1848: Anne Eliza Shepard to Maria Leavitt (Burns) Mack

Rev. John William Shepard

This letter was written by Anne Eliza Shephard (1818-1886), the daughter of Rev. John William Shepard (1788-1860) and Eliza Jane Burns (1797-1876) of Nashua, New Hampshire. Before entering the ministry in 1835, Rev. John W. Shepard was the proprietor of the New Hampshire Repository (later the Congregational Journal), and he also served as a schoolmaster in Portsmouth.

We learn from the letter that Anne Eliza’s father and 23 year-old brother, Samuel Miles Shepard (1824-1897), are suffering from “typhoid fever” and are dangerously ill at the time. Both recovered, however. Other siblings mentioned include Thomas Burns Shepard (1820-1888), Luther Dimmock Shepard (1837-1911),  and Aaron Warner Shepard (1841-1907).

Anne Eliza wrote the letter to her mother’s sister, Maria Leavitt (Burns) Mack (1795-1891), the wife of Deacon Andrew Mack (1786-1875) of Gilmanton, Belknap County, New Hampshire. Andrew Mack graduated from Dartmouth College in 1808. He taught at Gilmanton Academy from 1808 to 1810; was tutor at Dartmouth from 1810 to 1811; then principal of Hampton Academy 1 year; was again at Gilmanton Academy from 1812 to 1821; next at Haverhill Academy 7 more years, and returned to Gilmanton in 1831. Maria was the daughter of Thomas Burns (1767-1831) and Nancy Greeley (1777-1812) of Gilmanton. Maria and Andrew were married in 1824.

Two other aunts of Anne Eliza are mentioned; Annie G. Burns (1800-1865) — the wife of Prof. Aaron Warner (1794-1876) of Amherst, Massachusetts; and Charlotte A. Burns (1807-1846) — the wife of Hon. Edward R. Olcott (1805-1869).

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Andrew Mack, Gilmanton, New Hampshire

Nashua, [New Hampshire]
January 26, 1848

My dear aunt,

I returned home a fortnight ago last Saturday having spent a fortnight in Boston with Mrs. Eastman. The next Tuesday after, father returned from his business tour with a severe cold on his lungs & a headache. Though he seemed different from what he did in a common cold, he thought it might be such still & the next day took mother to Merrimac to remain during the night, but was chilly going there & did not become warm so he returned in the afternoon & has been sick with a typhoid fever since. His strength was gone at once & has not diminished since. He was very violently seized & has been very sick. He laid stupid a week taking no notice of anything unless aroused & would then drop immediately into a hard sleep — but for two or three days his fever has been averting & he has noticed the children & taken some interest in whatever he knows of the family matters. He has not lost his senses though he has been at times wandering. His physician thought his senses remained remarkably for one so sick. We have kept the house & him very quiet according to the Dr.’s orders that he might retain his senses. The disease was fastened more severely on his lungs than elsewhere — but those have improved as his fever has abated, so we have hopes his lungs will not be diseased after his fever has left him. For a time, it was quite uncertain how his fever might turn, whether for the better or worse. But appearances are now favorable and we ought to be very thankful for it would be so great a loss to us all to lose him. The fourteenth day the time when this fever sometimes turns has passed, so we must not look for a change till another week, if then. His physician has today commenced giving him wine whey — his state now requiring stimulants.

Samuel too was taken sick with the same fever the next Monday after father was taken. He is in the north front room & father in the south — below stairs, as it is more convenient to take care of them here than above. He is not so sick as father & does not need our constant watch. We merely need to supply his wants & look at him often. But father required the constant care of one or two of us. It is very fortunate that I returned just as I did for I do not know what mother would have done without me. I have devoted myself to father constantly & mother has assisted when necessary. We have sometimes felt almost worn out with anxiety but medicine from the Dr. has ever relieved us, so we trust that we shall not be sick.

