1838: Clara Clerinda Pratt to Ann Eliza Tallmadge

How Clara C. Pratt might have looked

This latter was written by 25 year-old Clara Clerinda Pratt (1813-1883) from Pratt’s Hollow, a hamlet in the northeast part of Eaton, Madison County, New York. She was the daughter of John Pratt (1778-1869) and Sally Sarah Barton (1780-1867). She married Orvin E. Castle (1815-1868) in 1840. Her brother, Lester Marcus Pratt (1818-1901) graduated from Cazenovia Seminary in 1836 and married Adeline Castle in 1840. He later became a physician.

Clara Pratt wrote this letter to her dear friend, Ann Eliza Tallmadge (1818-18xx), the daughter of Dr. Joel Tallmadge (1788-1867) and Laura Way (1792-1852) of Willseyville, Tioga County, New York. Dr. Tallmadge was a surgeon in War of 1812 and a member of the state legislature in 1832. He was justice of te peace for twenty years in Candor, New York, and moved to Taychudah, Wisconsin in 1844. Ann Eliza Tallmadge married De Witt Clinton Vosbury (1815-1879) in 1839 and resided in Binghamton, New York, where De Witt worked as a life and fire insurance agent.

See also 1837: Ann Elisa Tallmadge to De Witt Clinton Vosbury.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Eliza Talmadge, Willseyville, Tioga County, New York

Pratt’s Hollow [New York]
January 30th 1838

My dearest Eliza,

For the peculiar gratification of my desire and the pleasure of answering your very kind letter do I seat myself to inform you of the manner in [which] I spent my time while in the pleasant village of Cazenovia [New York]. I hope my dear Eliza will excuse the manner in which I convey my ideas for I am well are of my inability to furnish matter that would be very interesting.

I arrived in Cazenovia on New Year’s Day with the expectation of returning the next day but to my great surprise and disappointment, the snow all went off and I remained there three weeks expecting every day to hear from it. I finally concluded that we should not have any more weather, took the stage, and come home. I arrived home on Wednesday. Miss [Sarah Maria] Spencer’s cousin, Miss White, came with me. She attended school the first term. She is a going to spend a week or two with me. She soon expects her friends after her. She resides in Brockport. She had many admirers in Cazenovia. Mr. Filly was very partial to her — also Mr. Eddy and George Allen. She did [not], however, fancy them much. I formed a number of new acquaintances — not among the students for they are a very inferior looking set with the exception of two or three.

I attended a party or lecture every evening that I was there. The Allen’s generally went with Miss White and Mr. [William J.] Burr with Pratt. I did not meet Mr. Hart in company but once and that was to Mrs. Gridley (he boards at the Lynklin House). You may wonder at this. He is very partial to Miss Baker. He did not call on me in a week after the first day I was there. He said the reason was I never was at home. He called on me but twice while I was there. Miss [Sarah Maria] Spencer made a party and did not invite him. I suppose he did not like it. He recites in his room to a private teacher [and] is not connected in any way with the Seminary except with the Delta Pi’s.¹ Mr. Allen is the same good natured, good hearted soul as ever. He is as much of a Delta Pi as ever. He withdrew from the society in consequence of his not being able to attend every society on account of his multiplicity of calls, but he is as great a friend to the Delta Pi ladies as he ever was.

I will here change my subject and give you a brief sketch of the manner in which I spent my time at the great party at the Seminary and I must here say that your most sublime exit — or rather imaginary tour on the moon beams — would have added very much to our happiness if you had been there in person instead of appearing in the form of a _____. We spent much of the time promenading in the dining hall as usual. To such parties now who do you guess I walked with? I imagine I hear you say do not keep me in suspense. Well it was Mother Tailor. ² She asked me to lead the way with her. I could not very well refuse although I can truly say that I did not consider myself very much honored. There was no pleasure there for me. I was there in person but my heart and mind were absent revolving over past circumstances and thinking of past scenes transacted by the Delta Pi’s and them alone. With what joy, with what happiness, with what pleasure. Oh, with what ecstasy can I revert back to those hallowed scenes and particularly the visit to Miss [Adeline] Castle’s and the ride home. Oh, joyous thought!! that almost exceeds the bliss of angels, although I can never probably enjoy such delicious scenes again. Still, I can when passing down the stream of life turn my thoughts back to those days and remember those as the happiest period of my existence.

