1837: Clara Leonard (Wight) Rowland to William Henry Wight

What Clara W. Rowland might have looked like

This letter was written by 25 year-old Clara Leonard (Wight) Rowland (1812-1880), the daughter of Rev. Henry Wight (1752-1837) and his second wife, Clarissa Leonard (1771-Aft1837) of Bristol, Rhode Island.

Clara married (1830) to William Maltbie Rowland (1795-1869), a native of Fairfield, Connecticut. William Rowland was a merchant in Augusta, Georgia. and was for twenty years connected with the Iron Steamboat Company there. In 1855, the Rowlands left Augusta for Rockford, Illinois. Clara was remembered by her acquaintances as a “woman of rare Christian virtues, revered by her children and all who came within the circle of her influence.”

Clara’s father, Rev. Henry Wight

Clara wrote this letter to her nephew, William Henry Wight (1817-1845), the oldest son of Henry Wight (1791-1885) and Abby Wardwell (1794-1871) of Decatur County, Georgia. William’s father was a step-brother of Clara’s — a son by Rev. Henry Wright’s first marriage to Alice Burrington (1762-1797).

We learn from this letter that twenty year-old William H. Wight was employed as a clerk with Witherell, Ames & Co. at No. 2 Liberty Street in New York City in 1837. This company manufactured shovels and spades of all shapes and sizes.

[Note: Though datelined 1827, later in the letter it becomes clear that Clara intended to write 1837 instead.]

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. William H. Wight, Care of Witherell, Ames & Co., 2 Liberty Street, New York [City, New York]

Augusta [Georgia]
March 14, 1827 [1837]

My dear Nephew,

I have written you twice but have never had the satisfaction of receiving a letter from you but as I know you have never been much accustomed to writing, I will excuse you if you will endeavor to do better in future.

I received a long letter from your Aunt [Abigail] Diman not long since. She begged me to write you & said you was better pleased with your situation than at first. Be faithful to the interests of your employer, improve every moment of your precious time, & remember that it is a gift from God, that one day He will require a strict account of the manner in which you have employed it. Do you recollect the wicked & slothful servant that had his talent in a napkin. Our Heavenly Father does not give all alike but what he does bestow if but one talent, He commands us to cultivate to the utmost. Avoid all young men who habits you have the least reason to suppose are not good & never as you value your soul’s welfare associate with those who ridicule our Holy Religion. Wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever you say, try to remember the All Searching Eye of God is upon you & never do anything you would wish to keep secret from His Omniscient Eye.

You have, my dear William, arrived at manhood — the Spring of Life. Strive to fill your mind with the seeds of knowledge that the autumn of your life may bring forth fruit to the honor & glory of God. Whatever thou purposest to do, with an unrefined zeal pursue. Today is thine, improve today, not trust tomorrow’s distant ray.

There are ten thousand things in a city like New York to induce a young man to forsake the strict & narrow path. But you are safe, dear William, if you can say in sincerity, “Lead me not into temptation.” My husband lived in New York [City] when he was a young man. He was then 5 years without ever going inside a theatre or place of public amusement. How much better would it be for the temporal and spiritual welfare of all young men if they would do likewise. I hope you attend church regularly. God will never prosper us if we violate the Blessed Sabbath. I consider it one of my highest privileges that I can go to the place where prayer is wont to be made.

I can hardly realize that the winter of 1837 is gone, never to return. If you could be here, you would think it was May. I have 3 graceful willows about my cottage. They are all leaved out & bend their drooping branches to the lightest breeze. I have in my front yard hyacinths, crocuses, woodbine, roses, lilies, flowering almond, legerstramia, lilac, purple moss, &c. Some are now in bloom & the rest will be out in the course of a couple of months. Hundreds of twittering birds live in the trees & everyday come in the yard to pick up a few crumbs.

The boys & Mr. Rowland have had the whooping [cough] all winter. The boys are well now but Mr. Rowland is quite sick. Your Father had it dreadfully when he was about 30 & suffered very much. I suppose you do not remember it.

I do not expect to go North this summer. I should be delighted to do so if Mr. Rowland could go but I do not like to go & leave him & I do not think he will go.

I have not heard from your parents in a long time. I send papers occasionally & hope to get a letter soon. How I wish I could go & see them or they could come & see me. When did you write to them? Do not you long to see them & your dear brothers? When the railroad ¹ from here to Athens is completed, I have some hope of seeing them. The railroad, I presume, will be completed in Spring. The place where it terminates is not more than a hundred yards from my cottage. There are a great many Irish men employed in it. The people of Savannah are building one from Savannah to Macon. They employ 3 thousand Irishmen. Some time since, the Irish Paddy’s struck for higher wages. They marched to the city in a mob threatening to burn it, but the military were out in 20 minutes & frightened them back.

I hope you will write me a long letter & tell me all about yourself. Have you heard from your parents recently? I got a letter from your Aunt Fanny. She had been raised up from a bed of sickness & I hope she will live to praise God. I have a young lady staying with me. She is Mr. Rowland’s cousin. She is from Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia.

That God will keep you & bless you is the prayer of your affectionate aunt, — Clara


¹ The railroad referenced by Clara in this letter was the Georgia Railroad, chartered by the state in 1833. It called for laying a track between Augusta and Athens, Georgia, with a branch to Madison. Setbacks and delays kept the railroad from going to operation until 1845, however. One of the setbacks may have been the strike for higher wages by the Irish laborers described in this letter though I could find no reference to it in period papers.


One response to “1837: Clara Leonard (Wight) Rowland to William Henry Wight

  • Betty Hellums Rowland, Williamsburg, VA

    Very much appreciate the posting of this letter. Also that it contained the middle name of William Maltbie Rowland. I have been researching William’s family and was pleasantly surprised to find this entry and transcribed letter. THANKS for your generous sharing.

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