Love and Romance at Macculloch Hall

Reading the personal family letters in the archives of MHHM reminds us that these people were more than names on a genealogy. They were living, breathing human beings with feelings and emotions. On this Valentine’s Day, we look at romance in the Macculloch-Miller families. Back then, love was more of an emotion than a science. Today, we talk about compatibility and matches, with scientists asking questions like “what are pheromones?” and “what is attraction?”. It seems we may have rather lost touch with the romantic side of love in this modern world of online dating and swiping right, but maybe taking a look at the following stories may help you to realise that romance isn’t dead after all…

In a letter written on Valentine’s Day 1848, Elizabeth Miller (1828-1852), granddaughter of George and Louisa Macculloch, wrote to her future husband Anthony Q. Keasbey (1824-1895) apologizing for sending him a “common letter” instead of a fancy valentine. In the modern age, it would be easy to spice up Valentine’s Day with something like tadalafil (learn more at or some fancy lingerie, but back then, this would not have been possible. Of course, one cannot compare the kind of Valentine’s Day merchandise that is available today with those days. If someone from the previous decade heard the term ‘feeldoe‘, it is quite possible that they wouldn’t recognise it as a sex toy.

Love and romance had an entirely different approach in the 1800s. Of course, there might have been couples who enjoyed reading erotic literature together to make their Valentine’s day special. As you might know, there are several renowned poets who wrote some surprisingly steamy literature. These Sex Poems for her from the heart are a good example of the sort of poems people were reading in the 19th century. So, as you can see, love and romance were certainly present back then, but it was more veiled. In one of the many love letters in the archives, Anthony writes to Elizabeth…”I went for a walk this evening alone in the woods…The loveliest thing that bore the stamp of nature’s purity made me love to be with you all I could.” In another letter, Elizabeth wrote…”Now I love the rich blessing of your love without which I could never be happy again.”

Henry Wise Miller (1877-1975), great-grandson of George and Louisa Macculloch, wrote of his uncle Henry William Miller (1836-1904)…”Love at first sight runs in my family. One of my uncles, a lieutenant in the navy, while on the Mediterranean station, was leaning over the side of his ship watching shore boats bring some ladies to a dance on board ship. Touching a brother officer on the arm, he said, You see that girl in a blue hat sitting in the stern sheets? I’m going to marry her.’ [Indeed he did, marrying Catherine Hoffman (1840-1909) in 1862] My aunt kept the sea coat he was wearing that day, and when he was serving on Farragut’s flagship, she told me, she used to go into the closet where it hung and put the arms of the coat about her.”

In speaking of his own life, Henry Wise Miller wrote the following about his first meeting with his “bride to be” Alice Duer (1874-1942)…”At twenty-five minutes to two on Sunday afternoon, February 26, 1899, I came downstairs in a hurry, late for Sunday lunch, to be introduced to Alice Duer standing before her future mother-in-law’s fireplace. From the doorway of my mother’s drawing room to where Alice stood is about fourteen feet. I was buttoning the lower button of a new white waist-coat as I crossed the threshold; looking up, I saw Alice by the fireplace. Somewhere, in that interval, my life changed. Three days later she promised to marry me.” On October 5, 1899, they married at Grace Church Chapel in New York City.