Tag Archives: Asahel Platt

Letter from brother Alanson Platt

In June, 1933, Alanson Platt/Lanson visited his brother Asahel Platt in Killbuck, Ohio.  Alanson was a farmer who lived near Attica, New York at the time. In August, he wrote to Asahel worrying about the fact he had not heard from him. (See the story of Asahel Platt and his relationship to our family here.)  Asahel was the first husband of my 2x great-grandmother.

Platt letters

Asahel Platt’s brother Alanson Platt writes to him from Attica NY

Alanson Platt to Asahel 1833 pg 2

This letter was saved my my 2nd great grandmother Mary Platt Morgan and passed down to her daughter, her grand daughter, and her great grand daughter, my mother. I have a photo copy, and so this scan is not of the best quality.

Alanson had good handwriting, and was obviously educated, particularly in religion.  He spells well given that spelling was flexible to say the least in the era, and has the customary fancy handwriting.

Asahel might have been seriously ill. That is hinted at in the letter and in fact, he died in November, two months after the letter was written.

Alanson Platt wrote the letter September 13, 1833 and it was postmarked in Elyria, Ohio (near Cleveland) on September 16 to be directed to the post office in Millersburg, Ohio. Oxford/Killbuck did not yet have a post office.  From Elyria  it would have taken another three days or so to reach Millersburg, Ohio 14 miles from Killbuck.  I wonder if Asahel was well enough to read the letter, which was meant to solve perceived problems in his spiritual life. Presumably  Alanson feared Asahel would soon meet his Maker.

The letter comes in three main parts: Inquiring about the family and complaining about not getting mail; description of farm activities; concern for the soul of Asahel Platt.  In the following introduction, my  notes are in italics.

The Letter Transcript


Alanson Platt writes from Attica New York to his brother Asahel who is in Killbuck, Ohio. They were both born in Connecticut, but Alanson has lived in Attica for a year. He will later move to Ohio and is buried in Oberlin. Alanson is at least one year younger than Asahel. Asahel died in Killbuck in November 1833 at the age of 42, approximately 2 months after this letter was written.

I have inserted periods at the end of sentences and a few commas, as Alanson used no capitalization at the beginning of sentences, and no punctuation. He does capitalize words randomly (or if considered important) as they did in early 19th century.

Postal Rates

What is all this about sending as far as Cleveland by private conveyance, and filling up the paper? Until 1846, postal rates were based on sheets of paper rather than ounces, so a frugal person would fill up both sides of one sheet of paper for a bargain, which is what Alanson did. In addition to sheets of paper there were zones–so many miles meant so much postage.  Attica to Milersburg would have been 18 1/2 cents, whereas Cleveland to Millersburg would only be 10 cents–half as much!

Attica Sept 16th 1833

we feel very anxious to hear and hope if you have not already written that some one will write immediately

Dear Brother, having an opportunity to send as far as Cleavland (sic) by private conveyance, I take this opportunity to write a few lines in great haste. [We] have been looking for a letter from you for some time past and have sent to the office often for I long to hear from you not having heard anything since I left your house in June last And we have not heard anything from Lester [Alanson’s son] since he started for your house on the 3rd of July last and we feel very anxious to hear and hope if you have not already written that some one will write immediately And let us know if he has arrived. And let us know how your health is and all our friends there in Ohio.

Temperance and religion continued to flourish and increase

I have not received a letter from Csn [cousin] since I returned from Ohio but I have from brother Isaac several. [I]n his last report they were all in good health and he wrote that Temperance and religion continued to flourish and increase in that region of Country.

A Farmer’s Lament About Weather

[O]ur family are enjoying good health at present and have through the summer. I have been very busily employed since I returned from your house. the crop of grass has come in very abundant. I have but 50 tons of hay and between 20/30 loads of oats although they were not more than half a crop in consequence of the rains Mowing them on the flat ground, but the frost has cut short the corn here. [T]here has been 3 frosts in succession three nights past. we hope it has not entirely finished corn.

