1834: Caroline (Underhill) Cromwell to William Cromwell

What Caroline Cromwell might have looked like.

This letter was written by Caroline (Underhill) Cromwell (1803-1848), the daughter of Joshua Underhill (1765-1839) and Mary Sutton (1767-1820). She wrote the letter to her husband, William Cromwell (1800-1871), a farmer of Monroe, Orange Co., New York, who also kept a dry goods store in New York City. He was the son of James Cromwell (1752-1828) and Charlotte Hunt (1762-1839). Caroline wrote the letter in the summer of 1834 during a cholera epidemic in New York City.

Caroline mentions her brother-in-law, John Cromwell (1803-1883), a farmer who was married to Letitia Haviland and lived in New Windsor, Orange County, N. Y. Caroline also mentions the illness of their daughter, Caroline Ann Cromwell (1833-1918), then only a year old.

From 1860-1863, William Cromwell’s NYC Dry Goods business was located at 118 Chambers Street in a an Italianate-style, store-and-loft building that was constructed in 1855 and owned by Luke H. Holmes, a merchant whose business was located on Maiden Lane. The 1850 and 1860 Census records enumerate William Cromwell residing in New York City. Perhaps he relocated to NYC after his wife’s death in 1848.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to William Cromwell, 24 Cedar Street, New York [City]

Monroe [New York]
27 August 1834

Page 1

How rejoiced I was on receiving thy last written latter (which I did today). Thou will imagine, my dear husband, when I tell thee it was the first I had heard from thee since we left ____ at Brother Oliver’s door. We have constantly been hearing reports about the Cholera in our City, in which I have placed very little confidence knowing how much the truth is frequently exaggerated, yet I felt anxious to hear a correct statement which I know I should do when I heard from thee. Our poor dear mother was much affected on my reading to her thy account of Brother J’s sickness. She said, “Poor John, he never knew much about sickness before.” She is very anxious to hear again from him. Says she is afraid he will go to work too soon.

I have not so good an account to give thee of the health of all thy little family as I did last week. Our dear little babe has been very sick. I thought sometimes it was bountiful whether her Father ever would see her again animated by the spirits of life. I took her up last third day morning in a high fever which continued till 4 day eve without much abatement when the medicine I gave her had the desired effect of removing the fever. But it left her very weak and much reduced. It is astonishing how a day or two sickness will change the looks of the little helpless creatures. For several days her stomach ejected all the food or drink that was taken in it. However, she is now so well I hope by next week she will entirely regain her strength and flesh. Her appetite is now pretty good and her humours have almost disappeared and no appearance of any more.

Page 2

Thou says, my dear, all my letters are short. Thy reason for wishing them longer is very gratifying altho my diffidence of their worth leads me to assign it more to thy affectionate sympathy than to any real good in them. Indeed, I feel ever ready to pour my whole heart into thy bosom but I sometimes sustain the full flow of my feelings because I thought matter of fact letters were the most agreeable to my “gude man.”

[Our daughters] Mary & Eliza & myself are very well and hearty. Mary said she would like to live here all the time. We have been the only visitors here the last week.

Mr. Palmer and children have returned here today — 2d day now. The letter thou mentions having sent by post I hope to get today as James is going soon to the village. I am surprised it has not been sent to us. I send this by mail as I had no opportunity to send seventh day and I know thou will be glad to hear of our welfare.

Page 3

The weather the past week has been delightfully cool and high winds prevail. It is now whistling among the trees and over the chimney like the fall of the year. The farmers are impatiently waiting for rain and afraid pasture will be short and corn injured by a long drought. Jacob brought in an Indian relict he had just turned out of the earth with the plough and Mother has been giving me quite an interesting account of the Indians and some of the first settlers about here. But had this stone pestle the power of speech, it could no doubt give many a strange tale and tell of many a deed of wonder committed by these red men of the woods — these wielders of the tomahawk and the scalping knife. James says there are the remains of a wigwam and fires under the hill by the south pond but a few years since the red men possessed these ere the white man came with the axe and the plough and drove them by the terror of the sword and gun from their homes and their loved retreats.

Now my dear William will not say my letter is short and though there may not be much to interest, it will remind thee of those whose delight I hope it will always be to “increase thy comforts and lessen thy griefs.”

— Thy children and thy Caroline


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