The identity of the author of this letter is conjectured based upon circumstantial evidence. It is addressed to Eunice Lindsley of Lawrenceville, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, whom the author calls “my dearest grandma.” Given the penmanship and taking the content of the letter into account, I would place the birthdate of the young woman between 1817 and 1820. It seems pretty clear that the author lived with her grandmother in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania prior to enrolling in the Young Ladies Department of the Owego Academy in nearby Owego, Tioga County, New York. I can also speculate that her mother was deceased and that she was being raised by her grandmother which was extremely common in the 19th century. My best guess is that the author was a daughter of Jerusha Lindsley who died in the mid 1820’s. Jerusha was the wife of Michael Rose Tharp (1780-1870), who remarried soon after Jerusha’s death and started a second family. The daughter best fitting the above description was Emily Lindsley Tharp (1817-1887). She appears to have lived with her grandmother in Lawrenceville until marrying Rev. Samuel J. McCullough in October 1844. Rev. McCullough (1809-1869) was an ordained Presbyterian Minister. Emily also had an older sister, Anna Maria (Tharp) Lindsley, who had a new-born child (Jerusha Lindsley), as mentioned in the letter.
At the time the letter was written in 1836, the author appears to be boarding with Dr. Ezekiel B. Phelps, a prominent physician in Owego, who married Sarah Lanning in 1833.
The letter offers an excellent description of the Owego Academy, still in its first decade of operation. She mentions two instructors — a Mr. Howard and a Miss Finch. I believe Mr. Howard may be Mr. Chauncey Howard who authored an address before the Debating Society of the Owego Academy that was published in 1836.
Owego [New York]
26 February 1836
My dearest grandma,
On Wednesday last, I went to the post office for a letter, but as I did not get any, I determined not to go again, as I was quite “out of patience” because some of you did not write to me. But on going home, Mrs. [Sarah Laning] Phelps said the doctor [Ezekiel B. Phelps] got a bundle which came in the stage and which she thought was for Sarah, but I looked into it and saw a letter directed to me. I can tell you I was glad enough for the bundle and the letters, though they made me so homesick that I cried nearly all the time until I went to bed and then till I got to sleep. The night cap was very acceptable and I had only two. And so were the petticoats, though I did not need them so much this winter. When I first got them, it had been very warm for some time and we thought the snow would all go off. But yesterday it was cold again and today I put on my quilt which I find very comfortable. I brought my bed stockings with me and one of them got lost, washing, as I could not find it. I could not have got along very well without them. Aunty left 20 dollars with Mrs. Phelps for me, and gave me 1 & 1/2 at the time, so I shall have money enough.
I thank you very much for what you sent me, though on your account I wish you had not done so for I am afraid you will need it more than I do, and besides, grandma, you have done so much for me already. Aunty said you wanted to know all about my affairs, so I got a sheet of writing papers on purpose to have room enough. Aunty left that pink silk dress of hers for my _____, & I had one _____ which I should think very pretty if I had not been in the habit of wearing a close one. It is drawn with bamboo reed in it — no trimming on it — they wear such here. And Mrs. Phelps one. I spoke for 2 pairs of shoes at the shoe-makers; one pair with straps I got yesterday for 11 shillings. My slippers I am to have next week.
Sarah got a letter from her mother last week and she said Sarah was to keep the ____ dress and she would lend me one just like it by Mrs. Sabbring. And so I suppose Aunty thought I had better have a _____ after all. It is a beautiful dress and I don’t know but I shall like it as well as a silk one. We expect Mrs. Sabbring home next week when I suppose I shall get it. I believe Mrs. Baltis did not say anything about Aunty but I suppose they got home safely. Mrs. Alexander & Martha Camp went home last week; they stayed here one day. I wrote to Aunty then. She wants me to learn to embroider & Mrs. Phelps says I might work for a black silk apron, as they are worn, and are very pretty, and they work a boy for Aunty.
I began to go to school this week after I wrote to you. I am very much pleased with the school. I don’t know whether I wrote you anything about it or not & so I will write you now. The [Owego] Academy is brick, painted red, three stories; in the first are the male children; in the next, the boys; & the 3rd story is the young ladies. They have a wash stand, pitcher & bowl; looking glass, & hair brush belonging to it. And the floor is carpeted. Sarah & I have a seat together. In the morning the bell rings twice and then we all go into Mr. [Chauncey] Howard’s room (he is the gentleman teacher) & have prayers. Then we go back and the roll is called. At noon, we tell how many hours we study out of school; at night, how many times we have whispered.
Some of the girls recite to Mr. Howard and some classes of the boys to Miss Finch (our teacher). On Wednesday, the schools are put together in our room when the boys speak, and the girl’s compositions are read. We are obliged to write every week. Some of the boys write them too & Mr. Howard reads them; the mans are not read.
