1825: Aurelia Bissell to Caroline Williams Porter

This letter was written by Aurelia Bissell (1785-1861), the daughter of Josiah Bissell (1757-1830) and Mary Strong Mather (1766-18xx) of Windsor, Connecticut. It does not appear she ever married. Massachusetts town records state that she died of brain congestion in Pittsfield at the age of 76, having been an invalid for several years.

Caroline W. Porter Headstone

Aurelia mentions her sister Sarah Wolcott Bissell (1796-1863), who married Eleazer Hills (1795-1856) in 1820 and resided in Auburn, New York. In the letter, Aurelia says she has received a letter from her sister who has informed her that many of the residents of Auburn are frightened that Seneca Indians will burn the town in retaliation for the robbing of graves of their ancestors by some of the town physicians. If true, it is presumed that the cadavers were clandestinely exhumed to study human anatomy. I could find no story in the newspapers from the period to corroborate this tale, however.

The Bissells were linked by marriage to the Throop family who are also mentioned in this letter. Mrs. Enos Throop, in particular, is mentioned. She was the wife of the U.S. Congressman who would later become the tenth Governor of New York (1829-1832).Aurelia wrote the letter to Caroline Williams Porter (1797-1874), the daughter of Dr. William Porter (1763-1847) and Charlotte Williams (1770-1842) of Hadley, Hampshire County, Massachusetts.

Stampless Letter

TRANSCRIPTION

Addressed to Miss Caroline W. Porter, Hadley, Massachusetts

Pittsfield [Massachusetts]
February 9, 1825

Page 1

Little did I think, my dear Caroline, when we parted so many months would pass with so few tokens of kind remembrance between us — but the experience of every day proves the remark true that “procrastination is the thief of time.” Had it not been for a certain affair, I should hardly have heard from you at all — and on that subject I will only add in reference to my last letter to you that he did not make any proposal but spoke of calling again and I told him I would write you on the subject. As to his being married, I am sure it is of no consequence to me — only as it was a means of hearing from you — that was of some consequence for since we roomed together for months, I have felt an interest in your ladyship which will ever continue “let seas between us loudly roar.”

Page 2

Memory often presents past scenes in vivid coloring when we sat by Sarah’s pleasant fire talking, rattling and laughing at a great rate and at other times I think of the many long interesting conversations when “we thought aloud” as Mrs. Skinners says of herself and Mrs. Williams — and lastly when I found you out of the dentist’s room at Utica expecting to have seen you again in an hour, and have never beheld you since. How many times I have composed myself for some floating object carried about by every gale and tide, and current that improved — but there have been no adverse gales yet. Oh, how your cause for thankfulness and gratitude to our heavenly zealot, who can with one breath agitate the whole ocean; one whose word can calm the troubled waters. And yet, how ungrateful I am. I know I am glad, but greatly fear I am not thankful. Oh what a miracle to man “is man” our favorite Young says and I often feel it so in a very great degree.

I have but little to tell you of this quiet place. Miss Boot of whom you have heard mention, is to be married on Wednesday next. I expect an invitation so there will be the wedding parties and for a few make a number of gay scenes. Our sister — Mrs. Bissell — gave a large party a short time since — and some others have also invited their acquaintances — but there is but little of “the feast of reason” in all these after all — but ____  ______ such _____ at this time. I really hope it will not always be so.

Page 3

Received a letter from Sarah yesterday in reply to my enquiry for the news. She wrote “the most ludicrous at present is the alarm amongst the women, children, and weak men from the Seneca Indians. It appears that our physicians have robbed their burying ground and they are bent on retaliation. It is reported — and has gained much credit — that several hundreds of them are stationed in the woods two miles from us awaiting their opportunity to destroy the village by fire and secure the doctors in the names. A watch has been kept during the night and the Materia Medica subjects of ____ and merriment through the day. The only inconvenience we feel from the story is that Morton is afraid to go [out] of doors, and William is [afraid to] go to bed — no new sensation to either of them. Mrs. Enos Throop and a friend of hers rolled themselves up in large shawls a few evenings since for a little r___ down the street. They soon found they were pursued by several men and to avoid then ran the faster. This only confirmed the belief of their pursuers that they were Indian shies, and quickens the ____ of the men till they finally reached Mrs. Thopps gate where an explanation occurred amusing to both parties.”

Page 4

Strange they should have watches and Indians at Auburn at this time of day to alarm the inhabitants. Sarah tells us that Mrs. G. Throop is very ill, and that Mrs. Lynds has a young baby a few days old. Your brother John is to be in Albany in about ten days and Mother is to accompany him on his return to Auburn for a few months. I fear he will not be much complement to have. _____ even on his hands, but he must practice in that line. I frequently hear from Abby. She is a dear good girl. I believe you will all love her fondly. My kind regards to your Father and Mother — and love to your sister, whom I hope I shall see more of. Her attention to us I shall long remember.

Affectionately, — A. Bissell


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