1841: Jared Willson to Capt. Rufus Willson

Canandaigua Attorney Jared Willson built this house at 211 N. Main St. in the 1830s.

This letter was written by Jared Willson (1789-1851) to his brother Rufus Willson (1780-1858). They were the sons of Nathaniel Willson (1733-1821) and his second wife Mehitable Cone (1744-1830). Other children mentioned in the letter by the same couple include full brothers George Willson and Gilbert Willson, and half-brother Lewis Willson. By process of elimination, the blind brother requiring the support of his siblings discussed at length in the first paragraph must have been Nathaniel Willson, Jr. (1733-1844).

Jared Willson graduated from the University of Vermont in 1811 and became a prominent attorney in Canandaigua, New York.

Rufus Willson and Eleanor Burghardt were married in W. Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1803. Jared Willson married Selecta Spencer (1796-1848) in 1817.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Capt. Rufus Willson, West Stockbridge, Berkshire County, Massachusetts

Canandaigua [New York]
December 29th 1841

My Dear Brother,

I received in the due course of mail your letter informing me what you had done and what you was willing to do in aiding our blind brother. I had before the receipt of your letter had one dicta___ by the above asking me for some money and informing me that that he contemplated going to W. Stockbridge soon, and in answer to his call, I had sent to him $35 to purchase him some necessary things and to defray his present expenses. Since then I have not heard of or from him and know not whether he is in Albany, W. Stockbridge, or the poor house, but I presume he is somewhere comfortably provided for, or I should hear from [him] imploring more aid. Gilbert has recently sent me $10 towards his share of the money advanced, and I have been expecting some from brother Lewis, but he does not write as I anticipated he would. Sister Burghardt who has been quite unwell is getting better again, and I hope she may be willing to take the ___ in the spring if she can have assurances of being paid. We must provide for his comfortable support somewhere, but he must be content to make us a little trouble and expense as possible. His natural cheerfulness and companionable disposition will render him less burthensome than most persons of his age and circumstances so long as he enjoys tolerable health.

I was surprised to hear of the death of W. Kellogg. I hope he repented before his death of his unwarrantable attempt — as I considered it — to saddle you with a debt which you ought not to pay. It may be, however, that he thought he was doing no more than duty to his client required of him.

Our friends in this region are well so far as I know except that Sister Burghardt remains feeble, but is mending as I learned the other day. My family — at least those at home — are well. Elizabeth ____ went to New York in September to spend some time with a friend there [and] has not returned yet. My second son¹ is at Union College and the residue of the flock are about me. You know what it is to have a pretty large family, but I believe you are a stranger to such a number as I provide for. Well, if I am enabled to provide for them, I shall be content. I do not desire to see the numberless, so far as my children are concerned. Brother George hardly keeps up the reputation for the Willsons. He has no children and there seems no prospect of his having any.

George H. Boughton,² whose failure you have probably heard, will lose his office of Canal Commissioner when our Legislature meets. I am glad our democratic friends had the power to remove him and yet my friends hope for George is such that I should be willing to see him remain in office. But he is a Whig — or what I regard as the same thing as federalist — and he must go. I have very little charity for the Whigs generally, I suppose you know. There are some very good men among them, but as a party, they are at least in error, and it would not be going side of the truth to say that politically they are dishonest. They made great promises before they obtained power but they either cannot — or will not — redeem their pledges. After all the ____, the democratic track is the only safe one to follow. But enough of politics. You may for aught I know belong to the Whig ranks. If so, I hope you could get back among your old friends soon.

I had like to have gone through a corner of W. Stockbridge this week on my way to Boston. I had an invitation to attend the celebration with two others from the college at Boston tonight on the occasion of opening the Rail Road. I could have gone and returned free of expense — no fees as the railroad fare is concerned. I wished very much to visit Boston, never have been there, but my business engagements would not permit — and besides, I am suffering from some cold or influenza. If I live to see another summer, I think I will make a trip to Boston.

My best respects to your family and all friends.

¹ Jared Willson’s “second son” was Norman J. Willson. He died in Canandaigua on 1 March 1844 at age 18 while a member of the Junior Class in Union College.

George Hezekiah Boughton (1792-1866) was an early resident of Canandaigua, his parents moving there from West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1795.  During the construction of the Erie Canal, he opened a supply store at a place where the canal was cut through a mountain ridge, and which became the village of Lockport. In 1822, he became the first Postmaster of Lockport. On December 19, 1827, he married Eliza Bates at Hopewell, New York. He was an Anti-Masonic member of the New York State Senate (8th D.) from 1829 to 1830, sitting in the 52nd and 53rd New York State Legislatures. In October 1839, he was appointed by Governor William H. Seward a Canal Appraiser. In February 1840, he was elected by the New York State Legislature a Canal Commissioner, and remained in office until February 1842 when the Democratic majority removed the Whig commissioners. From November 1852 to March 1853, he was again a Canal Appraiser.


One response to “1841: Jared Willson to Capt. Rufus Willson

  • Karen Breach

    Thank you for sparing and sharing. This letter was addressed to my ancestor, Captain Rufus WILLSON, and adds great personality to him! Very interesting!!

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