1841: Unknown author to Winthrop Henry Phelps

The author of this letter has not yet been identified. Perhaps you can help me identify him. From the content of this letter, he would appear to have been an 1841 graduate (or non-graduate) of Kenyon College in Ohio, who must have spent time in Cornwall, Connecticut, as a youth.

Named in the letter are classmates Douglass Case, William Clark French, and Edwin Butler Hale. The letter was addressed to Winthrop Henry Phelps, who also attended Kenyon College, but did not graduate, in that year. Phelps became a minister and a chaplain in the Civil War. He served with the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery; his wife was Lucy F. Robinson.

Rev. Addison Kingsbury (1800-1892), the pastor of Putnam Presbyterian Church from 1840 to 1877, is mentioned in this letter. The Female Seminary, opened in Putnam, Ohio, in 1836 is also mentioned in this letter.

The letter mentions President Tyler’s Veto of the Bank Bill, which occurred on 16 August 1841 – a few days before this letter was written. This action “sparked a riot outside the White House, as incensed–and drunk–members of the Whig party bombarded the White House with stones, fired their guns in the air and burned Tyler in effigy – the most violent demonstration ever held outside the White House. In response the government formed the District of Columbia’s police force.”

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Addressed to Mr. Winthrop H. Phelps, 373 Broadway, New York

Putnam, Muskingum Co., Ohio
August 20, 1841

Dear Friend Phelps,

After a long, long interval, I am again prepared – point in hand – to converse with you for a short time. If an apology were needed for my delay, it would be that a press of business before commencement & running to & fro since have absorbed my whole time. In fact, this is the first letter I have written since some weeks before commencement.

But having broken the ice by a cold formal apology, what shall I say next? Shall I commence with Kenyon? But then I suspect Prof. [John] Sandals has gone to New York & will tell you ‘ere you get this all that is to be told. My own opinion of material things there is that on the whole they are prospering, but in particulars they are not. Their President & Prof’s do verry well, but their tutors can’t do at all. You may not know that Friend [Douglas] Case is promoted to the tutorship. I respect Case every way as a classmate & friend, & am rejoiced for his sake that he is appointed, but I fear it cannot be for the good of the college. They should never elect one of their own graduates & at least not untill after a year or two’s experience. But let that go for none of my business – at least any farther than I feel interested in the prosperity of my “alma mater.” It is not for me to say anything pro or con in regard to commencement. For my own part, I did not enjoy it much. But from the numerous “puffs” in the papers round, it seems others did. My own feelings are not always a thermometer of other peoples.

I am indebted to you for numerous papers, pamphlets &c. for which I get nothing that I could with any propriety send you. I take no western paper for the plain reason that there is none worth my money to me. Should I be able to lay my hands upon any thing which I suppose can be interesting to you in the midst of such a world of news, I will surely send it.

Respecting the people with whom my lot is case, I have nothing of note to say unless it be that they still walk upon two feet — the most of them — & are divided in two classes; not old school & new school, nor rich nor poor, but males & females.

Out town is uncommonly healthy. I am by no means an invalid myself; still follow my old trade & am attended by good success as I anticipated at my first setting out. Our female seminary is quite prosperous. My own school number 12 – as many as I engaged to teach at first. I am situated in one of the pleasantest villages in the West & surely among the finest people – true Presbyterians. Our pastor [is] the best among the best. His name is [Rev. Addison] Kingsbury – a relative of H. Page’s. You may know something of him.

There is just now a great commotion here in consequence of the vetoing of the Bank Bill. How many hard things have been said within a few days of President Tyler – “Rascal” – “Liar” – “ought to be shot” – “cow hided” — &c. &c. – are the common epithets cast upon him. I enjoy here a greater opportunity for news than I have ever before been privileged with. I have also as extensive a field of usefulness. Whether I do my duty or not, God only knows. My own heart condemns me duly & how much more the perfect eye of God.

I shall commence the study of theology as soon as the warm weather passes away. I have always been subject to a bilious attack about this time & feel as much like avoiding it this year as possible. This I think I may do by making my vacation of study long enough. I have purchased what Hebrew books I shall want at present, second-hand at Kenyon.

But enough of Ego. How do you do yourself? How do you prosper in all things at the University?

My old Friend [Edwin Butler] Hale is now spending some weeks with me here at his friends but will soon leave for Illinois. [William Clark] French will probably be making his way on to New York now as soon as possible. You & he will probably enjoy each other’s company none the less for having known each other at Kenyon. Do you find any difficulty now in getting your remittances? No poor soul was ever so much afflicted as French has been in this respect. I cannot understand it unless it be their jealousy respecting his steadfastness in Presbyterianism. Should it ever be convenient, if you are acquainted with Mr. [Edward Warren] Andrews of the [Broadway] Tabernacle [Church in New York City], please remember me to him as one of his Cornwall pupils. He may have forgotten all about me, however. I should like to know what church you have connected yourself with and what you consider orthodox in these days of ultraism. How does Perfectionism stand in the New York congregations? I suppose you will understand that as I am a reader of the Observer & Repository, I am Non Perfectionist.


List of 1841 Graduates of Kenyon College:

[Those crossed off are ruled out as the author of this letter.]

*Mr. Ethan Allen, A. B Quincy, Ills.

Rev. Henry Calhoun, A. B Ironton, Ohio.

*Dr. Douglass Case, A. B Cleveland, Ohio.

*Mr William Dewalt, A. B Canton, Ohio.

Milton Elliott, Esq., A. B Astoria, Oregon.

*Ira Darwin French, Esq., A. B Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rev. William C. French, D. D Philadelphia, Pa.

Rev. Richardson Graham, A. B Philadelphia, Pa.

Mr. Edwin Butler Hale, A. B Cleveland, Ohio.

Hon. Sidney C. Long, A. B Baltimore, Md.

*Mr. Franklin B. Sain, A. B Norwalk, Ohio.

Hon. Rowland E. Trowbridge, A. B Birmingham, Mich.


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