This letter was written by Elizabeth (“Eliza”) Eunice Stevens while attending the Newtown Academy in Newtown, Connecticut. Eliza was the daughter of David W. Stevens (1795-18xx) and Nancy A. Giddings (1798-1858). She married Jonathan Allen (1814-18xx) in May 1842. Jonathan was Lieutenant of militia in 1840, and Captain in 1841. After their marriage, the Allen’s moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he studied botany and practiced medicine.
Elisa wrote the letter to her friend Roccelania Peet (1824-1906), the daughter of Riley Peet (1788-1862) and Sarah Terrill (1791-1862). Roccelania married Henry Straight (1824-1887) in 1844.
The Newtown Academy was founded in 1837 with the erection of a 2 story building, 36 X 36 feet, during the summer and fall of 1837. The first principal was George L. Foote “fresh from college with his heart full of love for the work.” He was assisted in both the male and female departments by his sisters, Mary and Harriet Foote. By 1839, the academy had from 100 to 150 pupils enrolled. Foote was succeeded by a string of principals who held the post for only one year. These included: Rev. Levi Corson, Rev. Thomas T. Guion, Mr. Charles W. Wooster, Mr. Amos S. Treat, and Mr. Elizur Keeler. Keeler was a native of Newtown and was much beloved by the students. He taught several years, maintaining a well deserved popularity, both as boarding and day school. The school closed when Keeler left in 1850 and did not reopen for two years.
From this letter we learn that Elisa and her schoolmates enjoyed, as a diversion, to watch the railroad cars pass through Newtown, Connecticut, on the recently completed (1840) Housatonic Railroad that extended from Bridgeport on the Sound to New Milford through the Housatonic River Valley.
Addressed to Miss Roccelania Peet, New Milford, Connecticut
December 5th 1841, Sabbath Evening
I sit down to write you a few lines concerning the Newtown School &c. as I have been informed that you design attending school the present winter. If your mind is not settled upon any particular place, I think you would be highly pleased with this school. So far as I have become acquainted with it, I am highly gratified. Think we have a very excellent female teacher. We have two rooms for studying — one for the gentlemen & the other for the ladies. We occupy the upper story, the gentlemen the lower, but the ladies have to go down twice a day for prayers & to recite some particular lessons. The gentleman teacher is a very pleasant & agreeable man & the scholars in general. The teacher is a single man & you may stand as good a chance to get him as the rest of us. We have exercises every Saturday in composition & declamation, close about 10 o’clock, [and] have the rest of the day to ourselves.
Yesterday we, for our diversion, walked down to see the carrs come up — a distance of about half a mile. Returned about 4 o’clock [and] spent the rest part of the day in viewing the streets of Newtown — a village not quite as large as New Milford but much more pleasant. It contains 4 churches, 2 public houses, 2 stores, besides shops & a large number of other buildings. The carrs run as I have before said within half a mile. Can take them any day & get home in less than two hours.
We have all attended church today — Mr. Fuller, my brother, cousin Henry Giddings, Caroline & myself — so you see there is quite a lively company of us. Cousin Chauncy Giddings is coming next quarter & Mrs. Skidmore says she will board you if you will come. We are situated about 15 rods from the Academy, an excellent sidewalk, very good boarding place — better than common — & in short, every thing pleasant & agreeable & therefore we sincerely hope we may be favored with your company as soon as convenient.
Please give an answer to this or the presence of yourself immediately. I remain your sincere friend, — E. E. Stevens
P.S. Please excuse all & not show the contents of this for it has been written in haste. — Elisa