West Granby Methodist Church Letters
Many former ministers of the West Granby Methodist Church wrote to Myron, remembering and thanking him for his help and kindness. William K. Hayes, now a minister in Worcester, Massachusetts, wrote, “We miss our neighbors, the debates, the Prayer Meetings. People live isolated lives here and do not run in and get acquainted as in Granby.”
Rev. John Pegg wrote, “Brother Graham, God has gifted you with strong mental powers. I wish I might longer enjoy its discriminating and convincing energy. I did like to hear you debate. Tell Brother Fancher I love to remember his smiling face and his pleasant words.”
Newly appointed West Granby minister, J. McBride, wrote to ask Myron if there was any available support, “because owing to ill health, my wife will find it difficult to move as soon as expected. My family consists of four children, which of course will require to be looked after by me.”
A Bristol minister, S. C. Cheney, wrote about a Methodist company going to Kansas, “Brother Barns and Mr. Mack have returned from Kansas. Two others left with them. They were fearful that the Shawnee Reserve will be found to cover a part of their claims—could not get lumber—living was poor and high. I have no doubt you will claim enough there, but you may find it difficult to get timber claims such as you would like. You will see some of the company should you visit the “Big Mound” in Kansas.”
The “Big Mound” probably refers to a Native American burial mound. The mounds were built by many different cultures over thousands of years. The mound builders lived throughout the American Midwest. There is a burial mound in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, left in place as the streets go around it.
Myron also heard from the Office of American Transportation Co. in New York, but written from St. Louis, Missouri. “My advice is for you or your friends is go to Kansas. Lands can be had of good quality on the line of the N. M. Railroad, 12 miles from St. Louis, for 75 cents per acre. Smaller tracts, 40 and 80 acres, five to six miles back from the railroad, for 12 ½ cents per acre. Good lands on the South P. Railroad can be had for $2.50 per acre, 60 to 100 miles from this City. These lands are sold by the government, the railroad taking every alternate section for building the Railroad.
The N. M. Railroad was a subsidiary of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and South P. was the Southern Pacific Railroad. Railroads were very involved with the sale and settlement of western lands.
Nineteen-year-old Myron received a long letter from his parents, Erastus and Hilpah Graham, in 1832. He was living away from home and working for someone, either on a farm or perhaps in a small factory. He may have learned his trade as a wheelwright in a carriage factory. His father said he would tell of North Canton incidents, since Myron was “in the land of strangers. It has been a general time of health here, no cholera anywhere but Hartford, and few cases there. Political excitement very high, crops generally good.”
Erastus also offered some parental advice, “Be careful of what you now enjoy (good health) and be not so engaged in business as to injure or destroy it, but be faithful to your employer, although you are in a land of strangers where vice and wickedness reigns.” The evil and wicked place where poor Myron was dwelling among strangers was West Granby! A quiet village less than ten miles away from his insular parents in North Canton.
A brief note in 1843, from E. N. Graham (probably a relative) of Naugatuck, said he was going eeling, that Edwin had arrived and send $8.
Many Granby diaries and letters mention going eeling, and people would happily brag that they caught 30 or more eels. Eels were a very popular meal in the 19th century.
Myron’s daughter Rosalia was working in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1864 and wrote to her father, also calling him Sir. “I like my work. I shall have to give two weeks notice if I leave in order to get my pay. I want to spend Election at home, so you may tell Uncle Harold that if agreeable to his wishes, I will keep house for him after Election, for $2 a week.”
The family papers also include Myron Graham’s Probate Record. Although he died in 1868, the probate wasn’t concluded until 1870. His oldest son, Oscar, was administrator. The estate was valued at $1,830.63 with debts of $1,407.61, leaving $432.02 for the heirs. The heirs were his wife Gunelda and children; Oscar, Adelbert, Rosalia and Estelle A.
Myron’s estate in today’s dollars would be worth over $36,000 with under $10,000 left for the heirs. That doesn’t seem like much money, but in 1869, there was a “Black Friday” in the United States, when unscrupulous investors Jay Gould and Jim Fisk tried to corner the gold market. The resulting crash may have affected the economy in Connecticut.
However, the widow Gunelda still had the family home to live in, the family farm for her support and sons to work the farm. Myron may not have been a wealthy man, but he was respected in his town, held many responsible town offices and freely contributed his time and talents to his church and his community.
All that is known about Myron Graham is found in the letters saved by his descendants, and only a fraction were saved. His character and ability is revealed in the way people wrote to him. There is also a paper trail in the Granby Town Records, Granby Vital Records and the census records. We have no photographs of Myron and Gunelda; he didn’t leave a diary, account books or other writings. Nobody who knew him is alive today. And yet, these documents let us know what kind of a person he was.
In this day of endless social media, facebook, emails, tweets, texts and pictures stored in the clouds – what will define the people of the 21st century?