Global Valley

1838.05.20 - Elizabeth Huntington to Edward Huntington, May. 20th, 1838

Dublin Core


1838.05.20 - Elizabeth Huntington to Edward Huntington, May. 20th, 1838


Written in close relation to Edward's birthday, this letter recalls him as an infant, reports on a local baptism, and mourns the deaths of his siblings Whiting and Catherine. Among the local news Elizabeth reports is an Indian encampment in Hatfield that including a great-granddaughter of Eunice Williams (taken captive in the 1704 raid on Deerfield). Amherst College students, including Frederic, go to see them. Much discussion of gardening, fruit trees, and the construction tasks of building fences, raising barns, and friends erecting houses. Son William writes from Illinois urging his brothers to join him in the West.


Elizabeth Whiting Phelps Huntington


Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family Papers (Box 12 Folder 4)
Amherst College Archives and Special Collections




Courtesy of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Foundation
For permissions contact Amherst College Archives and Special Collections





Elm Valley, May 20th 1838, Sabbath morn 11 o'clock

Dear Edward,

It is so long since we have had a letter from you that I have determined to begin one, and ask what can be the reason of your silence? Were you in the habit of writing only once in two or three months, an interval of six weeks would not excite surprise. Neither does it now, knowing as we do your numerous labours and engagements. We consider it as the loss of accustomed enjoyment indeed, but trust it is not the indication of sickness or negligence. Your last letter to me, was received on your birthday. My mind had been unusually occupied, all the morning, with thoits[1] of you and your affairs. I had looked back to your earliest infancy and endeavored to notice the hand of a kind Father, in his various allotments with regard to your and our family. With regard to worldly prosperity, we may say truly that a man's life consisteth[2] not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth. The treasure lies within - if the immortal spirit has become united, by obedience and faith, to the Captain of salvation, to him who for our sakes became poor, that we thro' his poverty might be made rich; it is comparatively of little importance whether the individual be in a palace or a cottage. I wish we would all feel a deeper sense of the insufficiency of any worldly circumstances to confer happiness. I have been at home alone this morning, Theophilius and his wife and Theodore attended worships at Hadley, the rest of the family went to Northampton. Mr. Brown[3], the minister of North Hadley, intends leaving soon for the far off west, he has a son already there. Mr. Stearns[4] has been able to continue his labours thus far; his health appears to be better than it was a year ago. He has exchanged within a few months with Mr. Fessenden[5], Mr. Parkman[6] who was settled last autumn at Greenfield, and was a classmate of our dear Whiting, and also recently with Mr. Everett[7] the minister of Northfield - but I like our own minister better than all of them.

