1838: Mary Williams to Nathan W. Williams

This letter was written by Mary Williams to her brother Nathan W. Williams (1816-Aft1900). It is believed they were the children of Thomas Williams (1780-Aft1870) and Ruth H____.   Nathan — a bookkeeper —  married Frances B. (1821-Aft1900) about  1845. Nothing further was found on this family.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mr. Nathan W. Williams, Pleasant Height, Plainfield, Connecticut

Barrington [Rhode Island]
June 25th 1838
Monday afternoon

Dear Nathan,

Page 1

As I happen to feel in a writing mood this afternoon, I though I would take advantage of it and give you an account of our visitors for the last ten days and any other incident which may be interesting. I have commenced rather close that I may leave sufficient room. You will recollect that when I wrote you last which was a week ago last Thursday, we had been expecting Uncle Baker to come down that day but he did not come till the next morning and brought with him C. J. Pabodie and Harriet Goodhue. He also brought a note for you from Thomas. It was written while Thomas was in Alton and was dated the 6th of May. Mr. D. Wolf brought it together with letters from William and Jane Payson and kept it in his pocket book a fortnight after he arrived. If we had received it the day before, it could have been sent in the bundle but now you shall have it the first opportunity; it contained nothing very special.

But to return to Uncle Baker. He spent the day carried Aunt to ride and took “us children” up as far as the “stone bridge” in the carriage which was the first time I ever rode so far on this estate except in a hay cart. After tea he and Cornelia returned to the city, but Harriet remained and is still here and will probably board with us through the summer if we can keep her. Just after they had gone, Misses Smith, Hutchens, & Brown called for me to walk but it was not in my power to go. Sarah went.

Page 2

The next day (Saturday) we received a paper from Thomas sent from Little Rock. On the Sabbath we had preaching once more by a young man from East Windsor. His name is Bishop. He is engaged for four Sabbaths and ten will return to be present at the anniversary but will be at liberty after that as I understand to supply here if wished for.He called here last week Monday to look at father’s library and get some books to read. Last Tuesday we received another paper from Thomas also from Little Rock. Wednesday there was nothing special occurred excepting that Uncle Baker sent aunt a box of elegant strawberries and a pack of peas by the morning stage and in the afternoon Baylies A_____ carried aunt Baker and the four children a mile or more down the river which occupied two hours. By the way, it has been quite profitable to him having Aunt Baker here for he has eight cents an hour for carrying her to sail and she went quite often.

Page 3

Thursday morning mother rose very unwell with a pain in her head and other symptoms of indisposition. She took medicine and applied a blister to her arm and gave up all “house work” to me. She continued quite unwell the rest of the week but today she is much better. She has not kept her bed at all. Thursday morning, Aunt Baker wrote to Uncle Baker to come down for her the next day that she might go home and stay a short time even if she comes down again as she wanted what green vegetables and fruit were brought into market with less inconvenience than to have them sent here everyday. Accordingly, we expected him on Friday but Thursday afternoon about three o’clock as we were sitting at work in the keeping room, who should open the door and come in but Gov. Baker, Esq. We were very much surprised as we had heard no carriage drive up and aunt asked the first thing if he was sick? He quickly relieved our fears by saying that he had come down with Edward Brown who was then in a chaise at the corner of the house!!!! I don’t know as I have mentioned his return to you when I have written. He arrived at Salem about the last of April in the Cherokee. He was very unwell when he reached home being the remains of a sickness he had in Mocha where he was dangerously ill for a some weeks or rather months and nver expected to see New England again. But a physician came to Mocha who was the means of restoring him to health is some measure. Now he is so much recovered that he expects to sail in the course of two or three weeks pretty much the same voyage and expects to be absent a year. He is going in a new vessel which has never been to sea. Indeed, it was completed a few weeks ago and has not yet a name. Edward owns a part of her and is going first mate. The captain’s name is Conant and what I am sure will astonish you, Francis Brown is going supercargo. He — a merchant in in Salem apparently settled for life and engaged to Miss Appleton — has dissolved partnership with Mr. Seacomb and is going to embark on the watery element. I should as soon think of you or Thomas going as of his though doubtless he thinks it will be for his advantage.

