Letter: Eunice Marsden to James Carr
South Manitou Island ~ April 13th, 1864

At the time these letters were written, Eunice Marsden, a divorcee and the youngest daughter of William and Lucy-Boyd Rice Burton, was living with her parents and her two young daughters (ages six and four) on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan. The recipient of this letter is not indicated, however the text suggests it was James Carr [1], whom she would marry three years later.

Manitou, April 13th 1864

My Dear Friend,

Your kind letter of the 19th of Feb. was received yesterday, and the same boat that brought it over from Glen Arbor, took one back in answer to one received from you the first of March. We have Capt. Hart with us at last, after nearly looking our eyes out. I tried to make him think I had grown poor with constant waiting, but he could not see it. He intends returning soon to Milwaukee, so if nothing happens, this letter will reach you before the one we sent by Glen Arbor.

We are still surrounded with ice, for the last four or five weeks the harbor has been full. Yesterday we had a wind that took it all off, but this morning it is full again. I wish you could stand on the bank at this time & see the field of ice that is passing us by. With the wind blowing quite fresh from the northeast we, my brother, his wife [2], & myself, took a steamboat ride yesterday. Started for the north island, but on account of ice, could not get to Mr. Pickard's, so stopped at Mr. Ailsworth's [3] on the west side a short time, & reached home again about tea time. It was a splendid day, and we did enjoy it so much. A very pleasant change, I can assure you, for us poor isolated beings.

Last evening Kate [4] & myself spend the evening at the Lighthouse with Mr. Kirtland [5] and his bride. Yes, Mr. K. is really a married man. Came home quite unexpectedly to us, with Capt. Hart, bringing with him a wife. We all told him when he left us not to come back alone, and he said he had about made up his mind it was not well for man to be alone. So he thought best to do as he was bid. It was a great surprise for us all.

Have you any idea, provided you return to the Survey, where you will be sent? I do so hope they will send you here. I think that would be so nice, don't you?

We are nearly flooded with water here this spring. The road between here & the other dock is almost impassible. The common back of the dock house is entirely covered. I am really thankful we are so high as to escape all such trouble. The gentleman, wife, you spoke of meeting in Chicago was an own cousin of my sister's Father. [6]

Well spring is once more with us, & after such a long, cold, dreary winter, spring weather seems doubly pleasant. You can't imagine what a treat it is, to be able to step outside the door, without wading in the snow. Just think, here we have lived five long months, & heard from the P.O. but twice during the time. I think I shall emigrate before another winter to Texas or some other place.

You will excuse my writing any more this time, as my letters are to be down to the dock tonight, & I have one or two more to answer. Write soon & often. Will do better next time.

In haste,

Friend Noomie

(click image to enlarge a page)


  1. In the early 1860's James Carr was apparently working as an "Assistant Engineer" with the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers, participating in what was popularly called the "Lakes Survey." In August of 1861, his ship, the Survey, was assigned to projects around the Fox and Manitou Islands. As suggested in the text of this letter, the sheltered bay at South Manitou Island was probably a regular over-night anchorage for the survey crew.
  2. Probably her brother Ellison and his wife Ann
  3. Nickolas Pickard and George Aylesworth were wood merchants operating on opposite sides of North Manitou Island. The Pickard dock was on the island's southeast shore; Aylesworth (who became a son-in-law of South Manitou's George Johann Hutzler) bought the site formerly developed by Pickard's brother Simon on the island's west side, naming the small village there "Aylesworth."
  4. "Kate" - cousin Katherine-Lucy Burton, eldest daughter of Ellison and Ann Burton.
  5. P.W. Kirtland was keeper of the South Manitou Island Light Station from July 17, 1861 to July 21, 1866. Thereafter he moved due west across the lake to Jacksonport, Wisconsin, becoming a well-known fisherman and fish dealer.
  6. "cousin of my sister's Father" - unexplained comment (perhaps meaning sister-in-law, as a way to avoid mention of her ex-husband)

Submitted by Phyllis Begens, great-granddaughter of Eunice Marion Burton