1840: Maria Amelia (Clark) Dean to Sarah Matilda (Brewer) Goddard

What Amelia might have looked like.

This letter was written by 28 year-old Maria Amelia (Clark) Dean (1812-1878), the wife of Luther Dean (1810-1884) — a tailor and musical director of Claremont, New Hampshire. Amelia was the daughter of Edward Clark of Brooklyn, at Saugerties, New York. where he earned the distinction of erecting the first white-lead works in America. Luther was the son of Caleb Dean (1770-1858) and Anna Strowbridge (1774-1857).

“Soon after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Dean located in Franklin, Mass., remaining there until 1857, when they rem. to Farmington, lowa; thence to Holden, Missouri, thence to Highland, Kansas. While living in Franklin, Mr. Dean united with the Presbyterian church. To the end of his life he took a deep interest in every thing that concerned the church. From his obituary a few sentences are taken to show in what esteem he was held by his brethren in Highland, Kansas: “To the last he labored faithfully in the Sabbath school, and he always led the singing. Music was his passion ; in this he wonderfully excelled, and could not fail to be a leader wherever he went. Even after he had passed his ‘three score years and ten’ he could distance the young and strong in the softness and melody, and even in the strength of his voice.

“In his family and domestic relations his grace shone the brightest. He suffered the greatest affliction in the loss of his wife, and yet he bore his trial with a meek and quiet spirit. He carried a great joy in his heart and gave expression to it in the sweet songs he sung, with every feature expressive of his sublime trust in God.”

“From the obituary of Mrs. Maria Amelia (Clark) Dean: She graduated at Litchfield (Conn.) Academy with the highest honors. While in Litchfield she united with the Episcopal church, having been confirmed by Bishop Griswold. After her marriage while living in Franklin, Mass., she united with the Emmons church. In 1857, in Iowa, she joined the Presbyterian church and after removing to Highland, Kansas, continued to the end a faithful member of the Presbyterian church. She was the first one to suggest the formation of a Woman’s Missionary Society of the Presbyterian church of Highland, and the society doubtless owed more to her than to any other member, and her heart, her contributions, and her pen were at all times loyal to its interests. Mrs. Dean was the personification of generosity, and the extent of her benefactions was only limited by her means. To her fellow-members her sympathy, her encouragement, her beautiful example, and her enthusiasm were invaluable. Guilelessness was in her character a remarkable trait. One who knew her said of her, ” Her gifts as a poetess were rare, and always recognized as of the highest order, and many are the hearts over the land that have been moved by her sprightly wit and beautiful imagery. The Commencement exercises of Highland University have always been enlivened with an appropriate poem from her pen.” The high esteem in which she was held was manifest in the many anxious inquiries during her illness and the large concourse of people of all classes who attended her funeral.”

The above is condensed from the obituary published as an introduction to the little volume containing Mrs. Dean’s poems, published in 1881 by Knight & Leonard.

Amelia wrote this letter to her friend, Sarah Matilda (Brewer) Goddard, the wife of Nicholas White Goddard (1806-Aft1880), a printer in Claremont, New Hampshire. Nicholas was the son of silversmith, Nicholas Goddard (1773-1823), and Charity White (1779-1857).

In a post script added to this letter, Amelia confides to her friend that she has heard of a former beau who is a wealthy lawyer bachelor in New York City and shares, somewhat shamefully, that she has looked back at her past and wondered how different her life would have been had she not chosen instead to be the wife of a poor tailor.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Nicholas M. Goddard, Claremont, New Hampshire

Franklin [Massachusetts]
March 6th 1840

My good Mrs. Goddard,

I have resolved and re-resolved for many weeks to reply to your dear letter but I write so little, have so many cares, etc., that time has imperceptibly hurried me along to this late date and my natural imbecilities and indifferent health would still urge a further delay, but the heart that little lump brings forward its little strings of affection & keeps time to the tune by absent friends! I feel truly grateful for the pains you took to inform me of the signs of the times in Claremont. I should think you had been much absent from your beloved home & knew from experience what would cheer the lonely heart of a desolate pilgrim in a strange land as your letter came stored with interest & afforded much delight. I have just received a letter from our Mrs. Dutton and am glad that those afflicted friends you mentioned are being restored to health. If you knew how much good your letters House of Dutton’s afforded! you would all write more frequently. In truth, I write so seldom to you there that I have to strain to make a letter decent & in straining I spoil all. Oh! would we not talk some could we meet? Meet, did I say? That would be too much. I should be too happy. In dreams, in nightly visions, I enjoy that bliss, and for days after the influence of these dreams light my dark way, by retrospections of the past, & what would the reality be?

I should like to visit Claremont next summer should I live, were it not that my circumstance would fit any condition almost rather than a traveling one. My health is not good. Hope to be better in a few months. Should you or Mrs. Dutton come to Boston again and not come and see me, I should be compelled to put you down among my unpardonables. I want you to come & see how poor folks live. Were I good at topography, I would describe my three little rooms, and Franklin in general.

Mr. Southworth ¹ has hired a farm and an old shanty of a house. I ought not to have told tales, all this entrenous, don’t tell but what he lives in a palace out of your house — will take possession next month. I suppose he will let his farm & tis an excellent one. Some say Mrs. Southworth is, and some say she is not. I don’t know how it is. Time will tell. You can read.

