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1835.03.22 - Elizabeth Huntington to Mary Huntington, Mar. 22nd, 1835

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Hadley March 22nd, 1835 Sabbath Evening

Dear Mary [1], It is so long since I have put pen to paper, in the way of letter writing, that I hardly know how to begin. There is a kind of awkwardness about it, which we are […] apt to find, in returning to any duty which we have neglected. In saying this, I could not intimate that I have been deficient in writing to you. The error of which we have been in most danger was, writing too often, and thus laying you under the receptivity of devoting more time to us here at home, then we could reasonably claim. [2] But the appearance, in your letter to Bethia which we received yesterday, has quite dispelled that fear; consequently I put in my claim for a share of your time. [3]

This day has been very stormy, and we have all been at home. WE have no reason to complain if we are detained from public worship by the weather, for we have a variety of useful and instructive books at hand; and the throne of grace is free to all, and Jesus is our advocate at the heavenly court; this holy day too is a type of the sort which remains for the [loveth] of god, and we, tho’ unworthy of ourselves, may look forward in the hope of enjoying this sort in the society of our loved ones who are there.[4] [Thus] the interception of our great High Priest. David however tells us, that the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob; and that he himself layed, yea even fainted for the courts of the Lord. And this I believe is the feeling of every true christian.

William [5] wrote you last week, and gave you an account of his proceedings. Thursday he left us and took lodging at Mr. George Hodge's [6]. We could not help feeling some regret at parting, but the thout[sic] that he had not gone to Kentucky, [hushed] at once all discontent, and we can only be grateful that we may still enjoy his society, and [endeavour to] profit by his example. This morning just after I rose, who should I see walking into the yard in all the snow, but the Doctor, sure enough. I wondered what could have brought him out this early, when he informed me, that he had been at your uncle's, since three o’clock, administering to Eliza Jenkins [7] who was attacked with a […] in the bowels, and […]. After breakfast Charles [8] came after […] again but he only found her very nervous, and gave her some laudanum. [9] This is his first call in Hadley.

A week ago last Friday, we were all in […] to visit at Doct. Brown’s there was no other company accepting Mr. and Mrs. Ward, [&] Doct. Penny, who called and took tea on his return from a [protracted?] meeting at Granby. [10] Mrs. Brown told me that Lucy had determined to go from home this summer, SOMEWHERE, Monday afternoon, four o’clock. [11] Bethia has made a call at your uncle’s this afternoon, and found Eliza busy with her drawings, preparing to instruct another class at Amherst. Caroline feels rather sorry that she cannot find employment as a teacher. [12] One is applied to, and requested to [...] in instructing in an Academy, but does not like the employment well enough to continue in it. Another, after having devoted much time and some money to become qualified for the business, seeks in vain to be employed. What shall we think of these things? – WE may have to be thankful that our domestic tranquility has not been disturbed as has been that of our neighbors.[13] Another lesson we may learn also; that as we have such a bright prospect opened to us beyond the present life, it is very foolish and unreasonable to make ourselves unhappy by the momentary inconveniences of our passage to that bitter country. However, I cannot blame you for declining to assist Mr. Swift – you have a comfortable home, and friends who are Dear and kind, and your desires for things which money can purchase, are moderate; and so you can be content and happy to move in a very limited sphere. [14] [Our] usefulness depends not so much on our condition, as when the disposition with which we perform the saviors duties resulting from that condition. [15]

You say if the children of a school would be obedient and teachable, the [...] of teaching would be more pleasant, that indeed is true. But I believe all who have the care of children must learn, if they will succeed in the business, to do it from a desire to prepare immortal beings for a life after death. And I know of nothing else which can impart strength and courage for the arduous work[s]. [16]

These thoughts bring to mind the twins and little George. [17] And also an idea which Doct. Brown [expressed] when we were there, it was this: that parents generally are far less [solicitous] with regard to the morals of their sons than of their daughters; they suffer their sons to frequent places, and company, which they would shudder to have their daughters exposed to. Is it not a good hint to mothers? [18] I hope your sister finds from month to month that her labours are not in vain; “He that goeth forth weeping bearing precious seed shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bearing his sheaves with him.” [19] But we must mark the expression “weeping.” It is no easy thing to do our duty. Often it requires a vigorous effort, a great degree of [...] sacrifice, and a constant watchfulness. And is the [...] to be gained not worthy of this labour? [Can] we think anything too much for us to do as suffer, that we may prepare our own children and others to live and honour that saviour who [freely] gave us his life to save the world.

This spring looks dreary and cold – but we have nothing to fear. We have this promise. He hath set his bow in the heavens, the token of his covenant. With much love to all old and young great and small; I am as [well?] yours, E.W.H

Theodore [...] you a short time since I am a little ashamed of this torn paper but I did not notice that it was torn till I had written down the first page, you would excuse it.

