These two letters were both written by Mary C. (Perkins) Putnam (1806-1843), the daughter of Francis Perkins (1772-1852) and Sally Dennison (1774-1843). She married Israel Putnam, a carriage maker of Glens Falls, New York in 1829. Mary wrote both letters to her sister, Eliza D. Perkins (1804-1867), and other members of her family living in South Woodstock, Vermont. The first letter was written shortly after her marriage and after she and her husband set up housekeeping in Glens Falls, New York. The second letter, written eight months later, chronicles the journey she and her husband made from South Woodstock, Vermont, to Glens falls, New York — a distance of close to 100 miles over poor, muddy roads.
TRANSCRIPTION of LETTER ONE
Addressed to Miss Eliza D. Perkins, South Woodstock, Vermont
Glens Falls, New York
July 17th 1829
Ever dear sisters,
If I mistake not, you begin to think it time that you should hear from us, but I found it impossible to get my mind upon writing till we had become settled or I should have written immediately after our arrival. Presume you expect a full length description of our journey but as we did not keep a journal, I can only give you a short sketch of some of the most remarkable events. We had a fine ride from Woodstock to Sherburne where we dined and then proceeded on our way to Rutland. In consequence of the badness of the roads, we did not arrive at Mrs. Duncan’s till evening. Found Mrs. Duncan at home and in health. Mr. Duncan was from home but returned the same evening. Mrs. Duncan has a fine boy 3 months old. I think she told me they call him John Fanny. We staid there over night and on the following morning called over to Uncle Purdy’s accompanied by Mrs. Duncan. Found Aunt Charlotte in very low spirits and as she say, no better, though I believe her friends think her health some better than it was last fall.
Uncle Purdy was from home and I saw neither of the cousins. Our next ride was to Uncle Denison’s in Castleton. Found them in health excepting Aunt Dennison — though she was able to attend to her business. We found Uncle Dennison as pleasant as ever. Had a very agreeable visit. From there we went to Cousin Joseph’s accompanied by Cousin William and Aunt Dennison. We found them all in health and the whole town swarming to an anti-convention. In the afternoon, who should pop in but cousin Henry & Fanny Dennison. The meeting between Fanny and me was one of mutual surprise, for she was surprised to find me all married up, and I was scarcely less so to find her in Castleton. We staid at cousin Joseph’s that night and the next morning called at Mr. Dana’s to see Fanny. Mary was at Woodstock.
We returned to Joseph’s again and then started for home. We had a fine day for journeying and arrived safe here in the evening. Need I tell you that as I approached the place which was to be my future home, my mind was filled with sensations which I cannot attempt to describe? So entirely was I absorbed by the emotions which crowded upon my mind that all sensibility to fatigue was lost. When we rode up, our mother met us and said she was glad to see us all. She conducted us into the house where we found all things ready for our reception. And now I imagine you would know something concerning the place which I call home.
Well, in the first place, we have a small but convenient house situated in a retired but delightfully pleasant place, commanding one of the finest prospects of the Hudson in the whole town, a fine garden, and a yard with flowers in it, which I presume to say even Fanny would pronounce almost as beautiful as her own. We have fancy trees, ladies slipper, morning glories, large double marigolds and the most beautiful and luxuriant stations you ever beheld. And then we have boxes of pinks, china asters, artemesia, love entangled, and as far as roses, I have only to take a walk across the canal and get as many bushes as I please, which, by the bye, I intend next spring. We visited the falls a few days after we came here but notwithstanding I had endeavored to form some idea of them, I could say “the half was not told me.” I shall not attempt a description but you must “come, see, and conquer.” I attended meeting last Sunday and after tea, sister Abba went to Mr. Dag’s while Israel and I took a walk to the falls. Could you, my dear sisters, have been with us, how you would have enjoyed it. We could not forbear expressing a wish that our sisters were with us. The sun was sinking behind the western hills while we rambled about the rocks till sunset and returned home. In the evening, we had a call from some of our neighbors. I have formed some acquaintances since I came here and am most agreeably disappointed in them all. Find then very friendly and mostly agreeable, but am more particularly pleased with Miss Spencer and Miss Ransom than any I have yet seen. As far as I am acquainted, I see no reason why the people are not as agreeable as they [were] in Woodstock, but I have not yet learned to love them quite as well. But perhaps I may in time.
