GrandPapa's Letter part 3
I will here copy for you a letter of my mother's, written to her Parents, that you may have a glance at THE FAMILY, as it was when I was about two and a half years old, being a point which my personal inemories can not cover.
This letter as it lies before me is written on, and covers three pages of common foolscap paper, together with about one quarter of the fourth page, about one quarter of each page is folded down from the top, and up from the bottom and the letter is then folded in from each side, and one of the sides being thrust into the other so that it is about the size and form of an ordinary envelope, it is sealed with a red wafer, and addressed on the vacant part of the sheet, just as we would now address an envelope. It still bears a part of the wafer with which it was sealed, and some particle of the sand, which served mother in lieu of blotting paper, are still within its folds.
The letter is addressed as follows, only the address proper being in mother's hand writing.
Prattsburgh N.Y. Aug. 11th. 1837
Rev. David Higgins
NORWALK, HURON CO.
The letter is again folded length ways, and is endorsed in Grand-Father Higgins handwriting, as follows "DAUGHTER, M. VAN VALKENBURGH
Augst. 6 1837.
There were no Envelopes, or Postage Stamps, or Blotting Paper to be had in those days, or for many years after, & postage was charged not by weight, as now, but by the number of pieces of paper used, and the distance the letter was carried: This one cost "Eighteen pence" as mother would have said, being eighteen and three quarter cents, as it ie marked in the upper corner.
And now for the letter itself, which is written with a quill pen, on very ordinary paper, in a hand always very familiar and very dear to me, firm and round, and almost as legible as the type written characters now make for your perusal.
Prattsburgh August 6th '37
MY DEAR PARENTS:
A short time before I left Buffalo I wrote you a full sheet like this, intending to send by private conveyance but was disappointed in the way; Husband had one ready at the same time, which was forwarded by mail; In that I had detailed all the particulars mother wishes to know of my family concerns: If I had supposed it would be so long before I should write again, I would not have grudged the postage. After the receipt of Father's letters, advising us to progress west I felt quite desirous to do so, and had made up my mind that Husband would think so too, but on his return from Prattsburgh where he then was, he brought Cecelia Higgins with him, to help us out, had made his garden; got the house cleaned and provisions laid in for our use, and I felt all things considered that it was best to retrograde, and although I was very much disappointed, I am now of opinion it was best. The difficulty of procuring the necessaries of life would be very much increased to strangers in a strange land; Here we are at home; Husband goes on, collecting a sheep here, or a cow, or a bushel ofwheat or potatoes, as though we had never left; But, what is more important to me, my family arrangements are much more easily got along with than they could be, in a strange home, and among strangers.
I do not know how matters will result, but I hope to be permitted to remain here until a very eligible move may be made, to Illinois, or Wisconsin.
And now, as my boys have not been formally Introduced, I beg leave to bring them all up, and Mother will recollect that if our little LUCIUS had not been removed from us, we should have had S I X boys, under S I X years. Jacob was born on the 23rd of April '31; and George and Edward, the present incumbents of mother's lap, on the Fourteenth of the same month, in 1837. They are all robust, healthy boys, FRANKLIN not quite so stout as Gerrit, but a passably healthy child; George has a light complexion and sandy hair; Edward looks more as Robert did than any child we have had; He is mild and gentle in his demeanor, like his sister Mary.
Mother would like to know how I get along, I was not so much put to my wits end to know- what to do as I was two years before, when the first pair of twins came but, with the blessings of Good Health: a Kind Husband; Four cradles, and Rocking Chairs in abundance, we live It through. LYDIA is a good girl, and takes charge of the work; AMY washes and Irons, and does any thing else we wish, when we do not employ another girl. For myself, I am devoted to "The Baby Business. " and I have eaten, drunk and slept for baby so long that I should really not know how to live without them.
I rather think Mother or Myra, or sister Cecelia would wish to be excused from making a long stay in my Nursery, by day or night??
We have two beds and a cradle in our back room, and have some thoughts of adding the trundle bed to the number, to accomodate all who would like to Join us.
Although my anxiety to see you all, and particularly mother, was very great, I can not but congratulate myself every day, that I am HERE. for I do not think I could take care of my four babies anywhere else. I duly appreciate your kind wishes to assist me, but Indeed dear friends, there is no reprieve or release for me, and I have every reason to be grateful to the Giver of all blessings that I have my path made so easy, and likewise that I am so well satisfied with the road I tread. I would not have been much pleased could I have anticipated my employ ment for the last sixteen years, but I will leave It to Husband to say If I fret under my harness more than could reasonably be expected. No dragging, I only want you should know how it is.
I never have reflected upon my dear little daughter Mary with anything like regret that I suffered her to go to Ohio and if Father and Mother and Myra knew how much I have felt relieved with respect to her, they would not regret the trouble she has occasioned them; I know it is a great care for Myra, and she adds to Father's and Mother's anxieties, out I hope she is a good girl and does not make as much trouble as she adds comfort to her dear kind friends.
In passing from Buffalo here, Mr. Van Valkenburgh has, once or twice been at Uncle Higgin's, in Perry. Last May he was there, all well; They had Just heard from the Aunts at the East. He was likewise at New Haven, last March, which fact he forgot to mention when he wrote. Dr. DOW said he should visit YOU this Fall. You will see a notice of Mr. Wood's death; He died penitent and believing; a happy change took place a few weeks before his death; He only wished to live that he might redeem the evil his influence had effected in society.
Eliza has visited us since we returned, they are well. Myra will recollect Miss Stuart's nephew who lived with Dr. Doubleday, Henry Steams?? About a fortnight ago he was missed from the house, where he was always cheerful and apparently happy; after several days inquiry and search he was found, dead from taking opium, in a mill loft half a mile away from home. The friends are much distressed; no imaginable cause for the act.
Husband is absent, at Geneva now, he received Father's letter, and will answer it soon. He is much disappointed not to be on his way West, before this, But to raise the means has been beyond his power. He thinks he will go however.
We have no Pastor now, but have a number in view; Mr Hotchkin has removed to Campbell and Mr. Babitt is at Pulteny, Mr. Rudd is at Buffalo; have not heard how he is pleased; Was very much pleased with Mary's letter by Miss Sturges, which was forwarded from B.
Has Mary heard of the death of Mary Pratt? She died before we came here.
Remember me to Mrs. Chapin, who has a cousin here, a Trader in the Brick Store.
THIS LETTER IS UNSIGNED XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
So you see that in August 1837 my Father's family consisted of himself, a man aged forty two years, and Mother aged forty four; Robert (who was then in a Law office in Buffalo, ) David: Jacob: Catherine: Gertrude; Mary (then in Ohio with her Grandparents, ) Franklin; Gerrit; Edward and George and Amy and Lydia, the latter being a girl whom my parents had taken to bring up, and who was with them many years. She always had especial charge of Gerrit, while I was always Kate's boy.
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