Page 4

But to return to Edward’s visit here. He came to Providence on Wednesday and as Aunt Baker was here and he wanted to see you and Thomas home, he came down and we had a very pleasant time indeed. Although I had never seen him before, when he left us at night h seemed like an old acquaintance. He said while he was in Mocha last summer sick, he supposed that Francis and perhaps William were here with you and that you were having an excursion to “Mount Hope.” He also said that on his voyage home he anticipated much pleasure thinking he should remain on land through the summer and that you and Thomas would be at home and that he should visit you here &c. He was much disappointed at finding Thomas was at the “west.” He said he should write to him before he sailed. We told him to direct to Alon, Care of Whipple & Forbes” thinking likely that Thomas would soon be there. He wished me when I wrote to you to give his love to you and assure you of his remembrance. Uncle & Aunt Baker went to ride in the afternoon and while they were gone, I went to show Edward the “parsonage” and Prince’s Pond and just round in the village. He thinks this a delightful place and said he should reflect with much satisfaction on his visit here. They started for Providence about eight and he left in the cars the next morning. William Brown has gone to England so Edward will not see him while he is at home. Edward told us some of his adventures but I have no room for them now.

Friday morning I received a letter from Ednah Cushing which was a very long one for her. She discussed with all the ardor of a feeling heart on the desolation of her situation at being absent from home and says she has experienced all the “horrors of homesickness.” She spoke, however, in the highest terms of her school, the teachers, and her associates, & says she feels much better than she has done. Friday afternoon we expected Uncle Baker but about the time we thought he would start a violent thunder storm commenced and continued so long that we gave up the idea of his coming for that day. It cleared, however, about five in the afternoon and the appearance of Nature in this vicinity was perfectly enchanting.

Saturday morning I rose at five o’clock and as there was a prospect of a fine day, I commenced household operations with great vigor assisted by Sarah for you must bear in mind that mother was sick although we had a great deal to do at two o’clock everything throughout the :manse” was in the most perfect order. I then dressed and set down to my sewing where I was hardly stationed before a carriage drove up to the gate from the south direction full of ladies and a gentleman. They were Misses Marian & Sarah Haile and Mary Mansen accompanied by Samuel Richards ¹ — a member of Brown University and teacher of the Warren Academy. They were ushered into the parlor where the windows were thrown up and they staid about fifteen minutes. Mr. Richards  was very sociable and the ladies were lovely. They came over to a tea party which was held in the grove by the “Forest Chapel” by the teachers & scholars of the Seminary but as the party had not arrived when they got there, they called here. They enquired for you. Their hands were full of roses and pinks from Mrs. Haile’s garden which the girls said was now in all its beauty. Just as they drove off, Uncle Baker arrived with Aunt Jane. The afternoon was spent very pleasantly and we had tea early that we might go to ride by the chapel. Just as we were going to sit down, Adeline Fish called out the door to see me. She was sister to my roommate at Norton ² and was visiting that afternoon at Mrs. Kennicult’s with an older sister. I became somewhat acquainted with her at the examination last fall as she was in my room with her sister.

After supper, Uncle Baker, Aunt Jane, Sarah, Anna, Harriet, Stephen & myself — seven of us — thereby constituting the perfection of numbers to took _____  in the carriage for a ride. We went as far as the old house at the corner. The scenery around the chapel was charming and around Capt. Cass’s house. It looked like classic ground; everything was full of life, freshness & beauty. Thursday Uncle Baker carried aunt by there and she was enraptured with the loveliness of the scene. As you know, her mind is feelingly alive to every image of beauty. As soon as we returned, they started for Providence — “all three” of them. We miss Aunt Baker a good deal as she has been here nearly three weeks.

