This letter was written by Rev. Robert Hubbard (1782-1840) — a native of Shelburne, Franklin County, Massachusetts, a graduate of Williams College (1802), and an early-day circuit rider in the Presbyterian ministry of upstate New York. He was married in 1812 to Elizabeth Van Campen, the daughter of Moses Van Campen (1757-1849) and Margaret McClure (1758-1845). Robert Hubbard was the son of Robert Hubbard (1743-1788) and his wife Lucy (1755-1823).
Rev. Hubbard wrote the letter to his younger brother Elihu Hubbard (1785-1853). He also mentions his deceased sister Mary Hubbard (1776-1808) in the letter.
Addressed to Mr. Elihu Hubbard, Middletown, Connecticut
Angelica [Allegany County, New York]
August 20, 1822
I had a hope when I deferred an answer to your letter of being able by delay to communicate some interesting intelligence. But I have not realized the opportunities I then anticipated and perhaps should have done as well or better to have written more speedily.
I did hope that I should have learnt by actual observation and particular enquiries on the spot some edifying details of a work of grace carried on at Nunda about 20 or 23 miles distant from me and another at Mount Morris under the pastoral labors of Mr. Bartholomew Pratt — a young preacher, a very zealous, active, devout, and skillful laborer. I have not, however, found it convenient to visit either of those places, and can only observe in general that God appeared in his glory to build up Zion to repair her desolations and to replenish her dwellings with new citizens.
Nunda is a very new settlement not perhaps over six years standing. Mount Morris is older but the church was in a very divided state so that several of the members would hardly speak to each other and there were several infidels and much opposition. But the power of the Holy Spirit manifested in the revival, humbled, united, and made joyful the church, reduced infidels to subjection, gathered into the fold an unusual number of the lambs of the flock, and made on the whole an alteration ay once visible striking and most grateful to the eye of every pious observer.
I lately passed through Naples where a member of our Presbytery and a particular acquaintance of mine has labored in the ministry through many discouragements and much opposition for several years and is now at length blessed with the prospect of gathering a harvest of souls to the praise of the glory of unmerited and abounding love and grace. The work has not been like the mighty rushing wind, but rather like the gentle intermitting breeze blowing here and there, penetrating and softening the plants, and gradually producing the blossoms of seriousness, hope & joy, and promising in due time the mature fruits of piety.
I resume writing having from various causes been interrupted. The health of myself and family has been preserved with some short intermissions now for a long time and our wants have been supplied often as unexpectedly as happily through the abundant goodness of a long-suffering God.
I lately received an interesting epistle from our dear Phebe enclosing a five dollar bill from Cousin Thomas as a token of friendship. This between ourselves for Cousin Thomas, I suppose, did not intend that I should travel all the way to Middletown to tell of it. Phebe in her letter mentioned the death of her little babe whom she called Mary after the name of my most kind and affectionate departed sister. I think I was never quite as well pleased with any communication from her before. There was a strain of unaffected piety of a not less humble, and more animated and vigorous cast, than I have observed in her former letters. The affliction I hope has been and will be sanctified to her and fervently wish it might be also to her dear husband.
The Presbytery of Bath to which I belong has a session in Angelica on the 2d Tuesday of the present month. This to me is a rare event. I live at one extreme of the Presbytery which extends over a large territory. The most remote minister will have to travel about 80 and the nearest about 40 miles. This will be the first meeting of the body in this place since my ordination.
I have some faint prospect of an associate in my field of labor. A young clergyman of the name of [Seth E.] Winslow ¹ with a small family wrote me from Troy, New Hampshire near Keene, that he proposed coming into this part of the vineyard, if the prospect were such as would justify the undertaking. He requested information. I answered his letter on the points of enquiry and pressed him to come. If he should make his appearance, I propose to assign him the eastern part of my ride which will give me opportunity to pay more attention to the destitute settlements west of me. I must be a Missionary in part, whether I will or not.
New settlements are forming or extending every year. Almost all of them embrace some members of our denomination which I cannot altogether neglect — not that I do much. I do so little that I have reason to be distressed and ashamed. Still I would do something for the cause of Christ, for the edification of his people, and the conversion of souls.
Write as soon as you can conveniently and let me know how you all do. Shall I ever again see your faces in the land of the living? It would afford me high gratification. If we cannot see each other here, shall we meet in a better world? I would hope it is better with you than with me. Alas, I am a poor, unfaithful disciple. When shall I ever do better? Brother, pray for me that I may be humble, diligent, decided, and faithful.
My love to Uncle and Aunt who are now descended into the vale of years. Even I am growing old — almost 40, It seems hardly as if it could be so, but so it is. In a few years I shall be grey. So will you, if we live. In no long time we shall be in eternity. Who can calculate what is before him. My love to Ruth and Guernsey. Elizabeth joins with me in love to you all and all our friends.
— Robert Hubbard
¹ This “young minister” was Rev. Seth E. Winslow, an 1813 graduate of Brown University. He was the pastor in Troy, Cheshire County, New Hampshire in the early 1820s.