Radical Equality: 1842-1846

Letter, Dolly W. Stetson and Almira Stetson to James A. Stetson, April 21, 1844

Dolly expresses her concerns about money owed the family from the silk department, and whether the family should move to a different house on the property.
She also praises her lack of housekeeping worries.

Transcript:
[April 21, 1844]

Northampton April 21st [1844]
Sunday Morning
My Dear Husband
thinking you may be in Boston the first of the week1 I seat myself to give you some account of matters that have occured here since you left – and first of all I am waiting with all the patiance I can for you to return to help me thro with my confinement or I know not why else it is that I am so long in this state of anxiety and waiting. I hope threfore that your business will admit of your returning by the last of this week — Aunt Mary has been quite tired out with the care of Aunt Ruth she has been more unwell the week past and I do not know but her sands have allmost run out – Almira has been very sick all the fore past of last week – but is now nearly well – her sickness was something like the scarlet fever she had a very bad canker throat and a very high fever. I was quite alarmed about her for several days. I gave her a sweat which reduced the fever and George gave her some medicine that killed the canker very soon
— the rest of the family have been pretty well —

The next day after you left Mr Mack came to me and wished to know if I was willing to exchange tenements with him.2 I told him that he knew that I had always been willing to live in the factory but that you had objections to living there, and I should not decide any thing about it but that they must write to you. Mr Mack said that he felt himself pledged to raise 1000$ in the educational department that he had been promised a suitabe place for the school and that he had advertised that they would be ready to receive shollars the first of May

After receiving your letter I read what you wrote about moveing both to George and Mr Mack – George was disposed not to do any thing about it untill you returned but Mr Mack was very anxious to move and he though[t] George did wrong not to write you more particularly about it the reasons why it was nessesary that we should move – Mr Mack suggested that we might move up to Samuel Hills house if I thought you would prefer it3 — I told Mr Mack at last if he concientiously thought that the good of the Association required that we should move we would do it — As far as I was concerned I thought we had better move for I had Aunt Ruth and her nurse to board and she was liable to die and make much more work and Mary almost sick and Almira quite and I could not see how the family or myself were to be taken care of so I told Mr Mack if we were to be moved before the first of May the sooner we moved the better, accordingly at eleven o,clock yesterday word came that we would exchange tenements yesterday afternoon and so after picking up our clothes and getting things in a shape to be moved I went down to Catharines4 and spent the afternoon leaving all for others to do – about sundown I came down to the upper story in the south east corner of the factory where I found my family and goods I think you will like the change very much it seems plesant to me to get up and have time to see to the washing and dressing the children before breakfast and have them look decent by breakfast time, and the noise I think is no more anoying than the whining and grunting of neighbours children

Monday Evening
I have now tried another day in my new home and am sure that for the present I am sure I shall like very much – after allmost seventeen years of more or less care of housekeeping concerns it is a great change to have no responsibility about what we shall eat and what we shall drink – It seems as if I was visiting only that I cannot make out whose guest I am — Almira is nearly well to day – Aunt Mary has got quite rested and has gone to stay to day with Aunt Ruth – the rest of us are as well as usual.5 All desire very much to have you get home and see how you will like it I am very much disappointed about the noise here I think I can truly say I have not spent so quiet a sunday since I have been in the Association a[s] I did yesterday — I hope you will be able to eff[ect] some arangement by which you can stay at home and that by our past experiances disappointments and trials we may grow to be a better and a happier family here and be prepared for a reunion with those of us who have gone in their innocence and purity to the world “where there shall be no more sorrow or crying and where all tears shall be wiped from every eye.” I have been very busy to day in fixing clothes for Thomas to go to Boston on Wednsday6 I will leave the rest of the sheet to be filled tomorrow evening —

Tuesday Morning
The report is going the rounds this morning that the Hutchinsons are to be here on sunday likewise Gay and Remond7 – I hope you will be at home – Mr Payne wishes me to request you to purchase a thermometer worth a dollar –8 I should like to have you call upon Ann Mann and get Mary and Sarah some cheap and pretty Summer bonnets and pay for them out of the money due to me from the silk department – I am sensibly admonished that my time has fully come – Oh! that you were here

