Letters from Januarys Past


Winter always seems to catch up to Kentucky in January, and this past week has been no exception. We’ve had two dazzling snowstorms, which got me thinking about what the Croghan family was doing during past Januarys. Below are two letters written almost two hundred years ago to the day, from William Croghan, Jr. to his brother George, and from Ann Croghan Jesup to her sister, Eliza Croghan Hancock. While neither of these letters were written at Locust Grove, they give plenty of insight into life in the early nineteenth century, as well as the close bond of the Croghan family. Enjoy!

William Croghan, Jr. to Col. George Croghan


George Croghan and William Croghan, Jr. George was three years older than his brother, a lawyer who would inherit Locust Grove in 1822. Both brothers married wealthy women from prominent East Coast families.


New Orleans Jany 23, 1819

Dear George

       Your horses &c are so long comeing, & learning that they will not be fit for service if they come by water for at least a month after their arrival – I have resolved tomorrow to start to Fort Adams[.]  For the Negroes I have purchased six yokes of Oxen, which will answer very well for breaking up the ground, everything now is in readiness & in a week, I shall be hard at work on the plantation.  There are out horses &c sufficient for the negroes, if any more be wanting they must be erected at their leisure.  My Cotton seed I have just been up after, & had taken to the plantation.  The cane given me by Minor, is at his upper plantation which I will take in the boat as I come down.  

Major Lee has made a purchase within half a mile of you, for his son, he begins operations immediately.  

Why do you not write more frequently?

My Love to Papa Mama, Serena, & the family…

     William   Croghan Jr.

P.S.  Jan 25–I have just returned from up the coast, having made a purchase of Madam Victors land Six acres front, including a house worth $5000 for $3000 per acre–payable one half in May 1820 and follow 1821

Ann Croghan Jesup to Eliza Croghan Hancock


Ann Croghan Jesup and Eliza Croghan Hancock. Ann was four years older than Eliza, and lived in Washington, DC, as her husband was Quartermaster General of the US Army. Eliza and her husband George Hancock owned Locust Grove from 1828-1834.


Washington Jan 22 1828

My dear sister

       Genl Jesup has gone to Mr. Southards party, and the Children are asleep & all is so quiet about the (town or house) that I think I can write to you without interruption. I would have answered your letter immediately if Lucy Ann had not been sick but I never like to write to you without making sure all are well—she has not been well for more than two weeks. The doctor said it is want of action in her liver” that ails her, she has not been confined to her bed nor had a fever but complained constantly of pain in her bowels & lost her appetite & spirit but today & yesterday the weather was delightful sunshiney and she is much better, she has been very much confined on account of the dreadful weather that now that she begins to take the first (__) she will soon be well—she is very anxious to be well enough by the 26th to go to Miss Ringgolds little party. I have been obliged to amuse her in every way to keep her from fretting—she never tires of our  (__) about Uncle Hancock’s” I am sure I could not tell how many times both Cealy & myself have called over (__) your name, “Now mama tell me about the dear that Uncle gave me” & (__) to make out a long story about “now tell me about Tom’s (__) with (__) Betsy—now about the (__) that Aunt when she was picking blackberries & of May & of Aunt Molly & believe I have tired you out talking so much of Lucy Ann now Marys turn, she is as good humoured as when you saw her & is far prettier. She has as great a passion for “Tories” as she calls stories as her sister. She is the most mischievous creature that ever was. I have to whip her two or three times a day, but while I am whipping her she is planning more mischief & as soon as I have finished at it she goes. She always has a long story to tell her Papa about her Mama whipping her ”but but Mama” & if she does not understand her she gives him a good slap in the face. Little Jane grows finely. She looks very much like her sisters did at her age, her hair is quite black. She has grown (__) five minutes in the night indeed she is no trouble to carry on. I always dress & undress her & that is all the trouble she gives. Mrs. Findley comes to see her almost every day—I have not been and visiting until Friday last for three months. I was out all this morning with Mrs. Findlay and Mrs. [illegible lines]. Mrs. Williams would be at her house this week so I expect when will commence then with her parties. So the other secretaries wives do. I will have a dress made for you with pleasure if you will only say of what you wish it. I would advice a silk, as you say you do not want it before spring. I dare say I could send it to Fotheringay–but if you go as early as April to KY had it not better be sent there. Black watered silks are very much the fashion now—capes—collars & indeed everything one fancies, is work on the neck & I think I can tell the length for your dress; let me know how (__) your waiste is & I can have it made to fit you if you. If you want anything else let me know. When I heard from home all were well— (__) Taylor is still in the City as big a fool as ever not withstanding the PM General is his father in law—Dr. Johnston has been three weeks in the city & was quite a (illegible lines)                                                                         

Sister AH Jesup



We at Locust Grove think just as fondly of you, our  friends, as the Croghans did of their family, and we look forward to seeing you all when we re-open for 2016 on February 1!

