1845: Alice (Ladd) Swasey to Mary Park (Swasey) Chapman

What Alice Swasey might have looked like in 1845

This letter was written by the widow Alice (Ladd) Swasey (1779-1875) to her daughter Mary Park (Swasey) Chapman (1811-1850), the wife of attorney John Chapman (1814-1845). The Chapman’s were married in 1839. He died on 25 August 1845 in Benton, Scott County, Missouri, not long after this letter was written.

A notice of John Chapman’s death was published in the Newburyport Herald (Massachusetts) newspaper on 11 November 1845, which read:

In Benton, Missouri, August 26th, of consumption, John Chapman, Esq., attorney at law, aged 32. The deceased was the second son of Samuel Chapman, Esq., of Tamworth, New Hampshire; his younger brother, Dr. Samuel Chapman, having been murdered about two years since [June 1843] in Bloomfield, Missouri.

Alice Swasey’s husband, John Bond Swasey (1781-1828) was a successful mill owner and storekeeper in Meredith, New Hampshire. Cassandra or “Cass” Swasey (1818-1901), an unmarried daughter of Alice and John Swasey, is mentioned frequently in this letter. She married Ebenezer Stevens (1810-1901) the following year.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. John Chapman, Benton, Scott County, Missouri

Meredith Village, New Hampshire
August 8, 1845

My dear, dear Mary,

How long seems the time since we have had one line or paper from you. The last was 20 March from Key West. The next we heard was by the way of your brother Jacob. Your Father called & told us (we were pleased with him) the next by your letter to Joseph. Before that your brother Jacob called a minute & told us what your father had told us when he called. We felt very uneasy after we had given you time (as we thought) to go from New Orleans to Benton & have a letter reach us, but last week we were rejoiced with a letter from Mary Ann. She wrote us the next day after she received yours. She said her father was very anxious to go to you but his health could not admit. I do wish you could have someone with you & do hope that brother Jacob will go if Mr. Chapman is not better. Do try to set out immediately. He will delay, I fear, too long.

Cassandra has been to Mrs. Lang’s this morn & just returned. Says Mrs. Lang wished me to give much love to you both & tell you she thought of you a great deal & to ask you to send papers & write on them. I miss your papers sadly. They were a great satisfaction. Why do you not send as you used to? Cassandra thinks you will come & says every day how I wish they were here. We have had company all summer. Hope they will all get through before you come. I thought when Mr. Chapman’s health was good, I could not do without seeing you but think now if you could both be well, I could be content.

Dr. & Mrs. Grey were here in May. Staid but two weeks. Spent but one day in the village. She made us a call & we spent a part of the afternoon with her at Mr. Neal’s & drank tea. She lamented very much that she had not seen you. Told how prettily you had your house fixed & that Mr. Chapman was doing well & much liked. Said there were gentlemen in their place that often told her about you. She was anxious Cass should go on with them. Her sister Hannah went. She said she would carry anything to you for they could send it safe & as many letters as we would write. Mr. Neal & Gordon was going to New Hampton to see them start & was to call & carry our little package to her so we were very busy next day picking up little things to send such as pieces of all our dresses, a little parcel to be sure, yet we knew you would both be gratified. I had bought a yellow Ponge handkerchief a few days previous of a peddler because I thought the color so beautiful, & given it to Cassandra. She had never used it. I told her I wanted to take it from her & would buy her another some time as I wished to send it to Mrs. Chapman so she gave it up very readily & went to the store & got a linen one for you. I thought I could see Mr. Chapman’s pretty long fingers unfolding his, so we had our parcel really done up, directed, & ready to send. Mrs. Madget sent to have me go in as she had something of importance to tell me so I hastened to hear when she told me that a gentleman & lady had been there from Tamworth & said Mr. [Samuel] Chapman at Tamworth [New Hampshire] had a son out West that was sick & was on his way home. She asked if his name was John. They said that was the name, so then we did not know whether to send it on or not but thought we would think of it until they should call but the next we knew they had gone & forgot to call. We were vexed at their negligence yet I knew not whether to be sorry or glad that we did not send it since we knew you are in Benton.

We are very sorry Cass took out Mary Taylor’s letter & put it in the post office. I hope you found it. Do write me if it is but short as I know you can’t have time to write. I should be glad of a few lines on a paper or anything that we might hear more often. I was not well when I received your letter from Florida & could not write till so long I feared you would not get it & only send papers. I wrote to Jane & told her where you were going after she knew you had been at New Orleans. She felt so bad. Said had she known you were there, she should have met you there. I received two letters from her in March & answered them and have not heard anything from her since. I am feeling very sad as you may well know. Why you should both discontinue to send papers I can’t conceive.

A Poem

I had a letter from George last week in which he said he had heard nothing from Mary or Jane for a long time. We had been expecting a visit from him this summer but he cannot leave. Miss Morris is expecting to come next week. We shall do all we can to make her visit pleasant for she was very kind, pleasant, & attentive to us which I shall always remember with gratitude. I have been interrupted by Capt & Esquire George Stevens calling to give me a chance of taking a share, or shares, in this railroad. They tell me they think it would be for my interest & they speak truly as to what they think for George has taken five & the Capt. two. Had I the money, I would take a share for each of my children.

A note added by Cassandra Swasey

Mr. S. S. Dean is married to Mrs. Emery. I called there this week. Mrs. John Norris is there with her babe which she calls Sally Bean — a very pretty babe, only so afraid of everybody you can’t speak to her. Mrs. Norris asked for you very affectionately. Said she wished Mr. Chapman would come home. I have many things to tell you but you see I have no room. Much love to you both. Be patient & think & know that all is for the best, however crossing it may be.

A note added by Cassandra Swasey

My health is very good. I hope & pray yours may remain good & Mr. Chapman improve. How much we think of you & every joy is sorrowful when thinking of your sufferings & distress. Does anything Mr. Chapman appear to help him or does he take medicine? I wish he had no cares. I hope you find true friends. You will know how to prise them. All have troubles. John Badger ¹ was brought home dead in May. His mother takes his death very hard. Did you hear of Catharine Sanborn’s marriage to Mr. Leach’s brother? ² They live there with the Dr. all in one family happy as can be.

I had a letter from your Aunt Bowman a few weeks since. Eustice was then in the Sandwich Islands in the United States [Marine] Hospital never expecting to go out or return home. Said he was willing to die but should like to be laid by his brothers at his own home. I have not written her since she is very anxious for you. Mrs. Smith & Elizabeth Ball has visited us this summer. Farewell my dear children and that God will direct, guide, guard & protect you is the constant prayer of our mother — Alice Swasey


¹ John Badger (1812-1845) was the son of Timothy Badger, Jr. (1784-1865) and Catherine S Hubbard (1787-1864).

² Susan Catharine Sanborn (1823-18xx) married Levi Leach (1818-1895) in April, 1845. Levi Leach was a surgeon of the 12th Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers during the Civil War.


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