1840: Harriet Whitney Batcheller to Elvira (Bacon) Leighton

This letter was written by Harriet Whitney Batcheller (1817-18xx), daughter of Amos Batcheller and Rachel Witney. She married Parker Elisha Farnsworth (1818-1887), the son of Jonathan Farnsworth (1767-1847) and Mehitable Parker (1777-1860), of West Bloomfield in 1842. Parker became a teacher in New Hampshire, a private school in New York, at the Washington Institute, at the Mechanic’s and Trademan’s School in New York, at the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic School, and at Trinity School in NYC.

Harriet wrote the letter to her friend, Elvira (Bacon) Leighton (1822-Aft1880) of West Cambridge who married Amos Leighton (1814-1905) on 1 December 1839 and set up housekeeping in Carlisle, Massachusetts. Elvira was the daughter of Moses Bacon (1799-1851) and Eliza Page Wilson (1797-1884).

The letter acknowledges that Elvira and her husband had recently attended a lecture by William Miller who predicted that the world would come to an end with the second advent of Jesus Christ during 1843. His popularity rose considerably during 1840 as he began lecture tours.

Note: Batcheller is spelled variously among genealogy records. The paper tear in this letter makes it difficult to confirm how Harriet spelled her surname.

1840 Letter

1840 Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Amos Leighton, Carlisle, Massachusetts

Boxborough [Massachusetts]
January 10th 1840

Dear Elvira,

I arrived at the place of my nativity yesterday, stage sick & with a very bad cold, so you must expect rather a sickish epistle.

Although it is rather late, I wish you & your loved one a “happy new year.” You have entered on an untried mode of life. May it be to you a year of peace, happiness, & unexampled prosperity. May you have an abundance of all the good things earth affords: kind hearty friends & social neighbors. And furthermore, may the love which unites you which has sprung up budded & blossomed beneath your cherishing care, continue to increase in strength & beauty until it acquires the firmness of ages. “Watch it, guard it, suffer not a breath to dim its purity” & no blight to mar its delicate loveliness. Would you have more than this? Aye more I invoke for you. May the love of God be shed abroad in your hearts & kindle herein its pure vestal fires. May hope like a guardian angel hover around & yield you golden visions of Paradisal joys & faith with her tireless wing bear your sour onward & upward to her own sweet resting place — the throne of God.

You inform me that you have been to hear Miller preach. I would say beware of false prophets & teachers that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves & like wolves are spreading terror & devastation among the peaceful folds of the flock. Man’s creeds and theories are but so many specimens of human frailty. One is built up to supersede another & they will all come to naught. But the true spirit of Christianity will expand & increase in beauty and power until its empire extends over all. If you have desires up springing within you that naught earthly can satisfy, remember there is for you an inexhaustible fountain, pure, limpid & pelucent. Drink deeply of the waters of eternal life & you will never thirst again, but if you attempt to satisfy the yearnings of your spirit at the wellsprings of human philosophy, it will be in vain. Although you may quaff deeper & still deeper the burning draught, it will only mock your efforts.

Your father’s family are all in comfortable health & your mother bade me tell you to come down as soon as you could conveniently. Charles & Susan took the vows & “pledged themselves to be faithful” new year’s eve. I officiated as bridesmaid & they say it will be my turn the first day of next month as I have attended weddings the first of the two preceding months. But I think I shall take my own time & have my own way.

You desire me to inform you how soon I shall visit you but I am utterly unable to as I do not know myself. I think, however, when I visit Littleton, I shall exhibit my physiognomy is due form if I can possibly get a conveyance from thence. I really want to see you once more. By the way, how do you like it in Carlisle? You have not so much as written a word of the fair city & its inhabitants. Are you so domestic that you never peep abroad? Pray shed a little light on this subject.

I have come to my infant home but the “dear familiar faces” that were wont to greet me with their affectionate smiles are almost all gone. Here are the hills, fields & meadows, over which I have bounded & frolicked; the road to school & the old red schoolhouse, but where are my playmates? Gone, all gone. Some are married, some have emigrated, others rest in the grave & I sometimes wish I could rest beside them. But this I know is wrong.

Dear Elvira, excuse the dulness of this scrawl and sit down and write me a long, long letter. If you do not quite fill the sheet, invite your husband to put in a word. Give my respects to him and ask him if he still thinks there’s always joy in loving? And now, have patience with me a little longer while I write a few rhymes & I will take leave of you for the present hoping that I shall be in better spirits when I write again.

In the gently clinging vine,
That loves in graceful folds to twine,
Round some fair majestic tree,
I a type of friendship see.

Which its coronal entwines
Sweetly round young virtuous minds,
In the modest evergreen,
That lovely decks the wintry scene.

Yielding not to blighting powers,
Surviving all the summer showers,
When all else is sad & drear,
Beautiful its leaves appear.

So when other joys have fled,
Friendship still will blessings shed,
Lady that Friendship true & pure,
That will long as life endure.

May be yours till time shall end,
Are the wishes of your friend.

— Harriet W. Batcheller

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: