Wednesday, June 2, 2021

1853 Letter written by George Burton Dyer of Eastport, Maine; would rise from Private to Colonel in Civil War

This post also appears on the Border Historical Society blog, based in and around Eastport, Maine.

Letter written on September 23, 1853 in Eastport, Maine, by George Burton Dyer (1835-1913) to his cousin.  

Dyer would enlist in Company B of the 9th Regiment of the Maine Volunteer Infantry in September of 1862 and rise through the ranks to eventual promotion as  Colonel in March of 1865.
The letter begins with a long apology about the tardiness of his reply and goes on to mentions his doings, those of his mother, his brother "Frank", his sister "Abbie" and C., who is presumably brother Charles.

They were:

George also mentions the French family, presumably in Eastport, Maine, and a friend, Renwick, possibly Renwick Johnston. Renwick may have been a first name or middle name or nickname.
George opines about becoming a physician, like his brother "Frank", or a minister, two vocations that offer the possibility of doing good work.  Whether he pursued either of these for a time or not, I don't know, but he operated a furniture store in Boston, Massachusetts, after the Civil War until his retirement at some point between the 1900 and 1910 Censuses. 

In 1868 at Boston, Massachusetts, he married Sophia Carey Gould (1836-1876). In 1870, they were living in the household of George's brother Jonah Franklin Dyer. Sophia died in 1876, apparently in childbirth, and is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

George's sister Addie was living with him and others at the time of the 1900 and 1910 Censuses. George died in 1913 and is buried in Eastport, Maine.  
If you have corrections and/or additions to the information above, please leave a comment or contact me directly.

Transcription below - please weigh in with corrections!

Eastport Maine
September 23 - 1853
Friday evening
Dear Cousin
I hardly know how to commence a letter to you for I have no good reason for my neglect. When I returned from "Squam" 'twas in the evening and I started for E- next morning. I promised Mr. [or Mrs.] French to come there when I came to the city and they would not allow me to leave them. I really must stop there, nothing else would do - so stop I did. But after returning house and then not writing you is too bad. My conscience will not allow me to keep silent any longer.
Talk not of total depravity - was ever a human being so utterly depraved as I, to neglect my friends thus. Last evening I told Renwick - my friend Mr. Johnston that I praised so highly - I intended to "turn over a new leaf" - that they told me I acted too boyishly. Can I make a better beginning than by trying to reinstate myself in your friendship in your "good graces" 0 as people so often say - if indeed I was ever so fortunate as to hold a place there - for if I ever did I am afraid I have lost all my hold upon your regard by my neglecting you thus. Remember the motto "Forget and forgive".
You must not expect to hear much that is new. No events of great importance have transpired since my return. Mother and Addie have not returned yet but the season is nearly over and they will be back soon I think. I do not hear very often from Addie. There is no regular mode of conveyance - and therefore our correspondence cannot be very regular.

I hear quite often from Frank. He is very busy indeed - has not time to do anything for himself. There are a great many sick persons there now. He said he intended to visit you - but when he came to the city he seldom stopped more than a few hours - and then he had considerable business to attend to. You must not think hard of him for his seeming neglect. He has a better excuse than I. Really cousin Eliza, I am almost ashamed to write - forgive me this time, and be assured you will not have to think ill of me again - on the _ of neglect, at least.

We have been very busy indeed in the store. C- has a larger business than ever, since he failed. I do not have much spare time. What I have I usually spend with Renwick, and after all we are together a great deal. How I love him. But is it strange - he was the instrument in Gods hands of leading me to cry in the spirit of adoption "abba, Father".  If you know him I am sure you would like him. And I think he loves me - though I cannot test his love as a young lady did that of her governess - in a letter I received a few days since - "because she kisses me ever so many times during the day".

What a glorious sunset. Howe beautiful the clouds look - their hues every moment deepening - and from a bright golden colour they fade into darkness. What a beautiful - what a lovely - stately world God has created for us - and we can look around and with our hearts full of joy exclaim "Our Father made them all" - and Oh how much we have to thank Him for. Even the afflictions he sends us are meant but to draw us nearer him. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth ever Son whom he receiveth". Some one has said that to draw near to the arm that inflicts the blow, will lessen the pain - then let us while he inflicts the blow find comfort in the arm raised against us - 'tis not in anger, 'tis in love - and if we receive them rightly they will ___ out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" - they will subdue our hearts - soften our feelings  and call forth the best and noblest feelings of our hearts - How little we are called upon to suffer compared with what HE suffered "That we through him might be rich" - And we know we are not separated from the loved ones forever. No - when the curtain of death gently closes around the last scenes of our existence - When on our voyage to the eternal world - when earth grows dim and its scenes fade away in the distance - heaven will open to our view - and the loved ones who had but "gone before" will welcome us to that "rest prepared for the people of God" - Let us be thankful for what we have hoping in the future - For we have One "who will never leave us nor forsake us" -

Sat morn.
I received a letter from Frank this morning. He says - I have worked very hard this month night and day and am all used up. There has not been so much sickness here for years before. I am trying to get a chance to get to Boston for a few hours on business, but I cannot. There has been a funeral nearly every day for a week - sometimes two.
Poor Frank he works hard. I hope soon he may reap the benefit of it. I think some of going there soon. I cannot tell exactly. He wants me too. Do you not think it would be a good plan for me to study with him until ready to go to college - and then practise for a Physician. Would it not look strange. George B. Dyer, M.D.  But seriously speaking t'would be a good chance - few can have a chance like it. I am quite young and will have time to study. I have thought much of it lately. 
Next to a minister - a physician has the most means of doing good - With the sick and dying always - he if a christian can exact a good influence and be the means of doing much good.

Now my dear cousin - Will you write me soon and let me know you do not think ill of me - Be assured I will be prompt in answering you and your letters will give me much satisfaction - My love to your brothers and Eliza - and don't forget to write to
Your Cousin George

Getting from Eastport to Boston during George's lifetime probably entailed sailing and, later, steamship and/or rail, as opposed to the recommended route today.

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