Yesterday and today everything has gone on as usual. Nothing strange, new, or “of portentous aspect” excepting that our washing has not been done and we expect to have Henrietta day after tomorrow. I forgot to tell you in the right place that we had a letter from father last Monday informing us of his visit to Plainfield &c. or that last Thursday we had a letter from Aunt Eunice which contained nothing very particular or that Uncle Baker read your last letter one time he was down and was so much pleased with it — especially the poetry — that he borrowed it to show to some of the folks in Providence and has since returned it. They had a letter from Rowley last week. The folks are well as usual excepting grandmother and she is not willing to eat a mouthful of food.

Prince de Joinville

Humphrey Richards started this month and went to New York City [and] from there to Saratoga Springs, and has since returned to New York and is coming on by the way of New Haven, Hartford, and thence to Worcester to reach home. It is supposed that he was at the Springs at the same time with the Prince De Joinville. ³ I suppose you have heard all about the Hercules with her crew of 920 men and the Favorite and the politeness of the sailors, the neatness of the vessels, the sham fight, the vast crowds of people that have poured into Newport for a fortnight past to see the gallant strangers and all the ten thousand other fine things attendant upon having a king’s son visit our shores. Almost every lady has been to Newport but me but I have felt very well contented with remaining at home and hearing though I suppose “the half was not told me.” Uncle & Aunt Goodhue, Mary & George went the week before last — also the Misses Haile & Marian.

The Fourth of July is near at hand. Who can realize that one month of summer has nearly flown. I wish we were  going to have the same to assist in a suitable celebration here that there were last year but that cannot be and I presume there will be none at all. We shall expect father at home next week after an absence of nearly six. I hope he will come.

I suppose you will commence writing to Thomas soon if you have not already. I hope to hear soon that he has got back to Alton & next that he is coming home. You must enjoin it upon him to do so. There was one sentence in his last letter which I thought truly sublime. & beautiful. Others though so too. Aunt Baker repeated it a dozen times. It was this: “I am thinking of ‘auld lang syne’ and when I shall again behold the rocky shores of New England.”  Now you will surely think that I have been industrious when I tell you I have written all this in about three hours and have been up a dozen times while writing. You will also see that our days do not pass entirely devoid of interest & everything agreeable. And the thought that you might like to know how our days here pass induces me to write.

Give my love to Mrs. Learned when you see her and to my cousins and other friends. I have an hope of visiting your state this summer but do not know but I shall be disappointed. The folks all send love. Write soon and believe me your affectionate sister, —  Mary

It is now about sunset.


¹ Samuel Richards (1813–1883) was an 1836 graduate of Brown University. “Student Newton Theological Institution; ordained Baptist minister 1842; pastor Sutton, Edgartown, Mass.; Providence, R.I.; teacher Salem, N.J.; principal private school, Providence, R.I. [Source: Historical Catalogue of Brown University, 1914]

² I believe Mary is referring to Norton, Massachusetts, where a female seminary opened in 1834. It is located between Boston, MA and Providence RI. The seminary evolved into a women’s college (Wheaton College) in 1912.

³ François-Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Marie d’Orléans, prince de Joinville (1818–1900) was the third son of Louis Philippe, duc d’Orléans, afterwards king of the French and his wife Marie Amalie of Bourbon-Sicilies. He was notable as an admiral of the French Navy. In 1838, he was a handsome young bachelor — still untested militarily. We learn from this letter that a public demonstration was conducted — a sham naval battle — by the Prince’s squadron for the amusement of the Newport crowds who came to see the Prince and his men. It is reported that the Prince made a tour of the New York State during his visit in 1838 and this letter conveys the information that he made a stop at Saratoga Springs resort. A notice in the Army and Navy Chronicle from 1838 reports that the “French ship of the line Hercules, with the Prince of Joinville, arrived at Brest about the 13th of July, from Newport, R.I.”

There is also a notice in the Niles’ National Register (Volume 54)  that reads: “The French line of battle ship L’Hercule, of 84 guns, admiral Casy, and corvette Favorite, Capt. Rosanel, arrived at Newport, R.I. on Monday morning, 4th instant [June], from Norfolk. The admiral fired a salute, which was returned from Fort Wolcott by the Newport artillery — there being no United States troops at the post. The cutter also fired.


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