Chapter 7 - Missouri after the Civil War, and the Return to Pennsylvania (1867-73)
William and Mildred farmed in Missouri for eight years after the Civil War, ultimately purchasing Val de Moulin. During William’s father’s final illness, however, they sold the farm and returned to Pennsylvania in 1873. Meanwhile, William’s brothers were coping with conditions in Reconstruction Georgia.
- Letters from William and Mildred to their young son John Wright Wheatley III while he was staying with William’s parents in Northumberland, 1870-71.
- Mildred’s letters to William in 1873 while he was in Pennsylvania arranging for their return, and one letter from William to Mildred. Some of these letters are surprisingly frank about their marriage and their sex life.
- Letters from the Georgia Wheatleys.
- Photos of the Humes farm north of Gravois Mills, where Mildred grew up, and where William and Mildred lived from about 1866 to 1873.
After William’s return from Montana in early 1866, he and Mildred seem to have settled down to farm in Missouri, with their children John, Mildred (Millie), and Mary Eliza. At some point they purchased Val-de-Moulin, the old Humes farm where Mildred had grown up. Thereafter they seem to have lived there, between Gravois Mills and Versailles in Morgan County; but they still owned the Johnson County farm where they had lived after their marriage. Their family grew: Thornton was born in 1867, Werner Carlin in 1869, and Harriet Gilmore in 1871.
Mildred’s brothers Joseph (“Jose”) and Thomas lived at Gravois Mills, where they ran the mill and a wool “factory”. The youngest brother, James Edwin (“Ed”), seems to have lived with their Virginia relations.
The letters presented here are in two sets. The first, from 1870-71, are from a period when young John was sent to live with his grandparents (William’s parents) in Northumberland, PA, to go to school. William and Mildred wrote to him to describe events on the farm and to admonish him to be good; and John and his aunt Kate (William’s sister, who seems to have lived at home with her parents) write back to tell of John’s progress.
The second and larger set are from 1873. William and Mildred have decided to sell the Missouri farms and move back to Pennsylvania. William travelled back to Northumberland during his father’s final illness, and was there in time for his father’s death on 14 May 1873. Through the summer, Mildred wrote to William describing events in Morgan County. Two local events drew her attention. The first was the discovery of lead and iron in the area and a resulting speculative mining boom, led by Col. Stover. The second was the outbreak of cholera in Versailles and the surrounding area. At home, Mildred had to cope with five children (Millie was in Pennsylvania) between two and thirteen years old, and manage the farm by herself. She relied on the help of various neighbours. The Allens, who had been friends of the Humeses before the War, and the Farrises were the most important of her friends. Mildred herself was not in good health and missed William very much.
Only one letter from William survives in this period: he saved Mildred’s letters, but she apparently did not save his. We have to reconstruct his activities from the Mildred’s letters and the letters of his brothers in Georgia: John, Thornton, and Charles. William had to deal with his father’s estate, and seems to have considered going into business in Northumberland. Ultimately, however, he accepted a position at the Altoona Iron Co. He had worked for an iron producer in Rome, GA, in the early 1850s, and would continue in the iron business in the Altoona area until his move to Idaho in 1889. The Humes brothers, Thomas, Jose and Ed, moved away to New Mexico and Texas some time in the 1870s. Within a few years of the writing of these letters, none of the family was left in Morgan County.
Last Updated: 1 Sept. 1998