1820s-30s: Stockwell Family Letters

These three letters were written by members of the Stockwell Family. The first letter was written in 1827 by Moses and Urania (Ball) Stockwell of Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, the parents of Henry Stockwell (1802-1876) and Abel Stockwell (1797-1863). The letter was written to Henry of Caneadea, New York. Henry was married to Millenna Yale (1805-1888), the daughter of Elam Yale (1781-1867) and Merab Ives.

The second letter was written in 1830 by Abel from Guilford, New York, where he was employed as a school teacher at the time. He wrote the letter to his younger brother, Henry.

The third letter was written in 1836 by Moses and Urania (Ball) Stockwell to Henry.

Abel Stockwell’s signature

We learn from the second letter that Abel and Henry had a cousin named Leonard (presumably his first name) who died suddenly of an unknown illness on Sunday, January 17, 1830. We know Leonard was married to a woman named Lovina and that he had a young son named Thomas, probably a pre-teen. It seems this relative lived in the vicinty of Guilford, New York, as well and that Leonard’s mother (Abel’s Aunt) was living with them.


Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Bainbridge [Chenango County, New York]
November 21, 1827

Dear Children,

Image 10By the love of Providence, I am  favored with this opportunity to write a few lines to you. I got home on Thursday next after leaving you. I had a very dreary time and the little mare was sick the 2nd day after I left you. The way forward looked long and when I cast a wishful look back, it did no good. But she got better after awhile and I once more arrived at home and my family appeared to receive me with joy and immediately lifted the names of Henry and Malena.

My dear children, although mountains and rivers are between us, yet my thoughts often seem to dart towards you with the rapidity of lightening and I indulge a___ hope that we may meet again and hold sweet converse together. As to my expense coming home, it was three dollars, 37 cents. I got tea twice and ate what I had with me.

Image 8As to news, I have none to write. We all enjoy good health and I hope that you are in possession of the same blessing. I want you should write to me every opportunity and if you want anything that I can help you, to name it and it shall be done.

I have not seen any of Mr. Yale’s people. I have sent the letter this morning and shall wait for an answer before I close this letter.

This day Mr. Yale was at my house and he and folks was well and send their love to you. Aunt Juli — to use her one phrase — Before I got home she had cleared the coop. I have heard from Almira and Urania and they were well. I have nothing more that would be interesting to you except we have heard from Uncle James and family are well.

Mother sends her love to you. Once more, I press it upon you, book not to be discouraged. I think you have a good piece of land and as to your partnership, you both in a measure had your one choice and you have the well wishes of your parents and friends for your prosperity.

It is late in the evening and the folks are going to bed and I must conclude by subscribing myself your father and friend.

— Moses and Electa Stockwell

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Henry Stockwell of the Town of Caneadea, County of Allegany, New York

Guilford [Chenango County, New York]
January 29, 1830

Dear Brother and Sister,

I have communications of various kinds to make you. Your Father has married his second wife. Her name was Wood. She belonged at Mount Upton, She had 4 children — two sons and two daughters. Her sons are both out to a trade. I believe the daughters are both at school, They appear to be respectful girls — the oldest one in particular.

I am teaching school in Yale Settlement. I have had about 25 studying arithmetic and about the same number in grammar but I must turn from this subject to one that is not so pleasant.

Yes, again it devolves on me to tell you that another of our friends has bid us a long farewell. Never more shall we behold the face of one who was calculating on long life till we see him at the judgement, no more till that day when the virtuous and the wicked appear before the throne of God to be separated the one from the other, shall we see Cousin Leonard again. He has gone to the land of silence and of death and the manner in which he was taken is calculated to show us the truth of the Scripture declaration, “Ye know not what a day may bring forth.”

On [Sunday,] the 10th of January, he was taken ill. It was supposed to be nothing more than a cold. He continued to go about and to do some chores, I believe, until the Saturday after and he walked out that day. But Sunday night [January 17, 1830], he was no more. His friends had no expectation that he was near his end. They were all at home but Aunt and Lovina and they knew nothing of any change until about five minutes before he expired. They went for the rest of the family but they had not the pleasure of seeing him. No, the spirit had taken its flight and left them to gaze on a lifeless lump of clay.

All that he had to say about death after he thought he was going was that he wished them to raise him up for he was dying. It proved too true. In about 3 minutes after this, he was a lifeless corpse. All that he said to his wife was that he wanted to see his boy. Could you see Thomas now he would probably tell you how stupid he had been and hear him mourn that he had not talked with him about death and a future state. But it is too late.

