Worth Family Papers
Manuscript Diaries of John Worth, of Mattituck, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, 1860-1894, with Diaries and Incoming Correspondence of his wife Nancy Havens Lester Worth, 1834-1905

The collection consists of the following: 31 diaries (approximately 10,042 manuscript pp.) written by John Worth for the years 1860-1861, 1864-1886, 1888-1891, 1893-1894. 2 diaries (approximately 494 manuscript pp.) written by Nancy Havens Lester Worth, dated 1869 and 1872. 2 volumes of financial accounts (approximately 319 manuscript pp.) kept by John Worth for periods of 11 March 1880 to 22 December 1883 and 9 January 1884 to 24 April 1894. With: 106 letters, 338 manuscript pp., dated 1834-1930, mainly incoming letters to Mrs. Nancy Havens Lester Worth Plus: 5 photographs and 58 pieces of ephemera including: 33 calling cards or invitations; 10 pieces of printed matter such as brochures, programs, etc., and 15 pieces of manuscript and printed material such as letterhead receipts, telegram, manuscript notes, used envelopes, etc.

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John Worth (1813-1894)

John Worth was born 4 August 1813 at Mattituck, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. He was the son of James Worth (1775-1856) and his wife Nancy Tooker (1786-1831). John's father James Worth was born in Mattituck and was the son of Jonathan Worth (1745-1835) of Suffolk County, New York, and his wife Mary Edwards (1745-1821). James Worth purchased the Kirkup Farm, acquiring the first half in 1807 and the other half in 1825. This farm was located between Pesapunck Neck and Reeves Neck, and was sometimes referred to as the "Neck Farm."  It was held by him and after him by his son John until 1864 when he sold it to Frances J. Bryan. James Worth in 1825 purchased half interest in the tide mill, near the inlet in Mattituck, which was built in 1821 by Richard Cox, of Oyster Bay, who secured permission from the town to erect and maintain the dam and tide gates. This mill was run for some years by Cox and his sons, who did a large and increasing business. The property became valuable and shares in it were sold after five or ten years to several parties, James Worth being one, who purchased half the shares.

John Worth's mother Nancy Tooker was born in Coram, Suffolk County, New York. She moved to Mattituck after her marriage and she died there in 1831. James and Nancy Worth had at least five children: Maria Worth  (1800 - 1875), who married in 1835 to John Conklin, of Aquebogue, New York; John Worth (more later);  Charlotte E. M. Worth (1816-1841) who died young at 25 years of age without marrying; Jerusha Worth (1820-1903) who married Capt. James Edwin Horton (1816-1895), son of Hector Youngs Horton and Dency Tuthill, he was a sea captain, circumnavigating the globe at least four times; and George Worth (1826-1831) who died young at 4 ½ years of age.

John Worth, the second child of James and Nancy Worth, was born 4 August 1813, at Mattituck, Suffolk, New York. He married twice. His first wife was Mary Hallock Clark (1819-1844). She was also born at Mattituck. The couple married about 1835 and had four daughters: Emily A. Worth (1838-bef 1900); Nancy M. Worth (1839-1912); Charlotte Worth (1842-?); and Mary Worth (1844).

After the death of his first wife and needing a mother for his four daughters, John Worth was married a second time about 1858 to Nancy Havens Lester. She was born 18 October 1820, at Bridgehampton, Suffolk County, New York. She was the daughter of Richard Lester (1797-1879) of Amagansett, Suffolk County, New York and his wife Sarah Frances Havens (1796-1843) of Shelter Island, also in Suffolk County. Her parents moved to Bridgehampton, where Nancy was born.

John Worth was listed as a farmer in the 1860 and 1870 Censuses. A printed envelope in this collection was more specific, it states he was a "Dealer in Hay, Grain, Poultry, Live and Dressed Hogs, Small Fruits in their season, and Farm Produce in general." The 1860 Census found him enumerated at Southold, L.I., Suffolk Co, New York, and in 1870 enumerated at Mattituck, Suffolk Co, L.I., New York.

Together John and Nancy Worth had at least one daughter, Alice Havens Worth, who was born 21 October 1859, at Mattituck. She married about 1888 and died 17 January 1944. A newspaper article (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 5 June 1904, Page 24) states Alice was "one of the most successful farmers on Long Island..." Her father John Worth's farm was divided at his death between Alice and two half siblings. She worked her portion and bought out her half-siblings and worked a farm of ten acres. She made all decisions of the farm, such as what to plant, and did a lot of the labor herself, and sold the produce via truck farming. The farm was located on the main road in Mattituck, almost in the middle of the village. Her produce was of a high quality and she asked and got high prices.

