This letter was written by Rev. James Madison Macdonald (1812-1876) who was, at the time, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, New York, and a trustee of the Union Hall Academy. Rev. Macdonald studied at Bowdoin College, Union College, the Theological Seminary in Bangor, and at Yale Theological. His first pastorate was for the Third Congregational Church of Berlin, CT. He also served in New London, CT and Jamaica, New York, before relocating to Princeton, New Jersey. For the last 23 years of his life, he was a Trustee of the Princeton Theological Seminary, and a writer of some note. Rev. Macdonald married Lucy Esther Hyde on 1 September 1835.
Rev. Macdonald wrote the letter to Rev. Isaac Bird (1793-1873) who graduated from Yale College and Andover Theological Seminary. Bird sailed to the Middle East as a missionary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1822. He was principally in Malta, Beirut and Smyrna until 1835, when his wife Ann’s ill-health brought them back to the United States. Following his return, Rev. Bird taught at theological seminaries in New England and died in Hartford, Connecticut in 1873.
Addressed to Rev. Isaac Bird, “Care of Kimball, Jewett & Co., Milk Street”, Boston, Massachusetts
Jamaica [New York]
3 September 1845
Yours of the first instant is received. We have in Jamaica two institutions, or rather I should say two departments of the same institution, “Union Hall Academy” — one for males & one for females, under the care of the Regents of the University of the State New York. In the male department there are about one hundred scholars. Between thirty and forty of them board in the families of the principals. In the female department (entirely distinct as far as buildings & teachers are concerned) there may be sixty or seventy pupils. Twenty five or third of them, perhaps, board in the institution. Both these schools we regard as in a highly flourishing condition. There is also a “Family School” in the place in which the pupils are all from abroad & live with the teacher.
But I regard Jamaica as a very favorable location for schools & have supposed that the number of them here might be greatly increased without their necessarily coming into collision with one another. The proximity of such cities as New York & Brooklyn — the latter of which has increased over one hundred per centum within the last five years — makes this village a very desirable location for such schools as would depend for patronage principally upon these cities. In venturing the above opinion, I take it for granted that different teachers would have their particular patrons, & circles of acquaintance, & would not make any special dependance on the patronage of the inhabitants here, as the number of our schools is abundantly sufficient for our own accommodation at present.
I may state that a gentleman who has a flourishing school, about a hundred miles up the river, whose principal patrons reside in the city of New York, by the particular request of the parents who do not like to have their children so far off — especially in the winter, has been looking for a house here & will remove this fall provided he can obtain a place to suit him. And I was informed only yesterday that another gentleman who has a school in which are some fifty or sixty boarders, is very desirous of coming here.
Yours respectfully, — J. M. Macdonald