Wednesday Morn
Dear Father
I welcome you not only of by the name of my Father but as the Father of six happy and I trust good children The last to make up the six came into your charge last night quarter before twelve, it is a son and brother Aunt Nancy and Mary say that it is the exact picture of Ebenezer dark hair and all9 Mother is very comfortable indeed never got along more comfortable. Aunt Nancy was the sole attendant The children know nothing about it yet. Lucy heard it cry and said there is the baby but nobody noticed it You dont know how relieved I feel not to have the housework to take charge of and every thing seems so much more as it ought to be and I think it is about as still here as it was at our old home Come back as soon as possible Saturday at the fartherest because it would be quite an erroneous idea for the babe to get that it had got no Father when it has It is so very knowing that I do not know but the says Parder an Mother (I should’nt wonder) from loving Almira

Addressed: Mr James. Stetson / Boston / Mass//Care Thomas.

Notes

  1. An advertisement in the Liberator (Boston, Mass.), May 31, 1844 announced that the Northampton Association had its sewings and saddlers’ silk and twist for sale at wholesale and retail at 2½ Hanover Street, Boston, by J.A. Stetson, “one of its members.”
  2. David Mack (1803?-1878) was a founding member of the NAEI and lived there with his family from May 1842 to July 1845; see Clark, The Communitarian Moment, pp 15, 17, 24-25.
  3. Samuel Lapham Hill (1806-1882) was a founder of the NAEI. With his family, he was a member throughout the community’s existence and would become its most prominent leader during its latter years. See Clark, The Communitarian Moment, pp. 20-21.
  4. Catharine [or Catherine] K. Benson (1809-1890), James A. Stetson’s sister, married George W. Benson in 1833.
  5. “Aunt Mary” may have been Mary Benson, George W. Benson’s sister. “Aunt Ruth” was Ruth Stebbins, who was being nursed by friends at the NAEI through what would prove her final illness; see David Mack to Henry Douglas, March 9, 1844, Northampton Association of Education and Industry, Records, 1836-1853, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass. [hereafter cited as “NAEI, Records”], vol. 4, p[46].
  6. Thomas Hill (1827- ), probably a nephew of Samuel L. Hill and a member of the NAEI from 1842 to November 1845, was a well-regarded young abolitionist.
  7. The Hutchinson family were popular singers, especially celebrated in abolitionist circles; see Dale Cockrell, Excelsior: Journals of the Hutchinson Family Singers (Stuyvesant, N.Y., 1989). Sydney Howard Gay (1814-1848) was a lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society from 1842 to 1844 and subsequently editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard (New York).
    Charles Lenox Remond (1810-1873) was an abolitionist lecturer whose moral-suasionist views would have been well received at the NAEI; he was probably the best-known black abolitionist before Frederick Douglass became famous.
    The birth of James E. Stetson and James A. Stetson’s consequent visit home meant that there were no more letters for another month, so there is no description of the Hutchinsons’ visit. Entries in the Hutchinsons’ journals (see Cockrell, Excelsior, pp. 264-270) and an account in Liberator, May 10, 1844, record the singers’ stay at the NAEI and their performance at an antislavery meeting in Northampton Town Hall on April 29th before an audience of five or six hundred. The chief speaker at the meeting, it turned out, was not Gay or Remond but Frederick Douglass himself, who also stayed at the NAEI for a few days. Either at this meeting or at another one in 1845, a stone thrown at Douglass was collected and kept by young George R. Stetson as a souvenir.
  8. Oliver D. Paine (1819- ) was a member of the NAEI from April 1842 to June 1845. A machinist, he developed new silk reeling apparatus and other equipment for the silk manufacturing department.
  9. Nancy Richardson (1799- ) was James A. Stetson’s widowed sister, and Mary Richardson (1834- ) his neice; the Richardsons joined the NAEI in September 1842. James and Dolly Stetson’s son Ebenezer had died in November 1843 at the age of ten.
  • Historic Northampton Logo
FInd us on