1808: Nancy Anne (Fowler) Thayer to Ozias Fowler

Gravemarker of Nancy (Fowler) Thurston in Pine Hill Cemetery, Westfield, MA

This letter was written by Nancy Anne (Fowler) Thayer (1761-1847), the daughter of Caleb Fowler (1727-1807) and Anne Rose (1735-1798). As corroborated  by this letter, Nancy’s father died in 1807. Nancy was the oldest of at least nine children born to Caleb and Anne Fowler of Durham, Middlesex County, Connecticut. In November 1791, Nancy married Dr. Nathaniel Thayer (1759-1824), a son of Cornelius Thayer and Lydia Paine.

Nathanel Thayer was educated as a physician at New Haven, and relocated about 1800 to Lee — in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts — where he practiced medicine for many years. Dr. Thayer and his wife had three children; William Austin (1792), Lucius Fowler (1797), and Nancy Lucretia (1804).

Gravemarker of Ozias Fowler in Damascus Cemetery, Bradford, CT

The Fowler siblings mentioned in this letter were Ozias (1774-1867) and Pamelia (1778-1835). Pamelia was the wife of Josiah Alexander Parmelee, having married in 1801 and moved to Vermont. Ozias, to whom this letter is addressed, would eventually become the husband of Esther Prudence Savage though he was unmarried and still residing in Durham, Middlesex County, CT at the time this letter was written in 1808. By the 1830’s, he would be farming near Bradford, New Haven County, CT.

Stampless Envelope

1808 Letter


Lee [Massachusetts]
April 11th 1808

My Brother,

A long time has elapsed since our last interview. Why have we been so remiss with regard to writing each other in the interim?  In a few weeks after you left me, I was gratified by the receipt of yours of December (the same month you left me) recounting your tour to New Haven, Milford, Franklin, &c &c., for which I returned you a letter of thanks (by Br. Julius) dated ye May succeeding, but have since been told it was mislaid, that you probably never received it. I calculated to write you again ere this. Do not, Dear Brother, imagine you are forgotten, nor suffer me to infer by your silence, that I am. Oblige me by writing by the bearer, Dr. Thayer, who anticipates the pleasure of soon embracing you in person. He will give you a verbal account of our present situation, & the various scenes thro which we have passed since I saw you.

I had the satisfaction to hear of you by a letter from sister Pamelia, written after she got home. She wrote us in February that they were calculating to remove directly to Newbury [Vermont].

Our Father is gone. Both our parents flew this evil world. O that we may walk in their steps, that we may meet them in glory! Instead of the Father, shall be the children. May we supply the places of our parents in such a manner as will reflect honor on them, & ourselves.

I long to see you my Dear Brother, to know what your prospects are, temporal, & spiritual. May you enjoy all the blessings of this life, & be wise for eternity.

Adieu my Dear Brother, my Friend. Remember to write. Your affectionate Friend & Sister, — Nancy Thayer

Our children wish me to write their love. I can say little of them. Enquire of Dr. Thayer.


The following biography of Caleb Fowler, the author’s father, is from an on-line book, “William Fowler, the Magistrate, and one line of his descendants.”

Caleb Fowler inherited the family homestead in Durham. He taught a District School, winters, for about thirty years. His wife also had been a school teacher. Their children received a better education than was common in those times. He was emi- nently a pious man. He loved to read “New Divinity” sermons, and to listen to ” New Light ” preaching. He was very regular in his secret devotions, as well as in his public service. Before going to bed at night, and in the morning: when he had dressed himself, he always knelt down by his bed-side and prayed in a whispering voice, but with distinct utterances, for perhaps five minutes. This I saw, for I slept with him. He regarded Saturday as a sort of preparation day for the Sabbath. Immediately after dinner, lie would place his shaving-cup on the coals, would then sharpen his razor, shave himself without a glass, change his linen, brush his clothes, and then sit down to read his bible, which lay upon a stand, in his bedroom. Then he would read some religious book, like “Strong’s Sermons,” which he greatly admired.

