1818: Rev. Ephraim Chapin to Mary Smith Chapin

This letter was written by Ephraim Chapin (1789-1871), the son of Ephraim Chapin (1759-1806) and Mary Smith (1763-1844). Ephraim married Elizabeth (“Eliza”) White Maltby (1794-1886) in June 1817. Their first child, Ephraim Chapin, Jr. (1818-1884), born on 12 June 1818, is mentioned and described in this letter.

Ephraim wrote the letter to his sister, Mary Smith Chapin (1791-18xx). Other siblings mentioned include Erastus Chapin (1783-1852), Giles Smith Chapin (1787-1865), Betsey Smith Chapin (1793-18xx), and Chester William Chapin (1798-18xx).

The Presbyterian Society was organized in Batavia, New York, in October 1818 – the community having previously been served by missionaries. The first stationed preacher was Ephraim Chapin who served from 1818 to 1822.

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Addressed to Mr. Giles Chaplin, Springfield, Massachusetts (Chicopee)

Batavia [New York]
September 1818

Dear Sister,

I wrote Mother once since I received your letter and have had no answer. I heard from you a few days since by she that was N. Vinton and her husband who passed by for the Michigan Territory. My health is tolerable good.

Ephraim, Jun. is a fine healthy boy, fat as a cub – full face and called by everybody handsome. His skin is very white, his eyes are about a third larger than mine and blue. He weighs about 16 #. Eliza’s health has been bad since her sickness. She is now about the house but hardly able to attend to the concerns of the family. We have two pleasant boarders. They give three dollars a week, lodge and wash for themselves.

I hardly dare tell you what I have done for fear Mother will think I am getting all over into the world. But, however, I will _______. I have bought a village lot on the main road, 120 rods east of the courthouse containing 40 acres. It is twenty rods in front and extending a mile back. I gave eleven hundred and fifty dollars. It has on it 79 apple trees as large as those in the vale that runs from the house to the brook by the side of the foot path where Mother lives. In a common year, they will make cider sufficient for my family. Eighteen acres are cleared, the rest is heavy timbered land. Erastus can describe the land. Tell him it is on the knoll 20 rods east of the brick schoolhouse.

I think I purchased very low and indeed have been offered 250 dollars for the bargain but would not sell it for 500. I think I shall sell half of the front 20 rods back. I am offered 500 dollars for it. You will probably wonder where I get cash. To tell you the truth, I am pinched very low. I have a large payment to make out next March – 500 dollars – which will oblige me to look to the eastern fountain. If it os possible for Mother to help me, it will be of great use. I have calculated upon it. I am building a small house which will be done in the spring.

I suppose you have looked for me this fall, but the situation of my family has been such that it seemed impossible. I now look forward to the next summer for the time. I wish Chester would saddle his sorrel colt and just ride out and see me and spend the winter, if possible.

Our village has grown rapidly this summer. More than twenty thousand dollars has been laid out for dwelling houses. I have sometimes I had your husband to build my house, but now have jobbed all that I shall do to it at present. Money is scarce in this country and credit poor. I must, therefore, urge Mother to help me all she can. I own one cow and two pigs – one of which is pretty large.

But to leave this subject and turn to those of more importance. The prospect of religion in this place is rather flattering than otherwise. There has allowed by all been a great reformation in the morals of people since I have been here. But few have been brought to a knowledge of themselves. People are attentive to worship and possess a listening ear, but soon forget what manner of spirit they are of. Sometimes I enjoy myself well; at others am more dull and stupid – hardly know my own state. I feel much for my friends [but] hear from them seldom. I want to see you all much, but Mother very much. I wonder if the good old lady will not come and see me? Tis but little ways. It seems as if I could fly over the ground in a minute. Don’t she want to see little Ephraim? He is a good-natured, pleasant little fellow. He plays all the time; full hair, very loud. I think much about his soul. Precious boy! He knows not for what he was born. God be with and bless you all.

Erastus, I hear, lives in Ireland. I want to hear from you and know what you are all about, how many cows, cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, and children you got and what you do with them. I want to know what you are all about and all the rest of the folks. What Uncle _____ is doing and what he has done with his goods. Smith, I suppose, is sowing his rye. Chester frets a little and works hard. If it is nine o’clock, I should expect Stedman was out somewhere on the _______ and Sophia to work full spring. Erastus is jocking horses. Betsy is sick and you are singing loudly to your little something, I have forgot what. But Betsy, how is her health? Of all I am ignorant. The same son ____ us all. This ends my knowledge. “The night cometh, so also the morning.” Time rolls away, we shall soon get home.

I have nothing more to write. Eliza and our dear little son send love to Aunts, Cousins, and Grandmothers. Your brother – Ephraim Chapin

Mary Chapin

I wish you would tell Mother I have put great dependence upon her for money and tell Chester he must come and fetch it.

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