I feel that from a Child you have known too well the Holy Scriptures to be led away by the errorists that are around you

I want you to write me respecting the exercises(?) of your mind and whether you have a Comfortable hope that you do truly love the Lord Jesus and confide in him as your Saviour & Redeemer from sin & hell. I know that we are so inclined to look on ourselves with Complacency, that it is hard for us to come out of ourselves entirely and trust wholly in the merits of Christ for Salvation. But when we look at the Glorious plan of salvation provided in the Gospel we must admire it as the infinite wisdom of God whereby the Chief of sinners may be saved from eternal misery and make(?) him of everlasting Glory and hapiness (sic) through the atonement of Christ. I feel that from a Child you have known too well the Holy Scriptures to be led away by the errorists that are around you and I earnestly and affectionately intreat (sic) you to study the word of God with Serious & Prayerfull (sic) attention looking into and trusting in God for direction(?) and no doubt your faith will be like that of the just that shineth more and more unto that Happiest Day.

(page two)

I want to fill the sheet but have not time at present But I would commend you to God and the word(?) of his Grace, Praying that you may be led in the path of Duty by the power of the Holy Ghost through faith unto salvation. Give my ____to Mrs. Platt for I hope these few lines will find her enjoying the Comforts of a Good hope through Grace. But if they should not, tell her to continue in the exercise of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and hope will follow sooner or later as the jenuine (sic) fruit & love of faith.

Give my love to her two sisters that I saw at home and tell them that I have not forgotten to pray for them and I hope that they have not forgotten to pray for themselves if they have for me. I hope they will not forget the Lord Jesus Christ and his counsel to them in the Gospel if they should mine. O that they would be sure to ____the Saviour now in their youth for he will deliver them from the snare of the Devil.

[Mary Bassett had four sisters. The two he saw in Ohio were probably Martha Bassett Smith and Eliza Bassett Emerson, both of whom continued to live in Keene, Ohio. I have a portrait of Eliza]

Give my Love to Sister Phebe, [Their sister who lived in Mill Creek Township, Coshocton County, Ohio] and our friends and relatives there in Ohio. Likewise to Eldon Pendee(?) and all those around you that Love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

[O]ur family all send their Love to you and your and all inquiring Friends.

I ever remain your affectionate brother,

Lanson Platt

A Platt

P.S. I wish Lester Would be sure to write us soon and let us know his designs and wishes.

Note: Alanson had good reason to be concerned about Lester. He seemed to be quite the adventurer. He went from New York to Ohio and then struck out for Nebraska Territory where he was a farmer and an Indian Agent and started a school for his and his brother-in-law’s children as well as Pawnee children. The story I read covers the 40s into the early 60s of their lives. The two families lived in a Pawnee Village that was frequently raided by Sioux. After about twenty years, and being replaced by an Indian Agent who was an alcoholic (the Platts were Temperance and anti-Slavery advocates), Lester and his wife finally gave up and moved into a small town in Iowa.


Seeking Security with Asahel Platt

Asahel Platt circa 1790-1833

Mary Bassett must have felt lost and alone.  When she was 16, her family had made the difficult move from New Hampshire to Ohio. And just three years later, in 1829, her mother, Elizabeth Stone Bassett died in Keene, Ohio.

Mary’s sisters Eliza (Emerson) and Martha (Smith) and Lura (Laura) (Stone) got married soon after, and Mary followed suit.  Only sister Sarah never married.

Two Distinguished Families

Asahel Platt came from a Connecticut family, almost matching the Bassetts in historic importance.  Both Asahel and Mary had grandfathers who fought in the American Revolution. Mary’s ancestor William Bassett was a Pilgrim sailing on the Fortune in 1621. Asahel’s ancestor Richard Platt , an early settler of Milford, had emigrated from Ware in Hertfordshire, England,  a hot-bed of Puritanism about 1638 according to Families of Early Milford, Connecticut by Susan Emma Woodruff Abbott. (Google Books).

Mary conducted a small school for a short time on a farm in Coshocton County, Ohio, and I have not figured out how she met Asahel Platt. Since I am descended from Mary’s second husband, and their daughter Harriett was the informal family historian, family information about Asahel was sparse. Thanks to researching sideways through his siblings, I have pieced together some information.

The Platt Family of Milford

The Platt family came from Milford Connecticut in New Haven County. Asahel and three of his siblings were baptized on October 4, 1790 at the First Congregational Church. In total, he had 5 sisters and three brothers.  His parents were Isaac Platt (son of Isaac Platt) and Amy Eehls Platt.

