Patty Smith's 1846 letter home found tucked into an Ancestry user's old family album

Patty Smith's 1846 letter home found tucked into an Ancestry user's old family album

In 2014, an Ancestry user researching the Wicks family line posted the transcript and an analysis of an 1846 letter found tucked inside an old family album. The user Beth Ann Rivers, a geologist and family historian living in New Zealand, knew all about the Wicks history but the letter was filled with many other names she didn't recognize.  

It turned out they were all members of the Smith and Bradley families from Trumbull and Geauga counties who are of interest to us. Rivers put together that the letter was written by Patty Smith Bradley Sweat shortly after her resettlement in Wapello County, Iowa, to her daughter Celestia M. Bradley Wicks and her husband Mansel Wicks back in Ohio. 

Then she posted a transcript of the letter and an explanatory note on Ancestry, making it readily available to others like us who are avidly interested. Thanks to Beth. I've taken the liberty to attach her public documents to this post for those who want to study all the details. 

The letter was written over a period of several months, containing news bits and views about life on the prairie, as well as ample references to family members in Iowa and Ohio. From it, we can put together the whole complicated story of the Smith-Bradley-Swett-Wicks families during this period of early Iowa settlement. 

As we have written, Patty Smith was one of three children of Revolutionary War veteren Josiah Smith from Cheshire, Conn., who settled in the Ohio Western Reserve in the early 1800s. There, probably in 1813, she married Selah Bradley, the son of Josiah's compatriot Thaddeus Bradley. The Bradley homestead was in Claridon Township, near to Burton, Ohio. 

They produced five Bradley children in nine years until Selah's death in a farming accident in 1823. Patty then remarried Tristam Sweat in 1826 and they had four Sweat offspring until Tristam also passed in 1840. Then in 1846, at age 57, Patty embarked with several of her sons on what Rivers describes as "a grand homesteading experiment in Iowa Territory." You get a flavor of the letter in this short excerpt (with original spelling and punctuation).

I  have note wrote any thing concerning my Journy.  I got here in 8 weeks safe.  I did not Break or damage anything.  The boys have built me a log house A few steps from James and I have got a great stone hearth and 5 great boys to get supper for  I guess that will do for this time

More on James and his wife Lucinda to come. The five boys are her sons Luzern and Lawson Bradley, aged 30 and 29, and Lysander, Alanson and Henry Sweat, aged 19, 15, 13. Besides Celestia and Mansel Wicks to whom the letter is addressed, she mentions other family members in Ohio, including: her daughter Louisa and her husband Nathaniel Mastick; her sister Meroe and husband John Cook, and their daughter Lola Braughton, called Loly; and Merriman Carlton, the husband of another daughter, Philosha.

At the time of the letter, Philosha and Merriman were considering joining the migration to Iowa, and we know in fact that they later did. 

Patty's brother Levi Smith is not mentioned because he died six years previously. Her nephew Josiah T. Smith was then newly married to Martha Haskell and their daughter Hattie Smith was yet unborn.

In future posts, we'll look at the life arc of Patty's various children as the family ultimately left Wapello County and moved on to the western Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon.