This letter was written by 25 year-old Zilpha Meacham (1824-Aft1870) to her sister, Armina Meacham (b. 1826). Zilpha wrote both letters from Claremont, Sullivan County, New Hampshire, where she resided with her Uncle Benjamin Meacham (1792-1877) and his wife Almira. Zilpha and Armina were the daughters of Lawrence Meacham (1786-1869) and his wife, Susan Stuart (b. 1797) of Auburn, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Other sibling’s mentioned in the letters include Harriet Meacham (b. 1829), Luman Meacham (b. 1830), and Orpha Meacham (b. 1832).
Mention is made of Philena. This was Zipha’s cousin, Philena Meacham (1824-18xx), the daughter of Zilpha’s Uncle Augustus and Aunt Polly Meacham who lived in Springville, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Cousin Eunice was the daughter of Zipha’s Uncle James Meacham.
It does not appear that either Zilpha or her younger sister Armina ever married.
LETTER ONE TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Miss M. Armina Meacham
Claremont [New Hampshire]
February 14, 1847
It was with sensations of a truly pleasing kind that I received your letter and have perused and reperused its pages with pleasure. You have without doubt been looking for some news or intelligence from Claremont for some time. “I plead guilty to the charge of negligence” and notwithstanding my spirits are very dull this evening, will make an effort to pen a few scattered thoughts for your perusal. My mind is often wafted back by the spirit of memory to the many happy seasons that we have enjoyed in each others society and sad and melancholy are my reflections when thinking of those days which will never return of friends dear to me that I may never meet again in this life. But to return from my wanderings.
Philena has been absent ever since the last of November. She is visiting her friends at Newfane at present so that I have not had the dear privilege of enjoying her society this winter [and I] have been very, very lonesome. What shall I do when she goes home? Do you come and spend one year with me, “won’t you sis?” How can I always be separated from those to whom I am united by the nearest ties of consanguinity, but away with gloomy forebodings.
I have been to church on this Holy Sabbath, listened to a very eloquent discourse from Bishop [Carlton] Chase. The text was in Romans 13:11, “It is high time to awake out of sleep.”
We have had a very mild winter thus far — poor sleighing. Uncle [Benjamin] and I were intending to go for Philena as soon as we have sufficient snow. I have felt very unreconciled to her absence this winter for I fear she is losing the most desirable part of the season. Parties have been quite frequent of late. The young people of Claremont are uncommonly gay at present. I have been sick some four weeks with a cold attended by some fever. Had a physician several times but I am now better.
Cousin George, Emeline, and Sarah are all teaching school this winter. Uncle Asa’s family were well the last we heard from them. I received a letter from Cousin Mercy some two weeks since. Should think from her writing that she did not enjoy herself quite as well as she did at Carbondale. You spoke of going to Carbondale. What are you intending to do there? I have not heard a word from Carbondale since I came home. Do you suppose they have forgotten me? “Don’t you think Armina” I received a letter from cousin Eunice a few weeks ago. She informed me that she was Eunice Meacham still and should probably remain so. How long she was unable to tell (but I guess until she has a chance to change her situation).
I suppose whatever I could tell you about Claremont people would be of little or no interest to you. You have one advantage over me in that respect. Suffice it to say we are to have a railroad through this town some day. This has been the topic of conversation amongst all classes this winter. I went out yesterday making calls all alone. I thought how much it would contribute to my enjoyment could I have a sister by my side and I contrasted my situation with that of a year ago. I cannot realize that I spent one whole year with you. It seems like a wild dream but so it is! And nearly five months here rolled away since I had your adieu, since the hand was wrung for the last time, and the last time and the last sigh was wafted on the breeze. Oh! dear Armina, I know you will think this a real prosy mess and I don’t blame you for the flood gates of my ideas are so tightly closed that I know it will puzzle you to trace the association of them.
I was very glad to hear that your neck was better. Am sorry that it is not cured effectually. It must be very pleasant for you and Louisa to be situated so near each other. It seems that Luman and Orpha are not going to school this winter. I regret it very much.
The next time you write, please particularize more about our family (What does Aunt Margaret say about me now? Did mother tell her the reason why I did not stay with her more?) Aunt says that she is sorry if I have caused any unpleasant feelings with the relations out there.
It is bed time and I must draw my letter to a close. I should be very glad to hear from Louisa and Harriet. I will write again as soon as I hear from you. Please give my love to all. Aunt sends love to all.
And accept this from your affectionate sister, — Zilpha
Be sure and write soon. I have a great deal that I want to say to you but cannot write it. Uncle has just come from the Post Office with a valentine for me — quite a funny affair. Had I room I would send you a copy of it. I have got a new cloak — Indiana Cloth — the shade of my velvet hat. I wrote to Edmund about four weeks ago. Have received no answer. I should think they had taken a new start committing matrimony out there since I left. I expect you will go next. You must tell me the state of your heart when you write. We have had a number of weddings here this winter. Two old maids went off last week — a chance for all that is left. So the world goes. Good night, good night.
LETTER TWO TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Miss M. Armina Meacham, Sterlingville, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania
Claremont [New Hampshire]
March 14, 1849
I received your kind letter in due course of mail and can say I was glad to hear from a sister once more for I had become quite uneasy about you fearing you was sick and should have had written you had I known where to direct a letter. I have just finished a letter to Philena in answer to one I received a few day previous to yours. I have an inexpressible desire to see you this evening sister and converse with you face to face but that cannot be so I must take up with the poor substitute of committing a few thoughts on paper.
Is it possible that two years and more have rolled into eternity since we took the parting hand and pressed the last fond kiss. It startles me when I think how rapidly our short lives are passing away. But a few more days and it will be said of us “thy are gone” and the places which now know us will know us no more forever. How time and yes, how little we can realize these things.
In the first place I must tell you of a “great time” we had in town on the evening of the 5th inst. The Whigs had an Inauguration Levee and it was truly one of the most splendid entertainments ever got up in the country. The ‘Town Hall’ was elegantly arrayed with flags, evergreens, and various trimmings which was the general theme of admiration. The music by [Ned] Kendall’s Band ¹ imported from Boston at the expense of $150 was most enchanting. The company numbering about 300 represented professions and employments alike, old and young, but one’s feeling animated all. The dancing commenced at 7 o’clock and was kept up with unflagging spirit until 11 o’clock when the company marched into the spacious galleries where a bountiful table was elegantly spread with substantials and luxuries to which all due attention was paid. The dancing was resumed at 12 o’clock and continued with the same vigor and joyousness until 4 o’clock A.M. I wish you could have been here Armina for I think you would have enjoyed yourself. I never passed a happier evening in my life but I must confess I have felt rather ‘old’ ever since. I ____ nearly every figure all night. Perhaps you would like to know what I wore. Well I had a new plain white muslin dress for the occasion. The skirt was tucked all the way up. It took 11 yards for the skirt. You may think it strange that I should take up so much time in describing this foolish affair but it is more strange that I could say so little after hearing so much as I have for the last four weeks.
I attended a wedding on the 14th of February. Had a pleasant time. I received three missives from St. Valentine on that day — did you have any?
I received a letter from cousin Mercy last week. She spoke of her mother’s return from car — so I heard from you by his. I pray you and Hatty are quite happy living together. Would that I could just look in upon you some one of these pleasant evenings. Cousin George [Meacham] has been home on a visit this winter. The girls have been teaching. We are expecting them over soon to spend a few days with us. I was sorry to hear that cousin Hiram was going to California but hope he will bring home as much gold as he can lift. The fever rages here as much as elsewhere. Several of our citizens have gone to seek their fortunes in gold hunting. I comfort myself with the thought that our only brother [Luman] will not be a candidate for that fever.
We have had good sleighing all winter. It is about used up now. The weather has been mild and agreeable for two weeks past. Oh! Mina, I think I may as well hang up my fiddle now. Agur is married. You must try and comfort me all you can. “Madam Rumour” has said that I was going to be married thris spring, but ’tis no such thing. I have no more thoughts of being married than I ever had and I wish so,me good people would mind their own business, but “nuff ced.”
Is Mr. Thompson still in Carbondale? I think you or Katy had better catch him. Don’t be offended at my nonsense. What has become of the Fuller twins? and little “Jack?” If you should come to Lowell, I shall to see you in Claremont.
I am still taking lessons in music [and] will play to you any time when you will come and listen to me. Aunt is ironing in the kitchen. She sends her love to Armina. Our aged Aunt Esther had the misfortune to break her arm this winter. She is recovering from the injury as fast as we could expect. I am glad to hear that your health is so good. Hope it will continue to be so. I hope you will commit this scrawl to the flames after you read it if you should have patience to do so.
Please remember me to Katy’s Aunt Mercy and all who enquire. Tell cousin Electa it would afford me much pleasure to receive a letter from her. I often think of them all and of the kind attention which I received while there. Hope we may all meet again in this world. Goodbye Sis, — from Zilla
¹ Edward “Ned” Kendall (1808-1861) was the leader of a brass band in Boston first formed in 1835. Its title was ‘Boston brass band.’ Before that there was an organization known as the ‘Boston Brigade band’ — not its great successor by that name — composed of French horns, serpents, brass instruments, clarinets and drums, in all about 15 pieces. Way back in the twenties there was a band called the ‘Dragon.’ Ned was leader of and bugle player in the Boston brass band till 1842, when he went away and Eben Flagg became its leader. In 1849 Ned Kendall returned to Boston and became the leader of the Boston Brigade band.