Sunday, June 19, 2016

5 1850s letters from Delphina (Perham) Whitman of Bryant Pond, Maine, to Daughter Angelia (Whitman) Farrar


One letter written in 1864 and four written in 1869 by Delphina (Perham) Whitman of Bryant Pond in Woodstock, Maine, to her daughter Angelia (Whitman) Farrar, wife of Rufus Farrar, Jr., presumably then at Grafton Township, Maine.

Delphina's husband, Harrison Whitman, had died in 1845, and Delphina, who brought up her three surviving children alone, was leading a life of poverty and hard work.

The letters reveal that Delphina was a very intelligent woman.  She had served for a time in the 1860s as the librarian at Woodstock, Maine.  The main theme running through them is how greatly she missed her only daughter Angelia.  They don't live far apart at all by today's standards, but Delphina mentioned at least once that she lacked a team of her own, and noted in another letter that Angelia lacked a horse suitable for herself and a child.

In a letter dated October 27, 1869, Delphina writes:  How I would like to go down to your house.  I never feel my poverty so much as when I want to go and see you.  I think I should go and see you every week were it not for the cost.  How I would like to give the children a good hugging. 

Another interesting topic, especially covered in the letter of December 1869, was the very difficult school that Delphina's son Harry was teaching, or attempting to teach, at a place not named, a place where the school had apparently been a disaster for six years. Delphina related much of Harry's letter to Delphina and included such gems as:
  •  Delphina wrote: The Committee said they would sustain him [Harry] in anything short of murder.
  •  Harry's quote, which Delphina cited with quotation marks: "I am determined to have a model school here before I get through.  I was loath to give up my cherished opinion that all schools could be governed without the rod.  I am now convinced of my error.
Harry was Harrison Spofford Whitman, who had attended Norway Liberal Institute and Bowdoin College and would later receive his divinity degree from Tufts Divinity School and eventually become president of Westbrook Seminary in the Deering area of Portland, Maine.

His biography and photograph are included in the History of Woodstock, Me., with Family Sketches and an Appendix, published by William Berry Lapham in 1882.

January 4, 1864 letter; an 8" x 10" sheet, fully used.  Delphina has a dream about holding Angelia in her lap and worries about son George serving in the Civil War.  Her poignant declaration: The time will never be when my children can suffer and I not, nor do I wish it to be.  

Front and back panes shown above; panes 2 and 3 below:


  
People mentioned at least once:
  • Julian, Jule, July - Julian H. Farrar, son of Angelia (Whitman) Farrar and Rufus Farrar, Jr..  See his future home at 17 Warren Avenue, Portland, Maine
  • Henry Davis - to whom Delphina sold a cow
  • George - Delphina's son George Washington Whitman.  He was then away serving in the Civil War.   Delphina was very worried about him as he had been extremely ill, as relayed by a fellow soldier
  • Harry - Delphina's son Harrison Spofford Whitman, then going to school, perhaps Norway Liberal Institute.  He would later attend Bowdoin College and Tufts Divinity School.
  • Aunt Sophronia
  • Nancy - presumably a girl that was helping Angelia
  • Vinny
  • Charles Swan - he is boarding with Delphina
  • Young man in George's unit - saw Delphina and told her "they did not s'pose he [George] would live he was so sick when he had the fever"
October 27, 1869 letter; an 8" x 9-3/4" sheet, fully used.  Delphina notes that her son Harry is one of the editors of the "Bowdoin Bugle".  The most poignant lines of the letter: How I would like to go down to your house.  I never feel my poverty so much as when I want to go and see you.  I think I should go and see you every week were it not for the cost.  How I would like to give the children a good hugging.




People mentioned at least once:
  • Rufus - Rufus Farrar, Jr., husband of Delphina's daughter Angelia (Whitman) Farrar
  • George - Delphina's son George Washington Whitman
  • Mrs. M. Whitman - possibly Marcia (Leonard) Whitman, wife of Joseph Whitman, Jr., brother of Delphina's late husband Harrison Whitman
  • Julian, "July" - Angelia's son Julian H. Farrar
  • Abigail at Pinhook - whose house burned down - possibly, Delphina says, by Abigail's own hand
  • Mrs. Lovejoy
  • Mrs. Jackson
  • Sylvania - presumably Delphina's sister Sylvania Perham
  • Harry - Delphina's son Harrison Spofford Whitman
  • Angie - either Angelia or her daughter Angie Lillian Farrar
  • Arthur - Angelia's son Arthur L. Farrar
  • Mr. Coffin
  • Mrs. Bowker
November 3, 1869 letter; an 8" x 10" sheet, fully used.  Delphina is sorry to hear that Angelia's husband Rufus Farrar, Jr., is sick.  She also reports on the illness of her daughter in law Eliza J. (Davis) Whitman, wife of George Washington Whitman, who has been seen by a clairvoyant doctor from Portland.  The Mrs. Davis mentioned as staying with Eliza for two weeks was presumably Eliza's mother Harriet (Nute) Davis.  Harry is prospering at school.




