[Lower] Salem [Washington County] Ohio
November 30th 1863
Capt. L. Abraham
I had the pleasure of reading yours of the 12th last night after a rough cold ride of 20 miles. ‘Twas very pleasant to sit by the fire and read letters from Mother, [my sister] Lydia, cousin Russel, and Lot, and the Home Journal with news of the marriage of Frank Howe and A. J. Newby, ¹ and various others. That wedding is the last I should have thought of. ‘Tis curious what people will do.
I am well and just ready to commence my school in Salem this morning. I did not want the school. Think I should have been better off to have lived a private life this winter, but they could not get another teacher to suit as male teachers or experienced women are scarce, & I had rather given my word in the fall to teach for them if they wanted me. I went on Friday to take [cousin] Alice to her school in Stafford and to be examined fourteen miles further off. We went in a buggy & had all kinds of luck. Were in the rain & dark, cold & snow, broke down, upset, and everything else, but happily no one was hurt. ‘Tis a wonder though.
Thank you for answering my questions in regard to your company. I like to know how the boys — especially those with whom I am acquainted — get along. And I am glad to know that there is nothing serious to prevent your singing. I know how well you like it and what a source of pleasure it is to you and your friends.
What changes a few minutes will bring fourth. I laid down my pencil a few minutes ago and went into breakfast expecting to go to my school immediately after, but while we were eating, Mr. True came in to tell me that the other directors were going to oppose me unless I would teach two more days a month. This gives me a chance to get off and I accepted it gladly though it may throw me out of a winter’s work. I had two other better offers but refused them Saturday because I was engaged here. I think they have served me a very mean trick, and feel rather out of humor about it, but guess I’ll forgive them because they have at least given me a chance to get out of the much dreaded job. I don’t know now what I shall do. I certainly shan’t be idle while there is so much to do. I’ll go to a hospital and nurse sick soldiers before I’ll do that.
We are again in anxious suspense about the fate of our dear friends at Chattanooga. Their regiments have been engaged in the terrible conflict again and we hear of terrible slaughter but final victory — our brave western boys under Sherman in the lead. Some of them must have fallen. May God heal the crushed hearts at home! ‘Tis very cheering to hear of the success of our army. Oh! I hope they will annihilate [Gen. Braxton] Bragg this time. Then I think we may begin to look for peace at no very distant day. Oh! that it may come speedily.
[My sister] Lydia writes me of the sudden death of my dear little red-haired friend Lydia Frazier supposed to be killed by poison and she was in Mount Pleasant as a witness before the Grand Jury. ‘Tis awful. She gives no particulars. Aunt Betsey [Alden] is ready to go to washing and I must quit scribbling and go help her. She’s the best aunt in the world.
So good bye for the present. I am as ever your, — Neal¹ Aaron J. Newby (1837-1901) married Mary Frances Howe (1842-18xx) on 19 November 1863 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. For more on Newby, see 16 April 1863 letter. ² Neal is most certainly referring to Lydia Frazier (1846-1863) who died on 5 November 1863 in Mt. Pleasant. She was the daughter of Elijah and Orpha (Pidgeon) Frazier of Salem, Henry County, Iowa. Neal’s words are cryptic, mystifying, and imply foul play with respect to Lydia’s death. More research is needed on this tragic event.