1834: Julia Butler Clapp to John Clapp

This letter was written by Julia Butler Clapp (1816-1885), the daughter of James Clapp (1785-1854) and Julia Hyde Butler (1794-1832) of Oxford. When Julia wrote the letter, in 1834, she was living with her mother’s sister, Cornelia Ann Butler (1806-1871), who was married to William Constable Pierrepont (1803-1885) in Jefferson County, New York. The eldest son of William and Cornelia Pierrepont whose death is described in this letter was Robert Devereux Pierrepont (1831-1834).

Julia wrote the letter to her Uncle John Clapp. See his biography in the footnotes.

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[Addressed to John Clapp, Esq., Norwich, Chenango Co., New York]

Ellisburg [New York]
December 18th 1834

It was with great sorrow, my dear Uncle, that I heard from Father of your being so ill and I hope this letter will find you in better health and spirits. I fear we shall regret your not going to the South. The mild air of Florida would have been more congenial to your constitution, and you might perhaps have been spared this illness. I was concerned to hear that my little cousins have had the scarlet fever but am thankful they were spared to you.

We have also been in affliction. Devereux, whom we idolized, has been taken away from us, and my Aunt & Uncle have to mourn his loss as their first born – and only son. He was in Utica but apparently recovered, and we thought him very well until Tuesday the 9th when he was attacked with the Croup. The doctor was immediately sent for and every thing that could be thought of done. But it was unavailing. Thursday night he died but so easily that though we were all standing around him, we hardly knew the moment when he was taken away. During his life, he was the sole amusement and delight of his parents, who were made more attached to him by their retirement from the world. And he was so lovely and intelligent that the stroke seems indeed severe. But he is, we trust, in heaven – far removed from trouble and sorrow.

As I sat down not to write a melancholy letter, but to amuse you in your sick room, I will endeavor to do so by describing by describing what we are doing. Out of doors, there is nothing to be seen but one waste of snow, with here and there a tree to add desolation instead of variety to the prospect. I dislike snow. It makes me melancholy. I always think of it as nature’s shroud. As to “tea drinkings” &c. we never trouble ourselves about them and we have not been out since we came home except once to Church. I employ myself during the day in working reading muses &c. and, being sure of no interruptions, am able to go about as I please. In the evening we sit around the table, Aunt Cornelia and myself sew, and Uncle reads aloud some interesting book. And at such times we have often thought that if you or any of our kind friends were to drive up, how welcome they would be. I have never passed so many hours of calm rational enjoyment as here and Uncle’s well-stored library presents a never failing cure for ennui.

I think I am getting to be quite a philosopher and have no doubt some of my theories would amuse you. We every week have letters containing sketches of life in New York so that we know every thing that is going on in the great world and we can look on at a distance without wishing to join. We are always obliged to them for their sympathy on our being deprived of so much enjoyment, but we do not think we are to be pitied. The last letter informed us that Miss Anna Pierrepont (the eldest daughter) was just engaged to Gerrit Van Wagenen with which the family are very well pleased.

Dear Uncle, it would give me great pleasure to hear from you. Do, when you feel disposed, write. I hope the next despatches from Oxford will tell us that you are a great deal better. Please give my love to Aunt Lydia and kiss that sweet little girl for me. Aunt Cornelia sends her love.

Remember me to the young ladies and believe me always your attached niece, — Julia B. Clapp


”The life of John Clapp, extending, as it does, over a period of more than three-score years and ten, although strikingly devoid of strongly marked incidents, is, nevertheless, one of no ordinary interest from its harmonious development and exhibition of character and culture. Left, by the death of both his parents, at a period of life so early as to leave no glimmering recollection of either; transferred to the guardianship of his elder brother James, and accompanying him and his law partner, William M. Price, at an early period of the century, to the primitive little settlement of Oxford, on the Chenango river, and in the newly organized county of that name, where, under their auspices, and especially those of his brother, he completed a course of elementary, higher and professional instruction; passing his novitiate experience as a lawyer in one of the rudest frontier settlements of the county; emerging, speedily, from this rough but, doubtless, healthful and invigorating process of practical communion with the rudiments of civilization into a prosperous and successful partnership with one of the leading and most influential advocates and counselors of the county at Norwich, the county seat; succeeding, after a brief interval, to the business of the firm; fulfilling for more than ten years, gracefully and acceptably, the irksome and responsible duties of public prosecutor in criminal cases; forming, during this period, a most fortunate and happy matrimonial connection with an amiable and gifted lady—Lydia, daughter of Cyrus Strong, Esq.; defeated in a vigorous and animated political contest with a formidable and practiced opponent for the representation of the district in the lower house of Congress; transferred to a permanent home on the banks of the Susquehanna, where he again set up his household gods—destined all too soon to be mournfully shattered, by the removal from its earthly tabernacle of a dearly loved daughter—Rosalind, of rare beauty and accomplishments, the delight of his eyes and the treasure of his heart; these comprise, in substance, the outward and prominent features of this long life. Let us briefly analyze its interior results; by far the most important.” In all these various relations of a long life—as a man, a brother, a husband and father, an honored member of a noble profession, an ever welcome accession to the social circle, and an active citizen of a large and flourishing community —Mr. Clapp was uniformly truthful, sincere, single-hearted and upright. In his intercourse with the world around him—in all his business transactions, his social and domestic enjoyments, his literary culture and tastes, his fixed principles of moral obligations and ethical requirements, his fine appreciation of the beauty and grandeur of nature, and his utter abnegation of self where the rights and claims, the distresses and calamities of others were concerned—he seems to have borne himself bravely, honestly and victoriously in the great battle of life. Well versed in all the elements, principles and practice of his profession, he attained a high standing among his legal associates; and was distinguished for fidelity, promptness, and scrupulous integrity in the management of the important pecuniary interests from time to time committed by his clients to his care. As a scholar, his mind was a treasure house of the beautiful thoughts and conceptions of genius. He was passionately fond of books, and familiar with Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Byron, and their great contemporaries and successors, and with the various works of the ancient and modern historians.” His success in life was, unquestionably, chiefly due to his energy, perseverance, and strict adherence to the great fundamental principles of honesty, uprightness, and unswerving integrity. Substantially aloof from the distraction and turbulence of the world, its political commotions and personal animosities, his happiest years have been spent in the domestic and social circles, in the reciprocation of kind and loving acts, in the cultivation of all the faculties of his mind and heart, and in the conscientious discharge of duty to God and man. “Mr. and Mrs. Clapp are in the enjoyment of a moderate degree of good health, in part preserved to them by occasional pleasant, and sometimes distant, excursions abroad.”

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