Transcript of Letter from Eunice Elizabeth Thompson Blanchard (1824) to Agnes Sophia Blanchard Lapham (1815)

Letter transcribed by Jean Ohai

An 1857 letter from Eunice Elizabeth Thompson Blanchard to her sister-in-law Agnes Sophia Blanchard Lapham in either Livonia, Wayne, Michigan or Farmington, Oakland, Michigan.

Norton Lapham, her brother-in-law, was born in Palmyra about 1800. Asaph was sent to Michigan about 1839–1840 as a missionary when he was expelled from Missouri after he arrived with Kirtland Camp. Imagine coming to preach to a brother-in-law who probably knew Joseph Smith!

Springville Aug the 4 1857

Dear Sister and friends it has been a long time since I have seen you but I have not forgotten you therefore I write a few lines to you to inform you that we are all well and sincerely hope that this may find you and yours the same. We received your letter with great joy it being the first we had herd from you since we left Michigan [1842] but I hope and trust it will not be the last we have lived here in the Vallies of the rocky mountains 5 years this fall and it is a strange place to live in we can see the snow on the highest peaks of the mountains the year round and yet it is as warm in the Vallies as it is in the States and much milder in the winter there is great crops here this season we shall have from 4 to 5 100 bushels of grain this year wheat is 2 dollars per bushel there is not much fruit here yet but most all kinds of fruit will grow here it is a healthy country here no one has the fever and ague here and is verry good water here very much like York state good and groceries are verry high and verry scarce Shugar is 50 cts per pound coffee dito tea 2 Dollars per pound ints 25 cts per yard Domest 20 hickory 25 and other goods in proportion and money is as scarce as chickens teeth we never was in as suffering situation for Clothing as we are now Mother is well and is 79 years old last feb and she can spin from 30 to 40 nots of filling a day, she sends her best respects to you all and to Father and Mother Blanchard there are a great many things that I would like to tell you but it would take more than one choir [quire] of paper there fore I shall have to be brief you wanted to know all about the many Wives that they have here I will tell you nearly every man that can has from 2 to 59 and 15 wives and the heads of the church have a great many more than that and the man that has yet but one wife is a looking out for more that is the truth of it Asaph has not got any more but it is not because his will is not good enough for he believes in the principall as it suits the men first rate but I do not and they know better than to come where I am and that is one reason why he has not got any more and it causes a great deal of trouble between us I will assure you that I have trouble enough and all the vexation that I can live under with regard to a great many other things that I dare not tell but as their plurality of wives is a publick thing I take the liberty to tell about that just think for a moment how could you enjoy yourself in such a community I would be glad if I was away from here but I expect I never shall bee for it was my children that brought me here and that is what keeps me here for I never will leave them till death separate us the heads of the mormons have propecied that there is a coming a great famine in the United States that will last for 7 years and that the people must lay up their grain for the famine and they say that the people of the States will be glad to come here with their gold and silver and fine appearl to buy their bread and Asaph thinks his folks will some day be glad to come here but be that as it may if I was there I would rather stay there and starve than to come here and have all the wheat I could get that is the way I feel about it you wanted to know about Demings he lives north of Salt Lake City about 60 or 70 miles from here and I have been told that he had 2 or 3 wives and that is all I know about him and Frederick [Winegar, husband of Cynthia Blanchard] the last we herd from him was living in Potawamy Co Iowa we do not hold correspondence with him and therefore know but little about them I believe I have answered all your inquiries I took it upon myself to answer your letter Because it is a great task for Asaph to write and therefore I do not think he will he is verry tenacious about his religion and I therefore to keep peace in the the family have not let him know that I have wrote this letter for if I had he would know my mind about the Church and that would lead to a final seperation between us thus you see that I dare not say any thing against the church before him or he would fly in a pashion in a moment thus you see the vexation that I have to live in in once sence of the word I dare not say that my soul is my own to now one here we live without the necesaries comforts of life such as tea coffee and shugard bread and butter and vegetables is the principal living here pork and beef are verry scarce pork is 25 cts per pound beef 12 cts per pound We live here in Cities that are waled in and four principal gates to pass out at on account of Indians although they are jeneraly tolerably friendly we have one acre in the city and the farming land outside the wall one mile from the city. When it is well with you think of us remember me I will send you a lock of each of my childrens hair and their names and age I must draw my letter to a close I want you to write as soon as you get this and set my mind at rest for I shall be very anxious to know whether you get this or not I will answer all your letters and inquireries if I can get the letter stamps but they hold them at cash and there is not any that I can get give my res0pects to Father and Mother Blanchard and to Worthy and family and Samuel and to all inquireing friends ?my best respects to you and Norton and family I must now close by subscribing myself your affectinate Sister Eunice E. Blanchard to Agnes Lappam

Give Asph’s respects to this father and Mother and to all his brothers and Sisters and to all inquireing friends, when you write take pattern by my letter and write a long one it does not cost any more if you get as tired of reading as I am of writing you will excuse me this time

Eunice E. Blanchard

Comments from Jean Ohai

Norton Lapham was born in Palmyra, NY about 1800. He was a member of a large and prominent Quaker family (there was a Quaker Meeting near Palmyra in Farmington, Ontario, New York). Norton migrated to Farmington, Oakland, Michigan in 1825. The Blanchards had lived in Erie County near other Laphams — I’m not sure of their relation to Norton, and they did give one of their daughters Lapham for a middle name.

In 1827 Norton Lapham first married Laura Blanchard, who died after less than a year of marriage. Five years later, he married her younger sister, Agnes Sophia Blanchard. Apparently, the parents then left Ashtabula County to go to Michigan where they would be looked after.

Asaph Blanchard, a recent widower, was sent on a mission to Michigan where he met and married the 17-year-old Eunice Elizabeth Thompson, whose mother was a Mormon. They moved to LaHarpe, Hancock, Illinois in 1843, and then lived in a dugout at Garden Grove from 1846 to 1852. I don’t think she was baptized until 1853, and it appears she was baptized and then sealed to him in 1854 mostly to keep the peace. And he never got a plural wife. I suspect the endowment ceremony was where she drew the line as to what she would tell her sister-in-law. I’m sure she sings a different tune now on the other side and is glad she didn’t leave.

The reason we have this letter is that there were at least two visits to Utah of Blanchard relatives and on one of these occasions, the letter was returned to Eunice. We are lucky to have a few letters in this family, one or two that go back over 160 years. It only whets the desire to know more.

I decided I wanted to find out who the Deming was that Eunice Elizabeth provides the information on. He is most likely Moses Deming, who probably lived in Livonia [Lonora in the garbled version in Susan Easton Black’s database], Wayne, Michigan — the next county over to Agnes and Norton Lapham — and the community where Father and Mother Blanchard lived. Father Blanchard was from Berkshire County, Massachusetts as was Moses Deming. So an acquaintanceship seems likely if not an outright friendship.

Now Moses Deming did live and die (1871) in Salt Lake City. He does have three wives listed in the Ancestral File. Here’s where it gets interesting. It’s the wife who isn’t listed in the Ancestral File that’s one of those odd connections. She was Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young — Brigham’s Wife No. 19 who sued him for divorce and created a legal conundrum. She married Moses Deming after the “divorce.” The marriage lasted only three years and no one knows whatever became of Ann Eliza after her career of public lecturing ended.

So playing the degrees of connection game — what are the odds of finding a non-Mormon couple, such as Agnes and Norton Lapham. He was born in Palmyra and probably knew Joseph Smith. Together they know the man who married Brigham Young’s most notorious wife.

This is fun.