Monday afternoon June 4th Since I began this letter the season has advanced rapidly and at my north window where I now sit, the northwestern breeze comes perfumed with the mingled odours of our flowers; no great variety indeed but were there nothing but the Fleur de lis, and the rocket[8], the fragrance would be agreeable. There is a prospect of much fruit, the apple blossoms were abundant and our peach trees pears plumbs and cherries have all been in blossom - the weather for a week or two has been delightful, just warm enough to be pleasant, and just showery enough to promote vegetation. Oft this season Bethia and Theodore were sick with the Varioloid[9], I was also sick with a fever. Now how different! all of us in health, and able each to contribute a share of labour for the common comfort of the family. Not only so, but innumerable sources of enjoyment are open for our participation, relating to our present state of existence. There are favours which call for our gratitude. But chiefly should we thank God for the hope of immortal life. This brings to mind Mr. Stearns' morning sermon yesterday. "To die is gain."[10] While listening I felt that it was good to be there, and my thoits wander'd over the wilds and mountains of Maine to find my dear Edward in his solitude, and amid his hardships and privations; and an involuntary desire arose in my bosom that your could have been there to share in the high enjoyment. The fervent aspiration also ascended to heaven, that these lone sabbaths of your's might be made joyful and useful, by the more full and free communications of the Spirit of God, without which all outward means are without effect. The views which he presented of the employments of the redeem’d in heaven were highly interesting; and the thoit of our dear departed Whiting and Catherine made me shed tears; but they were not tears of sorrow – O'no – I trust they were tears of joy and gratitude and hope, the hope of escaping from these scenes of sin and suffering, and of being all, all united in heaven. Last thursday we received a letter from you directed or rather addressed to Theodore, and the week before, two came, one I think to Charles, and the other to Frederic. At the same time Theodore had a long letter from William inviting him to join him in Illinois. He has taken up as he says, two hundred acres for himself in a part of the province which he calls the mounds. He tries hard to induce Theodore, or Theophilius to go and settle there. Theodore said he should tell him in his next letter that he should not go - & I don't know whether Theophilus will conclude to pluck up stakes at present. Frederic returned to College[11] last wednesday after a month's vacation. We all enjoy'd it very much, he assisted in making the garden, help'd Theodore some, and his father some, and Theophilus some, besides being present, and lending his strength at the raising of the barn, which took place week before last. Theophilus's house looks much more respectable with this appendage. There is a part of a tribe of indians in this vicinity, the descendants of Mr. Wiliams[12] of Deerfield who was taken captive. A very aged female among them, is the granddaughter of Eunice Williams[13]. For several days past they have taken up their residence in the woods between Northampton and Hatfield[14], and have been visited by many of the inhabitants of the town adjoining. On saturday ten or twelve of the students from Amherst, went to see them, Frederic among the rest. His company went home by the way of Northampton, after resting awhile, for they were on foot. He stayed at Charles's and attended divine service with us yesterday. In the afternoon the Lord’s supper was celebrated, and previously to this two young ladies received the rite of baptism. It was a most touching scene. What can be more fit and proper and more beautiful than to see them in the morning of life, bringing the innocence and freshness and vigour of youth, and laying them on the altar of divine love, devoting all to him, who gave himself for them. You will be happy to know that these ladies, were Julia Dikenan and Caroline Young[15]. The Lord increases the number of those, who thus follow Christ, an hundredfold…[16]

Your father has been very busy in building a new fence front of the house and north and west of the sheep yard - it is not yet done; this afternoon he is cutting down the old cherry tree east of my window - it is not only barren but dead, why even beneth it this ground? Our dear friends in Northampton are as usual. Samuel Hinkley[17] returned with his wife about a fortnight since and had a great wedding. They reside with his mother at [...]. It has been supposed that he would take the brick house where Mr. Hibbins[18] lived. Edward [Earke?][19] and his wife are keeping horses on the hill. You know he built a fire house there last year. But his health is not good. I hope he will secure a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. They have taken the few behind Charles's - but he is hardly ever there. I was much gratified with your particular description of your room. It must be a quiet, and I think a comfortable retreat - may the presence of God ever make it a Bethel[20] to you, the house of God and the gates of heaven. I rejoice heartily that you collect your family together and with them Lay the morning and evening sacrifice. It is a privilege and duty which none should omit. The morning devotion sheds a light over our path thro' the day, and who knows but some thoitless soul may be led by these exercises to reflection, to penitence to prayer and at length to heaven. "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and and ever."[21] That you and I may be the followers of him who went about doing good is the earnest desire of your affectionate mother Elizabeth.

1 In her letters, Elizabeth Huntington consistently spells "thought" as "thoit".

2 Elizabeth Huntington spells "consists" as "consisteth".

3 Elizabeth is likely referring to Reverend Ebenezer Brown, minister of the Second Religious Society in North Hadley from April 8, 1835 until the spring of 1838, after which he became a minister in Illinois. Originally from Brimfield and a graduate of Yale, Brown had previously been a pastor in Wilbraham and Prescott. There are multiple references to him being "dismissed" from positions. Josiah Gilbert Holland, ed., History of Western Massachusetts, Vol. II – Part III (Springfield: Samuel Bowles and Company, 1855), 224-5.

