This letter was written by nineteen year-old school teacher Hannah E. Richards (1830-1862), who lived with her two siblings — William Richards, Jr. (1832-1855), and Sarah Richards (1834-1872) — and her mother Sarah Aria Shores (1802-1854) and her step-father, Jonathan Combs (1793-1850), a miller in Waterville, Maine. We learn from this letter that Hannah’s father — William Richards (1798-1834) — died in 1834. Hannah’s step-father — Jonathan Combs — died of consumption some 15 months after this letter was written. Jonathan’s first wife was Hannah Davis (1798-1843). He married Aria in March 1844.
She wrote the letter to Julia A. Hiscock, the daughter of Enos Hitchcock (1794-1872) and Ann Richards (1801-1849) who were married in Fayette, Maine in August 1820.
Addressed to Miss Julia A. Hiscock, Strong, Maine
August 18, 
Dear cousin Julia,
Your letter reached its place of destination in due season, but owing to my absence from home, I did not receive it immediately. I was teaching at that time away from home and have just closed my school. You will pardon me therefore for so long neglecting to answer it and will not attribute it to forgetfulness or want of sympathy in your present affliction. The news of your dear mother’s death was not wholly unexpected, yet I had not given up all hope of seeing her again, and although pained at the loss of one so dear and yet more for the deeper affliction of those I love still, I rejoiced that her sufferings were terminated and that she had entered into that rest for which we believe she was so abundantly prepared. We mourn not for her though grieved that we shall never again enjoy her society on earth.
My dear cousin, you have much to console you even in your deepest sorrow. The hand of God, though ut rest heavily upon you, is laid in mercy and you have many causes for rejoicing. Your mother was ready and willing to go and although this is a common saying and uttered many times without a due consideration of its meaning, still it comprehends a great deal and must in a great degree console you for many hours of heartbreaking loneliness. If prepared for an entrance into the “Kingdom of Heaven,” earth and its pleasures would have but few attractions for her; if willing surely none would seek to detain her from her mansion prepared for her in heaven.
No doubt you feel at times your loss in all its bitterness. You will miss the pleasant smile of her who so long cheered you with her presence. You rise perhaps in the morning feeling that a long day of loneliness or grief is before, and lie down at night with a painful recollection of her who once watched over and encouraged you in the pathway of right whom you had ever been accustomed to consult and whose opinion and wishes was the rule of her action. You listen during the day for the well known step and the sweet voice of her who is not now a dweller here, and while you listen in vain, your heart sinks within you. You look for her calm mild countenance and as you see it not, your eyes fill with tears. You can hardly realise that you will never again behold on earth that dear mother and, at times, you feel as if you could hardly bear up under it. But my dear cousin, this is but the earthly side of the picture and could the veil but be removed, could you see freed from her pain and in the enjoyment of that perfect happiness which she undoubtedly is, your mourning would be turned in gladness and you would rejoice that she would never again have to struggle with the ills of life; that her work here was accomplished; her journey finished, and her reward had been given her.
You have reason also to be thankful that the memories left of her are so pleasing; that the example she set was so bright, so worthy of your imitations and that she is still permitted to watch over you though unseen by us. And I hope, dear Julia, that you know the sustaining power of that religion which he prepared her for so calm and triumphant a departure from this life, but a short time of we live aright. And we shall be permitted to rejoin her in a world of happiness a few short years at most, a few more duties cheerfully performed, a few more of the ties which bind us to earth broken and our labor here will be finished. Oh! that we may be prepared through Divine Grace for the enjoyment of heaven.
It is now fifteen years since my father’s death and this is the first time then that the family circle has been broken by death. Grandmother Richards died, I believe, on the same day of the same month — the sixth of June. If it had been possible it would have been gratifying to mother and myself to have gone to Strong while Aunt [Ann] was living but father has been so unwell this summer that he has not been able to ride so far. [My brother] William has been away to school and I have been teaching. If there had been any way for me to go there directly, I would have left my school and gone but there was not. [My Step-] Father’s health has been very poor this summer and at present it seems even worse than ever. His cough is very bad. He goes out but little. If his health will permit and he can arrange his business satisfactorily, he will go South this fall and remain during the cold weather. His health generally is very poor in winter and he thinks it might be an advantage to him. I do not know whether mother will go with him or not. I should feel unpleasantly to have her go, yet I would rather she would be with father. Her health is not very good. It might be a benefit to her. If they both go, we shall _____ up house keeping.
I think, if nothing prevents, I shall teach next winter if I get a school to suit me. We would be very glad to have you come down here this fall and make a long visit. Our folks are all anxious to have you and I hope you will come if possible. William is studying preparatory to entering college. [My sister] Sarah is at home. She is a great girl — later than I am.
I have been interrupted many times since I commenced this and I fear you will hardly be able to decipher it. Callers have been in and all together. I have scarcely had a distinct idea in my head. I beg you to excuse all mistakes for it is evening and I cannot stop to rectify them. I am going to write to Betsy Ann. Remember me to all the family, to G & W, when you write. I am in despair of ever hearing from James again.
Your affectionate cousin, — H. E. Richards