There are two letters. This first letter was written by Elizabeth Proudfit Leonard (1822-Aft1864), the wife of Deacon Levi Warren Norton (1819-1900). Elizabeth and Levi were married in October 1846. Elizabeth wrote the letter to her parents, Stephen Leonard (1783-1869) and Jane Martin (1788-Aft1846). Other siblings of Elizabeth’s mentioned in the letter include her brother Charles Pinckney Leonard (1826-1904); Cornelia M. Leonard (b. 1823) whom Elizabeth calls “Corneal”; and Jane Maria Leonard (b. 1816), the wife of Francis C. Morse.
The second letter was written by Elizabeth’s husband, Levi Warren Norton — an Episcopal cleric who spent most of his life in western New York. He was born in Attica, completed his studies at Union College (1843) and from the New York General Theological Seminary (1846), and was ordained in 1847 at the age of 28. He was the minister at Watertown for several years and then relocated to Jamestown, New York. During the Civil War he served as chaplain of the 72nd New York Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION of LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mr. Stephen Leonard, Lowville, Lewis County, New York
Watertown [New York]
November 27th 1846
My Dear Parents,
I have been intending ever since I came here to write you that you might know something more of your children’s progress in their large parish, but I have deferred it until a more convenient season from time to time till three weeks have elapsed & now I am just at it. Knowing, therefore, it will be gladly received, I will endeavor to give a little account of our stewardship.
I believe when I wrote to Corneal, Levi was not well. Since then — i.e. last week — he was attacked with the cholera morbus or was taken vomiting, which ended in the cholera morbus. He was very sick the live long night. I, unacquainted with the house, knew not where to look for boneset (the cure all with Levi) or anything else, but I soon found a bunch of spearmint after ransacking the garret over. He took a good drink of it & was able to take a nap shortly. Since then he has been better & worse each day, but now he is much better & is quite himself. It was the first sickness that we have had in our family. I pray it may be the last for a time at least. I’ll leave it for him to say what care I took of him, but this I know, I did the best I could out of my father’s house.
We have not been able to go about as much as we wished. The weather has been so very unpleasant. But we have been out to tea almost every day this week & were invited last week, but were obliged to decline. Levi has written two sermons every week since we came, with all of his sickness. The people are perfectly willing to hear an old sermon or have a sermon read if he will only favor himself. They are indeed kind. Tomorrow he intends going to the Harbor to exchange with Wright. I wish we might have a little more snow that it might be decent slipping in a sleigh. I think he will be very well after he returns for the road has never been worse since the war than it is now.
I would like to know how & where you all spent the Thanksgiving. I believe it was Jane’s turn to give the dinner? Levi & myself were at Mary’s with the families & Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert & the mother. Mary gave us a nice dinner — roast & boiled turkey, chicken, roast beef, all kinds of vegetables, with celery, puddings & pies, with a strong cup of coffee with the dessert. We talked of you all & each one expressed a strong wish that you might soon come down. Levi preached yesterday & notwithstanding the cold & storm, we had a large congregation & I think a very good sermon — perhaps I am not a proper judge. I may be a little prejudiced in favor of the deacon.
I was very glad indeed to receive a letter from Corneal. It’s the only time we have heard till this morn. We had a short letter from Malvina. I wanted to know very much what you were all about & was very sorry to hear Mrs. Martin’s baby is cross as ever. I was really in hopes he would come back an improved child. But alas! I hear he is uglier than ever, both in looks & actions. And as to her having a girl, I would not consent to it or else she would stay in her room & have all the fuss & muss there, I don’t wonder you are all nervous. I should think they better go to housekeeping if its necessary to have such a family & as for you mother, if there can be any means devised to live easier than to have such boarders, I would discard them & live more within yourselves.
I met Mrs. Otis & Miss Otis in a store yesterday. They were well.
Saturday morn. I was obliged to lay this aside last eve for Mr. H. Cooper came in. I was not able to send it to the office. The papers say this morn that you at the south have good sleighing. I wish that we might, although its been snowing briskly, it has every appearance of raining now. I am thinking now about what I shall wear on my head & I have about concluded to have my old ____ colored & rigged for winter. Aunt & Mary advise me to do so. It costs but little & will be of service to me afterward. And if you will send it the first opportunity, I would be obliged. Helen has been expecting Frank down this ever so long & he may come next Monday & you can send by him in a bandbox & some cotton floss too & my waists & my course woolen stockings in the basket in our closet — I believe they are — & you may send anything else you think I need. Tell Corneal her lining is ready & has been this fortnight, but no opportunity has yet occurred. I shall send it Monday by George. Also mall & shawl.
Has Charles gone to the City? I wish Corneal would come down with Frank if it’s sleighing & then she can get her a hat if she wishes. I would never make it an excuse that I have nothing to wear here again, for our people are very plain indeed. Corneal is fixed enough. Levi feels uncommon “keen” this morning. I know he is well or else he must be very sick. He expects to go to the Harbor this afternoon.
Have you got the stoves all arranged for winter? How does the new one go? How does your new girl suit? Is she better than Mary? When any of you write, do tell the particulars about everything & everybody for I am interested. How do the folks come on at M? Did Uncle Charles have his things sold? Father, how do you & the bank folks progress in your affairs? I hope you may come to some understanding soon. Where is John Martin now? The question has been asked me again & again. I suppose it’s known he is a relative of mine. I am ignorant as may be of his whereabouts. I think Aunt Rockwell must have changed very much in her feelings about visiting Watertown. Aunt C. wants her to spend some time with her this winter. They are very anxious that you both should come down the very first of sleighing. I hope you will. We would be glad to see you in our quarters & will make it as pleasant as may be for you or any members of our family. Do come. I suppose you are now thinking about butchering. I hope to eat some of your sausages many times this winter. When we shall come up, I can’t say, but before long.
We heard Mr. Beach has a relapse. I hope he may be spared yet to his family. How are Frank & Jane & the dear children? Mary’s children talk a great deal about their cousins at Lowville. Kiss the little “gals” for their uncle & aunt. Shall we not see all of our family here this winter? Levi is very busy or he would add a word. I hope to hear from you soon. Mother, I wish you would write to me. Now make an effort. Father write a long one. Why don’t Lew send me the Journal as he promised? With love to all the family from us both & regards to Mr. & Mrs. [Francis] Morse. I must close. Your affectionate child, — Elizabeth
Shall I have my hat lined & trimmed with velvet or Satin. Do tell me what you think about that & everything.
TRANSCRIPTION of LETTER TWO
Addressed to Stephen Leonard, Esq., Lowville, Lewis County, New York
Watertown [New York]
December 27, 1852
I send a line by Rev. Mr. Bradley to say we are all very well & as usual very happy at this season at the many expressions of good will & affection manifested towards us by our parishioners. Were I to attempt an outline it would lead me into silver forks & rest patterns & china ware & splendid white (silk or something) bonnets & handkerchiefs, gloves, vests, & valuable books & saw bricks as Lew calls them & lace collars of no trifling value & dressing gowns magnificent & ____ the fowl kind & apples & catsup & candy & children’s toys innumerable & forbear an exact description hoping you as soon as maybe. Nothing very new or extravagant. Lewis talks of going up on Friday of this week.
Give my love to all of both families & tell Jane my next letter will be to her in a few days.
A Merry Christmas will be too late but a Happy New Year in time which we wish you all with God’s blessings ever.
Most affectionately your son, — L. W. Norton