Correspondence of the Curtis family
written in the East and Midwest from 1820 to 1868, from Shasta County, California, and
environs from 1871 to 1875, 1890, and 1891, and from Arizona Territory and California from
1881 to 1892.
In 1831, Henry James Curtis (1798-1852) of Cincinnati, Ohio married Clarissa Fisher
(1809-1849). The couple had four children: Sarah Henrietta ("Etta") (1835-1908), James Henry
(1838-1906), Delia Augusta ("Gussie") (1841-1915), and Benjamin Wisner (1847-1892); a fifth
child, Clarissa, died of cholera in 1849. After their father's death in 1852, the children
were separated and cared for by aunts and uncles. Sarah Henrietta attended a private school
in Boston, worked as a governess for a family in Memphis, Tennessee, and in 1872 graduated
from the Boston Normal School for Training Kindergarten Teachers. Delia Augusta went to
Hamilton Academy in Ohio, the State Normal School at Salem, Massachusetts, and in 1873, like
her sister, graduated from the Boston Normal School for Training Kindergarten Teachers. In
1877, the sisters moved to San Diego, California, where they opened a private kindergarten.
James Henry lived with his relatives in Covington and in Memphis, Tennessee where he worked
at a general store. At the beginning of the Civil War he had to move to Ohio, despite his
Southern sympathies. In 1863 he returned to Memphis. In 1875 he moved to Fall River Mills,
Shasta County, California and worked at a general store and post office. In spring of 1861,
Benjamin Wisner Curtis ran away from the home of his uncle in Illinois, and, having
concealed his name, enlisted in the Union Navy. He served onboard of U.S.S. Indianola and
was captured with the rest of the ironclad's crew in February 1863. He was paroled in summer
of 1863, having spent several months in Libby prison, and shortly afterwards was discharged
from the Navy. He then worked as a store clerk and a postal agent in Tennessee, Kentucky,
and Nebraska. In 1875 he went to northern California and took up a homestead at Fall River
Mills, in Shasta County. In 1881, he gave it up and went to Arizona on a mining project.
Shortly thereafter he moved to San Diego, but in 1884 was back in Arizona, trying his luck
in ranching. In 1891, he left his ranch, and returned to San Diego.
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