Civil War Letter Still Connects Us

Ed. Note: This post wasn’t planned. It was just too serendipitous not to share.

While I was researching Henry Elwell’s Civil War letter and Becca and Hugh Morrison, I noticed that much of that family’s online research had been done by a Jean Plummer. And I found that a Morrison granddaughter, Winifred Grace Morrison, had married a Plummer. Hmmm…

I sent a brief email to the online Jean Plummer:

I’m writing because it looks like you’re related to Hugh H Morrison and Rebecca Elwell Morrison. I have two 1860s letters to Rebecca – one from Hugh and one from Rebecca’s brother Henry.

I got a prompt reply:

Hello Mark, thank you for the message.  How are you related?? 

Hugh & Rebecca Elwell Morrison had eleven children.  Out of the eleven only two married and from the two that married only one had a child.  My husband’s mother.  Winifred Grace Morrison born in Salina Kansas.  

Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Jean Plummer

Bingo! Jean Plummer’s husband, Robert Elwell Plummer, was directly descended from Hugh Morrison and Becca Elwell Morrison.

I explained and sent Jean “The Civil War Letter” story.

Hi Jean,

I’m not related.  I grew up in Salina, Kansas.  My mom found these two wonderful letters in an antique store in Salina in the early 1960s.

Here’s the info about “The Civil War letter.”  I was writing about the Civil War and re-read the Civil War letter.  I decided to see what I could find about Henry Elwell, so I was researching last week.  I found all your stuff, including the great photo of Hugh and Rebecca Morrison.

Here’s the upcoming story I wrote for my blog.  Hope you enjoy it.

I’ll write another email about “The Fort Larned letter.”  It’s just as good.

That’s when Jean cried.

And then she sent more interesting info on the Morrison family.

My dear Mark…  you have no idea how much these letters mean to myself, my husband and his children.

As I told you in a message, Hugh and Rebecca had 11 children, two married and only one had a child.  My husband’s mom was an only child, only grandchild and only niece.  My husband had one younger brother who passed in 2009 so he is the only one of his family left.  He has three children and 5 grandchildren to share this wonderful info with.  

During his childhood the family had a fire and all pictures were lost.  I have over the years found a few, Hugh & Rebecca Morrison, Hugh’s father Andrew Alfred Morrison and few of the sister.  We made a trip to Salina and visited the Library and Smoky Hill Museum finding diaries, maps, obits and even one corner of the original log cabin.  The only thing we have not found is a photo of his grandfather Fred Elwell Morrison.  I have searched everything for over twenty years and nothing.  

This is a special gift for our family and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You are so kind to share this great find with us.  I have a letter written in 1912 from John Alfred Morrison while here in Texas back to his father.  John & Fred came here and purchased land, John went back home and Fred met Lula Grace Robbins and married in 1924.  They went to Salina to live and had one daughter Winnie.  Grace’s mother became ill and they moved back to Texas to care for her and Grace’s father.  

I love family history as you can tell.  I have researched this family for so long it feels like my own and in a way it is.  I come from Louisiana and from a very LARGE family who are gone now.  My heart can not tell you enough how very happy and special you have made this day.  THANK you.

Please let me know if I can ever help you with anything.

Sincerely,

Jean Cupp Plummer

And even more great Morrison info.

Mark, my husband asked me to thank you again.  He was so impressed and what a great find.  Bless you for sharing this with us.

The Morrison family is very interesting.  Hugh came to the Territory of Kansas in 1859, arriving at Salina on the 14th of October and homesteaded 160 acres for a $5.00 fee.  Hugh was the first Justice of the Peace in Saline County, appointed to the office by the governor, for the purpose of swearing in the first set of County officials.  In 1861 he was elected County Clerk of Saline County.  Hugh went to Illinois and got his teaching certificate and married Rebecca Elwell in April 1862. He taught the first public school of the County in 1863-1864.  He was an honored veteran of the Civil war, serving in Company G of the Kansas State Militia, Fifteenth Regiment as a private.  All his service being against the Indians.  He was an honored member of John A. Logan Post, No. 127, Grand Army of the Republic, at Salina, and for a number of years filled the place of chaplain.  Hugh also opened the first meat market in Salina.  He furnished meat to the contractors who built the Union Pacific Railway.  For a number of years he operated a dairy on his farm.  

Your story is great and so interesting and a wonderful additional to our collection on the family history.  I had information on Mary but still not sure which one Henry is calling Lizzie.  Sarah Jane, Martha Ellen but no Elizabeth or Lizzie.  That doesn’t mean a lot when it comes to nicknames.  

You have really given us a great blessing and made our hearts very happy.  My husband started with very little info on his Morrison family and have some wonderful treasures, thanks to people like you.  I hope your mom knew what a blessing she found.  

God Bless, stay safe.

Robert Elwell Plummer & Jean Plummer

Henry’s Legacy

Henry Elwell wrote to his sister Becca on September 24, 1862. He was in camp near Louisville, Kentucky, awaiting an attack by the Confederate army.

Henry was a good writer and wrote with a clear hand. He conveyed war and family news. He added personal feelings with a sense of poetry. And he promised to rendezvous with Becca after the war, either in person or “in that happy land where all fighting will cease.”

Fate dealt Henry the ultimate verdict. He died in a Tennessee hospital in April, 1863, at age 20. Let’s hope Henry and Becca eventually met in that happy land.

Henry has certainly created a lasting legacy. Look how far he’s traveled and how many lives he’s touched. After 160 years he’s still connecting with us and with newly-discovered members of his family.

Nibbles Extra Credit

The Fort Larned Letter

You noticed my above reference to another letter – the Fort Larned letter. My mother actually found two letters at the antique store that day.

The Fort Larned letter is from Hugh Morrison to his wife Rebecca. It was written in 1864 from Fort Larned as Hugh was on an Indian raid campaign.

The Fort Larned letter is just as interesting as the Civil War letter. And now we know the cast of characters.

Fort Larned, Kansas

I’ll write about the Fort Larned letter in the next series about the Jarvis family in Kansas. My dad’s maternal grandmother and her family moved west from Fulton County, Ohio and settled south of Larned, Kansas in 1878. His mother was born on that farm in 1900. And my father was born in Larned in 1921.


Sources

  • Definition of the word Serendipitous – Oxford Languages – https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/
  • Email correspondence between Mark Jarvis and Jean Plummer – with her permission.
  • Henry Elwell’s Civil War letter – Mark Jarvis from Mary Jarvis from Morrison estate
  • Photos – Fort Larned – Mark Jarvis – May 2015
  • Photo – computer screen – Mark Jarvis – Jan 2021

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