1797: Sarah Atterbury to Miss Gifford

This letter was written by Sarah (Bakewell) Atterbury (1759-1841), wife of Job Atterbury (1754-18xx). They were married in Wellington, Shropshire, England, in 1778 and emigrated to the United States about 1794. Job Atterbury worked from circa 1799 to 1805 as a silversmith & merchant in New Haven CT listed by some authorities as a maker, but probably only a retailer. His advertisements in the Connecticut Journal offered a wide range of dry goods, patent medicines, wines and liquors. The Atterbury’s came to America in company with Sarah’s brother, Benjamin Bakewell, an international London merchant, who decided to relocate his business to America and entertained the idea of opening an ale brewery in New Haven, Connecticut. Sarah’s niece, Lucy Bakewell, married John James Audubon – the famous naturalist and painter.

Their daughter, Sarah Atterbury (1781-1827) also adds a short note at the end of the letter. She later (in 1817) married Thomas Wright (1790-Aft1827) and resided in Hudson, New York. Mention is made of Lewis Atterbury (1779-1872), the oldest son of Sarah and Job. He was married in 1803 to Catherine Boudinot (1781-1877) in Flushing, New York. Lewis was a Baltimore merchant for many years but later resided on Long Island.

Sarah wrote the letter to he cousin, Miss Gifford, of Derbyshire, England.

1797 Letter

1797 Letter

Addressed to Miss Gifford, G. Duffield, Derbyshire [England]

New Brunswick [New Jersey]
January 22, 1797

My dear Cousin,

Your letter by Mrs. Exton I received for which I thank you tho’ it was a short one. I think if you knew the pleasure I feel in reading your letters and how interesting every incident that occurs to you or any of our friends  is to us at this distance, you wouldn’t think any subject too trifling to write about. Please to make my most grateful acknowledgement to my kind friend, your Father, for the very liberal present he was so good as to order me. How kind it was in you both and how consolatory to me the idea that the cast at a distance of so near and dear friends, I am not forgot. But tho’ at a distance, I often in imagination see you engaged in your usual occupation dispensing the comforts of this life amongst your poor neighbors and happiness on all around you. I cannot suppress a sigh when I reflect how very long it will probably be before I again see you but I will check my pen or I shall infect you with my low spirits which I don’t wish to do.

But we have had a deal of trouble and anxiety since we have been here and it has affected my spirits a good deal. We brought a large quantity of goods over which we have sold most off, but have not received money for one quarter of them nor don’t know when we shall. That and the purchase here & the unavoidable expense of building a Malt office has teased & perplexed us very much and tho’ my husband used every exertion, he could not get ready to begin brewing till the cold weather set in which it did several weeks sooner than it has dome this 5 years past, that it has froze the water up they have with great difficulty procured some and have brewed once. It is now working. I hope it will answer as the people make great inquiries when the ale will be ready.

I am quite tired of being out of business so much so that I have determined on teaching a school. Tomorrow I begin. I found it was much wanted as there is not a decent girls school in this place. When I mentioned it to some of the principal inhabitants, they seemed much pleased with it and promised me their children so that I don’t doubt but in the summer we shall have as many as we can attend to. I will send you one of my cards the first opportunity.

We have had very severe weather for this last 6 weeks but the extremes — either hot or cold — don’t last log in this country. It is seldom very cold more than 3 or 4 days together and then moderates for a week or 10 days when it grows cold again. But wood is tolerable reasonable here as the river is froze over they can’t send it to York. It is very dear there but cheaper here than any time of the year as when the river is open. They send vast quantities to York where it is always much dearer than here.

I like this situation and the people very well and if I had a few friends near me that I could wish for & was in a way of getting plenty of dollars, I could be very comfortable. The servants are the worst inconvenience. They are very indifferent indeed. The Black ones are much the best. We have hired a black one the last ½ year. The people she belongs to wants her away now which I am very sorry for as she suits us very well. I have quite got over the prejudice I used to have against them. Indeed, they could not do without them here. The white ones are so saucy and think themselves so much one’s equal. There is no doing any good with them.

But I must conclude as I have promised Sarah to leave her some room to write a few lines. Please to give my love to all inquiring friends — especially my Dear Brother & Family, and believe me while I am capable of thinking, I shall not cease to remember your kindness, and praying that every blessing may attend you and yours in which my husband and children join. I remain, dear cousin, ever yours affectionately, — Sarah Atterbury

Dear Cousin,

As my mother was writing, I begged get to let me write a few lines in her letter, not having written to you since our arrival in America, to tell you how I like this country. I like it very well. Brunswick is a very pretty little city and very healthy. I think not larger that Duffield. The country around it is very romantic and beautiful. In the spring there are a great variety of wild flowers and shrubs which I think you would be much pleased with. The summers here are hotter than in England and the winters rather colder. I suppose this is a much colder winter than has been known for many years. It has snowed a great deal this last week. There are a many sleighs in this town. I have had several rides in one. I like it much.

We hear from Lewis frequently. I had a letter from him yesterday. He is very well. We expect him down when the river opens. It is much colder at Albany than here. Benjamin is a very nice boy. I dare say you would be very much entertained with him. It is growing late. Therefore, I must conclude with love to Uncle, Sally Dike and accept of it yourself from your affectionately, — Sarah Atterbury

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