This letter was written by Rev. Guerdon Gates (1796-1858), a native of New London, Connecticut. Gates attended Washington College and afterwards studied theology. “He then filled a professorship in the college from which he had graduated, two or three years. Having been set apart to the ministry, he moved to Bourbon county, Kentucky, about 1823, and was soon afterwards called to the care of the Baptist church in Paris. Here he preached and conducted a female seminary about ten years. In 1833 he moved to Mayslick in Mason county, where he remained two years. In 1835 he moved to Louisville. After this, he only preached occasionally. He maintained an exalted Christian character, and was prominently connected with the benevolent institutions of the city more than twenty years. He was a man of great simplicity of manners, arid was much loved by a large circle of acquaintances.” [Source: A History of Kentucky Baptists by J. H. Spencer]
Rev. Gates wrote the letter to Simeon Fish (1797-1863), the son of Sands Fish (1762-1838) and Bridget Gallup (1768-1842). Simeon was married (1823) to Eliza Roe Randall (1803-1872). They lived in Portersville, Connecticut, which became swallowed up by Groton in later years. Simeon was “a shoemaker, merchant, ship owner, and farmer. He accumulated a large property, spoke plainly and abhorred dishonesty.”
Gates mentions visiting with Capt. Roswell Phelps Fish (1798-1837) in Baltimore, Maryland, while returning from Connecticut to his home in Kentucky in 1832. Capt. Fish was married (1824) to Ellen Clark in Baltimore. “He was an able seaman; commanded fine ships in the trade between Baltimore and English ports, and lived a life of thrilling adventure.”
Addressed to Mr. Simeon Fish, Portersville New London County, Connecticut
February 2d 1832
When I left you I thought verily that I should have interrupted you with a scroll before this time, but I have not had time enough to write but very few letters. I am in hopes, however, to be more settled in a short time. I have been traveling and visiting and preaching ever since I arrived in Kentucky.
O lamented very much that I had not more time to spend with you and my friends at Mystic. My visit to New London and other engagements, however, prevented me from that pleasure. I could have spent a much longer time in my old state & should have done so but for my engagements here. I was not satisfied with my visit, I assure you. My whole tour, thither & homeward again, as well as my visit was very interesting and pleasurable to me. I ought indeed to have made the best of it inasmuch as it may be the last opportunity I shall ever have of the kind. Some of those friends & relatives that I saw, I can not, with any degree of certainty, promise myself the pleasure of seeing again on this side of Jordon. My venerable parents are old & infirm, & a few more years will waft them to their long home. Should my situation & circumstances justify, I shall finely embrace an opportunity of visiting the land of my nativity.
My late visit resulted as a disappointment for I came to the place of my nativity with the image of childhood & youth fresh in my recollection, but lo — it had fled, for I saw nothing that answered with exactness to the image in my mind. The youth had become almost venerable in years, the children had become men & women. I passed the parish schoolhouse where I received my first instruction, I looked over the fields & pastures for the companions of my youth, [and] I saw them not. I asked, where are they? No one replied — but the dying echo responded, where are they? Can you imagine my feelings? I stood in silence and mused upon the scene before me and almost wished my years to return and place me in the midst of those children with whom I mingled the joys of youth. But the door of fate closes upon the scene, and it exists only in the mind, growing more & more faint & indistinct as time glides away. How fading are the objects of time. All grow old, decay, and fall to ruin.
On my return, I spent one day in Baltimore with my old friend and pupil, Capt. [Roswell] Phelps Fish. Was very much pleased with my interview. He took considerable pains to show me the curiosities of the city. I could have spent many days with his family, with the utmost pleasure had time permitted me. From the interview I had, I was highly delighted with his wife. She appears to be a lady of amiable qualities. In consequence of my visit at this place, I formed a new acquaintance in Pittsburg — a Doctor Lugg whom Phelps brought from England with his family some years ago. This gentleman lived in Baltimore two or three years & then removed to Pittsburg where he now resides. A great intimacy exists between him & Capt. Fish & their families. I name this circumstance for the reason that Dr. Lugg is one of the most agreeable & interesting men that I have had the pleasure to become acquainted with, for some time. And I believe as great an attachment exists between him & myself as could from a short acquaintance. I have been for some time acquainted with some of his relatives in Kentucky he had not seen for 18 years & from whom he had not heard for several years, &c.
My family are at this time all well. Since my return, we have all had the influenza. _____ has been epidemic, and the scarlet fever. These diseases raged in this country during the fall and early part of winter.
This winter set in in November and continued with great severity for this country until the first of this month. The 26th of January was the coldest day according to the thermometers that has been known here for years. The thermometer stood at 2 degree below zero.
Give my love to all the friends and accept my kind assurances and best wishes for yourself & Sister Fish, — G. Gates