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1841.12.13 - Elizabeth Huntington to Edward Huntington, Dec. 13th, 1841

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1841.12.13 - Elizabeth Huntington to Edward Huntington, Dec. 13th, 1841


From the letter, we learn that the Edward had been writing to her consistently, yet this letter was one of the first responses. Elizabeth used to think that Edward had been in solitude but had learned of all of the things he was doing and being a part of. She thought that her letters were the only thing in his life, but it turned out otherwise. His brothers and their families recently journeyed from Providence, and they were able to safely travel back home. Helen had gotten sick from the visit to Elizabeth’s. Elizabeth gives Edward all the family events and occurrences that had happened since he was gone, including his family meeting with Mr. Cunningham. She implies that he probably gambled too much. There is also a new plan for a meeting house in town. His father had recently gone through rheumatic pains, and he is still struggling. Elizabeth fills Edward in about the other members of the family, says that Bethia is sewing and his father is indebted to him. This letter to Edward shows that Elizabeth wanted him to know everything he has missed since he had been gone. She waited a while to respond to him, but she still wanted to give him an update on things that affected his family and community since his absence.


Elizabeth Whiting Phelps Huntington


Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family Papers (Box 12 Folder 5)
Amherst College Archives and Special Collections




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





D. Huntington P.M.
Decem.. 14th N. Hadley

Mr.. Edward P. Huntington

[SP][1].. MA

Dec. 13th 1841- Dear Edward,
From a remark in your last letter to Bethia, I infer that you have done expecting that I should write you. It is very reasonable for you to draw this conclusion, from my having so long neglected to notice your kind attention in writing to me. Strange as it may seem to you, it is a fact that I think of you with far less solicitude, (not with less affectionate regard,) than I did six months ago. I then felt for you as without society, solitary, and by stealth as it were, taking your scanty refreshment.[2] Now, what a change has taken place. Instead of thinking as I then did, that one of my letters might be as relief in the dull monotony of your life, I am rather fearful that it will interrupt the steady current of your present enjoyment. From all that I can learn of your domestic arrangements, I am inclined to feel well satisfied, and even highly gratified, so that dismissing anxiety, I have only to hope for a continuance of the blessings which you enjoy, and that you may be assisted to render some acceptable return to our Common Benefactor and unfailing Friend.[4] Your brothers with their wives reach'd home about three o'clock; and I think we ought to notice the hand of a kind and watchful Providence, which so remarkably prospered them on their journey, and brought them home safely. We were sorry to learn by your letters, by then, that Helen's[6] health had suffered from her visit here. I hope she will not always go home from us sick. We have been rather anxious to hear from you, on her account. Before now I trust she is quite well or you would have informed us. Mr. Smith called on Thursday evening and left a letter from Mr. Cunningham. In grasping after too much, he will probably lose it all.[8] Your brothers and sisters – two of the first and three of the last,[9] made a visit last week at Henry Shepherd's.[10] Tomorrow they are to visit Mr. Apthorp [11] – they will probably have some fine musick. The old meetinghouse has traveled as far as Mr. Danforth's garden.[13] The new society or the West street party, have invited Mr. Woodbridge[14] to settle with them and have offered him a salary of six hundred & fifty dollars.[15] The are making preparation to build a meeting house, between Mr. Gaylord's house and Dudley Smith's store.[16] In a letter from Lizzy Fisher[17] which Bethia lately received, she mentions their having had yours of the 5th[18] of August, in which she says you "announced your marriage." "Whether or not the marriage took place we cannot tell, but it is certain that we drank to his health and that of his wife, at dinner, on that day."[19] We have had no letter from Frederick[20] since he left us. In about a month we shall hope to see him again. Perhaps while he is with us we shall look in upon you, if there should be sleighing. Your father has not been able to shake off entirely his rheumatic pains; He went into the woods every day last week and made a fair trial of what chopping would do for it, but it is there yet.[22] Bethia, who is sewing at my side sends her love to you and Helen. Your father on the opposite side of the table is absorbed with a newspaper. He is indebted to you for the amusement of many of his leisure hours.[23] I was at Charles' yesterday between meetings, Helen has had an augur for a week past. Mills[24] is getting better. The last letter we had from William[24] came while you were here after your marriage. As you and Helen are one, she of course will take her share of what is written to you, especially in the affectionate regard with which I subscribe myself as ever your mother