I am glad the church in Claremont have taken a decided stand. I hope now they will have more rest and peace for “how can two walk together except, &c.”  Oh that your series of meetings may be blessed to the conversion of many souls to God! When will the Lord appear for us? We are stupid, almost dead in trespasses and sins. The times seem to be ominous of a change at hand. It seems as if political demagogues must soon be put down or like a dilapidated building, our tottering government must fall to the ground.

Sketch of one of the Amistad Prisoners

In a spiritual point of view, the prospect is not much more encouraging, for where does not the king of darkness exert his power? I have long thought I would try to write something for your dear Association, but the streak has not yet come over me. I have written by request for the Lyceum in Medley [?] the winter past upon passing events, such as the Prisoners of the Amistad & the burning of the Lexington [steamboat], &c. But my brains are lean, and when I read the beautiful letters and productions of others, I am ready to sink into my own insignificance in the moral scale. Could I keep those out of view, I should really think I was something, so selfish is my heart.

With respect to a Society here, I should sooner think of converting a chide-poke into a decent man. Nay! the thing is not among the moral possibilities. Nil desperanda is not as when in Claremont — my motto. I have lost all courage, most of my animals of prints & children, if I ever return to Claremont, you should find me an altered thing. The days of my youth are passing away. Those sweet golden days, how short is their stay.

I am sorry to hear of Mrs. G. Steven’s ill health. I know how to feel for her. I have been troubled much with the catarrh the winter past. ‘Tis dreadful. Mention my love to her. Just had a letter from my father. Been expecting ____ instead. Hope to see him course of summer. Mr. Dean is nicely. Will visit ‘ere long if possible. Eddy grows as fast as usual. Has already commenced his farming. The frogs have piped here for more than a week. we have had real May weather. I live in same house with a real mother in Israel — one of the best women I ever knew — Capt. [David] Baker’s wife. ² Perhaps you may have heard of the [commission dry-goods] firm of Packer, Blanchard & Wilder in Boston, the latter [Marshall P. Wilder (1798-1886)] of which keeps quite a garden in Dorchester is famed for his plants). Well this is my good mother Baker’s son-in-law. The family is blood connection to mine tho’ I knew it not until after a residence of some months with them. My dear Grandmother Clark wished me to inquire for the Lawrences. I have & have been in the same house my great grandmother on my father’s side was born.

Do call on Mrs. McGregory. She is a widow in low circumstances and alone as I was in this valley of tears — a woman that has seen good days, but adversity has frowned and left her a sufferer. But Oh! she is a sterling woman, quiet, unassuming, yet possessing a gem within more precious & brilliant than the gold of Ophir. Do call & cheer her lonely heart for I mistrust she sees but few.

Your good mother, you don’t know how to prize her, being blessed with her society daily. You cnnot fully estimate her worth. But few such women love. Oh that I could see her & hear from her lips that sweet counsel and advice I was once blessed with. Tell [her] I often think of her. A poor motherless, brother less, sister less being cannot but dearly love & prize my friends. You may think me perhaps a little sad from some remarks in this letter. I am happy yet. Sometimes there comes a gone by remark…

Please tell my dear Mrs. Dutton I shall endeavor to write & that her excellent letter was a precious treat. Best, very best love to her & all of your brothers & sisters on her side. Don;t be ceremonious but write often. I will try to write duly. I am afraid you will be troubled to find out this miserable scrawl. If so, you must send it to the northern antiquarian society for I am still & old & write accordingly. And it may be a curiosity in those days of new things. Kiss little Mary D. for me, not forgetting the other children. Husband sends a  great deal of love to you all. I hear often lately from Claremont but not particulars enough. Do you follow the same course as your last — better than ten newspapers to me.

Believe as ever affectionately & truly, thy — Amelia

In much haste.

Who leads the singing now that Joshua has left? Mr. Dean will never again. Mine in any choice as he did there. Here we have from fifty to sixty singers, and no organ — and an old shack of a church tho they talk of repairing soon.

.…or some intelligence from one whose name I, now that I am married, consider it almost sacrilege to mention. I mean that young lawyer that once flitted across my path. I have just been informed he still remains single and is wealthy & moves in the first circles of New York [City] — beloved & happy. Now excuse this woman’s weakness when I think of all this. Pride says Oh that it had been. But I love my present choice and find him a sterling man, kind & ever affectionate. What are riches & popularity in comparison? Don’t think me repining. You understand the natural heart & probably have heard from our beloved long lost friend Charlotte of the above history in my eventful life. I mention this to no common friend so please value this in confidence. I say again, could I forget the past I should be more happy. The past! The past! But I will. I do forget & never mention a word of course to Luther or any one here. But it does the heart good to unbosom itself sometimes. So do excuse this girlish freak. I feel ashamed of it.


¹ Rev. Tertius Dunning Southworth (1801-1874) was the pastor at Franklin in 1840. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1827. He was married to Martha Warren in 1839.

² Capt. David Baker (1782-1861) of Franklin, Massachusetts, was married to Jemima Richardson (1784-1845). They were married in November 1804. It was Jemima (Richardson) Baker that Amelia called “a real mother in Israel — one of the best women I ever knew.”


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