Although it would be unusual for a man to marry for the first time so late in life, I have not found a record of an earlier marriage before Mary.  When his father, Isaac Platt, wrote his will in 1817, he left property to other sons, but cash to be paid to Asahel (spelled Asel in the will).  That makes me assume that at the age of approximately 27, Asahel had already left Connecticut to seek his fortune further west.

There is a tax list index that includes A. Platt in Washington County, Ohio in 1810 but I have not sought to confirm that is “our” A. Platt and if so, what more information it might give.

At any rate, somehow, Mary Bassett, just 19, met the 39-year-old Asahel Platt in Ohio, and they married and settled in Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio. Asahel must have signified stability in Mary’s so-far unsettling life. Twenty years age difference meant he was almost as old as her father.

Life Comes Undone

But Mary was not yet to have a settled life. According to my mother, Mary and Asahel had an baby who died in infancy. Then in October 1833, just four years after their marriage, Asahel died.  He must have been ailing for some time, because I have a letter to him from one of his brothers that was written in September 1833 asking about his health and complaining that he has not heard from him since the past June. The letter hints at concerns about his spiritual health as well.(You can see the entire letter in a post below this one.)

In a double blow, Mary’s father also died in 1833. Now she was an orphaned, 23-year-old-widow. Fortunately, Asahel owned land and goods and had some cash, so she was not destitute, but the will specifically sets aside enough to sustain the widow for ONE YEAR.

What I Learned From Asahel Platt’s Probate Papers

When I chanced upon the legal papers regarding the settlement of Asahel’s estate I was in for some surprises.

First, our family records spell his name Ashel, no doubt because that is what is on his tombstone in the Killbuck cemetery, but that is not the official spelling. (Not that anyone in the 19th century cared about spelling.)

Second, he had no will. Only forty-three years old, death caught him unprepared.

Third, I was reminded that women had no legal standing when I noticed that a receipt for funds for Mary Morgan (late widow of Asahel Platt) did not sign her own name. Instead, this intelligent woman who was to become a competent businesswoman, had to sit back and watch her new husband, Jesse Morgan sign for her.

Jesse Morgan

Jesse signs receipt from her first husband’s probate for Mary Morgan, 1846

Fourth, looking at the somewhat puzzling inventory of his belongings–ribbons? merino shawls?a white “vail”, five pairs of men’s gloves 8 pocket knives, 10 razor straps and posts and on and on for several pages, I wondered what he was doing with all that stuff.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

Then a light bulb went on in my head–he was a merchant. He must have owned a general store in Killbuck. I can’t help wondering if in those early years before he married he was a traveling peddler. His brother’s letter to him in 1833 hints at a restless spirit.

Asahel’s  will leaves Mary quite well fixed, with three pages of furniture and other items set aside for the widow. The settlement of the estate dragged on from Asahel’s death in November 1933 until September 1946 until the will was settled.  I began to think I was re-reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. (The dark satire on law and the courts follows a case called Jarndyce vs Jarndyce that drags on into infinity.) By the time probate closed, Mary had been married to her second husband for six years, and faced a new set of problems.

Asahel Platt

This pillar in the Killbuck Cemetery matches the stone of Mary Bassett Platt Morgan.

Ashel Platt Killbuck cemetery by Debe Clark

Note the variant spelling of his first name in this closeup of his tombstone. Photo from Find a grave, by Debe Clark.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of 
  • Harriett Morgan Stout, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan who was married first to Asahel Platt.

Notes on Research

Letters from Alanson Platt to Asahel Platt (1833) and Mary Platt Morgan (1853). Copies of letters our family has kept. In the 1853 letter regarding some legal issues, Alanson lists all of the Platt siblings and where they were living at that time.  He even included the married names of the women in the family. Thank you Alanson. And thank you Mary Morgan and Hattie Stout and Vera Stout for keeping these letters in the family for future researchers.

Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920, Vol. 071 Town of Milford,  First Congregational  Church, Ancestry.com Several pages refer to Platt family members.

Indiana Genealogy: Articles Appearing in the Indianapolis, Ind. Sunday. Specific listing of William Bassett (Pilgrim) and descendants cites D. A. R. Magazine Vol. 60 No. 6, 1926-12542.

Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Holmes County, Asahel Platt Probate Records 1833-1846.

Find a Grave, Ashel Platt.  Photos of tombstone are by Debe Clark, used with permission from Find a Grave.