Alice Havens Worth married Manuel Boutcher. He was born 18 April 1858 and died 26 July 1905. He was the son of John Boutcher (1818-1902) and Elizabeth Bryce (1818-1887). Manuel was seen in 1900 as a railroad laborer (L.I. Railroad). Together Alice and Manuel had several children.

John Worth died 7 May 1894 and was buried in the family burial plot at Bethany Cemetery in Mattituck. His wife Nancy is found after his death enumerated in the 1900 and 1910 Censuses within the household of her daughter Alice at Southold, Suffolk Co., L.I., New York. In 1910, her daughter Alice, at 50 years old, was widowed with two children.

Nancy Havens Lester Worth died on 5 March 1911, at Mattituck, she was 91 years old and the oldest person in the Mattituck Presbyterian Church at the time. She was survived by her daughter Alice and a brother, the Rev. Dr. William Havens Lester of West Alexander, Pennsylvania. This brother is represented in this collection by several letters to his sister. Nancy's daughter Alice also wrote several letters.

Description of Diaries, Account Books, & Correspondence:


There are 33 diaries in all, 31 volumes written by John Worth and 2 volumes written by his wife Nancy Havens Lester Worth. John Worth's diaries represent a nearly continuous 34 year span, with diaries missing only for the years 1862-1863, 1887, and 1892.

John Worth's diaries have 9,133 manuscript pages of diary entries and 909 manuscript pages of memorandum notes and cash accounts at the rear of the diaries, for a total of 10,042 manuscript pages. The two diaries of Mrs. Worth have a total of 476 manuscript pages of diary entries and 18 pages of memorandum notes and cash accounts at rear. The total number of pages for the diaries of John and Nancy Worth are 10,536 manuscript pages. From the available diaries of John Worth, he does not appear to have missed a day's entries. Some are short, others longer. Only in the year 1894 was his diary not complete. In this diary the last entry is for May 3rd. John Worth died four days later on 7 May 1894.

Most of the diaries are 3" x 6" black leather pocket diaries, with folding limp cover flaps; a couple diaries are slightly smaller, or larger. Two volumes have water damage (1877 and 1885), the volume for 1879 has a very worn cover, and is almost detached, a couple of diaries have the text block separated, but covers present, otherwise volumes are good, with wear to tips, corners, edges, and covers rubbed or scuffed.

The entries in the diaries of John Worth present the life of a Long Island farmer. He was a dealer in hay, grain, poultry, live and dressed hogs, small fruits when they were in season, as well as general farm produce. He appears to have travelled considerably within his area of Long Island, in a number of entries he records his mileage. He also reports on the local weather of Mattituck, what he is selling that particular day, buying, or in some case trading. We learn of his family and social circles, his religious life, and the various activities he enjoyed. The two diaries of his wife are similar and overall one gets a picture of the social history in Suffolk County, Long Island, as the Worth family was an old and well established family in the area.

Account Books

The two account books kept by John Worth appear to deal with the expenses and income from his farm, buying and selling pigs, grain, hay, and other commodities. They are dated for the periods of 11 March 1880 to 22 December 1883 and 9 January 1884 to 24 April 1894. Worth died about two weeks later on 7 May 1894. These two volumes are bound in leather, with bindings worn, lacking spines, boards detached, some leaves loose.

Description of Correspondence

The correspondence consists of 91 letters, 301 manuscript pp., dated 1834-1905, with the bulk dating from the 1850s-1870s. These are incoming letters to Mrs. Nancy Havens Lester Worth, second wife of John Worth. Of the 91 letters, 16 are not dated, and, of these 16 letters, 4 are addressed to Nancy before she married John Worth, which was c1859.

There are an additional 15 letters, 37 pp., dated 1851-1930, which include 4 incoming letters, 14 pp., to Alice Worth, daughter of Nancy and John Worth, from family and friends; 4 incoming letters, 11 pp., to John Worth from his children, 2 from Alice who was his child with Nancy from his 2nd marriage, and 1 from John Jr. and 1 from probably Charlotte, both children from his 1st marriage to Mary H. Clark; 2 letters, 4 pp., written by Nancy H. Worth, 1 to her husband John Worth and 1 letter to her daughter Alice; and 5 miscellaneous letters, 8 pp., from various individuals.