Nashua people are very kind to us. They provide us watchers without any care on our part. We do not ever need to enquire who is to watch, but a good watcher comes each evening. The way they do is — the one who watches engages a watcher for the next night according to the advice of one of the deacons, who takes the general care of providing watchers, & directs us to make known to him at any time any wants we may have. Mrs. Spaulding of Merrimac has taken [brother] Warner to take care of him till our family are well. This is a great relief as we keep all the children when at home in the little kitchen, that the dining room may be quiet, for father would hear any sound in that room. If Thomas was here I do not know what we should do with him for that little room is full. We wish too to keep the children out of the fever air as it is of course more or less injurious. Thomas was at Manchester the last we heard from him. We send Luther to school to have him out of the house now father is sick, as I cannot attend to his lessons.

Simon Greenleaf

Uncle Warner came to Boston with me. Aunt thought of coming to accept an invitation by letter from Prof. [Simon] Greenleaf to visit them during the winter vacation. She was prevented by little Anna’s having a bad cold, though we waited a fortnight for her. Cousin Jane had a letter the evening before we left Amherst requesting her to come home to see her father before he died. So she went with us the next morning. She does not think of returning to Amherst till the spring when the river opens.

I am very glad to be at home again though I enjoyed my visit at Amherst very much. I feel now quite like remaining at home unless I shall feel quite exhausted when father & Samuel recover. If so, I may like to take that time for visiting you or Manchester & recruiting a little. But if Dr. [Josiah] Kittredge’s good _____ answer every purpose, I shall wain the pleasure of seeing you till a more convenient time.

Father will attend to that deed as soon as he is well enough. You need not write on purpose but when you do write & have the money without much trouble, will you please send me ten dollars — perhaps when the bank dividend is received. Dr. [Josiah] Kittredge ¹ has just been in & says that father bears the wine whey very well which is very encouraging. He now thinks that the fever will go off gradually. He says it will not have any crisis.

Samuel is different from what he was when he was first taken, but as he has not been sick so long as father, the disease is not so far advanced towards recovery.

I have commenced some black patchwork of silk & velvet for chair seats. Mrs. Crosby of Lowell told me that those old fashioned chairs of which grandmother had a half dozen would be very suitable to cover & she whould think that each of the sisters would like two of them. Mother thinks Uncle Olcott would be willing  she should have the two which were Aunt Olcott’s. They are heavy to move but as we are now stationary, I should like to have them to cover & then we should have two handsome chairs for our parlor. Probably you will have some good opportunity to send them to Concord this winter & thence to us here. I hope you will do so as it would cost a good deal to buy a frame for the seat covers. Mrs. Crosby has an old chair fitted up & covered with some patchwork that Frances made. I called there as I passed through Lowell on my way home. Frances [Crosby] is engaged to Dr. Martin of Roxbury — a native of England & partly educated there but finished at Cambridge. ² She has been engaged some time. Lowell people have just discovered it. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours &c. — Anne Eliza

Much love to all.

Sabbath Day. Father is gaining slowly. The Dr. told one of our neighbors that as his fever did not form a regular crisis, he would be longer in recovering than otherwise. His fever abates daily but has not yet left him but he recovers much has ____ than a while ago.

Samuel requires our greatest care now. He is very sick now. His fever increases. he is very bilious, has much pain in his bowels, & had a hard cough. So he is much diseased. His fever is the bilious typhoid. His reason is much affected. He has such illusions that we do not leave him a moment. His physician visits him three times a day & says so much that there is always danger in such a fever. It is uncertain how it may turn. One lady come in to sit with him this forenoon & another this afternoon. He has not been asleep since night before last. He is now taking medicine to cause him to sleep. He has suffered so much ill health that I fear he is illy prepared to go through this fever.

I have been very happy to receive cousin Maria’s letter since I wrote this. Monday morning — Samuel slept a few hours this morning. A nurse is coming this P.M. to take care of him. Mother & I are much fatigued & in danger of getting sick unless we have aid.


¹ Dr. Josiah Kittredge (1793-1872), son of Josiah and Mary (Baker) Kittredge, practiced in Pembroke, Concord, and Nashua, New Hampshire, and Boston, Massachusetts. He died in Glastonbury, CT.

² Frances Coffin Crosby (1825-1903), the daughter of Nathan and Rebecca (Moody) Crosby, was married to Henry Augustine Austin Martin (1824-1897) on 9 August 1848.


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