[1] Elizabeth’s letter is being addressed to Mary, the daughter of Elizabeth and Dan Huntington. Mary grew up on “Forty Acres” and later went to Troy, New York to attend Miss Emma Willard’s school. However, while living in New York Mary died at 24 years old from unknown causes.

[2] Elizabeth expresses that she has written Mary quite often and is concerned that Mary may be bothered with her incessant writing. It appears Elizabeth is simply trying to remain in constant contact with her daughter while she is away.

[3] A letter from Mary addressed to Bethia (Elizabeth’s daughter and Mary’s sister) eliminated the prospect that Elizabeth had been writing too much to Mary.Bethia is one of Elizabeth’s daughters and thus a sister to Mary. Bethia was educated at Miss Willard’s School in Troy, NY and other than this brief period of time away from the home, lived at Forty Acres her entire life. She was the last member of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family to live there year-round when she died in September 1979. Mary’s letter must have implied that she was content with the letters she received and was happy to be kept abreast of the family’s issues.

[4] Through her writing, the reader can infer that religion is a primary focal point for the Huntington family. Elizabeth asserts that the weather will not prevent from their worship; this prompts her to impart an encouraging Biblical message to Mary.

[5] Elizabeth is referring to her son William Huntington. William was a teacher and a minister who spoke against the institution of slavery, which may refer the “proceedings” Elizabeth mentions.

[6]No evidence could be found for the George Hodges Inn. However, it can be concluded that it is either a hotel or a place of lodging because this is where William stayed.

[7] Eliza is likely a daughter of Charles Porter Phelps, who is Elizabeth’s brother and Mary’s uncle, as referred to in the letter; Elizabeth writes that Eliza was attacked with something in her bowels. Unfortunately, the words in the letter describing her condition could not be decoded and the exact illness could not be determined.

[8] This Charles is most likely Charles Porter Phelps. Charles lived next to the Phelps Huntington family and had a career as a merchant in Boston before moving back to Hadley, building a house and farm, and starting an active second career in local politics.

[9] Here, Elizabeth comments on Eliza’s unfortunate health condition. Charles witnesses Eliza nervous condition and treats her with laudanum. It can be concluded that laudanum, a form of opium was a common treatment during this time period and that families had prevalent access to it. Laudanum use was common among some members of the Huntington Family.

[10] None of the people mentioned in this sentence are members of the Phelps Huntington family, nor are they listed in the Biographical Sketches. This leads to me believe that they are friends of the Huntington Family and are members of the community in Hadley. Granby is a town in the Valley, just about 10 miles away from Hadley.

[11] Again, Mrs. Brown is clearly not a member of the Phelps Huntington family, and neither is Lucy. I believe that Mrs. Brown is simply a friend of Elizabeth and that Lucy is referring to her daughter.

[12] Caroline here may be referring to Caroline Phelps Bullfinch, daughter of Charles Porter Phelps. Caroline was born to Charles’s first wife, Sarah Phelps in Boston but later moved to Hadley when her mother died. She lived in Hadley until she was married to Rev. Stephen Bullfinch, a member of the famous Bullfinch family She was married by Dan Huntington, Elizabeth’s wife in 1842, and she and Stephen lived in Boston.

[13] It is likely that Elizabeth is referring to her brothers family when she refers to “our neighbors.” Charles Porter Phelps built a house next to Forty Acres and lived in Hadley for the end portion of his life. I believe that the lack of domestic tranquility that Elizabeth is referring to is the inability of his daughters to find jobs.

[14] It is not clear who Mrs. Swift is. The name is not mentioned in any of the biographical sketches and she is likely a friend of Marys. It is not clear with what Mary could have helped her, but rather that Mary does not need to help any more people, and that her present economic and social life is satisfying enough for her, at least in the eyes of her Mother.

[15] Here is another reference to religion and this continues to emphasize Elizabeth’s seemingly strong religious beliefs.

[16] In this paragraph Elizabeth is explaining to Mary her beliefs on religion in the context of teaching. She believes that ultimately if one is going to be a good teacher, he or she must prepare children to be good Christians so that they can end up in Heaven.

[17] It is not clear who the twins or George are. They may be more children of Charles Porter Phelps, or another one of Mary’s sisters (based on the next sentence) but this is only a guess.

[18] This is probably one of the most confusing passages within the letter. It is not clear what she is referring to, partially due to the inability to read two of the crucial words in this passage. It would be great if we could determine what she means to say here.

[19] This is nearly identical to Psalms 126:6 in the King James Version of the Bible, save for the word weeping, which is translated as “weepeth” in the actual Bible. A version of the Bible containing this exact translation could not be found.

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