Warmly yours,





Eliza Croghan and Cholera in Kentucky

A few weeks ago, Louisville suffered a major water main break, which meant that much of the city, including Locust Grove was under a 24-hour boil water advisory. In the midst of this event, I started thinking, as one does, about the connection between cholera and the Croghans. You see, Eliza Croghan Hancock died of cholera at Locust Grove on July 12, 1833, 182 years ago today, during a major cholera epidemic in Kentucky. Cholera, a waterbourne disease, was a common cause of death in cities, like Louisville, that were connected by river traffic. Clean drinking water through standardized sanitation practices was of especial importance to fighting the disease, but could be difficult to come by on the frontier of Kentucky. Eliza’s death from the disease occurred during  the major pandemic of 1832-1833. Lexington was hit especially hard during this period, as more than 500 people in a population of 7000 people died of cholera during the summer of 1833.

Elizabeth (Eliza) Croghan was born on April 9, 1800, the fifth child and second daughter of William and Lucy Croghan. She, along with her older sister Ann, was educated at home by her mother, father, and aunt Emilia Clarke. Eliza and Ann briefly attended Louisa Keats’ Domestic Academy in Springfield in 1810, but Eliza was so homesick they returned home to Locust Grove to finish their education. Eliza married George Hancock, a Virginia planter and the brother-in-law to her uncle William Clark on September 29, 1819. The Hancocks owned and lived at Locust Grove from 1828 to 1834.

Eliza Croghan Hancock

Eliza Croghan Hancock

As morbid as it seems, I have pulled the following letters from the Locust Grove manuscript collection between Eliza’s husband, George Hancock, and her brother-in-law, Thomas Jesup, detailing the cholera epidemic in Kentucky and Eliza’s death. As death from cholera is relatively quick, it is likely that Eliza was already suffering from another illness before her death, as indicated by Hancock’s earlier letters. Before she died, Eliza was a lively member of the Croghan family, so the first letter presented here was written by a ten-year-old Eliza to her older brother, William, Jr. I thought it might be nice to commemorate her life as well as her death.

Eliza C. Croghan to William Croghan Jr.:

[December 25, 1810]

Dear Brother

As Mr Walker is going up to Lexington Mama told me to Wright to you.  Sister Ann is just return from Cousin Eliza Gwathmy wedding and brought us some cake to dream on she says they wear very mery at the wedding and Cousin Betsy looked very pretty but what devirted me most was the blusxder Coock Robin made Aunt had a large cake made of brown sugar for the servoants and Coock Robin thru mistake toock one of Aunts best cakes and left her the one that was made of brown sugar.  The pretty Miss sally hughs is married to Mr Wade the dancing Master Mr and Mrs Hughs was very much against the match and sent Mr wade away but Miss sally said she loved him so well if he did not come back she would die so they sent for Mr wade back and they were married.  The very same day Mr wade toock his wife have behind him on his horse to Louisville home Miss Polly Prather I believe to Mr Newman.

I suppose you will be supprised to hear we are at home we went as far as Uncle Andersons but when we came to part some body began to cry recan you think it was me Mama got uneasy and said she could not part with us so here we are at home.  I am trying to learn what I can under the tuishion of Papa Mama and cousin Emilia I often think of the girls at the academy & Mama Keats, but we should have had to part some tim or other.  I think by this time I have tired you and if you will only excuse my bad writing bad spelling & bad diction I will forever be your affectionate sister.