4 It is unclear exactly who Elizabeth is referring to. One possibility is Reverend Oliver Stearns of the Second Congregational Society in Northampton, who served as minister there from November 9, 1831 to March 31, 1839. Ibid., 248.

5 Reverend John Fessenden (1804-1881) was the minister of Deerfield. In August 1837, he gave a sermon about the Abenaki descendants of Eunice Williams who had come to visit the town. Elizabeth writes about a similar visit by a "tribe of indians" later in this letter... Elizabeth M. Sadoques, "The History and Traditions of Eunice Williams and Her Descendents, 1922" in Captive Histories, ed. Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney (Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), 255.

6 Reverend John Parkman was the minister of the Third Congregational Church in Greenfield. He was ordained October 11, 1837. David Willard, Willard's History of Greenfield (Greenfield: Kneeland & Eastman, 1838), 116. Francis Parkman, "The spirit of the Christian ministry: a sermon delivered at the ordination of the Rev. John Parkman to the pastoral care of the Third Congregational Church in Greenfield, Oct. XI, MDCCCXXXVII" (Boston: s.n. Dickinson, 1837).

7 Reverend Oliver C. Everett became minister of Northfield on March 8, 1837 and remained there about 12 years. Holland, History of Western Massachusetts, 409.

8 A flower, known scientifically as Hesperis matronalis.

9 Smallpox, particularly a mild form affecting people who have previously had or been vaccinated for the disease.

10 Philippians 1:21, from "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

11 Frederick Huntington returned home from Amherst College.

12 Reverend John Williams and his family were famously taken captive and marched to Canada during the 1704 raid on Deerfield by Wendat, Kanienkehaka, Abenaki, and French forces. In 1706, he was able to return to Deerfield, publish The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion, and resume his Puritan ministry. Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association/Memorial Hall Museum, Raid on Deerfield: the Many Stories of 1704, (accessed Oct. 27, 2013).

13 In August 1837, Saint Francis Abenaki Indians made a documented visit to the town of Deerfield. Among them was an elderly woman named Eunice Williams, who identified herself as the granddaughter of the Eunice Williams of 1704. Deerfield residents treated the Abenaki travelers hospitably and local newspapers reported on the occurrence. The same group visited Northampton (and, according to Elizabeth, the area between Hatfield and Northampton) in 1838. Issues of the Hampshire Gazette and Northampton Courier dated two days after Elizabeth's letter make disparaging comments about the Natives, decrying their "popularity" and challenging Eunice’s claimed lineage. Marge Bruchac, "Abenaki Connections to 1704: The Sadoques Family and Deerfield, 2004" in Captive Histories, ed. Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney (Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006).

14 Hatfield lies to the west, the other side of the Connecticut River. Northampton is southwest of both Hadley and Hatfield.

15 These young girls are clearly new members of Elizabeth's church, but there does not seem to be any more information about them available.

16 Mark 10:30, from "But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."

17 Elizabeth may be referring to Samuel Lyman Hinckley of Northampton, MA, born August 11, 1810. Around the time of this letter, he married Henrietta E. Rose. He was a frequent letter-writer himself. Abstract, Hinckley family papers, 1796-1956, New England Historic Genealogical Society. Lyman Coleman, Genealogy of the Lyman Family (Albany, NY: J Munsell, 1872), 181.

18 Mr. Hibbins is an apparent member of Elizabeth's social circle and most likely another resident of Northampton. However, the last name "Hibbins" does not seem to appear in town documentation, so it is difficult to determine who Elizabeth is referring to and what the nature of their relationship is.

19 Information is also lacking on Edward Earke. He appears to be a good friend of Elizabeth's, as she worries considerably about the state of his health.

20 Biblically, the "House of God."

21 Daniel 12:3.