This letter was written by 15 year-old Arlena (“Lena”) Pettus (1835-Aft1880), the daughter of Musgrove Lamb Pettus (1808-1881) and Susan D. Smith (1809-18xx). Arlena became the second wife of Dr. John W. Brooks (1829-Aft1880) in Charlotte County, Virginia in 1868. Lena and “J. W” are enumerated in the 1880 Census residing in Bacon, Charlotte County, Virginia.
Lena wrote the letter to Nancy (“Nannie”) Henderson Hubbard (1823-1863), the daughter of Ashley Hubbard (1792-1861) and Betsey Dole (1794-1862), of Plumtrees, Franklin County, Massachusetts. She was married in September 1857 to Ansel Wales Kellogg (1821-1870) and they were residing in Oshkosh, Wisconsin when she died in 1863.
According to family records, “Nancy Henderson Hubbard was born in the old Hubbard tavern, April 4, 1823, and spent her girlhood in this historic home. When very young she began to write verses, and continued during her school days in North Amherst and New Salem academy. A friend of her youth, Mrs. M. C. Copeland of Northampton, says of the young authoress: ‘She was a very sweet, refined, cultured, warm-hearted girl, who everybody loved and admired.’ Brought up within the shadow of Mount Toby, this descendant of a line of heroic ancestors was not content to spend her life in the seclusion of her rural home, but yearned for wider opportunity and more extended vision. After graduation at North Amherst, when studying or teaching in West Brookfield, her ambitious soul found utterance in the following lines:
O, fame and greatness! Dreams of earthly splendor!
What now are all your trumpet notes of praise?
O, can one strain of the loved paean render
More bright, more happy here our toilsome days?
Yes, but one breath, one sound of that sweet music,
For which my spirit doth so strangely pine,
Such is the Homage that my heart now chooseth,
The fresh green laurel round by brow to twine.
Nancy then went South as a teacher. Returning, she brought with her two Southern lads, and gave them lessons in the old tavern. She married Ansel Kellogg, president of the First National bank of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and a leading financier in the State. He was the brother of Rufus Kellogg, a benefactor of Amherst college. The poetess of the Plumtrees died in her Western home in 1863. Her body was brought to Amherst and buried in the North Amherst cemetery.”
In the 1850 Census, Nancy Hubbard is enumerated in the household of Lena’s father, Musgrave Pettus, where she no doubt boarded while teaching school. This letter was written in January 1851, just prior to Miss Hubbard’s return to Massachusetts.
Addressed to Miss Nannie Hubbard, Union Level P.O., Mecklenburg County, Virginia
January 16th 1851
My Beloved Miss Nannie,
Scarcely have I time to write you a line, yet I must write if not more than a page. I received your dear little note a day or two before you left. I was delighted at receiving it as I was beginning to think (before getting it) that you was going to cut our correspondence short. I sincerely hope it may never be broken. If it is, it shan’t be my fault & methinks I can hear you say, “well, it shall not be mine.” So if that be the case, it never will be broken.
I am so sorry you are so far from me, although when you were in six miles of me, I scarcely ever saw you. Yet I could hear from you often. I hope to see you before my school commences (which will be the first of March) as I expect or rather hope to visit Maria before then, & if I do, I certainly will visit you. When you see Maria, give my best love to her & ask what is the reason she never writes to me. I think I have written her two long letters since receiving an answer. I fully intended to spend Christmas with her, but was disappointed in going to Grandma Taylor’s. I fear Maria has or almost has forgotten me as she always was so punctual in writing before now, but I never, no never, will forget her. Tell her that Cousin James Gregory & Miss Bella Walker were married Wednesday half past ten o’clock in the morning & came down to his house to dinner. I don’t think they had much of a dining, I was not invited. There was not any one at the marriage except Mrs. Walker’s family & the parson — not even Mr. G’s sister, so I heard. Think they must have had quite dry times. Do they ever have such marriages at the North?
I was at Grandma Pettus’s day before yesterday. All were well except Aunt Sue. I don’t think she was sick — just a little complaining. The family all sent love to you. Aunts Sue & Ella told me to tell you they were very sorry you would not visit them before leaving the neighborhood, but when you came up, you must call of them. Aunt Ella is going to send you a piece of ___sie the next time Uncle John Taylor comes up as he passes by Union Level. She thought it best to send it by him rather than by mail. I guess he will come up the last of this week.
Miss Nannie, I have a small favor to ask of you. Will you not grant it? I want you to have your daguerreotype taken for me before you leave. Will you not? Yes.
I guess you think, Miss Nan, my letter is very dry & full of favors, but this part of old Mecklenburg is very dry & still in the line of news. I don’t think that there ever was such a dry & still Christmas in this neighborhood before as the last one was. How was it with you?
I expect if nothing prevents, to go to see one of my old Aunts tomorrow that I never saw. She is eighty two or three years old & lives in ten miles of me. It may not be that far. I really feel ashamed to see her although I long to see her but I expect such a scolding as I never had, but I know I deserve it.
I have not heard from any of the school girls since seeing you — at least since you saw them. I saw Cousin Musgrove a few days ago. All were well with them. He said they were daily expecting a letter from you. Fannie Barton is going to s____ to Mrs. Graves in Warrenton & Cousin Mollie Puryear to Mr. Turner in Warenton. I expect to go to Aunt Pattie Finch again. I do not know where Ann Couch is going but heard she was going to Mr. Robert Smith, He is going to board at Cousin Musgrove’s & teach school about Christiansville, I believe.
How are your little birds? Kiss them for me. Aunt Ella are very large & fat.
Miss H, you must be certain to come up to see us all if you possibly can before you leave for North. I will certainly expect a letter from you in two or three weeks & before you will write then or very soon. I am always happy to receive letters from you. Excuse my indifferently written letter as my old pen first makes a large mark, then a small so I can’t half write.
Give my love to Dr. Farrass’ family when you see them & tell Mrs. Farrass that I say she must make Maria write to me anyhow in the course of a week & that all of them must visit us soon.
In conclusion, receive a large portion of love for yourself from your ever affectionate friend, — Lena Pettus
Mamma & all send much love to you & say you must be sure to visit us if it is ever in your power to do so, & I say you must come whether it is in your power or not as I am so very anxious to see you.