Thus you see one side prevails over the other as they get the men killed off. So for my point, I do not look for the war to close this season although it may be the bloodiest season of the war. The people of the south have lived in a country of war up to this time. It looks very likely that they can sustain themselves another season…We all know that they are the weakest party and they cannot prevail against the north and if this party remains in power they will eventually be wiped off the face of the earth. Tell Major Landis that if he will respect a letter from me that I would be pleased to write to him…Dear uncle please let me know soon how the draft stands in Middletown. I am waiting to hear with fear and trembling. By doing so, you will relieve me from suspense…

    “Do not show this to anyone who will make harm of it…”

    4 pp, 5” x 8”, June 4, 1865, Kansas, IL, D.W. Hisey, writes to his uncle and aunt, Soloman Landis, Maria Landis & Maria Swartz (possibly his niece).

    In part, “…I changed my business. I am keeping a hotel in Kansas, ILL., fourteen miles west of Paris and if a man wants to be successful he has to attend to business. We have done very well so far. I sold my house and lot in Paris for 2,000 dollars and paid 3,200 for the hotel and got ten beds, chaires, stoves, tables with the house, a good stable for 30 horses. We have from 10 to 12 regular boarders and a good many transient ones. I charge $4.00 per week for Board, 30 cents per meal and 50 for bed…I used a hundred pounds of beef per week at 12 ½ [cents] per lb.  We have Priscilla and Lydia Runkle, one of the girls that I went for two years ago, and better girls are hard to get. We will have a show here the 20th and I agreed to keep 50 men at $1.25 per day. I have a young man to stay with me now. I tried to get along myself but could not stand it. Nearly every night there is some to go on the trains…I started to make money and if the Lord is willing I will make it too. My business increases all the time…

    One page, 9 ½” x 11 ¼”, Baltimore, October 15, 1862, to Messrs. Cassel and Landis, Middletown, Penn, from McDougall & Clarke, a shipping company. The letter references the shipment of white oak received from the canal boat “Geo. P. Watson” and Captain Jacob Wilson and letting him know that “You can draw from the proceeds $781.71, making your draft mature on the same day the sales do…”

    3 pp, 5” x 8”, East Donegal, January 8, 1872, John Nissey writes to Mrs. Maria Landis, a niece.

    In part, “…Last Thursday, Jan. 4th, Sarah, Maria & I went to Lancaster City to see the sights and curiosities there. We were in the prison, County Poor House, Hospital and cotton factories, Athenaeum. Tomorrow I intend going down again. The school directors of the county have a convention to consult each other concerning the interests for the promotion of education in the common schools. Old Grand-pap Jacob Garber, next neighbor to Grand-pap Hissey is laying very low by appearance. His days will be but very few. He is now 82 years of age. A great many old people have passed away in our vicinity within a year. Indeed, middle-aged and young ones, too. Some very sudden. Their places are now vacant and will never be filled by them any more. Oh! How serious a matter, death and eternity is…”

    Folds, toning, light foxing and a few ink burns and brushes. All are very readable and a nice archive from this early Pennsylvania family.

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