Presume you would ask me how many times I have been homesick and how many times I have cried to go home. But I must tell you as I do all others who ask me if I am homesick — “how can I be homesick when I am at home.” Believe me, my dear friends, this is indeed a home to me, and however dear the home which I have left, this is still dearer. True, I have left a dear father and mother, and you too, my dearest sisters, are left far behind, but yet I am happy. Yes, dear friends, I am truly happy. And I can say that my happiness is far beyond the expectations that my brightest hopes ever formed. Never, while my heart retains one throb of affection can I forget the dear sisters of my childhood, or the kindness and tenderness of my dear parents, but yet, I have found another parent, in the mother of him on whose life and happiness my own depends. Then how can I find room for repining? How can I ever breath one wish to return when I am blessed with the society of one who is ever ready to oblige me, and whose care and tenderness is unbounded? Oh, surely, if I were unhappy, I should be the most ungrateful of beings. No, rather let it be my chief study to requite the kindness which I receive and, if possible, render him happy who is so anxious that I should be.
With regard to our domestic concerns, I flatter myself that we succeed very well — at least they find no faults with me, and our good mother says I do well. Sister A. staid with us the first week, but she is now sewing at a Mr. Hawley’s and our mother and I do the work, which I find very easy and pleasant. We have seven in the family but as we often sit in our front door, Israel plays his flute and I do the singing, or sometimes we spend the time in conversation and, believe me, we do to quarrel more than half of the time! Sister A. came home this evening and found me waiting. She asked me what I should say for her. I told her I should tell you she was the best sister I had in town. She sends her best love to ou. Mother, likewise, wishes me to give her love to mother. I had forget ton to tell you that we have got our little parlor fitted up and I assure you, it looks quire respectable. Have made my curtains and vases, and everything looks snug and comfortable. Israel bought me some gold paper at Henry Dennison’s shop to bind my vases and he says he will have my pictures framed. Do, my dear sisters, write us immediately and tell us all that has happened since we left. Hope sister J. was not sick. We thought much of her on our way here. Israel sends much love to you all. Give mine to everybody in particular. We are all in good health.
Ever affectionately your sister, — Mary
TRANSCRIPTION of LETTER TWO
Addressed to Miss Eliza D. Perkins, South Woodstock, Vermont
Glens Falls [New York]
Sunday, March 28, 1830
Dear Sister Eliza,
You have probably expected to hear from us ‘ere this, and it was my intention to have written immediately on our return home, but many circumstances have rendered it inconvenient until now. As I flatter myself you all thought of us “two or thee times” after we left you, I presume you would be glad to hear a sketch of our journey homeward. I need not tell you that I left you with a heavy heart for you all know that the thought of leaving friends so dearly and tenderly beloved must have wrung my heart with anguish and caused feelings too painful to describe. Why it is that those friends who best know how to love each other must so often be separated? How happy should I be could you live where I could run in and see you now and then. Could you not coax Father and Mother to come and live here? I think you would enjoy yourselves here as well as there when you had once become acquainted with the place. But no, that fond wish can never be realized by me — it would make me too happy.
I promised to give you an account of our journey. Had forgotten it again till the moment. You will probably recollect that when we left you, it was our intention to go as far as F. Bigelow’s but owing to the badness of the traveling, we thought it best to make our journey as short and straight as possible . Accordingly, we put up at Uncle L. Hawkins. Uncle and Aunt received us with much apparent pleasure and their treatment to us during our stay with them was such that all that all previous prejudices against “going a cousining” were forgotten. I could not have spent my time more agreeably with any uncle and aunt I have in the whole world. They took the best of care of us. My greatest uneasiness was caused by a fear that they would do too much for us. Uncle told me I should now have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with my austere uncle but I thought him quite the reverse, found him remarkably pleasant and agreeable. Aunt too is very pleasant, but she is not so solid as her husband. She appears in a great measure to look to him for a formation of her opinions. In the evening, uncle & I had a real sing. Uncle once had a good voice, but it is now somewhat impaired by age, though his passion for music seems as strong as ever. We sung the book almost through, and even then, he appeared to leave it rather reluctantly.
On the following morning we left them for Ludlow [Vermont]. The traveling was so rough that we proceeded but slowly, so that we did not reach there till about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Little Henry, who was at a short distance from the house ran to meet us. Said he, “knew as soon as he saw us.” We found them all in usual health. Staid with them until the following day when we set our faces towards home. The morning was clear but there was a chilling wind and the roads so rough that we were compelled to call often to rest and warm for Israel would not allow me to go far without resting, not forgetting the stimulant which I found so beneficial on my way to Woodstock, not withstanding all that the members of temperance societies have said to the contrary. By the way, I belong to the temperance society and had signed one of the papers, but that does not prevent me from thinking that ardent spirits are sometimes a most excellent and essential medicine.