I enjoyed myself very much while at Cazenovia notwithstanding the unpleasantness of the weather. The villagers spared no pains in trying to make my visit pleasant. I attended one Abolition Sewing Society and five parties, three public debates held in the chapel, singing school Saturday evenings,  [and] Sunday evenings attended abolitionist lectures at the Congregationalist Church. So you perceive that my time was very well disposed of. Three weeks passed away ere I was aware of it. all this time, I was waiting for snow so that the good folks of Cazenovia could go home with me. I finally left with the promise that they would come as soon as it was sleighing and now I expect them every day.

Oh Miss Tallemadge, could you be here my happiness would be complete. Oh! Sad disappointment. Is it so that we are not a going to see each other this winter. The thought is heart rending after so much has been said and we had anticipated so much pleasure and happiness in meeting in Ithaca this winter. I can no longer dwell on that subject for my heart is full and tears force their way unbidden down my cheeks.

Here I will stop and tell you the reasons why I gave up going to Ithaca. In the first place, Mr. Shaw sent me a paper a week before New Year’s and spoke of a school at Aurora that was to commence in the Spring. [He said] that it would be a first rate school and that if it would not make any difference with me, it would be more convenient for Miss Minere to go in the Summer and then go to Aurora but still she would go this winter if I would. I finally thought it would be pleasant to go in the summer and as there has been no sleighing here until this week, I do not know as I could have got there. I received a letter from Miss [Adeline] Castle while I was at Cazenovia. She will not go unless I do. I expected to have visited her while I was at Cazenovia. Mr. Hart promised to go if it had been [good] sleighing. Mr. Peck called on me [and] said he had been very lonesome since last summer. I suppose that could very easily be attributed to as he is separated from his dear Sarah. I expect you know how to sympathize with him but I do not. he visits her quite often, I believe. Mr. Van [Norman] is spending a short season with his dear [Sarah] Maria [Spencer] and he enjoys it all, I assure you.

Brother [Lester] remained at College through vacation. He informed me that Mr. Vosbury did also. Why don’t you never tell me something about him for I think a great deal of him because he loves you and because I do to. Brother just received a letter from Mr. [Daniel Cummings] Van Norman.³ He said that Mr. [George M.] Peck and Miss [Sarah Louisa] Butler were a coming here today or tomorrow and wanted he and Maria should comes with them. I will send you a paper in a week and let you know whether we come or not. Send me a paper soon as you receive this and tell me if you improve this sleighing. I say with you from the bottom of my heart that your correspondence never shall waver, not by a negligence on my part. I enjoy too much pleasure reading your letters although a great incompetency on my part in return. Give my love to all the Delta Pi’s that you see. Answer this poorly written letter as soon as can, my dear Eliza.

Now my dear Eliza, what I am about to tell you is something that fills my heart with gladness and I know it will yours. Just as I had finished my letter, brother entered my room and said I might tell you that if the sleighing should last, perhaps we would visit you and the rest of our dear friends west. Oh! I can hardly conain myself when I think that it is possible. I shall see my dear Eliza whom my soul admires and dearly loves in perhaps a fortnight. Oh, I am anxious to give you that kiss and then enjoy your society for a short time. How charming the thought. My heart is now with you, my ever dear and faithful Eliza.

I am yours, C. C. Pratt


¹ According to the book, First Fifty Years of Cazenovia Seminary, pg. 219, the Delta Pi ‘Was the second literary society” [at Cazenovia Seminary]. It was a secret society, organized December 17, 1836, and existed till March 10, 1843, when it became insolvent, and was dissolved.

² This was probably Miss Elizabeth A. Taylor, a daughter of Capt. Taylor who settled in Cazenovia. She was in charge of the juvenile department in 1833-34. In 1836, she was elected preceptress and taught drawing and painting at Cazenovia Seminary.

³ Dr. Daniel C. Van Norman, LL.D. was born on August 17, 1815 in Nelson, Canada West. He graduated Wesleyan in 1838 and joined the Canada Wesleyan Conference the next year and was professor of physics and the classics in Victoria College, in Coburg from 1838-1845. He founded the Burlington Ladies Academy, Hamilton, Ontario in 1845. He was principal there until 1851 and that year assumed the position of director of Rutgers Female Institute in New York City, a spot he held until 1857. He founded the Van Norman Institute, a school for young ladies, and successfully ran it until his death in 1886. It was located in 1874 at 75 East 61st Street and then in 1895 at 280 West 71st Street. His wife, Mme. Van Norman was the principal. They taught young ladies language, music, art and the Delsarte theory of carrying oneself.


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