This letter was written by Benjamin Hale, Jr. (1827-1888) to his father, Rev. Benjamin Hale (1797-1863), who served as the President of Geneva (later Hobart) College in Geneva, New York from 1836 to 1858.
Benjamin, Jr., married Lucy Balch in October 1855 and settled in Newburyport, Massachusetts where he eventually (1881) became the mayor. There are a couple of references to Benjamin’s sister, Sarah Elizabeth Hale (1832-1904) who married Rev. Malcolm Douglas in October 1851.
Addressed to Rev’d Benjamin Hale, D. D., Geneva College, Geneva, New York
October 23, 1850
I got here with Uncle Joshua from New York City last Saturday at 2 o’clock. Uncle Josiah [Hale] has improved considerably in health. He was on his way to Philadelphia when I reached Brooklyn (between 9 & 10 A.M.) so I did not see him till Tuesday evening. Uncles Thomas [Hale] & Joshua [Hale] were with him.
Uncle Bridges family are all tolerably well. I dined with them last week Wednesday. Called on the Theological students on Tuesday. all were well & busy.
You may tell [sister] Sarah that I intended to have gone to see Miss Ellen Douglas but I found that the Express train for Boston did not stop at Port Chester & so to have gone there I should have had to stayed another week in Brooklyn as I did not think of starting till Friday.
We got to Boston at one o’clock at night. Aunt Mary Lane is not well. She has not yet recovered from her cold. Cyrus has got the mumps [but] not very severely. Aunt Mary has a bad cold. Grandmother is not well. Yesterday her head ached & she was dizzy. Her eyes have troubled her for some time. Uncle Joshua [Hale] has a lame back that troubles him considerable. Mary Cary Miltimore has a heavy cold & seems quite unwell. With these exceptions, we enjoy tolerable health.
I expect to pass the winter in Boston with Uncle Moses [Hale] & attend medical lectures there. The term commences the first Wednesday in November (a fortnight from today).
Uncle Josiah sent your last letter on here a day or two ago. I left Mrs. B, safely at Mrs. Knight’s in Brooklyn. Had she been alone, I guess she would have had some trouble, though she is a pretty independent character. She did not have any fare to pay for her little girl. Capt. [Eben] Knight ¹ is going to California, has a very good situation as agent for the steamers. His nephew has got command of his ship, the New World, & takes his brothers in the ship with him. The Captain’s family will probably go to Portsmouth in the spring & remain there.
We hope that you are having a pleasant time in the college — both the faculty & the students. You said in your letter that you had sent away one of the Juniors for awhile. I could not make up my mind who it could be.
Sarah’s old friends Emily & Helen Adams report says are to be married — one this fall & the other in the spring. Miss Tewkesbury too (not Hannah) is said to be engaged & her beau has lately made an offer to Mr. Whitmore for his house. Quite a clearing out there’ll be here for an empty place.
Our friends here are somewhat inquisitive about Sarah. The most I can tell them is that I think she is in Geneva. While I think of it, I will just observe that Aunt Mary Lane & A. E. Rouseas both complained to me of Sarah’s not answering their letters.
Uncle Edward [Hale] had returned to Newbury, Vermont before I arrived here. He’ll be back with ____ I suppose this week or next.
Love to you all at home. Your affectionate son, — Benj. Hale, Jr.
¹ The 12 November 1853 issue of the Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics (Portsmouth, NH) posted a notice of Capt. Eben Knight’s death: “The last accounts from California brought the melancholy intelligence of the decease of Capt. Eben Knight at San Francisco, on Tuesday, the 11th of October. We stated last week that he had resigned his position as agent of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. It was also stated that his health was such as to compel him to defer his departure until the next steamer. A letter from one of his family stated that he had a bilious attack, but was better, and his friends were looking forward to his return with his family. The course of Providence however decided otherwise, and the news of his death came unexpectedly on all. Capt, Eben Knight was born in Corinth, Vt. in July 1811 and was 42 years of age… For many years he commanded the Switzerland, a packet ship between New York and London; six years ago was transferred to the Packet ship New World, a Liverpool packet, and three years ago entered upon the important trust in California, in which he continued until the last month of his life…”
[Note: The Packet ship New World should not be confused with a steamboat of the same name that was highjacked from the Hudson River and taken to California in 1850.]