The letters to Nancy are mostly written by her siblings (Wm. H. Lester, E.M. Lester, Hettie M. Lester, her cousins (Jonathan Havens Burdick, Ettie E. Burdick, Esther A. Havens, J.A. Howell, Julia L. Clyde, & others), and aunts & uncles (Aunt A. D. Burdick, Aunt Mary Jane Havens, Uncle Albert, Uncle J.H. Havens, Aunt Francis Burdick, Aunt Esther Tindall, Aunt Nancy Lester). There is one letter from her mother Sarah Lester, one letter from her husband John Worth, and one letter from her daughter Alice Worth. There are several letters from friends as well. Her siblings appear to be dispersed and are located in Princeton, NJ (where her brother William Lester attended Princeton Theological Seminary), East Alexander, PA, and Montauk, Easthampton, and Bridgehampton, all on Long Island, NY. Her aunts, uncles, and cousins write from various locales on Long Island and New York City, such as Brooklyn, Bridgehampton, Brewster Station, North Haven, and North Salem. Nancy's friends write from the same locations.

Examples from the Letters:

"July 23d '54

Dear Cousin,

I received your letter a few days since and take my first chance to write you a few lines. I have not been well for a week past have had a breaking out. I think nit was the scarlet rash there has been a considerable of that and scarlet fever and some cases of colera-morbus one fatal Mr. Gabriel Halsey.

I suppose you want to hear all the news if there is any I will write all I can think of. I don't know much about the folks to your old dad's. George was here for 3 weeks since a few minutes he was well and said he had written to you and left it to E. Hampton for Kelty to finish or write some in it. Now Nancy don't take it to heart so much because W don't write to you, it is not because he don't think of you. I know you may expect to hear from him before the first of Sept for he said he should write to you in season so you may depend on having a letter if you have not already received one. I think he must have his hands full for he has a large congregation besides being principal of an Academy. Samuel is home on a visit, expects to go away the 1st of Aug it will be about a month at home it seems very short but so it must be we have extremely hot weather but it is very pleasant this season of the year  we a very hot fourth but we went to Sag Harbor notwithstanding  heard a first rate oration from Hon. Frank Tuthill then went to a fair and took dinner in S Harbor. We had a real nice time did not quite roast. The Presbyterians in S. H. had a fair and a sewing society fair, merely refreshments and toys. I don't know how much they cleared but they did very well I believe.

I have another marriage to tell you about. Miss Louise Halsey was married a shortime since to a Mr. Palmer from [Corm?], a young widower. She went last winter and boarded with Mother Howell in Hartford and worked at the book folding, in that way became acquainted with Mr. bookbinder whom she has married. How is it Nancy ant you found a bachelor, widower, or somebody for a life partner. I don't know but you ought to have had Benjamin I can't help thinking so sometimes. We all want to see you. You must come early in the fall and spend the winter with us. If we know when you are coming John will meet you if he can, but you know how it is when they are busy they cannot always leave their business and so if you should come and see nothing of him on the dock don't stop in the Harbor t. The better way for you is to jump into the stage, the driver will see and get your things, tell him which they are, then you can walk from Bulls Head leave your things there. I am thus particular because it might so happen that John could not meet you and I want you to come right here not stop in the Harbor.

Mother sends her love to you and wants you to come and spend the winter by that time you may have another home. Sammy and I are calculating to go to Hartford tomorrow if we can make it come right. I believe I have no more to write at present....S.A. Howell"

"B. Hampton, Feb 7, 1859

Dear Cousin Nancy,

With much pleasure I take my pen to answer your letter which I received yesterday. I have thought a great deal about you since I last saw you in BHampton, & since Esther has been sick I can hardly find time for writing or to do anything for myself. She has a daughter 4 wks old, she can't sit up any, the trouble is in her limbs or legs rather  the doctor don't consider her dangerous but says it will be a good while before she gets well she has her sister to take care of her & it takes her & John both about all the time to take care of her for she wants a sight of waiting upon & cross. Oh me it is well she has her sister and that she has a good stock of patience for I don't think any one else would stay with her to be scolded so much. Oh Nancy, I do so much want to see you for I have such lots of things to say to you that I cannot write. I want to have a good talk & say what I am a mind to as we used to in times gone by for its a long time since we have had that pleasure. I want a house of my own & can you blame me. Nancy, don't you think its real mean I can't have it don't you think you should if you were in my place & had been married as long as I have. Its a great inconvenience to be poor but I never realized it so much though as I have of late. I would like very much to come & see you I should have come when George went to N. York but mother felt so bad for fear Esther would be sick while I was gone that I gave it up. It seems as though three was a spell I have not been any where to spend a night since I was to N. York excepting to Hartford last summer, shant break my husband spending money to run about shall I think I am coming to see you anyhow some time or other.

