The identity of both the author and the recipient of this letter are not yet known. The author, Henry Hill (alias Edmund Putnam Hill) was clearly a native of New England — possibly Boston or Providence. Perhaps he and the recipient of the letter, Leonard Holmes, were college chums. The author undoubtedly received a formal education as evidenced by not only the content of the letter but his extensive vocabulary and polished penmanship.
It appears that the author is laboring as both a minister and school teacher in a rural area of Georgia southwest of Augusta which is now near the city of Washington in Wilkes County. He mentions the rural post office of Tarver’s Mill and the retreat of Mount Pleasant — the plantation and residence of the Talbot family some 40 miles from Augusta. Though he has written to Holmes his intention of staying in Georgia, I can find no subsequent census information enumerating him in the area under either Henry or Edmund Hill.
The author mentions receipt of the first and second issues of the Zion’s Herald from his Boston friend. The Zion’s Herald was first published in 1823 in Boston and was affiliated with the Methodists, suggesting Hill may have been a minister in that faith.
[Stampless envelope addressed to Mr. Leonard Holmes. Post Office, Boston, Mass.]
February 9, 1824
My generous friend,
Being in a short time to leave Augusta and consequently the active turmoil of commercial life, I with pleasure devote a few hours in addressing a friend bound to my heart with the triple cords of gratitude, esteem, and veneration. A recapitulation of your undeviating constancy, your generous devotedness to my happiness, your sincere and unremitted sacrifice of time and opportunity to my gratification would perhaps be thought superfluous. It will therefore suffice to say that your recent bequests of pamphlets and papers have elicited towards you my most grateful feelings which I am bound to express to you by an extra letter. In reviewing that constancy which you have manifested towards me, I must with regret acknowledge it is almost the only circumstance with which I am favored. The length of absence and the great distance of separation has been too successful in damping the ardour of friendship in the minds of almost all my former friends in New England from many of whom I experience the most chilling neglect as well as a marked indifference to my peace and happiness. These things although most poignant to my feelings are not to be considered as subjects of repining and disaffection knowing that Infinite Wisdom thereby designs to wean me from those insidious affections which have too long and too despotically bound my heart to the things of this world which have estranged my affections from the God whom I love and have cast a veil of gloom over the bright visions of that eternal world where reigns perpetual concord and everlasting peace. My dear Leonard! In making these observations, presume not that my heart is entirely _____ from those endearing and social emotions or oblitered towards those interesting and amiable objects of my former regard. O no! I did love them with unabashed ardour – you I regard with more sacred affections. My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be the subject of Divine Grace and shine hereafter as stars of the first magnitude in a heavenly world. I feel an eternal interest for them that they may be found the Lambs book of life and be enabled to ascertain their title to a state of immortal bliss to a crown of unfading glory.
I have already informed you that I am about to return to the cabin and peaceful shade of rural life, and amid the sequestered retreat of Mount Pleasant to devote the residue of my unprofitable life to the glorious service of God and the instruction and improvement of the dear immortals who are to be placed under my charge. O how important my vacation! What an awful responsibility rests upon me! Surely my account at the bar of God will be of no ordinary nature! For many will then rise up to commend or condemn me before the countless armies of men and angels. May I feel how interesting will be that moment to me and may God of his infinite mercy prepare me for the tremendous contest and enable me to give up my account with joy and not with grief!
In reference to the pamphlets and papers which you so kindly send me I inform you with much pleasure how much benefit they produce in this State. All your papers I distribute among my friends in various parts of Georgia (after I have feasted luxuriantly upon them myself) to whom they afford an equal repast, tending much to the general knowledge and literary entertainment of the exiled sons of New England and the illiterate inhabitants of Georgia. The pamphlets take a general rout among my friends in Augusta and afterwards become a valuable addition to my private library. Surely I have cause – abounding cause of thanksgiving and praise to the Father of all mercies who has so graciously provided me a friend – so generous a friend as my beloved Leonard. “Zion’s Herald” of which you have sent me the first and second number are particularly valuable and will probably obtain much encouragement in this City. A subscription is forming to patronize it and I shall probably be made the humble instrument of addressing you shortly upon the subject. In any case, I shall conceive it an addition to my weight of obligation to you to forward them regularly to me. To ask you to continue your favors would be an imposition upon your generous feelings. I will only request you to remember your exiled, unworthy friend.
