This letter was written by Laura (Gardiner) Brower (1789-1860), a native of Southold, Long Island. Laura was the widow of Anthony Post Brower (1780-1844), a merchant tailor in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The Browers had several children: John Gardiner Brower (1807-1853), Sidney Brower (1809-18xx), Mary Louise Brower, Susan M. Brower, Baldwin Brower (1812-1845), George Clinton Brower (1815-1864), Abigail W. Brower (1820-18xx), Gardiner Brower (1820-18xx), Laura G. Brower (1824-1903) and Ellen E. Brower (1832-1901.
Laura wrote the letter her friend, Mary Halsey (Albertson) Lester (1786-1867) — the widow of Thomas Storrs Lester (1781-1817). Mary (or “Polly” as she was affectionately called) was the daughter of William Albertson (1752-1818) and Sarah Conkling (1755-1806). The Lesters had two children: Thomas Storrs Lester, Jr. (1812-1885) and Mary H. Lester (1814-1818).
Addressed to Mrs. Polly Lester, Southold, Long Island
November 30th 1846
My Dear Mrs. Lester,
You have no doubt often thought that I had forgotten you, or at least my promise of writing, but I can assure you that neither has been the case, for you have not long been absent from my mind since I left you.
I remained longer in New York that I anticipated. My sister found her husband there when we returned waiting for her. She returned home with him as he had his own carriage there. I had to return in the stage so I did not feel in any hurry — and I staid several weeks after she left. I have only been at home two weeks and a half. My eldest son John was going to return to New Orleans as he is doing business there, tho’ his family live in New York, and so I wanted to see him off.¹ And then it was rainy two or three weeks so that hindered me. I was very glad indeed to get home at last. I had a very pleasant time tho’ it is rather tedious and long to sit in a stage from three o’clock in the morning until eight or nine in the evening, only stopping long enough to get our breakfast and change horses. The first day we leave New York we take cars until noon. Then we changed to stage which I took at one and I was not out of it until after nine in the evening.
I have said almost every day since I have been at home I must write to Mrs. Lester, but I have been quite busy getting in supplies for winter &c. &c. I often wish you were near me where I could run in and spend the evening with you. I think much of you and feel as tho’ you must indeed be very lonely. Perhaps you do not feel it as I should as you have not had daughters to be company for you. I have now three at home — my eldest, and the two youngest. My youngest [Ellen] is fourteen. She is attending school now. She spent the last year in New York with her sister. We thought it very lonely without her.
I regretted very much that I could not have staid longer at Southold. It is quite an aggravation to me when I think I have been there and did not see all my friends, and so little of those I did meet. If I ever go to New York again, I shall be much tempted to visit the place again, altho’ so many friends are gone. That is sad to think of it, yet the thoughts of Southold brings to remembrance many, very many, happy days when everything in the future looked pleasant and joyful. And altho’ many a disappointment has followed, they were days of happiness to me for it was the home of my childhood.
I felt very sorry indeed that I did not see your brother Conkling and his wife. I always think of her with much affection. Please to give much love to her from me and tell her if I had had my way to get to see her, I would have done so. You must remember me to all my friends in Southold for I flatter myself that I have many left there yet. Do write to me very soon and tell me about all of them. Old Mrs. Franks was very ill, you remember, when I was there. Is she dead? Tell Aunt Nail [that] my sister and I often talk of her. I believe seeing her made me remember when I was quite young more than anybody else.
The slip of willow you gave me is growing. I shall prize it very much as your gift. The weather with us is not very cold yet. Thanksgiving day we had quite a fall of snow for the first and and it was pretty cold, but the snow soon melted away. Our thanksgiving was on the same day as yours. One thing, dear friend, we have to be thankful for is that we have no sons or near friends in the war [with Mexico] which we are now engaged in. There are several from this place now in Mexico. One is a physician.² He is now in the Hospital at Matamoros. He has a family here who suffer very much anxiety about him. He writes home that the soldiers die off very fast from sickness &c. &c. He says about nine die daily and their blanket is their bed and their winding sheet. When they are dead, they just dig a hole and throw them in without even a box to put them in. Another young man who has parents living here writes home (I heard part of his letter last evening) that it was impossible to describe their sufferings. He said they marched five days without water and when they came to some, it was green and slimy, but they drank it all. Many of the men gave out and laid down to die on the road. There is a company of volunteers now preparing to go from here and will start in a few days. The wives and mothers of some of them are overwhelmed with anguish that they will go.
I do not know but I shall weary you with my long letter, but you must excuse me this time. I should much rather sit down and talk with [you] awhile. Have you anybody yet to stay with you for help and company? You do not know how much I think about you and wish you had some such daughters as I have to wait upon you and be company for you. I wish Thomas had a good wife — one that would make you happy and take the care of the house &c. &c. My sister says she would like to call in and sit with you if she could altho’ she did not feel like staying longer from home when she was there. She desires to be remembered to you and all other friends.
At Mattituck I saw Mrs. Howell (she was Lydia Hubbard).³ I had not seen her before in thirty-eight years, but I remembered her looks well.
Now dear Mrs. Lester, I must leave you for the present. I do hope you will write to me and if you think it worthwhile, I will sometime write again. Postage is cheap now and if it will not be a tax upon your time and patience, I shall be pleased to hear from you & write in return. May the Lord bless thee and grant you the consolations of His spirit.
Your affectionate friend, — Laura Brower
¹ John Gardiner Brower (1807-1853) was a coal merchant in New Orleans. He was married in New York to Sarah Jane Burger in August 1833. He moved to New Orleans Parish, Louisiana in 1847. He was among the nearly 8,000 people who fell victim to the yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans in 1853.
² Though Laura does not give his name, the physician was undoubtedly Dr. Joseph Jefferson Burr Wright (1800-1878), an 1825 graduate of the Medical College at the University of Pennsylvania and, in 1826, of the Jefferson Medical College. After practicing in Wilkes-Barre, he entered the army as a surgeon in 1833 and served in the Seminole wars in Florida. In the War with Mexico, he was present at the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. He was then placed in charge of the general hospital at Matamoros — across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville. During the Civil War, he was on the staffs of Generals McClellan, Rosecrans, and Halleck.
³ Lydia Hubbard (1789-Aft1870) was the daughter of John Hubbard (1764-1825) and Bethia Horton (1762-1807) of Mattituck. Lydia married Josiah Pierson Howell (1784-1858) in December 1809 at First Church (Presbyterian) in Southold.