(Note: Written on the side of the first page: "Pray excuse the blot, and all the blunders." A small blot of ink stains the left side of the first page about halfway down it, while Elizabeth occasionally adds a forgotten word or phrase in superscript. Those superscript words have been incorporated into the body of the text in this translation. Also written on the side of the first page, lower down, are the phrases in pencil "domestic economy" "social relations." They appear to be catargorizing notations by a scholar, archivist, or family member.)

[1] Unclear. May be "SP" in reference to Springfield, to which Cabotville was proximate
[2] In 1839, Edward and his wife, Helen Maria Williams Huntington (1819-1902), moved to Cabotville, near Springfield in Massachusetts. Apparently, his mother worried that his life there was a dismal and socially isolated one, but, as she continues in the letter's first paragraph, soon changes her mind and regards Edward's life as happy and dynamic.
[4] In the context of the sentence, "Common Benefactor" and "unfailing Friend" appear to be references to God. The words are capitalized, a practice generally applied when referring to God, and the writer implies that Edward should give in return for the "blessings" that entity has provided.
[6] Presumably Helen Maria Williams Huntington (1819-1902), the wife of Edward Phelps Huntington.
[8] The precise implication of this cryptic statement is unclear, though it may suggest that the aforementioned Mr. Cunningham, whose letter Mr. Smith left after his visit, had allocated an excessive share of his assets to a failed investment or business venture.
[9] By 1841 Bethia and Elizabeth were the only sisters still living. William was away in the west and this letter similarly may mention that Frederick is away from home. The other brothers available to visit are Charles, Theodore, and Theophilus .
[10] This Henry Shepherd may be the future resident of the eponymous Shepherd House in Northampton, which Shepherd's wife, Susan Monroe Shepherd, purchased in 1856. It is not immediately clear where the Shepherds lived prior to then, or whether that was the Henry Shepherd to whom Elizabeth refers. a. "Historic Northampton: Shepherd House, c. 1796." Historic Northampton. 2012. <>.
[11] Mr. "Apthorp," could be a descendant or close relative of a wealthy Charles Apthorp of Boston whose tax burden was the greatest in that city in 1758, when it exceeded 540 Connecticut pounds. a. Judd, Sylvester. History of Hadley, including the Early History of Hatfield, South Hadley, Amherst, and Granby. Springfield, MA: H.R. Huntting & Company. 1905. p. 305.
[13] Possibly the Rev. Francis Danforth, the seventh pastor of the First Religious Society (apparently later called the First Congregational Church) in Hadley. He served as pastor there from 1839 to 1842. Elizabeth's statement, "The old meetinghouse has traveled as far as Mr. Danforth's garden," refers to the move of the First Congregational Church in 1841, indicating that the church building's relocation brought it next to, or even onto, its pastor's own property. See note thirteen, immediately following, for a substantive explanation of the event and its context.
[14] In 1659, the residents of Hadley established the First Congregational Church, and in 1808 built its present chapel along what was then known as Front Street but which is now, and was when Elizabeth wrote her letter in 1841, called West Street. Then, Hadley was essentially divided into two major parallel streets, West Street and Middle Street, which remain the major residential streets of the original town. In 1841, the residents of West Street and Middle Street agreed to move the church building to a location roughly equidistant to each street (Hoffenberg). However, the Middle Streeters eventually demanded that the building be moved to their street. This demand produced a dispute – one nineteenth-century writer dubbed in the “Feud of the Streets” (Wright 59) - that led the Middle Streeters to physically move the 1808 building to the intersection of Middle Street and the present Rt. 9 and caused the West Streeters to erect their own