1851: Sarah Woodbridge to Mary Woodbridge

This letter was written by Sarah Woodbridge (1812-1880), ¹ the spinster daughter of Ward Woodbridge (1771-1856) and Mary Strong (1783-1823). She wrote the letter from the residence of her sister Caroline (Woodbridge) Grant (1816-1858) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Caroline was married to Anthony Sanford Billings Grant (1809-1861) in 1842. Sanford was the son of Billings Grant (1784-1861) and Lucy Green Sanford (1785-1827) of Stafford, Connecticut.

Sarah addressed the envelope to her sister Julia (Woodbridge) Terry (1813-1871) — the wife of Dr. Charles Augustus Terry (1810-1872). Charles was a prominent physician in Cleveland. He and Julia came from Hartford, Connecticut, to Cleveland following their marriage in 1836.

The letter, however, is directed to “Mary” rather than Julia so I suspect the recipient was actually Mary Jane Woodbridge (1817-1873) — a younger sister — who may have been residing with Julia and Charles in Cleveland at the time. A younger brother, Alfred Woodbridge (1819-1909) is mentioned.

The 1860 Census shows Dr. Terry, wife Julia, and two daughters — Ellen & Julia — residing in the household. Also residing there are Caroline Woodridge Grant (b. 1845) and Edward Dudley Grant (b. 1843) and two domestic servants. It would appear that after Caroline (Woodbridge) Grant died in 1858, her children came to live with the Terry’s in Cleveland rather than continue living with their father in Milwaukee.

In the letter, Sarah says some rather unflattering things about her brother-in-law, Sanford B. Grant, and the manner in which he treated her sister Caroline. In James Smith Buck’s book, Pioneer History of Milwaukee…, it is stated that:

“Sanford B. Grant was for many years a very prominent business man and politician during which nothing of importance was ever undertaken that he was not mixed up with in some way. In military glory, he was the compeer of Maj. Gen. John McMannan, and about as windy. ‘He finally got into bad ways and died in the poor house, the sure result of following after strange gods,’ but such is life. He was smart, but not honest to himself or friends.”

The year of this letter is not given but because it was datelined “Wednesday, February 19,” it had to have been written in 1845 or 1851. My hunch is the latter of the two.



Addressed to Mrs. Charles A. Terry, Cleveland, Ohio

Milwaukee [Wisconsin]
Wednesday, February 19 [18xx]

My dear Mary,

I received your letter yesterday & it was quite satisfactory. Let us drop this subject altogether which has occupied so much time & paper — & so useless. I have only one remark more upon it & that is that I am perfectly confident that Mr. Grant thinks with all other men that I should be quite as overjoyed as any other old man to catch “cousin Edward” inf_____ & all. I feel very grateful to him for his kindness to me this winter & I am as totally inclined to ridicule him as you — & I have been so situated this winter that I have found him a very useful & good friend.

I have been wanting to say something to you for a long time in reference to our conversation with regard to a subject which he mentioned to you — some things have occurred this winter which have shown me the state of affairs somewhat. I want to have you know just how Caroline is situated — which I never should have known under ordinary circumstances for she never confides in anyone. Her sorrows are shut up in her own heart & the harder to be borne for that. I never had such an intense compassion & admiration for any woman in my life. She deserves a martyrs crown for she is cheerful when her heart is breaking. I have discovered one thing — that is that she can not refer to expenses, or the necessity of their avoiding display, without making him furiously angry, & he has threats which stop her mouth at once. His ingenuity surpasses all I ever imagined & if you could see some of his humors you would think they were to be dreaded. She is always patient & makes the best of everything — a perfect martyr — a heroine indeed. I don’t think it’s temperament so much as years of discipline & religious duty that makes her what she is. She is not her own mistress as one might suppose & he makes it a point to deceive her about every trifle which she knows too. Oh this world! How little we know of each others trials. I should not have told you this only to exculpate her. He has been very polite to me outwardly. Oh I do so hate to leave her but I want to go home so much. I have been gone so long. I can not make any plans till I hear from Alfred. I hope he will come after me.

Write me about when you shall go to Buffalo. I should like to go with you. I hope Caroline will go to Cleveland when I go. There must be ingenuity used to accomplish it. He makes such a fuss when she goes away & represents himself as so injured that some ladies wonder she can ever leave him.

I am glad you have had a pleasant winter. Julia will miss you very much I know. I have made some very pleasant acquaintances here & shall always feel interested in the people but my heart is not in the nest & never will be. I would not exchange Hartford for any place. Old age has so completely taken away my love of society that I find it often burdensome with all my efforts to enjoy it.

It is very quiet here now. No parties — lent draws near. I don’t believe I shall have time to go out to the Coxes before I go. Mrs. Markoe ² is very much out of health & Sarah is occupied with her. Fonseca more devoted than ever ____ says. Ralston is getting gouged out of all his property by a parcel of Germans here & everybody is talking about it. I feel very sorry. He has made some miserable investments lately of his own & Sarah’s property. He has no shrewdness & judges others by himself. They are all the most impractical people in the world. Mrs. Keelar says their housekeeping is like all the rest of their management. Mrs. Keelar is visiting here. Sarah K. has been here all winter.

Your Mr. Webster we have not laid eyes on since you left. Not even on _____ day.

Caroline proposes writing so I’ll leave this sheet for her. Give my love to all in Cleveland & write me again more definitively of your plans. Ever your true friend, — Sarah W.

Dearest Mary,

Sarah has given me a little space here which I must make the best use of — to turn the tables upon her completely. He (Ed) calls and takes tea very frequently. Last evening he came in I supposed on some errand as he had been here only the day before. He cast a furtive glance at Sarah on entering the room, looked as if he had something to communicate. Presently I went into the other room and returning sooner than they anticipated, he started away from me, and she hastily concealed something in her pocket. When I came in, she looked very red and immediately went into her own room and deposited something in her bureau. He made a call and retired. Mr. Grant enquired when he came in what that call from Edward was intended for. She stammered and said did not you tell him I had a letter from Mary? He said no. When you write, pretend you have seen a clairvoyant who has taken you into my parlor and described that scene. In plotting for you, she may have become interested herself. I asked no questions after he left and she has no idea that I saw or suspected the occurrence.

Give my love to Julia and tell her I was much obliged for her letter. I think my coming down with Sarah is doubtful, but I should like it very much if I can accomplish it.

I suppose the children were showered with valentines as K____ was. I had one all about Eddies. I shall write again soon. Love to all. Kiss the chickens. I have hardly recovered from my disappointment in giving up my delightful neighbor in anticipation.

In haste. Yours lovingly, — Caroline

¹ The Woodbridge Record claims that Sarah Woodbridge was living in Paris in 1881.

² I believe “Mrs. Markoe” was Maria Dosey (Cox) Markoe (1824-1898) who married Rev. William Francis Markoe (1820-1916) in 1849. Maria’s brother, Robert Ralston Cox (1822-1851) and sister Sarah Clarkson Cox (1826-18xx) resided with the Markoe’s in Waukesha in 1850. Ralston died in May 1851.

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: