This interesting letter was penned by Mary (Hadley) Boyd (1808-1885) to her parents, Plummer Hadley (1771-1861) and Mary (“Polly”) Hadley (1781-1856) of Goffstown, Hillsboro County, New Hampshire. Mary was the wife of Isaac Boyd (1806-1868), the son of James Boyd (1768-1828) and Frances Baldwin (1771-1828). They were married in Goffstown in January 1834. Their firstborn child, Mary Frances Boyd (1835-1879) is described in this letter as a three-month old toddler.
We learn from the letter that the Boyds have settled in Cold Creek (now Castalia), a small community in Erie County, Ohio, not far from Sandusky. Mary’s two older brothers, Clifton Hadley (1804-1890) and Peter Eastman Hadley (1806-1875) seem to be living in the same vicinity. Perhaps one or both of these Hadley brothers was a partner in the firm Davidson, Hadley & Co., owners of a sawmill in Cold Creek in 1835.
Mary dislikes living in Cold Creek where she likens the majority of its inhabitants as “not worse than the great adversary himself.” The “wide-spread moral desolation” has led young, energetic men and even married men to “drunkenness, licentiousness, and profanity.”
Addressed to Mr. Plummer Hadley, Goffstown, New Hampshire
Cold Creek, Margaretta [Ohio]
December 28th 1835
Dear Father & Mother,
It may seem to you that the distance between us has caused me almost to forget you, but be assured it is not so. One thing after another has prevented my writing or attempting it until this morning. I have waited a number of weeks for an answer to my last but have waited in vain. I am anxious to hear from home as any one of you are to hear hear from us (I dare say). I hardly know how to content myself until I hear from you. However, I had as sermon from sister Martha the other day with brother George’s hand-writing on the cover and wrapper which proves that he is at home, and that I am occasionally thought of. I know your cares and, therefore, I ought not to think strange — but can’t you spend a few hours once in a few months for those of your children in a strange land. Indeed, it would be a feast to have a letter from you.
You by this time wish to know what the health of your absent children is, and also a variety of other questions will arise in your minds which you would like to have answered. I will begin and answer all the enquiries which occur to me will be made around the venerable fireside, so long to be remembered with sensations of gratitude.
In the first place, husband has almost perfect health while mine suffers considerable at different times. Have had pretty good health this fall and winter with the exception of a most inveterate toothache. It lasted seven weeks — not every day — but generally every other day (as people have the ague) in the time. I had one tooth extracted on the right side of my face which took the top off the next one, which was a mere shell — all decayed inside — and the one which caused all the trouble. The stub remains with the nerve bare as I cannot muster courage to have it dug out. It troubles me yet some and will until the nerve dies. I find that my system generally has suffered in consequence of it. I have a good appetite and feel quite well, but weak. Think, however, I shall gain strength when we get into our new warm dwelling which will be in a week or two. The stone is nearly done, most of the goods are moved here, and it will be opened in a day or two. Peter boards with us yet [and] enjoys good health. Says he thinks he shall go home in the spring.
And now comes little Frances. I just asked her what I should tell Grandpa and Grandma about her. She stept out on the floor and lifting up her little arms says, “Oh, where is it?” I then told her to come and give me a kiss for them, which she did immediately. She calls your names quite plain.
Yesterday for the first time, she tried to say Peter. She succeeded very well in calling him Teter. He is constantly at work with her when in the house. He calls her his old baby and his best baby, and you are good old baby. She has good health most of the time and grows like a “pig” with cheeks as red as a cherry and eyes as bright as need be. She has gained the last three months about six pounds although has a number of ill turns caused by worms and teeth. Indeed, she is as good a child as I ever saw. Do not think we hold her an hour in a day on an average when she is well. People that saw her in the summer have told me this fall that they doubted very much whether I should get her through the summer or no. Indeed, they thought it almost impossible. I can’t be too thankful for our healths.
Clifton [Hadley] is quite well although has not been here these ten weeks. His wife is well some of the time. [She] is too ambitious. When able to work, she will go upon the run until she is obliged to go to bed. She has now a little girl 11 years old — [a] very good one — [and] can keep her until she is 18. She has been here once. I go to see her once in six weeks. Our city gentry don’t like to ride over the bad road which is between us and therefore they stay away. However, Mrs. Davidson and Campbell has been here to see me once this fall and Leo has the rheumatism in her back so much that she cannot ride very comfortably, and this accounts for the whole. Mr. Campbell gets along rather slow although is able to work some and has the ague some.
And now for the general news. Railroads seem to be the order of the day. There has been no less than three different roads surveyed through this farm this fall. One company of surveyors went along last week [and] another today. These two railroads will in all probability pass this place. The other goes two miles east of us. The Pennsylvania and Ohio road follows the Lakeshore (touching all the ports thereon) from the first mentioned place to Michigan line. It will in all probability intersect the grand railroad which runs the whole length of New York from Albany to Buffalo and thence to Pennsylvania line. The other runs from Toledo to Sandusky City. The one that goes east of us is the Mad River and Erie Railroad. It is laid into town through our land close to Mr. D.’s [Davidson’s?] house and a Depot to be built on the same. Nine or ten miles of this road is ready for the rails. The day is not far distant when one can embark on the cars at Boston and not leave them until they arrive at Detroit and, in all probability, to Chicago. Then “you know,” I can come home in a hurry. This is not idle fancy. This great work will be accomplished.
Mr. D. Kendrick opens his goods in Sandusky in the store that our people leave. I don’t like living at Cold Creek. The inhabitants are not worse than the great adversary himself. I think sometimes they are as bad as he can make them. Drunkeness, licentiousness, and profanity constitutes their all. Young men — active, intelligent, and enterprising — blush not to be found guilty of these sins and even genteel, married men are not slow to transgress when they think their families will not find them out. How long will such desolation be spread over this portion of our beloved land? It is as common here to see villages with meeting houses as to the East without, and this you will see is the cause of all this wide-spread moral desolation. Could these unhappy victims (for what else can they be called) be brought under the influence of the gospel, I think they would reform, but how is it to be done? Their hearts are harder than the nether millstone and infidelity trumps with many. We have a good minister in the town but no preacher. I think sometimes that he never was made to preach and the singing is worse than anything you can conceive. Indeed, it is a relief to get away from such grating. You know that most people will not go to church unless they have something to induce them, and therefore it is ___. Again I say, how can these people be christianized?
Where is [brother] George? What is he doing this winter and where doing it? Is [sister] Martha at home? Has she anything to do at her trade? Are you all well? Is [sisters] Eliza, Sarah, and Ann well? Tell them not to tear up any more letters they write for me. I can read them. Tell me something about [brothers] William and Clark Charles, [and] also all the news at home and abroad, and that which is not new to you will be new to me. I want a letter soon. I want one from George too. [I] have not had time to write him this fall. Have had some papers from him.
My love and best wishes to you all. Also to all enquiring friends.
From your affectionate daughter, — Mary Boyd