Sometimes chance survivals give us an intriguing glimpse into particular aspects of people’s lives in the past. We have just digitized some letters which were found in the former Cronk property in Deseronto and which were written in the early 1880s, just at the point when the village switched from being called Mill Point to being called Deseronto.

The first is a letter which was started but not finished or sent. It was probably written by Sarah Jane Cronk (1850-1929), wife of Reuben Cronk (1841-1931) who was a butcher in Deseronto for most of his life. It gives a touching account of the recovery from illness of her second eldest child, Albert, who was born in 1877.

Sarah Jane Cronk's letter

She wrote:

Mill Point feb 1881
Mr William Aull
Dear Brother yours of the 7 inst came to hand and was duly Recived and I Can asure you it was with Plasuer that I Read thos Lines from you informings us of your Good health and thay found us all well But Albert he has Bin verry sick, nii unto Death But I thank the Giver of all Good that he has spared us our Child. you doe Not Know how sickness Brings you to felings of Love for your for your Children and your Maker your father & mother are well at Presant and we heard from Molly and the Children this week and they ware well then times are not Bad here this winter But the thaw has taken off all our Snow wich efects trad to some Degere some thinks that we will have Early Spring while more thinks thair will be A later Spring we were glad to here that Mrs Berry is well and the Rest of her family

Two of the other letters relate to a fugitive from justice who escaped from Deseronto to Elkland, Tioga County, Pennsylvania in 1882. As well as being a butcher, Reuben Cronk was Deseronto’s Chief of Police in the early 1880s. These two letters were both written to Cronk by the postmaster of Elkland, Eugene G. Webb, who was anxious that the fugitive, W. H. Mabey, alias Amos Hicks, should be captured and taken back to Deseronto and equally anxious that his own role in the affair should be kept secret.

Eugene Webb's letter

In this part of the first letter, written on January 28th, 1882, Webb describes the appearance and activities of the fugitive:

…also a lady to whom he was married about two weeks ago.
He has been here about a month or six weeks and is to work at the Shoe Makers trade and is running a small shop here.
He is a man about 5 feet 6 or 8 inches high, small black eyes, black mustatch, wears a black stiff Hat, light Coat and Vest dark Pants and should judge he is of foreign birth.
The lady he married was purported to come from Philadelphia Pa but have since heard she is from Canada.
In mailing a letter at my Office he requested me not to put my dateing stamp on and have surmised he was a bad caracter.
I shall keep perfectly mum and you can call on me and I will tell you where you can find him.
Hopeing I have given you sufficent evidence I must close.
Yours Very Respectfully
E. G. Webb
P.S. Please do not mention who gave you this information and oblige Yours Truly

What crime had Mabey/Hicks committed? Did Chief Cronk actually make the trip to Elkland to retrieve him?

We simply don’t know: sometimes these chance survivals just raise more questions than they answer!