What now is undone with him will remain undone forever. We can reflect on the past but how can we look on the future. Except a man be born again, he can never see the Kingdom of Heaven. Have ought we to examine ourselves and see to it that our work is done for eternity for death may come in a time that we are not aware of an in a day when we look not for it and our portion may be appointed us with hypocrites and unbelievers. Then there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

O my brother, what shall I, what can I say to you on the all important subject of religion. I feel as though all was unavailing. I do fear the consequences of a continued procrastination. I shudder when I think that possibly when I hear from you again, you may be in another world as before I write another letter. If you are not prepared to die, you may be experiencing the pains of the second death and that for the want of friendly admonition. But we are now admonished by the Providence of God. If we will not hear that, we must conclude that we are hardened to a great degree — especially when they are repeated so often. He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy is the voice of him who spoke as never man spoke.

Henry, on this occasion, I have one request to make, not for my own benefit, but for yours. That is that you daily read the Bible and pray to him who hearth prayer. It is not only my request but your Makers. He commands you to pray without ceasing. Think what we will about it, if we have any desire to be saved in God’s way, we shall use the means which he has appointed and if we have no desire to be saved in that way, we have no desire at all — nothing but a heart of rebellion which says we will not have this man to rule over us.

Think on these lines now lest they be forever hidden from your eyes. For my own part, I feel while writing this some throng of the importance of being prepared for eternity. Before this letter reaches you, the hand that wrote it may be cold in death. Yes, this may be the last admonition you will receive from your unworthy brother. Adieu. — Abel Stockwell

[P. S.] I have made one mistake. There is only one of your new mother’s son learning a trade. Olive wants you to write in your next whether you have received their letter since they came from there. Our friends here are usually well. Eli and wife was at the funeral. If you see Mr. Handy or any of them down there, give my respects to them.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Henry Stockwell of the Town of Caneadea, County of Allegany, New York

Bainbridge, [Chenango County, New York]
March 1, 1836

Dear Children,

Image 1I once more take my pen in hand to address a few lines to you and enquire after your welfare. As to myself and family, we are in comfortable circumstances. I got hurt in my side about three weeks ago so that I was pretty much confined to the house but have got considerably better and am trying to do a little work.

It is a wonderful time here for snow. It is now about three feet deep on the ground and comes a little every day or two. It is almost impossible for people to get wood to keep from freezing and what the events will be when it goes off, we cannot tell. I fear it will equal the flood you had last fall. But it is needless to borrow trouble.

Image 5I went to Cazenovia this winter after plaster and Cyrus and Almira and the rest of them was well. Thompson and Sabra went with us. I wanted to come & see you this winter but could not. Never a day goes by but I think of you and your little ones and want to be there but when I shall, God only knows.

I presume you do not think hard of me for my situation is well known to you. Therefore, you will excuse me. Please to come and see us as quick as possible.

Image 6I saw Abel a few days ago and they were well. The rest of our friends in this place are in health. Mr. Yale I have not seen in some time but presume they are well. Please give my love to them little ones. Tell Urania that father has not forgotten her. Please give my love to _____ and family. I want you should write often. I expect Mr. Hilson will leave this in Angelica. He has bought a farm in Illinois and is a going to start for Cuba [New York] in a day or two and prepare to go down the Allegany [River]. He has been to England. I expect [he] has got thousands.

As to my own business, I know nothing how I shall manage. Labor is very big here. The Chemung Canal calls away a good many and a great many go to Pennsylvania a lumbering that it is almost impossible to hire. But I hope there will be some way provided. Sometimes I get low-spirited, but it don’t do any good. Urania is at home a part of the time this winter and Leafe & _____ though Leafe went home with Thompson. We expect him back the first chance she has.

ImageDo write often. Let me know your business. It is gratifying to me  to know how may children are doing. I must draw to a close by wishing you all goodbye.

I do not know how to quit. When I write, it seems almost as tho’ you stood before me and then perhaps my scrawl will be so little interesting to you that your patience will be arrested.

Image 2Henry, when I think of the number of years we have lived together and the agreeable manner with which Millenna always treated me, I can’t but feel sorrowful that we are separated so far asunder but so it is and repining does no good. But when you sit by the fireside with your little prattlers about you and all is mirth and glee, then just glance a thought over the hills towards me.

I must quit. My eyes run down with water. May peace and plenty crown your Bard on Earth and Heaven’s blessings beyond the grave.

I remain your father and friend. Adieu to Henry and Millenna Stockwell.

— Moses Stockwell


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