1862 letter – Captain James E Morris died at sea

The following is a letter dated March 10th, 1862, to Mrs. James E Macdonald (maiden name Mary Ann Cogswell) from a staff member of a shipping company informing her of her husband’s death at sea.

I’m having some trouble reading the handwriting and transcribing it all, but the lines on the first page explaining that James E Morris passed 5 days after leaving Jamaica are clear. It also says that it was not yellow fever, and that he had his senses until his death. It mentions his first mate, Mr. Connor, by name and says that in attempts to speak with him about his family or his affairs, he was not able to. The mate and his men buried him “in the great deep”.

Then there are some religious references and words of consolation, but much of it is difficult for me to make out. The quality of the photos does not help, I realize. I was unable to get good lighting or a scanner on the day I found these. I’ll try again next time.

In Mary Ann’s own obituary years later, it was mentioned: “Capt. Morris died at sea in 1861 on a voyage from Harborville to the West Indies”.


1862.03.10. letter to Mary Ann Cogswell Morris - 1 - Version 2


1862.03.10. letter to Mary Ann Cogswell Morris - 2 - Version 2


1862.03.10. letter to Mary Ann Cogswell Morris - 3 - Version 2

2015 Jan 26 update: A fellow member of the Morris genealogy group on Facebook transcribed the letter! Thank you SO much Katherine!

New York, March 10th/82

Mrs. James Morris
Dear Madam
You no doubt will be somewhat surprised to receive a letter from me an entire stranger, and I would much rather some other hand then mine should pen the sad intelligence which it becomes my painful duty to communicate, but as there is no other person [to] do it I deem it incumbent on me, and a duty I owe you as the companion of one with whom I have been acquainted and with whom I have been transacting business during the past winter when in this [?] to informing you that Captain James E Morris Your Husband is no more [?] time has passed into eternity before you and I. He died 5 days after leaving Jamaica with a fever incident to the climate, the mate says it was not the yellow fever – that he had his senses until he died but thinks he had no idea of his end being near. The mate, Mr Conner says he went into the cabin several times to speak with him about death but could not do it. So he died without saying anything about his family or any of his affairs. This to me is evidence of his ignorance as to his being near death, or he could have sent some message to you and his children as a lat token from a dying husband and father, which you would have cherished as a memento until your dying day. The mate says he was exceedingly restless moving continually from one place to another, could not remain quiet any time. He died and his mate and men buried him in the great deep, with the coral rock as his resting place and the waters his covering there to remain until the last trumpet shall sound and the sea shall give up its dead at the morning of the resurrection. You and I too must be among the number on that great day and meet Him. “May You our Heavenly Father give us a [part] in the first resurrection for on those the second death hath no power.”
Death is sad and sorrowful at all times and under all circumstances, but no more so when a friend of near one dies away from home and without loved ones to comfort at the last moments, or to receive words and looks of recognition and an assurance of dying peacefully in Jesus to be near and see those we love see and hear from their own lips the assurance of being ready to meet God it robs death of half its gloom and resigns one to God’s will. It’s even a consolation to [those countenancing] death to follow to the grave and to know the last resting place of those we loved. [This] dear [?] is denied you which I much regret but permit me to remind you that Our Heavenly Father has done this and “He doeth all things well.”
Although it would be a treat comfort to you to have the body of your husband buried near you that you might frequently visit his grave, but [?] in reality to him & to you it would not avail anything….. that you may be reunited with your departed husband at God’s right hand where there is no more death neither sorrow nor [?] where the tears shall be wiped from all faces.
I am dear Madam
Yours Most Respectfully
D H D[?]



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