1827: Rev. David Damon to Rebekah (Derby) Damon

Rev. David Damon’s Tombstone

This letter was written by Rev. David Damon (1787-1843), the son of Aaron Damon (1761-1828) and Rachel Griffin (1761-1839). He married Rebekah Derby (1787-1852) in 1815 and they had at least seven children, their eldest being Norwood Damon (1816-1884) who is mentioned in this letter.

Rev. Damon was a Unitarian minister. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1811. He also helped found Cambridge’s Harvard Lyceum, studied theology at the Andover Theological Seminary, and was pastor in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, from 1815 to 1827. He was pastor of the West Cambridge Unitarian Church (now the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington) from 1835 to 1843.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Rebekah Damon, Lunenburg, Massachusetts

Bangor, Maine
July 30th 1827

My Dear Wife,

Your letter of July 22nd & 23rd was received by Friday evening’s mail. I was again rejoiced & I hope made thankful to a good Providence. You do not mention receiving mine of the 5th of July but I hope you received it — especially as it was post paid, as I have indeed paid for all of them since the time I mentioned it to you while at Augusta. My letter of the 23rd you of course could not have received when yours of the same date was written.

I am happy to hear brother Chandler’s services have been so satisfactory. You do not say whether he is to supply the rest of the time. I have often thought of him & of writing to him, & also of brother Conant, brothers Lincoln, Osgood, Blanehard, our very good fried Dr. Thayer, & the rest of our friends in the ministry, in & out of our Associations, but I could think of little to write to them which would be worth the expense of postage. However, I may write to brother Chandler yet. I hope I shall be able to reward him for his kindness to us. To brother Lincoln, I should have written long ago, only I could see no place to stop if I once began. I am much rejoiced at the prospect of seeing good Deacon Wood again on this side of the grave. Your account of Mr. Jones’ situation was much less favorable than I expected from former accounts. I wrote to him in the course of the last week, You will of course present my regards to all the neighbors & others who enquire. It is impossible for me to name them all in my letters, but I am sure I remember & think of them all. I believe without an exception, & especially our aged people. I consider it a special favor that your own health is so good & am of course deeply interested in the accounts you give of our dear children.

And now I come to what I would fain believe will be to you the most pleasing part of the letter. I am to return homewards as far as Augusta some time next week & preach at Augusta [on the] Sabbath after next (that is August 12th). This arrangement is made at the request of brother [John Gorham] Palfrey of Boston who is to supply a little while at Augusta & who wishes to be here at that time. From Augusta, it is my intention at present to proceed immediately for home after the aforesaid Sabbath, that is to say, I hope to start from Augusta for home in a fortnight from today or tomorrow, & if I am permitted to fulfill this intention, the privilege of being at Augusta, Sabbath after next, will be very considerable, as it will be an easy week’s journey from thence to Lunenburg; but a hard one from this place if it should be very hot weather. However, you are not to calculate too confidently upon seeing me in the latter end of week after next for there may be many circumstances which may prevent it, & in particular, it may be necessary for me to tarry longer at Augusta on my return than I now intend in order to make the ends of our complicated engagements here in Maine meet together. In that case, you will be apprised of the delay by letter from me. I would by all means have Mr. Chandler, or whomever may supply at Lunenburg, be present on Sunday, August 19th, unless I give new directions about it, because there is still uncertainty about my getting home before that day & because I shall of course be fatigued & perhaps unprepared to address my people till another Sabbath.

I am very anxious there should be no failure in the preaching at Lunenburg. I regret the one which has already occurred. It was my ardent wish they might have constant preaching in my absence & good preaching too. I calculate this letter may reach you on Saturday. If so, you can write me by the next Monday’s mail (& I think you had better) or even by the next Wednesday’s will do, directing your letter to Augusta & it will get there by the 11th or 12th day of August. In that letter you can probably say who is to supply the rest of the time so that I may have some chance for communication with him if I should wish to save him the trouble of going to, or being at, Lunenburg on the 19th of August. In that letter, inform me if you are able how brother Bascom’s health is.

And now, I will confess that I am much rejoiced at the prospect of being on my way home again & pleased that I am to pass through & stop again at that queen of villages — Augusta. This Penobscot country is interesting also, & here is the beginning in Bangor of a greater city than ever will be on the waters of the Kennebec. All agree that Bangor must be a great place — many say the largest in Maine. Some say it will be the London of New England. To Massachusetts’ folks this will sound extravagantly & perhaps it is so. But the more western people know not the capabilities of this river, the resources of the immense back country pertaining to it &c. Still at the present time, the country is new & rough. The eye lacks many of the graces which it sees on the longer settled banks of the lovely Kennebec, which is a very beautiful river, though taken every way, time will show that it bears about the same relations to the Penobscot, which the Merrimack does to the Hudson.

Old John Neptune

The Indians have had a great time at Old Town (Orono). ¹ Bishop Fenwick ² has been here to bury their dead, marry their young folks, & pardon the sins of all. At such times, which happen I believe about once a year, they collect together at Old Town. At other times, they are everywhere. I went up last Thursday & saw the world of waters, islands, Indians & sawmills. And I would have given a five dollar bill to have had my son, Norwood, with me, for he is old enough to understand, enjoy & remember the thing. And another 5 dollar bill to have had you there, if it had not been a rainy day & you had liked the show. Bishop Fenwick has not been here himself before. He seemed to be in general pleased with his red children, but told us there was Capt. Porous Bear & Capt. Mitchell [Michael] Bear, & one or two others who were drunk all the time & he could so them no good. In the morning, when they were sober, they kept out of his sight &c. I cannot boast of much acquaintance with these red folks yet, but have had the honor of being introduced to, or at least seeing, Lieut. Gov. John Neptune, ³ his daughter Tellesina Neptune, one of the Capt. Bears, Dr. Loler, Celia Loler, old Molly Susass, Sarah Susass, Mary Mohawk, Capt. Etteinne [Atteon] &c. &c. & one old woman said to be 120 years old. There are thirty saws forever going & inconceivably fast at Orono. Here will be factories where in the next generation the lumber business shall have gone up the river.

But I have no more room & must stop abruptly. Your affectionate husband, — D. Damon


Bishop Fenwick

¹ The town of Orono, Maine, was named after Joseph Orono, a Penobscot Indian chief or sachem who lived on the Penobscot River. French catholic priests were early-day visitors to the area and converted many of the Indians to the Catholic faith. The village of “Old Town” — called Pannawambskek by the Indians — contained the original Indian settlement and was not set off from the neighboring town of Orono until 1840.

² Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick (1782-1846) was a Jesuit priest and served as the Bishop of Boston from 1825 until his death in 1846. This letter mentions Bishop Fenwick’s first visit to Old Town to wrest the souls of the Indians away from more recent Protestant influences and back to Catholicism.

³ John Neptune (1767-1865) was selected Lieut. Governor of the Penobscot nation in 1816.


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