1839: Daniel Lewis to Christopher C. Lewis

What young Daniel Lewis may have looked like

This letter was written by Daniel Lewis (1821-1859) to his parents, Christopher Clarke Lewis (1780-1861) and Wealthy Kenyon (1791-1853) of Hopkinton, Rhode Island. Daniel adds a note at the end of the letter to his older brother Nathan Lewis (1818-1870). In 1846, Daniel married Ann Frances Kenyon (1824-1884).

From this letter, we learn that Daniel Lewis was a student at the DeRuyter Institute, which was inaugurated by the Seventh Day Baptists in 1836 but “heartily patronized” by the Presbyterians, Friends and others in DeRuyter, New York. Efforts to establish the school were begun in 1834 by the untiring zeal of Elder Alexander Campbell — mentioned in this letter as an adviser to young Lewis and in whose home he took his board. The school was not completed until 1836 and Solomon Carpenter was appointed Principal and Sarah Robinson appointed Preceptress. However, the school did not open until Fall of 1837 when Eber M Rollo was appointed Principal.

We also learn that Daniel Lewis shared a room at the Institute with the son of Joshua Cottrell Sisson (b. 1787) and Catherine Saunders (1795-1857) of Plainfield, New York. Daniel claims his roommate was approximately the same age as himself so it was probably Joshua Gorton Sisson (1822-1879) to whom he referred. A younger son, Luther Spencer Sisson (1824-1887) is known to have attended the Institute in 1841 but this was probably after Daniel’s attendance. The Sisson daughter attending in 1839 was probably Frances (“Fanny”) Abigail Sisson (1819-1890).

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Addressed to Christopher C. Lewis, Esq., Hopkinton, Washington County, Rhode Island

DeRuyter, Madison Co., New York
September 17, 1839

Dear Parents,

The Lexington Steamboat, 1839

Knowing that you will want to hear how I have got along, I now sit down to write a few lines to you. I arrived here last night and all is safe and sound. I started from Stonington [Connecticut] on Wednesday the 4th about 9 o’clock in The Lexington and arrived at New York [City] about 8 in the morning. Started again 5 minutes after 5 for Albany and got there 20 minutes before 2 in the morning — the quickest trip ever made. Started again for Utica half past 8 [and] arrived half past 3. The stage had gone and we hired a man to send us down to Bridgewater in a coach. Our driver, being about 14 or 15 years old, was never there before. It was very dark in the evening and rained some. He drove off on one side of the road and turned the carriage over and threw us all out into the ditch. It did not hurt any of us much. Lacy was hurt the worst — Miss Bently falling on top of her. We arrived there about 9 o’clock Friday night and put up.

Next morning, I started on foot for John Utter’s about 1 1/2 miles. He sent out for Mr. Bently and wife. We now began to visit. Mr. B. & wife went to Mr. _____’s. I went back from meeting to Utter’s and staid all night. Next morning — Sunday — I went to the old Babcock’s, George Sams, [In] afternoon getting a ride over to Beaver Crick, I went to Henry Babcock’s where Lacy lives [and] staid all night.

On Monday, went to Belinda Webb’s and took dinner. While I was there, from 5 to 10 men were about the house some dancing on the doorstone some, jumping and most all swearing. As soon as I got my dinner, I started for Putnam Lewis’s in Sangerfield about 2 miles and in about 2 hours Frank and myself were on our way to Waterville — about 5 miles — to see a pair of five year old steers which you would think were decent ones. One measuring 8 feet and six inches; the other 10 and 4, weighing 4000 pounds. He was the color of Pardon Davis’s spotted one. He was 4 feet and six inches through the briskets. Saw 500 hogs in one pen at the same place. Returned back to Lewis’s & staid all night. The next night — Tuesday — staid to the Old Babcock’s & Wednesday to Joshua Sisson’s — a brother [of] Miss Langworthy, Thursday night to Dea. Alfred Maxson’s, Friday night [at] John Babcock’s, Seventh day to Mr. Fitches. Sunday night to Joshua Sisson’s again.

