1826: Simon Newton Dexter to Laura (Northrup) Dexter

This letter was written by Simon Newton Dexter (1785-1862), son of Andrew Dexter (1751-1811) and Mary Newton (17xx-1825). Newton (as he preferred to be called) matriculated at Brown University, but soon left that institution to engage in business in Boston. In 1815, he removed to Whitesboro, and in 1817 took part in the construction of a section of the Erie Canal. From 1824 to 1829, during which time he wrote this letter, he was engaged in the construction of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

On returning to Whitesboro he became agent of the Oriskany Manufacturing Company, and in 1832 assumed charge of the Dexter Company. He was also largely interested in manufactures elsewhere in the State of New York and in Elgin, Illinois. In 1840, he was elected by the New York State Legislature one of the canal commissioners, and remained in office until 1842 when the new Democratic majority removed the Whig commissioners. He was a trustee of Hamilton College, and for several years supported a professorship, giving the College in all about $32,000. He was President of the Whitestown Bank from 1833 to 1853, and Manager of the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica from 1849 to 1862.

Newton wrote this letter to his wife Laura (1793-1846), the daughter of Isaac Northrup (1767-1834) and Cynthia Morton (1771-1812). Newton and Laura were married in Providence, Rhode Island in 1811.

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Addressed to Mrs. Laura Dexter, Whitestown, Oneida County, New York

Wilmington [Delaware]
March 21, 1826

Dear Laura,

I concluded that it was upon the whole far more prudent for me to remain here until the 17th April than to expose myself to great danger by taking so long a journey at this season of the year — particularly as Saturday, Sunday & Monday were all very stormy. My health is improving fast. I am in very good quarters and I did not even go to Philadelphia, as even that expectation has in every instance brought on a relapse.

I have paid the bank all I owed them to the last cent. I have paid the last dollar for the Platt property and in a few weeks I expect to pay what remains due to Brinckerhoff in Albany. It is highly important that a tenant be secured for our house and if Mrs. Gustenius has not yet decided, she will not expect us to hazard the loss of Mr. Rumney — between two stools you know.

Tell Doctor Peck he can have either store at a very reasonable rent. I am glad to hear of new people coming in. I could do excellently well with a store in Whitesboro. 40 or 50,000 dollars could still be made out of this job were it a healthy situation and in 18 months time. I, however, will not stay here. Such arrangements are made that I need not. 4 or 4 journeys here of short duration will answer every purpose.

You are a pendent woman. You have been poor so long you cannot realize a change in circumstances. Why my dear, you certainly want a mantle looking glass. You certainly want hand irons, shovel, tongs & fender for that room, and very many things I do not now think of. We must also increase our help by a girl and a boy. By all means secure Sally’s sister if you can. This will keep peace in the kitchen.

I want to have some smart body to oversee cleaning up that house if possible by the time I get home. For when I do return, I shall be overrun with business. Have everything done to please yourself. I would not paint the hall floor. I hope by the blessing of the Almighty to live with & cherish my family nearly all summer. Entreat your father to make no arrangements for a removal until I can see him.

A removal, and commencing anew, at your father’s time of life with a family consisting wholly of young girls is not a thing to be slightly undertaken. And unless there is something certain and new — not the old effort, which did not succeed when all energies of his prime were bestowed upon it. I say unless some great and new object is assuredly to be obtained by his removal, he surely should not hazard it.

Below is a note for old Mr. Kirwan to sign. Andrew is to sign above ___ name. Direct your letters here. May God bless you and the dear children. Yours most affectionately, — S. Newton Dexter

Now do not undertake to do anything yourself but walk and ride. Hire somebody to oversee the cleaning, but go not into the wet rooms if painting is to be done. Consult Wal___ or Doctor Peck who to employ.

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