After tea, or, as it was then called, supper, the children, two of us, and any young, person in the family, were catechised from the ” Assembly’s Catechism,” and this practice was continued for years after his death as an ordinance in the family. On the Sabbath he was apparently “in the spirit,” whether at church or at home. The present writer remembers the Sabbath-Day House inherited by Caleb Fowler, very distinctly. He remembers spending a Sabbath noon very pleasantly in that house, before the great blazing fire on the hearth, kindled from dry wood, carefully provided. The family were brought about two miles, in a large two-horse sleigh, partially covered, and deposited at the door of the meeting-house. The horses were driven under a shed; a basket of “creature comforts” was carried to the Sabbath-Day House, for dinner ; where a fire was kindled before service began.

At noon, we assembled around the fire, ate the viands, the savory sausages, the large doughnuts; drank the rich, lively cider; united in reading from some good book, and in prayer; and then went to meeting in the afternoon. On returning from church, the catechism was again recited, either to him, or to my father; a chapter in the bible was then read, and family prayer attended; after which, the family ate supper. On the Sabbath he was always careful to wear his broad-brimmed beaver hat, and a handsome hat it was, putting it on before the glass, with a slight touch of pride, if pride it could be called, but evidently honoring the day by wearing his best apparel.

On Thanksgiving-day he was anxious to have a specimen of every kind of meat and vegetables fattened and raised on the farm. After prayers, on returning from meeting, and before the supper, though a pattern of temperance, he would carefully prepare a mug of flip, with the choicest Jamaica rum, would heat the flip-iron to the exact temperature, and, after he had raised a high head of foam, he would, with his own hands, present the mug to each one, in a pleasant yet respectful manner, as if offering a libation to the giver of all good.

During the war of the Revolution he was an ardent whig; took pains to manufacture saltpetre for powder; furnished a soldier for the armv, for some time; lent money to the Government, some of which is now due. A copy of the balance in his favor I received from Joseph W. Hand, taken by him from some of the Departments at Washington.

He lived in the largest house, had the best orchard in the town of Durham, and manufactured the best of cider. He was generous to his minister, was a good giver, and was given to hospitality. At the three meals, meat was on the table, and besides cider, the family retained the English practice of brewing beer.

He owned three slaves, a man and his wife and their child. The man’s name was Tom. He served in the Revolutionary army. He was faithful, contented and happy, until some one filled his head with notions of liberty. He then applied to Mr. Fowler for liberty for himself, his wife, and child. Mr. Fowler, after telling him that what he gained in liberty, he would lose in comfort, gave freedom to them all. After an absence of a year or more, he returned to Mr. Fowler with the earnest request that he would take them all back as slaves, and support them. But he refused to do it.

When seventy-three years of age he divided his property among his children. He spent the last years of his life in my father’s family, on the old homestead, enjoying a cheerful and healthy old age, reading good books, enjoying good company, cultivating good fruit on the farm, and the grace of holiness in his heart, waiting the summons of his Heavenly Father, to his heavenly home. When that summons came he was ready. He was taken slightly unwell in the evening, and next morning he was in heaven. In the last hour of his life, some one removed his bible from the stand near the head of his bed, he said, ”Let it remain there.” When dying he was not willing to be separated from a friend that had been his constant companion when living. He died June 21, 1807, in the eighty-first year of his age. His wife, Anna Rose, died May 10, 1798, in the sixty-third year of her age.

Their children were, 1, Anna, born Oct. 23, 1761, married Nathaniel Thayer, M. D., died May 23, 1847, in the 86th year of her age; 2, Reuben Rose, born June 17, 1763, died Aug. 16, 1844; 3, Irene, born Nov. 5, 1764, married Amos Fowler of Westfield, Mass., died January 30, 1850; 4, Ozias, born July 25, 1766, died 1767; 5, Julius, born April 17, 1768, died July 30, 1832 ; 6, Edmund Fowler, born Feb. 25, 1770, died May 26, 1828; 7, Lucretia Fowler, born Mch. 10, 1772, married Deacon Chapman of Pittsfield, died Dec. 8, 1850, aged 79 years and 9 months; 8, Ozias, born July 2, 1774, still living; 9, Pamela, born Sept. 27, 1798, married Josiah Parmelee of Windsor, Vt.

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