Mother is slim enough the extra stir & noise has been altogether too much for her weak head. She sends much love to you & many wishes for your happiness.

I don't know that I have any news to write excepting the death of Daniel Howell he died very suddenly in a fit last week.


I have not see Hetty but once since the morning you were married. She & George were here one afternoon. John saw George & he said Hetty was not well.

Samuel has gone to Cadiz & from there he goes to Palermo. Its discouraging going to sea now, he don't get as good wages, only 10 dollars a month, as he could 2 yrs ago. Nancy how would you like if your husband was away off where mine is this cold winter, but no matter for me. I would have a sailor & now I must take the consequences. I except if it was to do again, I should do just the same. I want you & Mr. Worth to come & see me very much you must come if we are sick, the rest have all retired my fire is out & I must bring my letter to a close. Be sure & write soon, I should like to hear from you very often & accept this with much love from your cousin J.A. Howell"


"Brewsters Station, Nov. 22 1868 Putnam Co., N.Y.

Mrs. Nancy H. Worth

My Dear Niece,

I with much pleasure perused the letter enclosed, with that written to Abby. We are all well but Etty and I feel a good deal of anxiety about the result of her malady whatever it may be: But I hope for the best. I am already bereaved of my beloved son Franky. I suppose you know he was enticed in to the army under the pretense to save the Union; he never would have enlisted had he have known the war would have merged into a Nigger Crusade (as it was intended by the White Niggers of the North). It was a foul murder, and I hope the time will come when his murderers' necks will grace a lasso on a gallows higher than Haman's. Frankly was a good boy. I had hoped he would have lived to cheer me on in my declining years, but my hopes are blasted. I wish you and Mr. Worth and family would come and make us a visit. Bye the bye I understand Mr. W. is a Democrat, I honor his judgment. We shall (in less than four years) see a different state of things; you will see the Bandocracy on one side and the Plane holders and working men on the other side, the latter will prevail or it will be the last end of the last free Republic...

It is cold here. It has been a cold fall. And a very wet summer. It has been a poor fruit year. I make cider when there is apples, buy them when I can get them, but I have made up only 1150 bushels of apples. I have (one fall) made two thousand barrels of cider. How near do you live to the Ocean; I have not seen any of the N.Y. folks since last summer. James Hauns and his wife was up here; he is as black as the ace of spades. He said the poor men ought not to vote. So of course he is a Monarchist.

I married a couple the 19th; Now you must not suppose because I have done so, that I am a political Bible banger, for I don't hold to that doctrine, nevertheless, I can Pastor them for all of that. This is the fourth couple I have married. Times is hard, money scarce. The Black Republicans said after Grant was elected we was going to have good times, the remorse from the prediction is the fact. I hope all that voted for him will go hungry and they will. Jonathan is yet bookkeeping in the Hat Factory, he has a fine little boy (Franky). I think much of him. I will always be glad to get a letter from you & husband. Affectionately yours, Francis Burdick."


"Brewster's Station, Jan. 1st, 1877

Dear Cousin Nancy,

I sit down on this New Years morning to write you the saddest of all news. Death has again invaded our family circle; already small, it has again been broken, & the one on whom we thought to lean as we grew older has been taken from us. John died on Christmas morning. A widow & two little children are left to the cold mercies of an unfeeling world. My loss seems exceeding heavy, but theirs is heavier than mine. John had been sick about eight weeks. He was first taken with Typhoid Pneumonia afterwards his disease developed into Malarial Fever, with Gastric Fever. We thought he was going to get well almost up to the hour of his death. But he is gone, & we are left to mourn. Oh how hard are the ways of Providence. But they are right. I have not heard from you in a long time. I hope you are quite well.

Affectionately your cousin, Ettie E. Burdick"