People mentioned at least once:
  • Rufus - Angelia's husband Rufus Farrar, Jr., who is sick
  • Eliza - Eliza J. (Davis) Whitman, wife of Delphina's son George Washington Whitman - Eliza has been very ill, perhaps since the birth of her daughter Bertha the previous June - but is feeling better after having been seen by a clairvoyant doctor from Portland
  • George Cushman - also being doctored by the clairvoyant; later in the letter, Delphina notes that George is failing
  • Mrs. Davis - presumably Eliza's mother, Harriet (Nute) Davis, who has been caring for Eliza for two weeks
  • Elvira - comes in to help Eliza - perhaps Delphina's sister Elvira (Perham) Chase, wife of Alfred Rogers Chase
  • Harry - Delphina's son Harrison Spofford Whitman who is doing well in his school - presumably a teaching job after he had graduated from Bowdoin College and before he would enter Tufts Divinity School
  • Julian - Angelia's son Julian H. Farrar
  • Arthur - Angelia's son Arthur L. Farrar
November 24, 1869 letter; two panes of legal size paper, fully used; Delphina says Harry calls this "half acre paper".  A newsy letter with talk of Thanksgiving and how hard it would be for them to get together.  Mrs. Cotton said you had no horse that was suitable to carry a child with.




People mentioned at least once:
  • Harry - Delphina's son Harrison Spofford Whitman
  • Joshua - perhaps Delphina's brother Joshua Perham
  • George - Delphina's son George Washington Whitman
  • Harry - Delphina's son Harrison Spofford Whitman
  • Charles - perhaps the Charles Swan mentioned in the 1864 letter
  • Lizzie Rowe - got up a collection for Diantha
  • Diantha
  • James Swan - not sure of this name, especially the given name
  • Sylvania - presumably Delphina's sister Sylvania Perham
  • Gilman
  • Mrs. Farnum
  • Addie
  • Davis' - presumably the parents of Eliza J. (Davis) Whitman, wife of George Washington Whitman
  • Lydia Day
  • Mrs. Cotton
December 24, 1869 letter; 2 8"x 10" sheets, plus an 8" x 5" sheet.  This letter concerns the problems Delphina's son Harry is having at a school where discipline had been lacking for six years and Delphina's dream about her grandson Julian on a ladder that was attacked by oxen.




















People mentioned at least once:
  • Sylvania - presumably Delphina's sister Sylvania Perham; having a problem with her debts
  • J. Spofford 
  • George - Delphina's son George Washington Whitman
  • Mr. and Mrs. Coffin
  • Caleb Fuller, who reported that Isabella Curtis is dead
  • Isabella Curtis - Caleb Fuller told Delphina that Isabella had died
  • Harry - Delphina's son Harrison Spofford Whitman
  • Alfred - presumably Angelia's son Alfred L. Farrar
  • July - Angelia's son Julian H. Farrar
  • Rufus - Rufus Farrar, Jr. - Angelia's husband
From brief online research, hopefully correct:

Delphina (Perham) Whitman was born March 26, 1818 at Woodstock, Maine, the daughter of Jotham and Lucy (Felt) Perham.  On December 2, 1836, Delphina married Harrison Whitman, son of Joseph and Polly (Cole) Whitman.  Harrison was born May 16, 1813, also at Woodstock, Maine.  Bryant Pond is a village in Woodstock.

Harrison Whitman died in 1845.  By that time, he and Delphina had had four children, with their first, 
  1. Artemus Spofford Whitman (1837-1838)
  2. George Washington Whitman, born February 14, 1839 at Woodstock, Maine; married Eliza J. Davis
  3. Angelia Whitman, born December 25, 1841 at Woodstock, Maine; married Rufus Farrar, Jr.
  4. Harrison Spofford Whitman, born February 5, 1844 at Woodstock, Maine; married Susan Frances Warren
Delphina died of the grippe at Grafton Township, Maine, on April 19, 1905, hopefully in the arms of her beloved daughter Angelia.

If you have corrections and/or additions to the information above, please leave a comment or contact me directly.

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