Life in 1860s Greenfield

Jim Arthur provides us with an interesting letter from Zacharias Sipe (Arthur’s great-great-grandfather) to his brother, John, who lived in York County, Pennsylvania. The 1863 letter has interesting information about life in Hancock County, especially in the Willow Branch area.

“Jan. 18th, 1863

Dear Brother and Friends. I take my pen in hand to drop a few lines to let you know that we are all well at present except Franklin. He is not stout yet. He had a heart spell of sickness. This fall he head the fever and a swollen leg something like the _____. He was very bad for about 6 weeks so that he couldn’t help himself at all and Mary Alice she had the ague while this fall but she is well and hardy again. That was the sickness we had all summer. Dear Brother we received your letter this morning and was glad to hear from you and sad to hear you had a bad spell o sickness as the small pos (probably small pox) is very dangerous sometimes and I was glad to hear from your father and mother and the rest of our friends, and hoping as these few lines may find you all in good health again. We would like to see you if we could but we are so far apart that we can’t ascertain anything one by letters and we can glad that we can that way. If you write to me again, how (is) George and his family and Elizabeth. Some of the family don’t write to me and I am anxious to hear from them. About the draft. We had no draft in our township.There were 6 men liken filling the quota and we made up money and hid men to avoid the draft. About broom corn, there are very little in this part of the country. Not more. The people want to won youth. I don’t know for one closer. The butter country Ohio. They raise a good deal there so I am told to sell about. I am still here on the old place yet trying to farm a little. Last summer I raised 175 bushels of wheat. 18 head of hogs, raised one mule. Sold for $50 18 months old and raised some cattle and stock hogs. Market price, wheat 100, rye 50, corn 30, potatoes 50, apples 50, butter 12, eggs 13, coffee 35, sugar 15, fodder 20/30, chicken $1.50. Turkeys 50 cents apiece. Leah raised 16 and sold for 50 cents apiece. Franklin he about to pick __. Write soon. Direct your letter to Willow Branch post Hancock Indiana. Zacharias Sipe.”

This was the Civil War period in Hancock County, and although difficult to read in some cases, this letter provides a window on what it was like in the Willow Branch area. Hancock County was Pro-Union, but did have its share of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers. It is estimated that 209 Hancock County citizens died in the Civil War.

The Hancock County Democrat newspaper gave the following description when Robert E. Lee surrendered, “Bells were ringing, bonfires were built, powder was fully used and all the business of the day were suspended.”

Enough. I have told you everything that I know and some things I don’t. Talk to me.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or