The girls write for a paper in school called the “Gatherer” with a motto which I have forgotten. The boys also write for a paper. Miss Finch gives us subjects and some of the compositions are very good. I have written two and have got so as to like it very much though I thought I should of read it very much. Aunty thought we had better study nothing this winter, but English, Grammar, Robbins Ancient & Modern History, and Arithmetic. I had to buy me a Grammar as they study Browns, & an Arithmetic. They are Adams. I got both for 11 shillings. I have made one an account book so I can note of everything I spend.
I got me a yard of calico & made me a clothes bag. I have a very pleasant room upstairs all to myself. R____ Sarah sometimes stays with me. I have by this time got very comfortably fixed. Aunty is going to send me a trunk by Mrs, Sabbring, and in the meantime I have one of Mattbies Sabbing’s. Aunty gave me a coarse and fine comb, brush & comb brush. All I have to do now is to make up my bed in the morning, & as Mrs, Phelps’ woman has gone away, I have the dining room to fix, but I like to do it very much. You need not be concerned about me, my dear grandma, for I am very pleasantly situated & should be quite happy if it were not for thinking that you were alone. This, it seems, I could not stand it to be away from you any longer. I would be willing to give up the advantages I enjoy to prove that I am not ungrateful to you for all you have done for me. But I trust when I did come back to you that I shall given you no more trouble; and that you, dear grandma, will forgive me for being so ugly, and disrespectful to you. I have always been sorry as soon as it was over, but I would forget to [control] my temper right away, & now I can’t bear to think of it. And so perhaps it is best that I should be from home for awhile so that when I do come back, I may behave myself better.
I wrote to Emily about a week or two since but received no answer. When I took it to the office, I got a paper from Susan, and she said she intended to go to P. in a few days. I was very glad to get that. I did not know how well I loved you until I was separated from you. I will now write a few lines to ____ but mean them for you too.
— From your affectionate grandchild.
My dear sister. I did intend to write my next letter principally to you, but I hope you will accept these few lines & you know I always write to you all. We have had some pretty cold weather here since then. A gentleman said, “the sun just looked out of the clouds, and seeing the mass of snow, it had to _______, ______ back again.” It had been quite warm for a few days though it is colder now. It began to snow this morning & has kept on all day.
I have been very much pleased with the young ladies [school]. I say young ladies because here they all go together from 13 or 14 to 17 or 18. We have attended two parties — one last week at Mrs. [Abigail] Camp’s ( suppose you know who I mean). It was a general party as there are but fun who visit them — though Mrs. Phelps thought we had better go as she likes the girls very much. We spent the evening very pleasantly in telling fortunes as they had a book for that purpose, and had everything good to eat — nuts, raisins, apples, wine, champagne. I ___ a two _____. One I ____ & the other I got of Miss Frances [Augusta] Camp. She gave me a little bottle with “remember me” on it. She asked about you & the baby & so did Mrs. [Abigail Whittlesey Camp] Noble, I think it was, or at any rate one of Mrs. Camp’s sisters who was acquainted with you. Last evening, we attended one at Mrs. Lacey’s. [It] was rather larger than the other one. Was very pleasant. Tonight we were invited to Mrs. Platts but it snowed so we thought I would not go & so I have not got ready.
- At Lawrenceville, Tioga Co., Pa., June 21st, 1857, in the 59th year of her age, Eunice H. Lindsley (1769-1857), widow of the late Eleazer Lindsley (1769-1825). The deceased was daughter of Jeremiah Halsey (1737-1782) and Elizabeth Woodruff (1742-1831), of Long Island and was born April 2d, 1769. She was married in 1787 and removed to Morristown [New Jersey], the resident of her husband. In 1790 her husband’s father, Col. Eleazer Lindsley, having purchased what was then township No. 1 in the town of Painted Post, Steuben county, NY–on what is now Lindsleytown, removed further with his family. The county was then new–an unbroken wilderness except here and there a spot which had been cultivated by the Indians. One rudely constructed building served for a time as the common abode of the colony. (Thursday, July 30, 1857, The Agitator, Wellsboro, Tioga Co, Pa.)
- Sarah Laning (Source: Gazetteer of Tioga County, New York 1785 – 1888, 347.), b. July 1814, Owego, New York; d. May 1842, Owego, New York; m. Ezekiel B. Phelps, May 12, 1833, Owego, New York (Source: Early Owego, 181.); b. April 12, 1800, Hebron, Conn (Source: Early Owego, 180.); d. June 02, 1892, Owego, New York (Source: Early Owego, 181.).