This letter was written by Lucy Willson to her brother William P. Willson (1818-1892). They were the children of Eseck L. Willson of Gilsum, Cheshire County, New Hampshire.
It seems pretty clear that Lucy was boarding with the Rev. Ebenezer W. Bullard family in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. She may have been employed as a domestic in the Bullard family. See footnote for more details on the Bullard Family.
Lucy’s letter contains a macabre account of the death of an Englishman visiting Fitchburg whose body appears to have been stolen and dismembered. A doctor was arrested under suspicion of having carried out the deed to obtain body parts for anatomical study — probably not that uncommon in the days before medical schools.
Addressed to Mr. William P. Willson, Gilsum, New Hampshire
September the 10, 1845
I received your letter and very much oblige to you for it altho I understood perfectly well what you wrote on the wrapper of that paper, but I had written on the paper which I sent to you before I received yours when I went to the [post] office. I found the paper which you had sent and thought you would think strange that I had written thus. I have sent a paper to Suthen since then and had one from him dated Waterloo, August the 18th.
Believe me, that letter from you was a feast. Oh how I do delight to hear from home. I should like to hear twice as often as I do if it could be so but if you dread to write as bad as I do and do not have any more time, I will excuse you. I am alone this evening and write at pleasure, but can’t write only a small share to what I could tell you if I could see you.
You mentioned about coming down here to get into business if your health is comfortable so you can. I hope you will for it would be so delightful to me to have you here. I hope you will come in season before the places are all taken up. Mr. [Ebenezer] Bullard ¹ says you had better come and make visit and engage a place. He thinks you can get employ here. He says that he will make enquiry if you wish and should be very happy to have you come here.
I hope you will come down in season but I suppose you know when it is the best time to get into employ. You know that I should be delighted to have you come here if you could get work to suits you. I don’t know of any news to write — only it has been dreadful hot and dry this summer. On account of its being so severe hot and dry, it is very sickly of fevers — mostly typhoid. There has been a number of deaths and many sick at this time. My health is quite good at present — much better than in the hottest weather for then I had only strength enough to do the work for ten in the family. Mr. Bullard’s brother’s family of 7 were from St. Louis two weeks in July.
We have now a young lady from Rutland, Massachusetts, boarding and going to the Academy.
Lewis Smith has gone to Sterling to work and says he has bought a shop and tools but it is talk; you must make all the allowance needful.
Mrs. Dole’s family [are] well. Benjamin Snow is closing up business at the old stand. I have heard that he has put his property all into his father’s hands. It is only hearsay. I don’t think of anything more now. Perhaps I shall in the morning. It is getting late but I will tell you I have had an omnibus ride. The ladies of the sewing circle went out three miles. Thirty-three of us went in two carriages. Had good ride and pleasant time.
There was a man found dead in the street a few days ago. He was a stranger; his name not then known. A letter has been found since which he had written to his friends. He was an Englishman. His death supposed to be occasioned by drinking cold water. It was very hot. His body has been stolen by some doctors. One has been taken and put under 500 dollar bonds. Two or three more are suspected. His body was taken out most cruelly. Parts of his flesh were found laying about on the ground.
If Mother could send me some stocking yarn, I should be glad, if she has some that is fine and nice. My best stockings are worn so I should like some nice ones and I will settle with her when I see her. If she has not any fine wool, she need not trouble herself about it.
I do hope you will come down here before long. Mr. Bullard says if you would like to come here, he will assist you in getting into employ if you wish.
This from Lucy Willson
Let me here from you often.
¹ Rev. Ebenezer Water Bullard (1809-1898) was the pastor of the Congregational Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He was an 1838 graduate of Miami University, Ohio. He then attended Lane Theological Seminary. Ebenezer was married to Harriet Newell Dickinson (1818-1883). Ebenezer’s brother from St. Louis, Missouri, was Rev. Dr. Artemas Bullard (1802-1855). Artemas was a graduate of Amherst College, Class of 1836. He studied divinity at Andover and was ordained as a minister in 1831. He was installed as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in St. Louis in 1838. Artemas was married to Ann Tuttle Jones (1808-1896). Eunice White Bullard (b. 1812), a sister of Ebenezer and Artemas Bullard, was married in 1837 to Henry Ward Beecher.