1840: Harriet Metcalf to Elvira Metcalf

This stampless letter contains a poem written by Harriet Metcalf (1817-18??) to her cousin Elvira Metcalf (1816-????) in Wilmington, Windham Co., Vermont. Although the letter contains no date, I’m going to conjecture that it was written about 1840. Elvira was probably the daughter of Silas Metcalf (b. 1784) and Diadema Blanding (b. 1784). This couple married in Royalston, Worcester, Massachusetts in October 1808 and came to Wilmington, Vermont around 1810. In the 1850 US Census, Elvira (enumerated as “Alvina”) is still single and residing with her parents in Wilmington.

Sadly, less is known about Harriet Metcalf who wrote this poem and made a hair ribbon as a remembrance for her cousin. From the poem we can surmise that these two girls grew up together. If we assume that they were truly first cousins, and that Metcalf is Harriet’s maiden name as ell, then we ought to be able to find Harriet listed among the children of Elvira’s only uncle, John Metcalf (b. 1786) and his wife, Hannah Whitney (b. 1790) who married in December 1808. Unfortunately, little is recorded about this family though it is clear from Royalston Town Records that some of their children were born in Wilmington VT before 1820. Though Hannah’s name is not among the children born to this couple, the few records that remain suggest the list is incomplete.

It does appear that Silas and his brother John both lived for a time, simultaneously, in Wilmington, Vermont but that John later moved away with his family, thus creating the separation between Elvira and her cousin Harriet. Perhaps someone who stumbles upon this Metcalf correspondence can confirm this conjectured relationship.

Stampless Cover


Poem affiliated with Hair Momento


[Addressed to Elvira Metcalf, Wilmington, VT.]

Elvira Metcalf
From your cousin Harriet Metcalf

Where love is planted, there it grows
It buds and blossoms like the rose,
Many an hour with sweet content
In conversation we have spent, Elvira!!

It is not the distance of the ways
Nor yet the length of time,
It is not the absence of your face
Can drive you from my mind.

A mark of friendship pleasing try
In his small trifle see
And sometimes in a lonely hour
Read this and think of me, E.M.

Farewell my friend, may heaven protect you
Through life’s dark temptation’s waves
Guardian angels then direct you
To the realms of endless day, Elvira!

[Editor’s Note: Next to the lock of woven hair stuck to the letter is written the following:]

A lock of hair I often lend
In memory of an absent friend
When on this lock you gently look
Remember from whose head it was took.

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