place of worship on their street (Hoffenberg). The "society of the West street party" that Elizabeth mentions refers to the is the Russell Society, the name assumed by those West Streeters who chose in 1841 to establish their own more proximate church in response to the Middle Streeters' demands (Judd 436). The two churches reconciled less than fifty years later, and most of the West Streeters returned to church now on Middle Street (Wright 59). During what essentially amounted to a schism, the Russell Society, which took its name from its first pastor, the Rev. John Russell, enticed the Rev. John Woodbridge, D.D. (the "Mr. Woodbridge" Elizabeth mentions) to serve as its pastor, and Woodbridge served from 1842 to 1857. Woodbridge had previously led the First Religious Society (the congregation of the First Congressional Church) (Judd 436). a. Hoffenberg, Noah. "The Rock of Hadley: First Congressional Church celebrates 350 years." GazetteNET (Daily Hampshire Gazette). October 17, 2009. <>. b. Wright, Charles Albert. Some Old Time Meeting Houses of the Connecticut Valley. Chicopee Falls, MA: The Rich Print. 1911. c. Judd, Sylvester. (See the citation under note thirteen.)
[15] Equivalent to approximately $14,644 in 2011. (Methodology: divided listed 2012 Consumer Price Index by 1841 Consumer Price Index; multiplied result by stated salary of $650) a. "Consumer Price Index Estimate: 1800-2012." Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. 2012. <>.
[16] It is unclear which Mr. Gaylord the letter refers to, though the Gaylord family appears to be a prominent one in Hadley, beginning with the arrival of William Gaylord of Windsor, CT on February 25, 1651 (55). Dudley Smith, as the letter suggests, was a merchant, born in 1793 or 1794 and dying in 1858 (136). He also served as town clear from 1834 to 1841 (452). (See citation in note thirteen for source.)
[17] Uncertain, but possibly a nickname for Elizabeth Porter Huntington Fisher (1803-1864), Edward's second-eldest sibling.
[18] The specific date is unintelligible, though it may be a poorly written "5" or "6."
[19] That "Lizzy Fisher," very possibly Edward's sister, suggests, "Whether or not the marriage" of Edward and Helen "took place, I cannot tell," implies a soft sardonic quality in "Lizzy." The sister would almost certainly have taken a revelation so personal and serious from a loved one as credible. Thus, the expression of doubt from Lizzy seems more wry than anything else.
[20] Unclear, this may be the youngest brother, Frederick Dan Huntington, but also possibly the writer's grandson, Frederick Pitkin Fisher, who was born in 1828 and thus would have been thirteen, and thus boarding-school-aged, at the time of the letter’s authorship. a. "Frederick Pitkin Fisher (1828-1886)." <>.
[22] Edward's father, Dan Huntington, was apparently suffering from the normal physical effects of old age but was still agile enough to engage in physical labor. At the time of the letter's authorship, he would have been 67, having been born in 1774. He would live another 23 years, dying at the extraordinarily old age of 89 or 90. (See the citation under note one.)
[23] In 1841, Edward became editor of the Cabotville Chronicle. Elizabeth states that Edward has provided "the amusement of many of his [father's] leisure hours." In the sentence immediately prior, Elizabeth notes that Dan Huntington, her husband, was reading a newspaper at the time of her writing. Thus, it would seem that Dan has been receiving at least some of his son's newspapers and is enjoying them. (See the citation under note three.)
[24] To whom does "Mills" refer? There are several members of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington with a surname or middle name "Mills," apparently deriving from Helen Sophia Mills Huntington, who married Charles Phelps Huntington, Edward's eldest brother, in 1827. Helen Sophia – apparently unrelated to Edward's wife, Helen – bore seven children and died, at age 37, in 1844. (See citation under note three.)
[25] Probably William Pitkin Huntington (1804-1885), another of Edward's elder brothers, now a missionary in the western US.