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Anna Foote Bridges Graves (later Mrs. William Colby) Sandusky County Ohio

Anna Foote Bridges was born December 3, 1813 in Bolton, Connecticut. She moved with her parents to Williamstown, Massachusetts where in 1836 she married John Graves of Hoosick Falls, New York . John was the son of Timothy and Martha Comstock Graves.The following year, John and Anna Graves migrated to Ballville Township, Sandusky County, Ohio. They purchased 125 acres of land. A year later they moved to a farm near Worthington, Ohio, where the land had already been cleared. In 1838, John and Anna returned to their Sandusky County land. In November of that year, their firstborn child died. Two more daughters were born to them before John Graves’ death in 1844. Anna moved to New England for a short time, but later returned to the Sandusky County farm that she and John Graves had carved from the Black Swamp. She married William Colby in 1847 by whom she had another daughter. Anna died in Sandusky County in 1886.


The following letter (of which the first page has been reproduced) was written by Anna Graves of Sandusky County, Ohio to her sister Sophia Bridges in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Anna informed her sister of her husband's illness and death. While only a few of Anna's letters have survived, they offer insights, particularly from a woman’s perspective, into the economic instability, hard labor, illness, death, despair, and loneliness that were an ever-present part of the lives of pioneers who settled in Ohio ’s Black Swamp region in the 1830s and 1840s.

The letter is part of the Hayes Presidential Center's Marie Hafford Garrett Collection. Click on the collection title link and read transcriptions of several additional letters. Strangers in a Strange Land: The Frontier Letters of John and Anna Graves, an article by Thomas S. Edwards about the hardships of pioneer life in Ohio's Black Swamp, is also available online.

Sandusky County 1844 Letter by Anna Foote Bridges Graves

[Minor changes in punctuation were made in this transcription]

Ballville April 7th 1844

My dear dear Sister

What shall I say to you. Shall I tell you that I have drained the cup of affliction to the very dregs. Yes my dear Sister I never knew what trouble was before. It is true I have lost Parents a Brother and an own dear Child, but this is severing a still more tender Cord. John was taken sick the 28 of January and died 7th of Feb. He was taken unwell Sabbath Eve before he got home from prayer meting, but said he believed he had got cold some way. I felt alarmed about him, but he said O Ann I shall be well again in a day or two, that night had fever and it never left him untill the night before he died. The night before he died he got up and put on his pantaloons with my help. I see he was failing, Mrs Tindall made his bed as quick as possible and helpd him back on to it - He had a sinking spell we washed him in Brandy and he revived again. I was up with him night and day. he could not bear to have me out of sight a moment. I would go off to another room and have a good crying spell - Sometime he would notice I was gone a good while and he would call me and say what are you up to in there - I would wipe up and go out and be as cheerful as possible and he would put his hand and take hold of my chin, smile and say O ann you must not be discrouraged for I am not. I said John I am afraid you dont know how sick you are but said I. It is of the most importance to be prepared - He say I have always felt as if we she (sic) should live to enjoy religion. He says I dont feel satisfied with taking up the light and going along with it, hopes to be directed in the right way - He had not his right mind, all the while. O Sophia you cant begin to think what distress he was in. all night it took four men some of the time to keep him on the bed. O what a night that was, In the morning I thought I take one more look of him. I was so broken down it nearly over come me. I fainted. they worked upon me a while and carried me in to the bedroom and that was the last I saw of him that day. he died about noon I could hear his groans, it was so aggravating.

It did appear to me that I could not live. I had fever the doctor attended me more than a week. Mrs Colby stayed with me a week. O I thought if I could only followed his Dear Body to the grave - It would have been a satisfaction. I could not set up. I told them if he looked natural I wanted to see him. they said he did, and he could be brought into the bedroom where I could see him. I told them to put a cloak around me and let me lean on Mr Haffords arm and I could go out. I did so. O he looked so pleasant. Just as if he was asleep. O Sophia it is painful to write the particulars. It brings every thing so fresh to my mind that I can hardly endure it. I had some men come to work a few days and they would come in for the meals and I sitting by the fire did not know it was made and then I would get something. No appetite, fever every day. it was then I wished that my dear sisters could come in and comfort me. I think if I had a lock of his hair I would give any thing in this world but I was so sick that I was not capable of thinking and no one to think for me.

Martha says Mother dont cry. It does seem as if my father would come back again. Oh Mother she says what a good Father I did have. She will sit and look into the fire and then break out and say some thing about him. Mary frequently cries when she sees his clothes. His cap hangs in in (sic) the room here where it did when he was sick. I have taken it down a great many times and put it away but cannot bear to so hang it up again. I have lain away night after night thinking what I should do when my Children was sick; for when he was alive if they were sick, he was the first one up to take care. O Ann I can get up better than you can and he knew more about sickness than I did, what he said I knew correct since or here last week Mary and Martha were both sick. there is a young man lives with me to carry on the farm that has lived with us two years from York State. one of the kindest young me I ever saw. he loves the Children to distraction. Anvinette will cry after him every time he comes in to the house. Wm Colby had a lame hand, he stayed here a week. he went after the doctor two or three times in the night. Martha I expect was troubled with worms had a high fever but could get no worms. Mary the doctor says her age is troubling her. She is taking medicine. I dont know what to say about her. I dont need her. I shall keep her for the present. I am afraid if she should go she will not be favored at all places and make a weekly woman. I wait on her, and when she goes any where Wm Gregory the young man that lives with me goes and takes her and goes after her. the doctor says by the time she takes up her medicine [she] will be well he thinks. My children are come down with whooping cough. I feel afraid it will go hard with them.

The folks are all up in arms about your comeing out. how I would like to have you come but dont know as you would enjoy yourself as you do there. I am lonely and expect to be. Mr Hafford says tell Sophia for me that she must come out here. Esther says give [ torn ]if she dont come she will take a stick and spank her. Every one says Sophia will come. I have not room to write one half that I wish to. John did not make his will. There is not any thing said about it. they thought he had not his right mind -,I presume you will think strange my not having Mr Haffords for Adminstrator but there is other good men in the world beside him. I could tell you a long yarn Could I but see you. tell Harriet Wm Colby speaks about her often, she will know what it means. I chose Mr Stahl, Rachel Camps husband. he is a fine man. I am Guardian for my children - the laws are different in Ohio what they are in Mass. Mr Stahl and myself chose men for appraisers and the Court appointed them - Mr. Hershey Daniel Tindall Mr Hafford they appraised the property and then set off my years support

The appraisers set off two hundred and fifty dollars for my years support. they appraised every thing low and I could take it at the appraisal. they will sell for a great deal more. I take horses and waggon farming tools 18 Acres of wheat 20 bushels wheat Hams pork Beef potatoes, both green apples and dried and the land. give me 12 sheep 1 cow the furniture with a few exceptions besides what they set off, there is enough personal property very near to straiten every thing. I felt when John died that if I had been left with only enough to carry me to my friends I would be satisfied. the next thing is who would want me. I began to think I had children to support and it was not right to feel so I tried to guard against such feeling.

Judge Nyce is very low frets bad because I dont go to see him, told Doct Rawson was doing court work and I did not come to see him. If I did not I should not be capable of seeing to my family. You know Sophia that he was one of the kindest Most Indulgent - Affectionate husbands in this world. It does appear to me that there is no more Comfort for me in this world. I know the Lord can clear the darkest skies can give us day for night - Pray for me Dear Sister that this affliction may be sanctified to my never dieing soul. write soon. Give my love to every one

Ann Graves

[Addressed to]

Miss Sophia W. Bridges
Williamstown Mass