But I digress from my subject. Our progress on the day we started from Ludlow was rather slow and it was not until dark that we reached Castleton [Vermont]. We had previously made up our minds not to call on any of our relations in Castleton, as it would necessarily retard our journey and we were both anxious to reach home as soon as possible. But when we saw the light gleaming from the window of Uncle Dennison’s, my resolution began to waver and I was strongly tempted to break it. It was growing late, the night was dark and cloudy, and my fatigue so great that it seemed about impossible to proceed. But then the thought occurred to me, possibly they may not be at home, or should they be, they will probably not know us and then, the mortification of introducing oneself, and, besides, my fatigue was so great, that I well knew it would render me unfit for visiting, or even answering the many inquiries and observations which would naturally be made, so, on the whole, I determined to be self denying and bear every suffering, knowing that at a public house I could make known my wants without reserve, where my inclination for silence and rest, would be left at my own option. On making inquiry of a person whom we chanced to meet, though it was so dark, we could scarcely discern him. We learned that the next tavern was less than half a mile onward, so we proceeded onward to Moulton where we turned in for the night. We found ourselves much fatigued, but in the morning we were so far rested that we proceeded homeward.
We found the ground covered with snow, the morning cloudy, and the prospect rather unpromising, but as it was not cold, and the storm had nearly subsided, we wrapped ourselves in the buffalo and with the assistance of the umbrella so providentially provided by mother, we managed to be quite comfortable, tho’ our progress was but slow, owing to the wet snow, which soon gave place to mud. Had the traveling and weather been favorable, we should probably have reached home, but the storm which had turned to rain, continuing to increase, we were glad to find a shelter at Dayton’s in Granville [New York]. Here we called hoping that the weather would permit us to proceed a little farther before night, but the rain increasing, we staid over night. The next morning was cloudy tho’ not rainy and we again started for home. We had not proceeded far before it again commenced raining tho’ so moderately that we still kept on our way when a little before we reached Hartford Village [New York], the rain began to pour in torrents, and the wind blew with such violence that our united efforts to keep the umbrella over our heads were vain. Therefore, we were obliged to abandon it and bare our faces to the storm. Never did I witness anything equal to it before. Had we been sheltered, it would have made us shudder even to look out on such a storm — but to be exposed to it was dreadful in the extreme.
There was no public house until we arrived at the village at Mr. [Benjamin] Hyde’s, ¹ and as Israel was well acquainted with the family, we chose rather to leave the storm, than go amongst strangers. By the time we reached there, the fury of the storm had begun to abate tho’ we were well drenched with rain. They were extremely kind and assisted us in drying our clothes and endeavored to render us as comfortable as possible. They do not belong to that class of tavern keepers who care for only no farther than their interest is concerned, but they appeared really friendly and I shall ever remember them with esteem. Mrs. Hyde was an Ellis. Almira, the eldest daughter, gave me some sea shells as a keepsake. We staid about 2 hours when the sun shone out and gave promise of a fair afternoon, but a chilling wind blowing directly in our faces rendered our ride uncomfortable in the extreme.
And now came the time when my strength and fortitude were to be put to the severest test by traveling a road which led us thro’ a swamp 2 miles in extent. Israel had previously told me of it and had we taken any other road, we could not have escaped it. At the driest season of the year, it is said to be wretched traveling thro it being extremely muddy and built with logs, which though they were once buried, have washed their way to the surface of the ground, and remain bare so that traveling over them is as bad as riding upstairs, wrenching one almost in two. We rode slowly and called as often as we col;d find a log house, in one of which, I called for some drink, when a red headed girl presents me with a bowl of snow-water. But we got safely thro’ it and when we arrived at Sandy Hill, we rested and again went on. You may judge I was not very sorry to reach home — was very much fatigued, but notwithstanding, I ran into the house like a white-head, found them all well and glad to see us. We are both “rather slim” for a few days but are now in tolerable health. Must close for want of room.
Your affectionate sister, — Mary
¹ The tavern keeper, or public house proprietor, is the village of Hartford, Washington County, New York was Benjamin Hyde (1771-1860) of Old Lyme, Connecticut. His wife was Lois Ellis (1783-1860) of Woodstock, Vermont. The Hyde’s had several children but the only one mentioned by Mary in this letter was Almira Hyde (1803-1847), their oldest child who died unmarried at the age of 43. The Hyde’s moved to Brunswick (near Troy), Rensselaer County, New York, sometime prior to 1857.