The identity of the woman who authored this letter and signed her name as “Mary” has not yet been confirmed. She was living in Millville, Worcester County, Massachusetts in 1847 with her mother, and someone named Edwin — probably a brother. She was most likely a cousin to the recipient of this letter, Miss Eliza Sargent (1815-1880) — the daughter of Asa Sargent (1784-1854) and Charlotte D. Earle (1786-1879) of Leicester, Massachusetts. Eliza had less than a month earlier lost her sister, Sarah G. (Sargent) Bosworth (1818-1847), the wife of Augustus W. Bosworth. Sarah and Augustus had one small child before Sarah’s death, named Charlotte (“Lotty”) Earle Bosworth (1844-19xx) who was raised by Eliza. Eliza married Edward Prest in 1853. Little “Lotty” married George A. Potter in 1868.
From the letter we learn that Mary and Edwin made harnesses out of their home in Millville, and that boarders were operating a millinery shop out of their basement.
Mary mentions Robert K. Brown (1810-1848) and his wife Elida Ann (Case) Brown (1814-1906) of Norwich, Connecticut in connection with a story about someone named Levi residing in Otisville, New York, who apparently suffered from alcoholism.
Addressed to Miss Eliza Sargent, Leicester, Massachusetts
November 21, 1847
What have you thought of me for not answering your letter before? Do not think it was for want of feeling and sympathy for you in your affliction. Oh how gladly would I have come to you the moment your letter reached here if I could have done so, but I intended writing to you immediately but my heart and hands have been full ever since so that I could not write even to you my more than sister. Dear Eliza, do not mourn that your dear, gentle, loved sister is gone to her Father where she will never suffer more. Let us try and be more like her that when we are called, we shall be as well prepared as our dear Sarah. O is there not a pleasure to feel that our parting here is only for a short season, and then we meet to part no more and to suffer no more sorrow? Dear friends deeply do we sympathize with you in your sorrow, and poor Augustus — how lonely must be his home in removing such an angel from it. But his little Lotty will be a great comfort. I hope he will come on another summer and bring the dear child to you. What a precious gift.
I am sorry you could not have been with her in her last hours. But try and feel that tis all for the best, and bear it without murmuring as we know she is now happy and not suffering as she had been most of the time for so many long years and borne it so patiently that few who were not del acquainted with her would have thought anything the matter. Let us dry our tears and so as she would have us could she speak now to us. Let us feel that she is even now near us and knows our feelings and our grief at parting. Do let us hear from you as soon as get a letter from Augustus. I hope he will feel willing to let you have little Lotty although it must be very hard for him to spare her to be from him, but you can do better with her.
We are sorry Aunt Charlotte has not visited us. We have had such lovely weather. I think it would do her good to leave home a little while, and we hope she will come yet. Won’t she come and spend Thanksgiving with us? I do not think it will be convenient to come to Leicester this winter, but I can hardly make up my mind to stay at home wither.
Levi has not written a word yet. I wrote to Elida Brown some time ago and she answered it saying her husband had not had anything to do with that work since I left there in July and had not been there since I left till then. Story had written a number of times for him to come for they could not do without him, and he had then gone to see about his resuming his duties there again. And just as soon as he came home she would write me again and tell me all. Week before last, I got that letter. She said when her husband got to Otisville, he found Levi in a deplorable condition but he took him kindly by the hand and urged him to let that vile stuff alone. Levi promised reform, became sober, and went out to work and staid there while Mr. Brown was there, two weeks or nearly that time. Mr. Brown then returned to Norwich and almost as soon as he got there, he heard that Levi had gone to his drinking again. He then set down and wrote him a kind letter urging him to be what he was capable of being, and Elida added a page to the letter urging him kindly to be what he was when she first knew him and thought they would not write me bill they got an answer to their letter, but no answer came. In about ten days, Mr. Brown had business at Otisville again, was there only one day, could not get sight of Levi for he avoided him, and kept out of the way. But now he is there to stay through the winter with Elida and she wrote me the next day after she got there, leaving a space to be filled out when Mr. Brown should come home from the work as they board three miles from the work. Mr. Brown finished the letter saying he had not seen Levi, but would endeavor to the next day and he would do all in his power to win him back to temperance. Enclosed me twenty dollars saying he did not know how Levi’s accounts stood, but feared there was nothing due him. I wanted to have sent Homer the ten dollars I owe him out of this, but cannot. Our summer vegetable bill was brought in last week which was eight dollars and there seems to be many ways for money. I shall send him five and another five as soon as I can possibly spare it. I feel sadly disappointed that I can neither get me a cloak or shawl this fall. I cannot go anywhere this winter for I have nothing that it fit to wear.
We have been very busy with harness’s the last three weeks. Had all we could do and we have worked nights and day to do all we could while we could. And I have no rest Sundays for I was obliged to do some mending then for I could not work days. Last week I had a severe pain in my side and a hard cough. But I am better now since wearing a plaster a few days. Eliza Mathews has been here and spent a few days with us. Brought me a new ninepenny dress, but I don’t know when I can make it as it is impossible to get time to sew where we are harness making. Edwin makes with me while Mother does the housework. Our basement room is now fitted up for a milliners shop and the two girls, a milliner and dressmaker, are coming here to board tomorrow. I feel as though we are bring to do more than we can get through with. Since we have had harness’s the last three weeks, we have made fifteen dollars besides doing our work. But I should not like to work as hard all my life time.
How I wish you could come down and stay two or three weeks with us. Oh, it would be such a treat. Are you never coming again to stay any? Give my love to Maria and M. A. Watson. Tell Marianna I shall answer her letter as soon as I get time. The cars stop down opposite the tavern barn at the corner of Buffom’s garden. The depot is not decided on yet. Mrs. Thayer has given me some handsome ribbon to trim my bonnet with. If Aunt Charlotte gives up coming, which I hope she wil not, you must come if you can leave home. Love to all. Goodbye. — Mary