1834: Juliaet Thompson to Richard Harvey Phelps

What Miss J. Thompson might have looked like.

This letter was written by Juliate [Juliette?] Thompson, the daughter of Seth Collins Thompson (1798-1885) and Chloe Phelps (1797-1861). Seth Thompson was the son of Matthew Thompson (1763-1828) and Elizabeth (“Betsey”) Collins (1770-1865). Chloe (Phelps) Thompson has written a portion of the letter as well.

She wrote the letter to her cousin, Richard Harvey Phelps (1813-1885), the son of Roswell Homer Phelps (1788-1881) and Lydia Gay (1790-1824). Richard married Mindwell B. Griswold in 1840.

I have not been successful in finding any information about Juliate [Juliette?] Thompson. She may have died young. I did find some information about her two siblings, both mentioned in this letter:

  • Harriet Jencks Thompson (1827-1883) born Enfield, CT. married Richard Erskine Holcomb in 1853.
  • John Collins Thompson (1825-1923), born Enfield, CT. Married Hester Ann Fisher in 1847.

This letter is not postmarked and was likely hand carried to Enfield, Connecticut. The dateline provides no clue as to the location where it was written, but Juliaet mentions “Seneca” which suggests to me that the Thompson family had relocated in the mid-1830s to either Seneca, Seneca Falls, or Seneca County in upstate New York, where Seth and Chloe Thompson kept a boarding house. The family appears to have returned to Connecticut before 1850, however.

Miss Thompson mentions that among the 30 boarders at her father’s boarding house in 1834 were  the “wandering pipers and the dwarf children.”  I can only assume this was a troupe of musician/entertainers who were making the rounds of upstate villages. My mind conjures up an image of pipers accompanied by dwarf female singers patterned, perhaps, after the classic tale of the “Pied Piper of Hamelin.” Such curiosities were popular at the time. But I could find no reference to such a troupe in the vintage newspapers though I did see an 1819 article in an Albany newspaper that announced “The dwarf songsters” who were “very extraordinary dwarf children (a boy of sixteen and a girl of twenty) who were the children of Mrs. Clark.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Richard H. Phelps, Enfield, Connecticut

[Seneca, New York]
November 28, 1834
Sabbath eve

My much esteemed cousin,

I retire from the busy scenes of the evening to advise you, judging your feelings from my own, a few lines would be acceptable. How do you do? How are you enjoying yourself this winter? What is a going on to drive dull care away? I suppose you wish to know the same of me. Well, cousin, I will tell you the whole story in short metre.

My health is gaining. My cheeks look like the days of yore. Aunt says. I suppose you will wonder the cure of so sudden a change. Aunt says its hard work and contented mind together with a fat living. I believe so too. We have a little family; 30 steady — some real genteelly, I assure you — keep us all on foot now, I tell you that. I have some pleasant amusements such as wandering pipers and the dwarf children, which are here to be exhibited now. There is two girls — one is 34 years old, 30 inches high; the other 23 years old, 20 inches high. But above all we have first rate cotillion parties — the choicest of the village — assemble here once in two weeks. I am one on the list, a treat, I assure you. The music comes in the afternoon. There is only six that attend in the afternoon besides Harriet and myself. We have tried to persuade John to attend but to no effect. He says he’d rather hunt and fish. We only have enough for to make three cotillions, commence early in the evening, and leave at eleven o’clock. Half past nine we have a table set in grand style and first rate cake of course, raisins and almonds, and all of the good things. I wish you would step in. Our next is on Tuesday evening. Please come and see our handsome ladies and gentlemen in Seneca.

I attend the Episcopal Church. Last Sabbath General Gideons came from the gallery and insisted upon my going up to join them. I did so, They have a very fine organ and nice church. We have singing schools every Friday evening. The singing master puts up with us. Next week we expect a gentleman and lady from Jonestown to spend the winter — the Topnots. They have two rooms.

We have snow here now. I have had a number of promises of rides from our boarders. Tell Grandmother I shall write her a long letter soon. Tell her that Mr. Brooks called to see me the day after she left us. The next week Mr. Wright called on me from Illinois. I was very glad to see them indeed. [They] inquired very particular about her. If I mistake not, it was Thanksgiving in Connecticut last Thursday and we had two Connecticut Gentlemen here. Our boarders all was wanting to complete some of Grandmothers Punking Pie. Perhaps next Thanksgiving I shall step in [and] eat some with you all.

O, I like to have forgotten to tell you that Mr. Marshall broke his leg a few weeks since but came over here last week for the first time. He is on the gain now. We are all sitting around the kitchen fire. Harriet is a combing her Father’s hair with her gold ring on as crank as you please. Richard, will [you] give my love to all my friends, Grandma Thompson in particular. Is Caroline Bliss married yet? Write and tell who is dead and who is married/ Cousin, I suppose you have some rarity’s. We do not — that’s fine pears this cold weather. Do you have plenty, Richard?

Give my love to Aunt Clark and say that Cousin Harriet and I want to see the baby very much and give it a good pinching.

My dear nephew,

I must give myself the pleasure of inserting a few lines in J.’s letter to an old friend. We have long been waiting to hear from you but to no effect. I suppose we are out of sight and mind, but not so with me. Can not forget old friends so you give my best love to mother. Tell her we are all well and have better help than when she was here but more to do. Tell her I have received her bag of sage and very thankful for it. We received a letter from Sally informing us of her good luck in getting home. We were very lonesome after she left. Tell her my old girl came back the next day after she left.

You must not be surprised if your cousin J. should get a twenty thousand dollars out here. One of the great man’s sons are very much smitten. Harriet and John have got to be most as large as myself. Hard work seems to agree with us all.

Do you board with Mrs. P. yet? And how does my dear friend bare her sore affliction? Tell her I mourn with her and often think of her in her sad situation, Tell her to write me.

How is Mr. Hoblin’s health? My best respects to him. Mr. Thompson has been expecting one of his old friends out. If [he] should come, do not fail to write us long letters. Give my best love to all of my friends. Harriet sends her best love to her dear Caroline. She says there is no girls here like Caroline and Clarissa although she has warm friends here. There is nothing like Connecticut with Harriet, but [the] rest like this part. The night runs late and I must bid you a good night. From your affectionate Aunt C.

___. Are you a following the fashion? I understand they are marrying and giving in marriage altogether with you. I expect you will be married ‘ere long.

P.S. I do not like to see a vacancy and I will say a little more. Tell Grandmother we have the Black Eyed Caulking with us now. He has given Cousin Harriet and myself to come to the East first good sleighing. Grandmother, what you do you think of that? Richard, you must write me as long or better as this as soon as you receive it. Don’t disappoint me. Tell all news.

From your affectionate cousin, — Juliaet


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