Letter: Eunice Marsden to James Carr
South Manitou Island ~ June 18th, 1866

Eunice Marsden was still living with her aging parents and her two young daughters, now ages eight and seven, on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan. The recipient of this letter was quite plainly James Carr.

In this last letter, summer has once more returned to the island, the boats are back, with the heavy upbound and downbound maritime traffic bringing "the outside," as she often refered to it ... civilization ... back to the Manitou Islands. This summer on South Manitou would be her last. A year from the date of this letter, she became Mrs. James Carr, moving with her two daughters to his farm in Kane County (Batavia), Illinois, where she would live out the rest of her life.

Manitou, June 18th 1866

My Dear Friend,

Many thanks for your kind letter of May 27th, which was received yesterday, & as this being Sunday [1], could think of no better way of spending a portion of the day than in answering it.

I have nothing new or interesting to write, but take some satisfaction in teasing & troubling my friends, particularly my bachelor friend, as much as I can. So you might as well submit patiently. I am afraid if I were around near you, you would not have to complain so much of laziness. I think I should be tempted to stir you up occasionally. Am dying almost for someone to tease a little. Everything is so quiet & monotonous here that it would be a great wonder if we did not grow sad & melancholy. You are a nice one, to sympathize with a lady. As for the laugh, I have nearly forgotten how to laugh. It is so long since I have seen anything to laugh at.

Kate [2] we have not lost, & I do not fear much that we shall, although she is very anxious, & is sure she shall get started. But I do not think her Father will give his consent. Poor girl, she has not much time to think of going anywhere at present. She has to take charge of & help wait on a family of men, which keeps her very busy. Her mother went up on the first boat, & has not yet returned.

Do you hear often from your friend Chaffee [3]. If not, perhaps you would like to hear of his whereabouts. There is at this time a vessel here discharging coal for him. He with a new boat we understand, is to be sent up this way, making S. Manitou headquarters. Will be here sometime this week. Mr. Henry [4] with the "Search" & Lamson [5] with the "Surveyor" is sent to Lake Superior. Is he (C) married yet?

It is well for Jacob Faithful [6] that he has not me to deal with. I am afraid I should do something disparate if he meddled with my clothes. Near daily looking for my eldest sister & daughter from Ottawa C. W. My luck to have something happen to prevent her coming. I don't allow myself to anticipate to much.

You ask when I will be in Chicago. I have not the least idea. I think not very soon, as Father's almost entire helplessness [7] will make it rather difficult for one to leave, unless there should be someone here to stay with Mother. In that case, I may, if an opportunity offers, run away for a few days.

How much I wish you could be placed on this Island now, if but for one day. You cannot begin to imagine how beautiful it looks. The woods are one mass of leaves & flowers. Strawberries we are going to have in great abundance, if the present wealth continues. There will, we are afraid, be nothing raised on the Island this summer, with the exception of potatoes. The grass hoppers are so very plenty, that they devour everything as fast as it comes from the ground. If you will come down this way, we will lend you both rain & grasshoppers, as we have more than a plenty of both & by way of a variety, will put in now & then a mosquito.

I visited, a few days ago, your old camping ground. I think if you were there now, you would be loath to leave. It is so pleasant.

Hoping to hear from you again soon, I remain as every your Island friend.


(click image to enlarge a page)


  1. Date confusion - June 18, 1866 was a Monday.
  2. Katherine-Lucy Burton, daughter of Ellison & Ann Burton. At the time of this letter, she was only nineteen years old; perhaps too-young for marriage in her Father's opinion. Two years later, at twenty-one years of age, she married George L. Dougherty and the couple moved immediately to the California gold fields, where George and his brother operated a livery stable. He died three years later, leaving Kate with their 2-1/2 year old daughter, Ana. She next married R.L. Myrick, who eventually became a head of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
  3. "Chaffee" - one of James Carr's "Lake Survey" colleagues. Assistant Engineer Oliver N. Chaffee’s work on water levels, which he tabulated for the Report of the Superintendent of the U. S. Lake Survey, 1860, by George Gordon Meade, was a significant contribution to the study of the Great Lakes.
  4. Daniel Farrand Henry, a former colleague with the Topographical Engineer's Lake Survey, and later noted for his design of an instrument devised to measure water currents.
  5. G.W. Lamson or A.G. Lamson, both of whom worked for the Topographical Engineers, often together.
  6. "Jacob Faithful" - the popular book "Jacob Faithful" by Frederick Marryat, about an orphan boy growing up on the docks of London whose only inheritance from his late mother was a new suit of clothes.
  7. William Burton was 74-years old. His wife Lucy was 68. He died six years later.

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