In my anticipated departure from Augusta, you may be surprised to learn that I entertain much sincere regret. I have been employed this winter by a Gentleman whose virtues, affability, and kindness have secured my utmost esteem and respect and whose family generally have devoted the utmost attention to my comfort and happiness. Moreover, I had been so happy as to secure the confidence of a large and respectable acquaintance from whom I shall part with great reluctance. That the incident is somewhat ameliorated by the reflection that I am to enter into a society who entertain a most flattering respect for me and among whom I am sure I shall receive a most cordial reception. You may justly enquire if friend Hill is not smartly tinctured with vanity and self pride. Alas! my dear Holmes, I fear that I do too much delight in the praise of men. But God forbid that I shall dazzle you with feigned splendours, or deceive my own soul with pretended virtues. O no! Thou knowest O my God that my heart is black as hell and that separate from thy grace my whole nature is depraved and polluted and that not a particle of virtue is apparent in the whole fabric of my intellectual powers. But another topic before I waste my paper with apologies.
In a letter written two weeks ago to my friends Putnam and Lear, I observed that I was about changing my name. The circumstances are these. Since my residence in Augusta, I have frequently found much inconvenience arising from my former name, there being no less than two persons exclusive of myself who bear the name of Henry Hill. There are likewise two of the same name in Wilkes County where I intend to reside. There is one in South Carolina, one in Boston, and two or three in New Hampshire which circumstances has induced me to alter my name and for which I intend procuring the Legislative sanction at their next annual meeting and I shall only be known after the First of March ensuing, and will hereby request you to address me after that period, “Edmund Putnam Hill, Tarver’s Mill, Wilkes County, Ga.” The reason of assuming the name of Edmund Putnam must be obvious to you. It is a name which will ever be dear to me inasmuch as it associated with it the recollection of one whose character and virtues are of a most resplendent nature and from whose society and friendship I have derived the most purified and rational enjoyment in the whole history of my life. Putnam is moreover a name venerable in the archives of my country and presents an example of patriotic devotedness and moral excellence worthy of the highest respect and imitation.
Our southern wnter set in under the most favorable auspices. It was in fact as mild as June. The foliage of nature began to bud and blossom, the birds to carol forth their mating songs and the heart of man to palpitate with joy. But lo! a frost, an early frost, a deadly frost overtook the early start, and chilling winter bound them fast in his destructive chains. Now all is drear and whistling winds drive over the warm hearth.
Business is very dull and merchants are seen walking to and fro in pensive meditation exclaiming, “What’s the news?” I am happy to inform you that I enjoy uninterrupted health and although from the late warm weather we feared the prophecy of experience, “Green winters make fat church yards in summer.” I hope God will preserve us from such a calamity.
When I left Boston, I thought it commendable to send a trunk of my papers, letters, compositions, &c. to my brother at Portsmouth intending at some future period to return to New England. But having concluded to return no more forever, I have written several times to Mr. Thomas Chadbourn of Portsmouth (with whom I entrusted them) to send the said trunk and contents to me, but have heard not a syllable from him. Shall I request you when you next visit Portsmouth to call on him and receive the said trunk and contents, and ship them by the first vessel to Savannah to the care of Messrs. Duhamel & _______ or care of L. Lawrence, Merchant, Savannah, to the care of Mr. Harmon Musgrove, Merchant, Augusta, the freight to be made payable in Savannah and address the Consignees on the subject. And also inform me by mail of the shipments, if not too much trouble you will confer a favor. My reason for desiring them are that I am about writing a history of my life and correspondence which has been solicited and ____ upon me by a great number of my friends and which I humbly hope will be productive of great good to mankind.
I have no doubt wearied you with my personal remarks. But be assured Dear Leonard, I have so strong a faith in your charity and friendship that I am not hesitated to open to you all my wishes. May God Almighty bless you my friend. Adieu. – Edmund P. Hill