1839: Martha Gage (Mussey) McConihie to Aaron Gage Mussey

What Martha McConihie might have looked like

This letter was written by Martha Gage (Mussey) McConihie (1806-1841), the daughter of shoemaker, Daniel Mussey (1778-1863), and his wife, Naomi Gage (1778-1852). Martha was married (1832) to John Hartshorn McConihie (b. 1810), the son of Hugh McConihie and Nancy Hartshorn. Their children were Naomi M. McConihie (b. 24 December 1833) and Martha J. McConihie (b. 18 March 1839).

Martha wrote the letter to her brothers, Aaron Gage Mussey (1816-1899) and Elbridge Gerry Mussey (1812-1889) who were residing in Cohoes, Albany County, New York. Aaron was still single in 1839; he married Elizabeth Judkins in Lowell in 1840, became a baker, and moved to Maine before 1850. We learn from this letter than Elbridge lost his first wife, Laura Boutwell, in 1838, leaving him a widower and father of three young daughters. He relocated to Troy, New York, where he worked as a clerk and had a succession of four more wives.

Martha mentions her younger brother John Albert Mussey (1836-1914) and her older brother Benjamin G. Mussey (b. 1810) in the letter. Benjamin was married to Hannah Barrett in 1830.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Aaron G. Mussey, Cohoes Village, [Albany County] New York

Bedford, [New Hampshire]
January 4, 1839

Dear Brother,

I have this afternoon received yours and hasten to answer it. It gives me pleasure to hear from you but I should rather see you if I could. You say it is long since you heard from us which leads me to think that you have not got my last in answer to Elbridge’s after Laura died. We wrote that same day we got his and mailed it at Amherst the day we inserted her death. The reason of our not sending the Cabinet as Elbridge desired was the paper was so poor that it would not bear its weight, but I can cut the piece out and send it to him.

You say you suppose Elbridge wrote that you were married. He has not. Is it so? Aaron, I do not believe it. Do you Aaron? If it is, let us know all about it. And now I must tell you that I am a poor cripple. I have not walked any since September without crutches. It is in the knee and Doctor Smith thinks it a doubtful case. And what is worse, my blood is low and I am weak. I think upon the whole that I am rather better in health than I have been but remain feeble. My babe is well and rather smaller than Naomi was but she looks very much like Elbridge — so much so that Mother says she thinks se was raised up for her to look at in his absence. As to the other — Naomi — she is well; six years old and a great girl. She is a good scholar of her age, has been to school some this winter, but the swelling in her throat has prevented her going steady.

As to mother, she is not well. Hard work and babe have been too much for her but she takes it patient and waits the issue. She is mother yet and wants to see you and Elbridge and the children more than you can think or I can write, but as you say, it does us much good to hear from you and I hope you will write often. I always have answered all your letters and I will continue to while you stay where you are and I am able. John is well (fat as pork and lays in the trundle bed as happy as a clam in high water wagging around. Says he, I declare I should like to see them). He has sold or rather given away the mare last September and has been this day and bought again. Father is quite feeble. He has put up blood this winter and is not so well since mother is well.

Jane has been down with her great boy. It weighed 23 lbs. six months old. She stayed 9 days and made a help at nursing my babe (a noble heifer this). As to Luther, you would scarcely know him. He has grown so much and is so fat. He was at home and staid a week in November.

They have had a fire at Nashua. Old [Andrew] Thayer’s print establishment is burnt and others adjoining it. ¹ It was a great fire. The railroad comes to Nashua now. ² The Depot is where Elbridge used to live at the Person’s House. Tell him it is great times now. They leave Nashua and in less than 2 hours are in Boston. I say rather too quick for cripples. Abner Crooke came in the cars to Merrimack and you know he is a sailor and not knowing how soon it would snap off his hat if it left his head, he came to Lowell bareheaded and bought a cap, and so he proceeded.

As to Uncle’s folks, they were well. Last night, Wingate and Abner were here. They always enquire for you when they see us.

You will say what a composition. So I must soon quit for mother is holding the babe as usual.

Now I will say a few words to Ellbridge if you think he will receive it. If I do not write to you both, it seems that I have not written at all. Why did not you say a few words in Aaron’s [letter]? I think you have not got our last as you would have written before now. I wish you would let us know the particulars respecting the children if Mary Ann is friendly, and the like; if your children are well, Emily’s eyes, and the like.

Benjamin and wife have made us a visit this winter. They came last week. They seem to be doing well. He says in all the time since he came to Nashua, he owes no man one cent. He pays as he goes. They have 4 children. The youngest is 7 months old — a fine boy as heavy as ours 3 months older. He told us he received a letter from you in November. He said you was keeping house and the children were well. Mother and John were there before they came here and were much pleased with their visit.

I shall expect you to write soon and let me know if you ever got ours the last of October, I think it was. You must say all you can for we often say I wonder how he gets along with his babes. Yes, Elbridge, we pity you indeed, but you are there and we here and what can we do. O, I know not. I am far from you and if I was near, what could I do. I am feeble and lame. Will you write to us soon? Kiss the children for us and tell them they have friends at the East that love them and think of them little dears. So I bid you good night and hope to hear soon.

Your sister, — Martha


¹ The fire in Nashua occurred on Tuesday night, 27 November 1838. It broke out in the store occupied by Timothy Kendall, Jr. and spread to four other stores. The buildings belonged to Andrew E. Thayer, bookseller. To date, it was the largest fire that had ever occurred in Nashua, with an estimated loss of $18,000.

² The 7 January 1839 edition of the Commercial Advertiser (New York, NY) reported the completion of the railroad. It read:

We are glad to announce that the Nashua and Lowell Railroad is now completed the entire distance, so that the cars now come into the very heart of the village. The depot is situated near the bridge over the Nashua River, and for convenience and comfort of arrangement is not surpassed by any in the country. Passengers can now make a journey to Boston in ‘the coldest day that ever blew,’ without even tinging the tips of their noses — they have only to step into the depot and enjoy the luxury of a good fire till the bell rings, and then they will find themselves not less comfortable in the commodious and well warmed cars which are to carry them rail road speed to the city of notions.


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