1839: Luman Whittlesey to Harvey Whittlesey

What Luman Whittlesey might have looked like.

This letter was written by Luman Whittlesey (1795-1868), the son of Joseph Whittlesey (1764-1838) and Mary Camp (1764-1853). Luman married first Sarah Johnson Cogswell (1797-1821) in 1818 with whom he had two children. He married second Elizabeth G. Peale (1806-1868) in 1823 with whom he had two more children. Luman graduated in 1816 from Yale College and taught school or found employment as a tutor most of his life. This letter provides a great summary description of his yearly activities through the 1830’s.

Luman wrote the letter to his older brother, Harvey Whittlesey (1788-1861) in Farmington, Hartford Co., Connecticut.

In the letter, Luman refers to his brother “R” whom I believe was Ralph Whittlesey (1801-1850). Ralph married Nancy Rowan and resided in various places in the South and West. I believe that at the time this letter was written, Ralph was in Texas serving as steward in a college. After his wife died, he served in the Mexican War 1846-48, and then went to California where he died in Stockton in 1850.

Luman also states that he received a letter from Edgar. Edgar Augustus Whittlesey (1819-1861) was Luman’s oldest son by his first wife. Edgar was married to Elizabeth Bullock in January 1839, according to this letter. He worked for a time as a merchant in Silver Creek, Mississippi but later moved to Tyler County, Texas. It is believed that Elizabeth Bullock was related to the “Maj. Bullock” who was a partner to Luman’s brother Ralph.

Stampless Cover

Top of Letter

Bottom of Letter


Addressed to Harvey Whittlesey, Esq., Farmington, Connecticut

Clarkston, 4 March
L. Whittlesey, Post Master

Clarkston [Martin County, North Carolina]
4 March 1839

Dear Brother,

I received yours by due course of mail and might have answered it sooner but concluded to wait till I should hear from Mi. I deeply sympathise with you, dear brother, and your family in your domestic affliction, but hope they may be sanctified for your good. “Whom the Lord loveth, he chastineth and scourgeth every son whom he receivith.” We have numberless evidences that this world was not designed as our home and permanent residence, and blessed is he who, when summoned away, shall be prepared to leave this for a better.

At your request, I will give you a very condensed account of my movements since I left Connecticut. In 1831, I lived 18 miles from Williamston in a house belonging to Col. Joseph Williams with the privilege of a as much ground as I chose to cultivate free of charge & taught school during the year. 1832, bought about 30 acres of land two miles farther, on which I now live and have erected comfortable buildings and which has now quite an imposing appearance. Continued my school as before at the same place. 1833, declined the school, took [missing] of a few scholars at my own house, pushed my improvements, erected a school house at home &c. 1834, Continued improvements clearing, fencing, &c. 1835 & 36, Taught school with a tolerable profit. 1837, Rented out my piece of ground, went to Norfolk, purchased a small stock of goods, sold them out, made some bad debts, and didn’t get rich at that. Last year I taught a small school and carried on a black smith shop with some profit, made a good farm, plenty of meat & bread &c. This year I continue the school, farm, & shop, and only rely on the blessing of Providence for success. We have with few exceptions enjoyed good health. Sally is at this time quite sick – the result of a severe cold. I should like to read your speech & hope you will send it if not attended with too much trouble. It will probably be necessary to send it in two or more parcels as a half ounce is the extent of my privilege. I send you brother Rs letter as an answer to your queries in relation to him. I think he must be doing well. His partner, Maj. Bullock, is a man of wealth and able to give credit and character to the establishment. Edgar wrote me last week that he was married to his Elizabeth (January 7) and that he in company with another man had purchase $35,000 worth of goods and would commence business in a few days. – L. Whittlesey


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