1861: Lavina Matteson to Jasper Stansbury Ross

This letter was written by Lavina (“Vina”) Matteson (1840-1900), the daughter of Robert Matteson (1798-1883) and Lois Vaughn (1800-1872) of Hiram, Portage county, Ohio. Lavina married James Smith Upham (1838-1905) in May 1866.

Lavina wrote the letter to Jasper Stansbury Ross (1841-1923), then serving as First Sergeant of Co. A, 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). Ross served in this capacity until mid-1862 when he was offered a commission as 2nd Lieutenant of the company. He later (May 1863) rose in rank to be its Captain. He mustered out of the regiment on 30 September 1864 after three years service.

Jasper was the youngest child of Samuel Iverson Ross (1810-1890) and Margaret Stansbury (1812-1843) of Carroll county, Ohio. After the war (1867), Jasper returned to Hiram to teach at his alma mater, then married Mary Louise Buss (1849-1929), and became a clergyman of the Disciples’ or Christian Church.

Most likely, Lavina and Jasper became acquainted while attending the coeducational Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) in Hiram, Ohio. At the time of their attendance just prior to the Civil War, James A Garfield was serving as the Institute’s second President. Readers will recall that Garfield left his position to assume command of the 42nd OVI.

Vina’s letter with images of Jasper S. Ross and the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute

Addressed to Mr. J. S. Ross, Company A, 42 [Ohio] Regt., Camp Chase, [Columbus, OH]

Hiram Hill ¹ [Portage county, Ohio]
October 12th 1861

My Friend,

This is Saturday morning. I now with pleasure lay aside all cares and duties of school-girl life. This is such a beautiful morning—all seems bright and rejoicing—all seems to rejoice without saying, “another week’s work is done.” I shall spend the day in reading and writing; the first and pleasant task to reply to your worthy letter which I am happy to acknowledge the receipt in due season.

I have the past week been very busy but some lonely. I am quite tired of school life although the term has to me proved to be a very pleasant one. Yet I am truly glad the close of term is so near us—only three weeks more. But they will seem like long weeks as tis so very dull here in Hiram. I don’t have one bit of fun.

Do you still cherish the silly idea there is fun in camp life? Do you really have fun? I suppose you are very much needed in the position you now occupy but I assure you, you are very much missed at Dunham House. You are often spoken of by all but still more often thought of.

A company left Hiram last evening for Camp Chase. I presume, however, you are aware of the fact ere this as very probable they are with you in camp today. I thought of joining this company but finally give it up. I have just now been thinking how grand it must be to see you all in camp and I just wish I had gone—yes, guess I do—but I didn’t, so writing must suffice.

The faculty of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in 1860; Garfield at left

We are expecting David this evening [and] are all very anxious to see him—especially Sara. Sara is quite fearful of his going to war, but I do not think he has the remotest idea of going or ever has a desire to go. He is going to make us a short call, then is from here going to Wisconsin.

Maria left us a few days after you left Hiram. I miss her very much for I do not have anyone to talk German with me now. If you was here, I could talk to you as you can translate so correctly just to suit your own fancy.

Nell, Hattie, Ellis, and Warren spent last evening with Maria at her home. They had a grand time. Maria wonders if Ross jumps the [illegible]. Ha ha. I should really like to see you jumping the rope this morning but this cannot be. Duty comes before pleasure. Therefore, as you think it your duty to go forth as a “brave soldier boy,” you yield up these pleasures [and] make a total sacrifice of all.

Lieutenant [Henry W.] Johnson ² was in town yesterday. Mr. Rider, Hill, and Mason were also here. Several of your soldier boys visited this place since you left. We have not as yet been gladdened by a visit from you. Do you now intend coming home before you leave Columbus? And how soon do they think of leaving?

I have written you no news, no marriages, no deaths. Yes, one is to be marriage—Amanda [A.] Mason. I think you are acquainted with her, are you not? She is to be married next Tuesday to Mr. [R. W.] Jackson. He is not pretty but I suspect he may be good. I presume he will go to war. It is quite fashionable at present to marry and then go to war.

But change of subject. I must close my letter and seal this to a brave soldier boy—to one whom I hope and trust will be brave, good, and noble—to one whom I shall hope will not in the busy scenes of soldier’s life be wholly unmindful of his friends whom are very desirous of hearing from those that have gone and left us—that have sacrificed all to serve their country.

Now, believing that I may by letter soon hear from you, I close. Please excuse all. Yours, Ross, in true friendship—Vina M.

¹ The Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) was sited on a hill and students often referred to the institution as “Hiram Hill.”

² Henry W. Johnson entered the service in August 1861 to serve 3 years in the 41st OVI. He was commissioned at 2nd Lieutenant of Co. B upon entry and rose through the ranks to Brevet Major by the time he mustered out of the service in July 1866.

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