1837: Dr. William Bacon Stevens to Stephen Perry

Dr. William Bacon Stevens

This letter was written by Dr. William Bacon Stevens (1815-1887), a native of Maine, and the son of William H. Stevens (1780-1822) and Rebecca Bacon (1780-1860). “Traveling south for health reasons and to earn a medical degree at the Medical College of South Carolina, Stevens landed in Savannah in 1837 and quickly moved into the social circles of his new home. He joined the Georgia Hussars and other local clubs, married into a prominent Savannah family, and was such a part of the Savannah scene that, as one writer observed, he “might well have forgot his former self and assumed that his ancestors had adventured to Georgia with Oglethorpe.”

Stevens helped organize the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) in May 1839 and was elected corresponding secretary and librarian. Between 1842 and 1847, he worked on The History of Georgia — the first scholarly history of the state. “In the midst of pursuing his historical interests, Stevens abandoned his medical practice after five years and directed his attention toward the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal church. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in February 1843. Appointed a missionary to Athens, he helped to establish a church there and in late 1844 accepted a position as professor of oratory and belles lettres at the University of Georgia. Four years later his religious duties took him to St. Andrews Church in Philadelphia, where he served until his death in 1887. His return to the North further angered a number of Georgians, who were indignant that someone they had accepted socially and had helped to prominence would, in their opinion, turn his back on them.”  Source — The New Georgia Encylopedia

William wrote the letter to his sister, Catherine Whitmore Stevens (1805-1877), who married Stephen Perry (1796-1870) in 1825.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Stephen Perry, Esqr., Providence, Rhode Island

Watertown [Massachusetts]
June 12th 1837 Monday

I have only a few moments to spend with you my beloved sister but these are free & cheerfully dedicated to one I so much love. I suppose  you have been expecting a letter earlier than this & indeed I should have written one but was prevented in consequence of a week’s visit to Dover. Lowell called here last Monday, brought intelligence that [sister] Eliza would not return till Friday & invited me to accompany him home which I did that evening. And Fanny brought Eliza & myself down Saturday afternoon. I had a very pleasant visit; was kindly received & hospitably treated.

Page 1

On Wednesday there was a very severe surgical operation performed in the town at which there were fourteen doctors present & myself among the number. They were from Boston: Dedham, Hopkinton, Franklin & your Dr. Miller from Providence who with his father were the principal operators. He recognized me & introduced me to the gentlemen as Dr. Stevens from Savannah. The case was exceedingly interesting & of itself repaid my visit to Dover. The Dr. Millers requested me — as they were obliged to return home — to take charge of the case, which I did until I left Saturday, thus placing me in a very responsible & important situation for Dr. Miller told the wife of the patient that she must be prepared for her husband’s death as it was a very dangerous case. When I left him, however, he was recovering rapidly & appeared quite comfortable, much to my satisfaction, I assure you. This circumstance has brought me into considerable notaries in Dover where are but very few there, I suppose, who have not heard of Dr. Stevens.

Page 2

Mrs. Perry, Fanny & all of them were very much disappointed that you did not come on with me but they hope to see you ‘ere long & are anxiously waiting to enjoy your society & do you not think also that we too are desirous of your presence & are almost wishing the days away till your arrival. I have not heard a word yet from Savannah. I have written your Port Master to see if there are any letters for me in Providence & forward them here but notwithstanding this I wish Mr. Perry would enquire immediately & if he finds any, request them to erase Providence & put on Newton, Massachusetts, for I can ascribe their silence to no other cause than the misdirection of their letters.

Monday morning, June 14th, near 7 o’clock. I had left the remainder of this sheet to be filled by Eliza & mother but their time has been so occupied by company that they have been unable to accomplish what they intended. Aunt Ann & Frank came out Monday evening. Frank returned yesterday morning but Aunt & Ann will remain till tomorrow when both they, Mrs. Beaman, & myself go to the city. We have had quite a pleasant visit from them thus far but eagerly longed for the society of your family to add to our happiness. Every thing in the country looks delightful but I find the weather uncommonly cold & my health is not so good in consequence of this unaccustomed frigidity.

Page 3

I was informed yesterday by Mrs. Gilbert that Lucretia & Hannah Jackson leave on Saturday for Virginia where they go to take school. The name of the place is Scottsville – not far distant from Richmond. This is somewhat surprising news to all of us, but it is true. Ann, Beaulah, Eliza, Joseph & myself called there last evening & I assure you, I was delighted to meet Mrs. T. A. Davis who when my beloved Ali was in Boston was her Sabbath School teacher. I was sad & dispirited enough the whole evening but when Mrs. Davis came in, it effectually dispelled all my sombre & languid feelings. I immediately recalled Ali & her remembrances & we had a very pleasant interview the remainder of the evening.

Page 4

I often, dear sister, think of Providence & almost wish myself there. I long to see dear Rebecca again, my attachment to whom is even stronger than when she was unengaged & cousin Elizabeth & her sweet darling boy.  I would kiss him & play with thin a whole day if he was here. Indeed, I would be happy to see all my Providence friends though I do not expect for a long while yet. All in Dover send you much love & all here do the same. As there is a vessel up for Savannah, I wish to send a package by it. Please therefore send me that cradle by Mr. Miller as carefully protected as possible. You can send it Friday or Saturday. Direct to Dr. W. B. Stevens, & I will call for it where Mr. Miller stays & obtain it. I shall remain in the city till Monday evening so please send it Monday if you can not earlier, & anything else you may think proper.

But the mail closes & I must stop. We will all write you again on the reception of an answer from you so please distribute my affectionate regards to Stephen, Miss Clark, Emma, William, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Phoebe & all friends.

Your affectionate brother, — William


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