1834: Polly Ward to Capt. Lorenzo Richmond

What Polly Ward might have looked like.

This letter was written by 19 year-old Polly Ward (1815-1853), the daughter of Eliab Ward (1791-1866) and Elizabeth Tilson (1790-1838) of Carver, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. At the time she wrote this letter in 1837, she appears to have been living with her Aunt Betsey (Ward) Bosworth, the wife of Marcus Bosworth, in Middleborough, Massachusetts.

Ward wrote the letter to Capt. Lorenzo Richmond (1806-1884), the son of Ebenezer Richmond (1770-1840) and Abigail Walker (1770-1854). From 1835-1836, Lorenzo was a delegate from Barnard to the Vermont General Assembly. He resided in Windsor, Vermont in 1840. He afterwards relocated to Woodstock, Vermont, where he met and married Ursula Hazen (1814-1902) in 1842.

It appears that Polly is declining a marriage proposal from Lorenzo in this letter. She married the following year (1838) to Asaph Atwood (1812-1864)

Note: The dateline of the letter has the appearance of 1834 but I believe it is 1837 based on the content of the letter — particularly the reference to the “scarcity of money” occasioned by the Panic of 1837 that struck in the early months of the Van Buren presidency.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Capt. Lorenzo Richmond, Barnard, Vermont

Middleborough [Massachusetts]
April 24, 1837

Friend Lorenzo,

I received your letter several weeks since which you requested me to answer as soon as I was prepared. But the difficulty was to be prepared and indeed I must confess that I do not feel better prepared now than when your letter first came to hand. I have deferred writing a long time hoping I should have some advice, but my friends are all careful to avoid abiding to the subject, and I dislike to introduce myself. My father has passed a very small portion of of his time at home this winter and when at home he seems as full of business and so entirely occupied with his own concerns that he has  no time to attend to mine or else he does not choose to meddle with them, and I am sometimes inclined to think the latter. I am perfectly conscious that it was necessary for me to have come to some decision some time ago. I thought of writing to Aunt B. but knowing that George or Eben take her letters out of the office and read them before she sees them, I concluded on the whole it was best to be silent; and after deliberating the subject there were some considerations that induced me to write without consulting any one.

You are a farmer and it is doubtless for your and your friends interest to change your situation as soon as you conveniently can. Now to be sure, I know very little about father’s money matters, but I have not the least reason to think that in these dull times, it would be at all convenient for him to raise as much money as I should want in addition to his other expenses as soon as next fall. And indeed, if he could do it without the least inconvenience, I could not possibly prepare myself. Day after day, and week after week, I find myself employed in domestic affairs without any prospect of a moment’s leisure to devote to my own concerns. And even if I was prepared to mind as the time draws near, the idea of leaving my friends has something so disagreeable in it that the bare thought of it almost unnerves me. I have no doubt that if I were quietly settled among the hills, that it would eventually promote my happiness. But I fear it requires more resolution, formless, and perseverance than I possess to leave all my friends and everything I hold dear to go and reside with strangers. I used to say and think that I should like to emigrate, that I should prefer removing to a distance to settling near home. But it [is] not so easy parting with friends as I once imagined. Perhaps it may appear like weakness in me to have placed my affections so deeply in my father’s family, but I cannot avoid such feelings. I have been for many years accustomed to take an almost maternal interest in the affairs of my brothers and sisters, and I find it impossible to loosen those affections of such long standing.

Now, as it would be impossible for me to think of leaving before a year from next fall certainly, perhaps you would choose to discontinue the correspondence. I do not wish to keep you in suspense. Neither can I make a promise that when the time arrives for me to fulfill, I should find myself unable. If my friends would say one encouraging word, I should not hesitate a moment. But as it is, I am a victim of doubt and indecision. But it is unnecessary for me to write more on this subject. You must do as you think proper. To say that I would choose to have this correspondence stop, I cannot. But if it is best, I certainly should not raise an objection but rather encourage a discontinuance of it. I was happy to hear that your friends approved ot it and often wish that I could see them and return some of the good feeling. Indeed, I almost wish I was not so much attached to this little spot called home and that the people here were not so much attached to me. However, the poet says, “Whatever is, is right.”

As for general news, the scarcity of money is almost the only subject talked of. Father so far has been pretty fortunate. He has lost very little by the many failures, but last week he was out upon a dunning expedition and he began to fear he should lose considerable. Betsey talks some of visiting  Vermont next fall, but whether it will amount to anything or not is rather uncertain. She and cousin Ellis Mendall talk the journey over very often and insist upon it that they shall go and as they ____ the hands to end a joke seriously, it is possible they may.

[April] 27. When I wrote the above, I expected to have completed it immediately and have forwarded it, but was disappointed in conveying it to a Post Office for I will not place in any of the Middleborough P. Offices. They have too much curiosity. Today a deputation arrived from my friends in Fair Haven requesting me to go and pass a few days with sick a sick friend who is not expected to survive but a short time. Betsey is unwilling to have me go and I do not know myself how to leave home but duty insists upon my going, and that must apologize for the hasty close of this letter. Please excuse the writing for the paper is intolerable.

Yours respectfully, — P. Ward

N. B. You will doubtless find many mistakes for I have not time to look it over or rather I am too much confused. Uncle is waiting and Betsey is in a peck of troubles because I am going away a few days. Yours in haste, P. W.


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