Eliza C. Croghan

George Hancock to Genl. T.S. Jesup:

Locst Grove Octr 26th 1832

Dear Genļ

We reached home 5 days since, after a very fatigueing journey.  We found William quite ill, but…will be soon restored to health.  I was anxious that Eliza should have remained in Lexington…I could not prevail on her to do so.  She was indisposed on the road, and after arriving at home was quite ill, she is now however much better, …

Th Cholera is I think subsiding in Louisville.  Most of the cases are mild, and 4 in 5 cured – deaths about 5 to 8 per day.  The deaths almost entirely among the dissolute; the Better classes almost without an exception are cured of it.  In some instances it has been severe on farms.  Judge Speed lost 6 nigro men in 2 days.  I have had 2 cases on this place – but both cured – & I take some credit to myself for their recovery, (there being no physician at hand).  In town we have lost 2 … I intended to remove all mine, Charles yours & the Doctors to L.G. but Dr Tompkins persuaded me that if I crowd them with those here, that all will be in danger.  I therefore have left all in town.

…The farm has suffered awfully with Bilious fevers this fall, only one death however…but nearly all have been sick – some dangerously.  Chs McSorly was confined 3 weeks…my business of course much changed on the farm.  …

Yours truly

Geo: Hancock

Locust grove Nov. 1 1832

Dear Gen.

…Eliza is much recovered and in a few days will be well.  William has improved astonishingly and will be well in a week more I think.

Since my last we have had one case of Cholera – cured – and as the disease is said to be abating in Louisville, I hope we will soon have nothing to fear in the country – on yesterday a man belonging to Charles [Croghan] died very suddenly (Harry) only sick two or three hours.

…Doctr Tompkins stays constantly with us, and this of course [illegible] us somewhat to our being here.  …


Geo: Hancock

Locust Grove June 20th 1833

Dear Sir:

It has been a long time since we have heard from our friends in Washington, and I think the uneasiness on their account, felt by my wife, tends very much to retard her recovery from a violent Bilious (sic) attack.

Some days since we thought her nearly well, but within the last two days she has relapsed; and is now quite ill – Doctr Tompkins (who is with us) think her better since morning however; … the Cholera, and sickness of the neighborhood prevents my leaving home for Va.  …

–The cholera has made dreadful havoc in the country around us, on Mr Browns farm 12 men died in 36 hours.  Wm Bullitts, Wm Thompsons &c. have all suffered.  We have no case on the farm yet.  I keep us strict [illegible] and hope we may excape.

This morning it is reported that some Farmer (probably Judge Speed) has discovered an infallible remedy for it, in any Stages; having cured every case & having 40 cases.  – it is Cayenne Pepper mixed with Castor oil, and a warm Bath.  …

Geo: Hancock

Locust Grove June 24th 1833

Dr Sir

…Eliza is better today.  Mrs Pearce is with her, the Doctr thinks her convalescent.  The cholera is with us; we have 5 cases today – it yields readily to medicine and I hope none will prove fatal.  You can conceive nothing to equal the gloom spread over the country here.  No one leaves home.  Crops of wheat standing uncut, corn fields abandoned to winds. – and what makes all worse is it is incessantly raining; as yet there are few cases in Louisville.  … I hope Mrs Jesup & the children are well, and that they will come out with Mrs Croghan & see us again.

Yours truly

Geo: Hancock

Locust grove June 30th  1833

Dear Genļ

Since my last to you the Cholera has increased to an alarming extent.  We have not well ones enough to attend the sick – and it is difficult to get a Physician.  Dr. Tompkins is with us now and has promised not to leave us until Eliza is better.  I fear her situation is very critical.  My mother was taken with Cholera (I fear) tonight.  If Dr Croghan is with you for Gods sake send him on to us.


Geo: Hancock

     William Croghan, Jr.  to Charles W. Thruston:

Pittsburgh Sepr 8, 1833

Dear Charles

From my summer excursion, …I have in a great measure attained…my health, which is much improved.  The trip to Quebec, I did not make; learning when in New York of the decease of my poor dear Sister, my plans were all immediately changed, & forthwith, I hastened to Washington City, feeling a dub anxiety on the occasion for my aged Mother.  The safe return of the Dr about that time after a protracted voyage & in fine health, had a happy influence & I left her, doing quite well, & resigned to this heavy affliction.  …The Cholera here the past season, has offered to many … a pretext for not paying me my Rents, …

W. Croghan

While it was a trying 24 hours under the boil water advisory, 1833 was an even more difficult year for Louisville. I for one am certainly thankful for the Louisville Water Company, and the Lexington health ordinance that prevented pigs from roaming free in the streets.

With best regards for your continued good health,