1836: Henry Augustus Homes to Elizabeth (Homes) Washburn

The Philander Washburn House in Marlborough built in 1832

This letter was written by Henry Augustus Homes (1812-1887) — an 1830 graduate of Amherst College, a missionary to Constantinople from 1836 to 1850, and Librarian of the New York State Library. He was the son of  Henry Homes (1776-1845) and Dorcas Freeman (1789-1813) of Boston who became a wealthy hardware merchant with the firm of “Homes, Homer, & Bonner” and was a founding member of the Park Street Church, a founder of the Massachusetts Bible Society, and founder of the Evangelical Tract Society.

Rev. Asahel Bigelow, husband of Dorcas F. Homes

Henry and Dorcas had three children before Dorcas died in 1813: Henry (the author of this letter), Elizabeth (the recipient of this letter), and Dorcas Freeman Holmes (1810-Aft1888), who is mentioned in this letter. Dorcas married Rev. Ashahel Bigelow (1797-1866) in Boston (1830) and resided in Walpole, Massachusetts, and later moved to Hancock, New Hampshire where Rev. Bigelow served as pastor of the community for twenty-five years.

Henry A. Homes was married in April 1841 to Anna Whiting Heath (1817-18xx). They had two children, Mary Frances Homes (1844-1845) and Henry Freeman Homes (1847-18xx), both born in Pera, Constantinople.

An obituary for Henry A. Homes appears in the 4 November 1887 issue of the New York Herald, which reads:

Dr. Henry A. Homes, librarian of the New York State Library, at Albany, died in that city yesterday, after a long illness. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, March 10, 1812, was graduated at Amherst College in 1830 and subsequently studied theology and medicine at Andover and Yale. During 1834 and 1835 he devoted himself to Arabic, in Paris, and in 1836 joined the American Missionaries in Constantinople, devoting himself to their labors until 1850, at which time he became attached to the American Legation at the Porte, filling successively the positions of interpreter, Acting Consul and Charge d’Affaires. In 1854, having returned to America, he was appointed librarian in the New York State Library, where he remained till his death, having been promoted to the place of librarian in 1862. Columbia College gave him the title of doctor of laws in 1873. He was the author of several valuable books, mainly on Oriental subjects. He took a very active interest in the State Library and secured for it large and important additions, in manuscripts and print, seeing it grow from 30,000 volumes to 135,000 while he was connected with it.

Henry wrote the letter to his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth (Homes) Washburn (1809-18xx), the wife of Philander Washburn (1798-1882). They were married in 1831 and had a son named George Washburn (1833-1915) by the time of this letter in 1836. They must have received the letter at their residence in Marlborough, Massachusetts, that was built in 1832.

Stampless Cover


Addressed to Mrs. Elisabeth H. Washburn, Middleboro (Four Corners) Massachusetts, U. S. America

Constantinople [Turkey]
March 1, 1836

My Dear Elizabeth,

Page 1

I freely acknowledge myself in your debt. But how shall I ever be able to have it otherwise. I hope that you will not despair – nor cease to love and write. Here are three of yours unanswered (you have received two from me in Paris, you say) one received at Paris, the other at Constantinople. You speak of my “favorite Rebecca” ______ being married. So after the same manner Pa says – “you have lost Martha Whittlesey.” What can you be all thinking of? You speak of your “numerous connections” I will believe you. I believe that it is because you are really busy – that you contrive to find time to write so many letters to me. An idle man is always busy and never can find time to do anything. Don’t be flattered into thinking that you may now be still and cease writing me letters.

You speak of my buying you a watch in Paris. I think that I mentioned in some letter to America that I did not receive your letter in season to allow of my selecting a watch for you in Paris. If Grandmother Bourne still lingers on this side of the valley of death, assure her of the affectionate remembrance of her young friend, and ask her for me to withdraw her thoughts occasionally from more delightful contemplations to pray for a missionary.

If your letters “sound like newspaper reading,” how much more mine? But would you have me admit I have not yet learned to write a brother’s letter and in the same time think of a whole town. You speak with delight of Dorcas – so feel I. She would have made a grand missionary’s wife. She is emphatically a useful woman. She certainly could not be happy in Walpole any more than at the Sandwich Islands unless sustained by the love of doing good.

Page 2

Speaking of the Sandwich Islands and of sewing circles reminds me of a request that I have promised to make in behalf of various missionary stations in this part of the world. Viz: There are many schools for females scattered about. They want something to stimulate industry & to instruct how to be industrious. Now, there have been fairs held all over New England & every young lady & elderly lady too has fancy articles – pin cusions &c accumulated on her hands that she knows not what to do with. Now if you will interest yourself to make a collection from around about you and send them home to be sent to me, they will be usefully disposed of. They (the children) will have models of good sewing & models of ingenuity & this industry will be stimulated. Don’t send, however, worn out things as if anything would do for these Christians.

