1841: Dr. Norman Lyman to Rev. Orange Lyman

1839 Residence of Rev. Orange Lyman in Downers Grove, IL

This letter was written by Dr. Norman Lyman (1787-1850) who practiced medicine in Glastonbury, Connecticut, for 17 years and afterwards for more than twenty years in Warren, Connecticut. In 1812, Dr. Lyman married Eunice Smith and they had at least four sons and two daughters: Dr. Sidney Lyman (1816-18xx), George S. Lyman (1818-18xx), Dr. Edward P. Lyman (1821-18xx), Mary Lyman (1823-1841), Jonathan H. Lyman (1826-1852), and Eunice Lyman (1828-1841). We learn from this letter that Mary and, not long afterwards, Eunice both passed away in 1841 of consumption (tuberculosis).

Dr. Lyman wrote the letter to his older brother, Rev. Orange Lyman (1780-1850) who was born in Torringford (or New Hartford) CT. He graduated from Williams College, studied theology under Rev. Dr. Porter of Catskill, NY, and became a Presbyterian minister. In 1814, he married Maria Dewy (or Dewey). His pastoral assignments took him to western New York, northeastern Ohio, and finally to northern Illinois. At the time this letter was written in the summer of 1841, Rev. Lyman had recently settled into his new home in Downers Grove, DuPage County, IL. His home, built in 1839, is reported to be the oldest residence still standing in Downers Grove.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Rev. Orange Lyman, Downers Grove, Dupage County, Illinois

Warren [Litchfield Co., Connecticut]
20th June 1841

Dear Brother,

When I received your last letter, I designed to write you an answer by the next mail, but the circumstances of my family put the subject by for the time. Two things in particular led me to delay. I hoped & believed that I might devise some way to borrow money in this state & assist you in your pecuniary embarrassments, but found increasing difficulty in meeting my own engagements because my time & efforts were in a great measure directed to another object & my expenditures unexpectedly increased in several ways which I will not take the time to name.

My daughter Eunice, who had for the most part before that time been healthy, was taken down with what seemed at first to be a sub-acute & very moderate form of pneumonia but which instead of subsiding as I had hoped or even of having at all benefitted by medical treatment came to be attended with daily chills & ex_____tations of fever, & within a few weeks she was attacked with Haemoptysis. Still on account of her age & previous health, I indulged hope of her recovery. Hope attended with much fear, hope against evidence of a fatal decline. She has for several weeks past had regular pectic, Purulent expectorations, rather rapid wasting of flesh & strength. The time of her attack was about the 25th of January 1841.

Mary, as I have before informed you, had been declining with a few intervals of partial improvement since December 1840. She has declined slowly, but pretty regularly through the last winter & spring, & has now extreme emaciation, large expectoration of pus, swelled feet, hoarseness, &c, &c, &c. The unequivocal indications of the last stage of that fatal disease Tubercular Consumption. The two sisters have very different forms of the same disease & the final result in both seems likely to very near — not probably in but very few weeks more the whole story may be told.

Now you know why I could not write to you. I could not get ready to tell the story. I am not without hopes that the dear girls are in some degree prepared for the great change which seems to be so near them. I have labored & prayed that they might be. Brother, pray for us.

11th August. A long gap in a letter.

I was obliged to leave my letter & have been so constantly worn & bowed down that I have not before resumed it. A few weeks after this was commenced, both Mary and Eunice expressed a wish to be admitted to the church. They were admitted two weeks ago yesterday. Mary declined slowly but steadily till last Friday, the 6th of the present month, about noon, [when] she was released. The last week of her life she would converse but little. She died apparently in full possession of reason, not with triumphant assurance, but as we hope & believe with calm & humble trust in the Savior. For several of the last weeks of her life, she seemed to contemplate her approaching dissolution with deep solemnity but without agitation or alarm. A few hours before her death, I asked her if she was aware that she was almost gone & that she could continue but a short time. She answered, “I suppose so” & said nothing more on the subject. Perhaps no one was ever more quiet than she was through her whole sickness. I believe she did not speak one peevish or complaining sentence for 4 or 5 months. She would lie only on one side & was unable to raise except when in an erect posture, but made no complaint & very rarely even mentioned any suffering.

But enough & more than enough of this. Eunice looked on & saw her depart with a composure that was quite astonishing to me. No two sisters loved each other more. They never spoke or seemed to feel unkindly to each other or to their brothers even for a moment. Eunice has purulent expectorations, sore mouth & throat, & swelled feet, strongly marked pectic, is much emaciated, & very feeble, but can be carried out a mile in pleasant weather. Mary rode out only a week before her death. Eunice can last but little longer. It seems hard to think how soon we must lay her beside her sister. But it is all right. If I did not hope they were prepared for this early death, I know not I could endure the separation. If our children can be prepared for heaven while young, we have great reason to thank God forever.

You need not be told that I am worn out with protracted anxiety & labor. I cannot write a decent letter but you are the very man who will make all reasonable allowance. The rest of my family are in comfortable health though Mrs. Lyman, who is always feeble, feels the wear of more than six months uninterrupted night watching.

Our family in N. Hartford & Litchfield are well so far as I know. Have nothing further of particular interest to write. I have done wrong in neglecting so long to write but you will forgive me. I hope all your dear children are minding the best things. Tell them to “labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that shall endureth unto eternal life.” My wife & children would be affectionately remembered to you & yours. How pleasant it would be if we could see each other again. How much better if we can meet at last where there shall be no more parting & where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. We don’t prize heaven enough yet, not with standing all we have suffered here. Let us think of Heaven & live for Heaven. Live by the faith of the Law of God. I write with a house full of company & of confusion & much loss. I remain as ever your affectionate brother, — N. Lyman

Love to all your family.


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