1848: John H. Hilton to Walter Weeks

How John Hilton might have looked
How John Hilton might have looked

This letter was written by John H. Hilton (1800-1881) of Cincinnati, Ohio, while returning home on a Mississippi steamboat from a business trip to New Orleans. John was the son of Andrew Smith Hilton (1763-1838) and Deborah Gilman (1767-1835) of Newmarket, Rockingham, New Hampshire.

John was married in 1820 to Ann P. Weeks (1802-1870), the daughter of Walter Weeks (1769-1851) and Sarah Tilton-Tarleton (1774-1848). John and Ann Hilton had four boys, all of who are mentioned in this letter: John Calhoun Hilton (b. 1821), George Washington Hilton (b. 1823), Gustavus Adolphus Hilton (b. 1825), and Walter Weeks Hilton (b. 1829).

John wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Walter Weeks (1795-1884) — a resident of Levant, Penobscot, Maine. Walter was married to Elizabeth White Haines (1800-1878). Walter and Elizabeth had seven children: Mary Elizabeth Weeks (1820-1896), John Albert Weeks (1821-1849), Ebenezer S. P. Weeks (1824-1854), Walter Franklin Weeks (1826-1828), Sarah Georgiana Weeks (1831-1889), Wesley Clark Weeks (1833-1841), and Martin R. Weeks (1834-1907).

When John wrote this letter in 1848, it appears that he had already passed through a settlement divorce with his first wife. The 1850 census reveals that he had remarried a woman named Susan C. Brenan (1805-1883) and was employed as a “dairyman” in Columbia, Hamilton County, Ohio. In 1870, he was residing in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio, a retired “cow merchant.” In 1880, the Hiltons were residing in Akron, Ohio. It is not known whether Ann ever remarried. On-line genealogical records suggest she died in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1870.

1848 Letter
1848 Letter

Addressed to Walter Weeks, Esqr., Levant, Maine
Postmarked Cincinnati, Ohio

Mississippi River
February 10th 1848

Walter Weeks, Esqr.
Levant, Me.
Dear Brother,

I left Cincinnati Ohio, 20th January for New Orleans, arrived there on 28th, got through with my business, and left on 1st inst. for Cincinnati. Our boat is very slow which, together with the fog, has made the passage very tedious. We are now laying by about one hundred & thirty miles below the mouth of the Ohio, and thought I would occupy a part of the time in writing you a few lines, and give you some information about Ann and the children.

I have sent Walter  to the St. Xavier College [in Cincinnati], the preparatory department, and he is improving very fast. He comes home every week or two, and is much pleased. His health is very good.

George ¹ is engaged in the book binding and blank book manufacturing business. Thinks he will be able to make something out of it. The 22nd March next will be one year since he commenced. He will be able to know how it will do by the time the year comes round. He is well.

John ² remains in Louisville, Ky., and is doing something in tobacco by which he has made something. He is with my cousin E. Hutchings & Co. and receives a small salary from them which together with the tobacco business gives him something more than a living. I saw him when I came down. He was very well. He came up to see us in September and remained about a week.

I received a letter from Gustavus ³ [when I was] at New Orleans. It was dated 24 Dec. He was very well at that time. He wrote me about his mother, was perfectly happy, and that he had not seen her look so well for ten years. I let Walter write to his mother and Gussy says she was much pleased at receiving the letter. Shall have him write her again after I return home. I am very glad to hear that Ann is so well and so happy. Hope she will always remain so. She has nothing to trouble her now. May God bless her and make her future days long and happy. I have to pay 3½ dollars per week for Gustavus’ board in Boston. His salary will about find him in clothes. Walter’s board & tuition cost 2¼ dollars per week. Besides this, we do his washing and mending, furnish his bed & bedding, books, stationary, and pocket money. The cost will be more next year.

February 11th

After laying by 18 hours, we are again underway and hope we shall have no more detention. Brother Walter, it is now more than one year since I left Boston and I have not heard from you or any of your family except by letter from Gustavus. We did receive a newspaper from one of you — I think from Elizabeth. Now my dear brother, I have written several times without any answer and have informed you on all the subjects connected with our family that would be interesting to you and do hope you will write me and let me know how you all are. First, yourself and wife, then John Albert, [Mary] Elizabeth, Ebenezer, the others I have forgotten. You see, I never saw your youngest children and don’t recollect their names. Give my love to them all.

I have sometimes thought you were not pleased with the settlement with Ann. I endeavored to do right. If I have not, please point out where I failed. If agreeable to your family, should like to keep up a correspondence and now may the God of Heaven bless you and yours is the sincere prayer of your brother, — J. H. Hilton

February 12

Please tell Albert that Mrs. Stiles is dead. She died last fall very sudden. I believe the friends at Madison are as well as usual. Hope to receive a letter from him soon informing us if his restoration to health.

Cincinnati, February 17

I have just arrived and find all well, although I was quite sick on the way up. Am thankful I am better now though not extremely well. Shall wait with anxiety for a letter.

¹ The Williams’ Cincinnati Business Directory for 1848-9 lists “Smith & Hilton” at 113 Main, between 3d and 4th, and identifies them as a “Blank Book Manufacturer.”

² John Calhoun Hilton (1821-1890) was married in February 1850 to Lycinia Elizabeth Badger (1830-1902) in Louisville, Kentucky. By 1850, John was in the banking business in Louisville. Around the close of the Civil War, John relocated his family to Chicago where he worked in the pork packing business. In the 1880 census, his occupation is given as “Capitalist.”

³ When this letter was written in 1848, Gustavus was being boarded in Boston and appears to have been employed at a paltry salary. It appears that his mother, Ann (Weeks) Hilton was living somewhere nearby. I found an obituary for a Gustavus A. Hilton, age 26, who died on 18 October  1854 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, at the home of Mr. Samuel C. Cobb.

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