Are any letters written during the Civil War hidden in your home’s walls?

In the 1990s, the Gill family renovated their home in rural Maine. It happened to be the house that my great-great-grandfather was born in and grew up in from 1854 to 1880. The Gills tore down a wall and found something shocking.

I was fortunate to talk to Mrs. Gill over the phone this week. She moved into the home in northern Maine with her husband and three children 47 years ago, and they have lived there ever since. She shared the history of my ancestors while sitting in the living room they used during the 19th century. Mrs. Gill told me that my ancestors built high-end carriages and sleighs, painted them, and stored them in the barns on her property 130 years ago. They ran quite the business!

But then, she told me about her favorite discovery. When she and her husband tore down some of the original interior walls to do renovations, they uncovered a hand-written letter. It was from the early 1860s and written by Mary Ann Lovejoy, my great-great-great-grandmother. She wrote it to her 20-year-old son, Rufus Lovejoy while he was serving in the Civil War. 

Collins and Mary Ann Lovejoy, who raised their family in Mrs. Gill’s house during the 19th century. 

Rufus served in the Union Army from December 2nd, 1863, until October 24th, 1865, for almost two years.

1 In the letter, Mrs. Gill said that Mary Ann discussed “general” life updates for the time. The letter is at the local heritage society, which I have already reached out to. I have anxiously been checking my inbox for a response every 15 minutes all day.

List of draftees recorded on July 1st, 1863, including Rufus N. Lovejoy, my great-great-uncle.

So, what’s on your wall? Please don’t go and take the axe to your living room walls in search of a family treasure! But then again, you never know what you might find…

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my posts and for subscribing. It truly means the world to me that you like what “Genealogy Jack” has to share and I sure hope you’ve taken things away from what you have read over the past six months.

Jack Palmer is a History and Psychology double-major at Duke University. I’ve done genealogy research since I was 10 and love writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy a blast from the past.


The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War; Series Number: M123; Record Group Title: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Record Group Number: 15; Census Year: 1890 (Rufus N. Lovejoy); IMAGE: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); NAI: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 4 of 5 (Rufus N. Lovejoy).

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