[1851 and 1861 St. Helena Island Autograph Letters Signed to Dr. Robert Stephenson, Summerfield, Ohio].
Two affecting letters touching on slavery, separation by war between men of common English ancestry, and themes of loss and suffering. Both letters are addressed to Ohio physician, Dr. Robert Stephenson. Stephenson, a former traveling Methodist preacher, was an émigré from England who settled in Noble County, Ohio. There he established a medical practice until removing to Iowa.
In his 1861 letter, Dr. Stephenson’s nephew (“R. Stephenson”) describes himself as a “Pupil Teacher At the British school St. Helens.”
The British island Crown colony of St. Helena was used by the British Navy as a base to suppress the African slave trade. Between 1840 and 1849, over 15,000 formerly enslaved individuals arrived there. Young R. Stephenson writes to his uncle and aunt and cousins:
I am sorrow [sic] to hear that Robert V. Thomas is in the confederate war, but I hope if it please God he will bring them out alive again. But I hope also that instead of America being a in a very unruled condition that it may be a very good government, and that every one who loves war better than rejoicing may be punished. And may America be a country long to be remembered by every nation of every tongue ... O what a glorious and good country America has been ... I hope that if you die in this war we may all meet in heaven ... We are all freemen in England and I hope you will be the same and what rejoicing there will be. ...I hope that in a short time we will have to say, Slavery, Slavery, Oh Slavery. Get out of our countries.
At the time of his nephew’s letter, Dr. Stephenson (1841–?) had recently enlisted as a private in Company D., Forty-second Ohio Volunteer Infantry. His regiment was led General James A. Garfield, future American president. Toward the end of the war, in 1864, Dr. Stephenson removed to Iowa.
The earlier 1851 letter from St. Helena is from Dr. Stephenson’s brother Joseph Stephenson, mourning the death of Dr. Stephenson’s first wife.
Description: [1851 and 1861 St. Helena Island Autograph Letters Signed to Dr. Robert Stephenson, Summerfield, Ohio].
St Helens [island of St. Helena], Nov. 19, 1851. 4 pages. 9 x 7¼ inches. Folds; separated at one fold; fair. [with:] St. Helens ibid, Nov. 12, 1861. 1½ pages. 9 x 6½ inches. Bifolium. Folds; lacks lower half of second leaf; good. Both letters darkly engrossed and easily legible.
Ref. Young R. Stephenson’s aunt was his uncle’s second wife. History of Noble County, Ohio… (Chicago, 1887).