I read with interest all that you say of my nephew George. Hope he will learn to think of his uncle & ere long to write to him — & tell him how good he is – loving Father & Mother – and ___ that blessed little children. Of Mr. Washburn I often think and am rejoiced that E. has such a good husband. I hope that the sins of this world will in no wise render him unfruitful in perfect obedience to his savior. As for yourself, I am anticipating to hear that you have avowed before men that you have taken Jesus for your Redeemer. We never shall have fulfilled his commands until we have thus done – and publicly united ourselves to His chosen ones. There is no Christian growth without it. Do you ever expect by looking in upon your corrupt self to find any good thing there? Are you not rather to believe, and then go and cast that corrupt self to the mercies of Jesus – to be saved by him according to his promise – that he that believeth shall be saved.

Page 3

Am rejoiced you have not been punished in your parish by receiving an unworthy pastor. My associations with the name of Mr. Putman are very agreeable – and I hope that union – life – and growth will wash the whole effects of his ministry to you. Mrs. Schaufler of whom you ask me is a first rate woman, and I don’t wonder that Mr. Schaufler felt the need of her to aid him to cure his head aches. Her sickness brought her so near to the grave that Mr. Goodell actually closed her eyes & she had bid all farewell and she thought she had gone to heaven. You by asking will be able to obtain from Boston some interesting notices of her sickness.

I sent you no particular thing from Paris except love & letters. However, in the course of time I shall fall upon something for you at least as valuable as what I sent home to the children. Ma was afraid you might have felt hurt about it. But if I had supposed you & D were real children, I would have anxiously sought out something for you.

Rev. William Goodell

Now I have dispatched all the thoughts that seemed to demand remark in your letters, and have still space left for speaking of my present situation. And first of all I tell you what I tell others. Read Commodore Porter’s letters from Constantinople & DeKays Sketch of Constantinople – perhaps Bremer’s Turkey also. My days I spend in Turkish studies in the third story of Mr. [William] Goodell’s stone house. Side of my room is an American School. Mr. [William] Goodell ¹ is full of life, joy, activity, and Christian love. He speaks of “My dear Elizabeth, Dorcas, & Henry” with much affection and would have added an appendix to this letter if he had not written nine letters today. So he sends his best love. He has six children tolerably interesting. In American, you must recollect, a ____ of Christian parents has the society of other Christians, of respectable servants of other boys & girls – of a thousand good associations to aid in a complete education. Don’t be surprised then if our children have not the same attractions as American children.

Page 4

Can you remember Mrs. Goodell? She is one of the most amiable, patient, quiet persons to be found. Never, never impatient, notwithstanding the innumerable causes for it that you have hardly imagined to exist. For instance, she has just taught a Greek servant how to wash decently & she runs off taking various things. Another comes who ruins rather than washes every thing that goes into her hands. Rears her family & Mrs. Schaufler’s. We have still another, Mr. Dwight’s, with bright, graceful, well educated children – so that we make quite a little Christian society. And we are all of one mind and of one spirit – in action and in prayers. We are hardly noticed by those around us and yet a great deal of good is being done here – more than we care to speak of in America. Of course you think that good is done in America where light – intellectual, moralm and religious – is spread abroad, even tho’ there may not be so many positive conversions. Besides you know that these people are Christians already in name and that when they become pious, they cannot be counted among converts, as in heathen countries. They remain still in their own church.

In turning my thoughts home, all whom I have seen once with pleasure are still remembered with delight – and so I remember all the general’s family, Judge Woods, Cushmans, & Bournes – and all of them I would like again to visit. And how would I like to walk in the garden & under the shade of the trees that Philander has caused to be set out around your house, and read & talk & look. Will you believe it? I do not despair of one day seeing you here. Don’t forget your French. You will want it when you come. The Lord be with you, with husband and with child.

Your affectionate brother – Henry A. Homes


¹ Rev. William Goodell (1792-1867) was born in Templeton, Massachusetts, and educated at Phillips Academy (Andover), Dartmouth College, Andover Theological Seminary. Accepted as missionary of ABCFM in 1822. He married Abigail Perkins Davis (1800-1871). Sailed to Malta, arrived in Beirut Oct. 16, 1823, where he aided in establishing a station which became center of Syrian Mission. In 1828, he moved to Malta because of England-Turkey conflict. In 1831, Rev. Goodell began residence in Constantinople where he commenced the Armeno-Turkish mission. One of his chief labors was translation of Bible into Armeno-Turkish, on which he labored 20 years. He received a Doctor of Divinity from Hamilton College in 1854. In 1865, after 43 years of mission service, he returned to U.S. and died in Philadelphia at residence of his son on Feb. 18, 1867. Latourette, VI 49f. Moffett, 386.


One response to “1836: Henry Augustus Homes to Elizabeth (Homes) Washburn

  • Victoria

    Interesting. Why would Mrs. Washburn have received the letter at her home in Marlborough, Mass when it was addressed to her in Middleboro? I arrived at this site because I am currently researching an ancestor, Elizabeth (Holmes) Hunt, born 1809, who married Ephraim Hunt in Milton, Mass in 1827 and moved to Middleboro soon after that. She had sons, Ephraim Holmes Hunt who died as an infant and Ephraim Augustus Hunt, who grew to adulthood and supposedly was a Baptist minister. Because of the names, I am wondering if she was related to or knew this family.

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