Letter: Eunice Marsden to James Carr
South Manitou Island ~ August 14th, 1865

"Noomi" is Eunice Marion Burton, youngest daughter of William and Lucy-Boyd Rice Burton. Previously married to Captain Charles Marsden, she had divorced and was living with her parents (William and Lucy Burton) and her two young daughters (ages six and five) on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan. As usual, the recipient of this letter is not indicated, however the text suggests it was James Carr [1], whom she would marry some two years later.

As the summer of her fourth year on the island draws to a close, "Noomi" was evidently not looking forward to the isolation and lonliness that the coming winter season would surely bring. The feelings of confinement and bleak outlooks often appeared in her winter letters. Having never been on the island in the winter, Carr would have had little appreciation of that, having only his remembrances of the area's breathtaking summer beauty.

Manitou, Aug 14th 1865

My Dear Friend,

At last the long looked for letter has arrived, after near five long months of waiting & waiting. After giving up ever hearing from you again, after several severe disappointments, which I was fearful might prove disastrous to both mind & body, I have the pleasure of reading another of your most welcome letters & should it meet with the treatment mine does, would not be answered until winter at least. But as I do not believe in putting of until tomorrow what ought to be done today, I will answer at once, hoping you will see the folly of your ways, repent & do better.

We are all well here at this time, & have thus far had a delightful summer. Have had but very little warm weather or a least warm when compared with weather outside. Most of our nights & mornings we find a fire quite comfortable. I never saw the Island look so handsome as this summer. The woods are one dense mass of leaves. But there is no enjoying them on account of mosquitoes. You never saw such a sight. It is almost impossible to go from here to the other dock without being devoured. Pity poor you if encamped here in the woods where you once were. We have had the greatest quantity of strawberries here this summer, & you cannot imagine how much we have enjoyed them. Raspberries and blackberries, I am afraid, we shall not have many. But our neighbors on the north island are going to have plenty & the calculation is to go over there in blackberry time.

Kate [2] is once more with us. Got home about two weeks ago. It does seem so pleasant to have her here again. Thanks to Mr. Carr for stealing her photograph, in consequence, she has replace it with a much better one. No great loss without some small gain. My youngest brother [3], wife and little one are here from Buffalo on a visit, which makes it very pleasant for us just now.

How much I did want to go to Chicago during the fair [4], but Father & Mother were neither of them very well at that time, & they do not really like the idea of my being out of sight a great while at a time, so I gave it up. I may not have them long to do for, & should they be taken away, my own peace of mind, I think will amply repay me for any little sacrifice I can make for them. I have not been off the Island this summer, but have had a very polite invitation to take a trip, which invitation I think I shall accept, as soon as the weather becomes a little cooler. I was very much in hopes we should spend the comming winter outside & do not give it up yet. Hope is a blessed thing. If it were not for that, I would give up entirely. I cannot but feel there are better times coming, & hoping so, live on. If I should get as far away from home as Chicago, I will write you from there, & if your family cares will allow, should be most happy to see you while there.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that Mr. Le Baron [5] had left the Lake survey, & joined the army. Think he must make a fine looking soldier. We have seen none of the surveyors here this summer, but think perhaps the fall winds will cause them to seek Manitou Harbor. [6]

We are contemplating another visit to your station during this week, not for the purpose of taking observations, but in search of sand cherries. Should like your company very much. [7]

The coat is still here & probably will always be, as the former owner has never been heard from. Still I think he is living as there has letters been received at the North Island, wishing Mr. Pickard to send what things he had left there to a certain place in New York. I think he is down that way, & has got someone to write for him. But you cannot convince or make her parents think for one moment that they are alive, & I do not know as I blame them for trying to think her dead. I certainly, if she were a child of mine, would rather think her dead than alive. [8]

Such a beautiful evening. If you were only here we would, provided you were willing, take a long walk. I would try & behave. It is so long since I have had anyone to stir with me [9], that it might be hard work for me to do so, however I would do my best. I think it is a perfect shame to be shut up in such a place as this. What say you. But I believe you pretend to say you would be perfectly contented in such a place, but I rather think you would tire of it. It is well enough here for a short time, or even through the summer, but the winters are rather lonely. We have but one short life to live, & I think that life ought to be spent where one can at least enjoy the society of our friends.

Say nothing of the many privileges both social & beneficial, & I for one think I shall make a great turn about in matters & things (provided I can) but whether I do or not, time only will tell.

Well here I sit, scribbling just as if you had nothing to do, but to sit down, & read all I was a mind to write. But as it is the only way I have of troubling my friends, I am afraid they will be obliged to endure, as long as they continue to answer my letters. Now to please answer my letter as soon as received, & greatly oblige your,

Island friend


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  1. See note [1] in previous letter. The extended Carr family were prosperous farmers at Batavia, Illinois.
  2. "Kate" - Eunice's cousin, Katherine Lucy Burton, eldest daughter of Ellison and Ann Burton, who was ten years younger than she.
  3. "My youngest brother" - James Covel Burton, wife Mary, and first born child, three-year old Lewis. The had lost their second child, six-month old William, just before the previous Christmas.
  4. Refers to the Chicago Fair of 1865, which began on May 30th. A spin-off of the hugely successful "Great Northwestern Fair" of 1863, which launched a temporary "fair mania" among younger people, the 1865 fair, billed as the "Great Soldiers Fair," ran a poor second by most accounts.
  5. "Mr. Le Baron" - probably Mr. J. Francis Le Baron, Assistand Engineer (Army Corps of Engineers) and later chief engineer for the Louisville, Cumberland & Chattanooga Railroad.
  6. ibid. [1]
  7. "your station" - probably refers to an observation point previously established by the survey team, which were usually marked with a permanent monument of concrete and brass.
  8. Unexplained.
  9. "stir" became popular slang for "prison" in the 1850's; as used here "to stir with me" might mean 'to share my confinement'.

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