My great-grandfather's letter to my great-grandmother

Travel is Broadening, 1873

In going through old family papers, I happened on a letter from my great-grandfather, John Foshay, to his wife, my great-grandmother, Martha (Whealdon) Foshay. It’s a letter composed mid-trip on a journey from Albany Oregon to California along what is now Interstate 5.

I love this letter for its sweet expressions of love, and for John’s vivid description of coach travel in the late 1800s in Oregon. Whenever I’m stuck on a plane waiting to depart, I think of John on the freezing floor of the coach, on page 2.

Canyonville Or. Nov 25/73 (that is, 1873)

My Dear Martha

You may remember that I told you in days of old that when I got lonesome I should write, and so, as the almanacs used to say, about this time look out for letters.

I sent you a few lines from Roseburg yesterday evening. We only stopped there about fifteen minutes just giving me time to send a short note to Starr Meaby on business, and a word to you. I wish I could have seen Van Clive, but could not without losing a whole day.

There was only one passenger besides myself, and he sat out with the driver, so, I had all the inside to my self – more room than I wanted, for it was cold and foggy.

(page 2)

The stage was not a regular coach but a covered hack. I got down on the bottom and drew the old leather cushions around me to keep warm – I don’t want any more such bed-warmers as they are. The driver started a very slow rate and I began to think the prospect of staging upwards of three hundred miles at such a pace was rather discouraging, but as the horses warmed up he let them out faster and the stage being empty and the road rough I got bounced around till I was not at all disposed to grumble about slow driving.

We got here about half past two in the morning, and I felt so cold and sleepy and tired that I thought lie over a day and rest. So, after getting well warmed I went to bed and slept till two o’clock this afternoon – I think I never did more real hearty sleeping

(page 3)

in the same length of time and I feel just as good as new.

In the morning about two we start again. I intend to put on two pair of drawers and two under shirts and wear them the rest of the way down so that I shall be better protected from the cold.

I will write again before I get down, if we stop anywhere long enough.

I almost forgot to tell you that I came near coming back the day I went to the depot – Hart, the R.R. agent said that if I would wait one day he could get me a through ticket about ten dollars cheaper. I thought at first that I would do it then the thought of having to go back and bid good bye over again was too much. I was afraid if I had to do that I should give it up altogether.

(page 4)

If you have not written to Kate Pringle you had better write while I am gone. It will give you something to help fill up time.

Good bye. May our Heavenly Father bless and comfort you
John Foshay