Monday morning about 7 started for DeRuyter and arrived here last night about 9. He came to bring his son and daughter out to school. His son and I room together. He appears to be a fine young fellow about my age. Our room is not situated where I would liked to have had it. It is in the third story opposite where they ring the bell. It suits me the best of any that was not taken up. It was the advice of Elder [Alexander] Campbell for us to take it. I shall board at his house — the last he is going to take. There are between 60 and 70 students here now and are daily coming. 4 have just arrived. It is thought the school will be the fullest this term that it ever has been.

My expenses were $12.15 reckoning everything. I have now got about through for this time and will end sating I am well excepting a bad cold.

Your unworthy son, — D. Lewis

A little bit to Nathan. I had almost forgotten to tell you that Doctor [A. S.] Saunders was married last 5th day to a Miss Harriet P. Franklin in Brookfield. I saw them to conference seventh day. I also saw Lucius and his wife there and such singing as they had there would make all our folks blush. Now I must close making no excuses for bad writing or weak stuf. You must all write when you can, — Daniel Lewis

  • Dr. A. S. Saunders was born in the town of Brookfield, Madison Co., N. Y., Oct. 30, 1814. He is the son of Augustus and Eunice (Lewis) Saunders. The former was born in Westerly, R. I., and the latter in Hopkinton City, R. I.  Dr. Saunders was educated in the common schools of his town and the Waterville Academy. The latter he attended two terms in the years 1833 and 1834. He taught school three winters before he went to the academy and worked at farming during the summer months to earn the money to pay his tuition. In the years 1836 to 1839, he attended three courses of lectures at the Medical College at Geneva, N. Y. graduating there the last named year and securing the Rogers Prize Gold Medal for the best thesis, his subject “Effect of mind on the body.” The same year he graduated, he went to De Ruyter and formed a co-partnership with Dr. IRA SPENCER of that village and continued with him about three years. He then came back to his native town and located at South Brookfield and practiced there six years. He then made another change, coming to Brookfield, where he now resides, and where he has practiced medicine since 1848. In 1839, the 12th day of Sept., Dr. Saunders was married to Harriet, daughter of John and Betsey (Miller) Franklin, natives, the former of R. I., born in 1793, and the latter of Brookfield, born 19th of November, 1798. The father died in 1876 and the mother in 1863. They had twelve children, Mrs. SAUNDERS being the second of the family. She was born Dec. 20th, 1816.  Source: Madison County Bios.

4 responses to “1839: Daniel Lewis to Christopher C. Lewis

  • Cynthia

    Thank you for sharing this letter. It is of special interest since my husband is a Kenyon descended from Washington County, RI. In fact, Daniels’ brother Edwin R Lewis became a practicing physician in Westerly and delivered great uncle George Lee Kenyon in 1886 (son of James McL Kenyon and Lucy Lee and brother of Franklin Sault Kenyon).

  • Cynthia

    Dear Spared and Shared,
    This letter prompted me to look again at my own notes. Another brother of Daniel Lewis, Christopher C Lewis Jr, was at one time (1902) among the oldest men in Hopkinton, RI. He is pictured in a photograph on the wall of the Hopkinton RI Town Hall labeled “The Oldest Men in Hopkinton, RI, 19 August 1902). I saw it while visiting the Town Hall in August 2012.

    The 7 men photographed were (L to R) are Matthew Kenyon (1811 – 1907), Christopher C Lewis (1815 – 1905). George Tyler Collins (1819 – 1903) Gardner Kenyon (1816 – 1906). Thomas R Wells (1817 – 1903). George Babcock (1914-1902). Silas C Wells (1813 – 1907).

    I have a poor-but-viewable image photographed through the glass I can email to you if you are interested. Otherwise, those interested in the Lewis family can stop by the Hopkinton Town Hall.

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