The identity of these correspondents was difficult to nail down. Though the author of the letter wrote her name very clearly, I could not find a Catherine Jackman in genealogy records that seemed to match the author’s profile. The recipient of the letter was James M. Sargent (1818-1895) — one of at least 14 children born to John Sargent (1771-1864) and Susan Johnson (177-1840). His name appears as a student in the 1839 Catalogue for the coeducational “Academical Institution at New London, New Hampshire” (otherwise known as the “New London Academy”).
Thinking James might have formed his acquaintance with Catherine at this school, I found a Catherine Jackman in the same catalogue with Salisbury, Merrimac, New Hampshire, identified as her hometown. Searching for a Jackman family residing in Salisbury, I found James Jackman (1792-1847) and Miriam Eaton (1792-1847), but their list of children yielded only four girls, none of who were named Catherine. Digging deeper into the Jackman family tree, I finally found that Catherine Jackman (1819-1890) was the daughter of John Jackman (1790-1853) and Catherine Knight (1793-1830).
Going back to the single genealogical record for James M. Sargent, I found that his wife was mis-identified as Catherine Jackson Thornton with no parents listed. I’ve concluded that someone misinterpreted the handwriting of an early genealogical record for this couple. James’ wife was Catherine Jackman (not Jackson), and she must have been living in Thornton, New Hampshire at the time of the wedding. Notice that Catherine mentions Thornton in the third paragraph of this letter.
So this turns out to be a letter written between two schoolmates whose friendship blossomed into a marriage. Catherine describes the select school she is teaching in Woodstock, New Hampshire in which she has more than fifty students.
Addressed to Mr. James M. Sargent, New London, New Hampshire
Woodstock [New Hampshire]
November 15, 1841
How short yet how endearing is the title “Friends” and in the hour of prosperity we are surrounded by by many who style themselves friends who are ever ready to greet us with their smiles and all seems like pleasantry, but let one chilling blast of adversity sweep across our path, and we find that our approach is not always met with the same corral reception. Yet there will be a few whose friendship will remain unchanged and those are worthy the name of friend and he the associations combined with such friendship are at all times pleasant and serve to lessen the evils incident to human life. And such a friend I think I am now addressing and feel it to be a source of pleasure to thus address each other through the medium of the silent pen.
I received yours two days since. Was glad to hear of your safe arrival at home [and] also your good health. This leaves me in good health.
I commenced my school the Monday after you left Thornton. Have a very pleasant school here in “Woodstock.” It is rather larger than I expected; consequently rather harder. My average number is fifty — some of the time over that number. Have 25 that write, 15 that study arithmetic(one class that are now in fractions, should like to have you here with your slate and pencil occasionally). 12 that study grammar, about that number that study geography, a class in Comstock’s Philosophy, besides the little urchins that read in their a. b. c.’s. Not much leisure time in school, I assure you.
About half past four in the afternoon, you may imagine me putting out words to a class reaching from the desk to the door and from the door to the back seat filling up the alley and nearly all of them larger than myself. I have a spelling school every Wednesday eve. After spelling awhile, we have compositions read and some declamations — rather interesting. Just give us a call and judge for yourself.
I board near the schoolhouse. Have a very good boarding place. Have my fire built every morning. Also I have my favorite companion (a good rocking chair) and from the description I think you will not fail to draw the conclusion that I am enjoying myself very well. I have not been home since I left. The family were in usual [health] when I left.
Friday eve. After teaching fifty-three scholars during the day and cutting a coat this evening, I seat myself with the intention of finishing this scroll, if it is worthy to be called by that name. You wished me to excuse the imperfections in yours. I would willingly have done it if I had seen any to excuse, but sooner from any other reason than the one you gave, but you will find enough in this to make it up. So you will please go by the same rule you wished me to.
Next week comes Thanksgiving and then I expect to visit the log cabin in the woods in as it is now late and being somewhat tired and half asleep, I shall with all the good wishes of a sincere friend, bid you good evening.
— Catherine Jackman