1841: Lucinda (Parker) Shattuck to Elisabeth (Parker) Davis

What Lucinda Shattuck might have looked like

This letter was written by Lucinda (Parker) Shattuck (1774-1844), the daughter of Lemuel Parker (1733-1806) and Elizabeth “Betty” Nichols (1742-1835). Lucinda married Vryling Shattuck (1774-1874) in 1808 at Pepperell, Massachusetts. He was the son of Jonathan Shattuck (1745-1835) and Abiah Chamberlain (1745-1817). Lucinda and Vryling had the following children: Vryling Davis Shattuck (b. 1809), Edmond Parker Shattuck (b. 1811), Jonathan Chamberlain Shattuck (b. 1813), Lemuel Parker Shattuck (b. 1819), Mary Lucinda Shattuck (b. 1821),  Samuel Augustus Shattuck (1825-1920), and Elizabeth Nichols Shattuck (b. 1828),

Lucinda wrote the letter to her sister, Elizabeth (Parker) Davis (1769-Aft1841), the wife of Dr. Davis.

In some detail, Lucinda shares with her sister the tragic news of the death of their nephew, Frederick Frye Parker (1801-1804), who committed suicide on 25 May 1841 by hanging himself in his barn. Frederick Parker was the son of Samuel Parker (1764-1827) and Submit Gilson (1769-1813). He was married (1823) to Anna Varnum (1801-1886), the daughter of Jonas Spaulding Varnum (1774-1830) and Nancy Shipley (1779-1839) and they had three surviving children (their first three children all died young).

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Elisabeth Davis, Hartford, Vermont
Care of Dr. Baker

[Pepperell, Massachusetts]
May 29, 1841

Dear Sister,

Last Thursday I attended the funeral of Frederick Parker, our nephew, who committed suicide. On Wednesday the 26, he was found in his barn with a rope around his neck and tied to the high beam. His feet were on the scaffold and his knees almost touched the floor. The man sung out for help but soon found he was cold and stiff. You may judge the feelings of his wife and children. She had no idea of such a thing taking place although he did not come home. She thought he was at the tavern where he usually was. About four weeks since, he took hold of spirit again worse than ever. He would drink from 15 to twenty glasses of brandy in a day. His wife would often run over and plead with him to go home with her and take some refreshment but his reply would be, “I don’t want any. You may have everything you want. Just let me alone.” [He was] perfectly good natured, but no appetite.

Mr. Lewis and wife said something must be done. If they could not prevail on him to drink less, he could not live but a short time. So he thought best to forbid the tavern keeper letting him have but three glasses in a day. He continued this course for a week and then took his life.

July 2. Dear sister. I thought best not to send this on until I could find the cause of this suicide. During the last week, he was very sober, appeared to be in a study, made no talk with anyone, gave no orders to his workmen about domestick business. John Tarbell ¹ was the last one that had any conversation with him. You know he is very social in asking questions, but he would only answer yes or no and soon left the store and went into the barn which was about 3 in the afternoon and no one saw him after until 8 the next morning. We suppose he hung there all that time for his face was purple and very much swollen. I never saw the like in my life before. O what a dreadful thing it is to be left to one self. Surely God’s spirit will not always strive with man. Some people think that Frederick would have left it off when he got enough as he had done before, but no one knows. Mr. Lewis thought he was doing right.

The property was priced at 40 thousand dollars. A pretty wife and family that he loved dearly, you know, how it does seem. But I must stop and write about my family.

We are all very well except Vryling children. They have the whooping cough and we expect Mary Abba will have it. I am afraid it will go hard with her — she is so fleshy. She is lively and good-natured as ever. Mrs. Blake’s children have the whopping cough and John’s baby likewise.

July 17. Sister Tarbell’s health is very good. Has been to Boston four weeks on a visit with Mrs. Fr__. Ann or Deborah has been down ever since. She was married. They expect Sarah up to spend the summer and I don’t know how many with her. You will say I pity Nancy but she will get along as well as anyone, you know, when Sarah comes home the family will be all together as it was last summer. You can think over what they are about. How they will sing out, what shall we have to eat today, &c.

You may ask what we are about. Why Lemuel and Augustus is sweeping down the grass with their father. Lucinda is a binding sh__es and Elizabeth helps me about the work. My health is better than it has been for some years. We miss you very much about our sewing and knitting. I want you should send word by Jonathan whether you are a coming down. He said he should visit you before he came home. He intended to have called on you the Spring vacation but he taught a writing school so that occupied all his time. We begin to count the days of his coming home. It will be a happy meeting when my children are all around me. Wish you were here to unite with us.

Give my love to Dr. Baker and wife. My family wishes to be remembered by you. I am ashamed to send this letter. I have been so long about it but fearing I should not get time to write another, I send it on.

— Lucinda Shattuck

Mrs. Gowing did not come up in June as I expected so I have not heard from our sister Deborah since I wrote you. If they come up this fall, I will write again. I should think sister Tarbell would write you but she has so much crushing, you know she can’t find time.


¹ I assume this is John Tarbell (b. 1774), the son of William Tarbell and Dorothy Farrar. He was married in 1805 to Amelia Parker (b. 1782) in Pepperell, Massachusetts. If not him, perhaps it was their son, John Parker Tarbell, a Pepperell, Massachusetts politician who served as a representative in the State Legislature under the Loco Foco (democratic) banner.


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