1842: Lavinia Wilcox Barstow to Cornelia Pangman (Norton) Griggs

A Letter between Cousins

This letter was written in September 1842 by Lavinia Barstow of Groton, Tompkins Co., N.Y., to her cousin Cornelia Pangman (Norton) Griggs (1816-1889) of Levannah, Cayuga Co., N.Y.  Cornelia had married the previous year (1841) to Samuel Griggs, a native of Windham Co., CT. and they built their new home together in the hamlet of Levannah (Town of Ledyard) on the north shore of Lake Cayuga, north of Aurora.

Cornelia was born in Sangerfield, Oneida Co., N.Y., the daughter of Theron Norton (1788-1861) and Chloe Pangman (1789-1867). She had at least six siblings but only her younger sisters, Anna Maria Norton (b. 1812), and Jane Caroline Norton (b. 1819) are mentioned in this letter. Maria married Abner Underwood in April 1844. In the 1850 Census, Jane was still living with her parents in Sangerfield but she would eventually marry Lyman Sanderson.

Much less genealogical information remains for Lavinia Barstow, the author of the letter. In the absence of a family tree, I have had to piece together the following information and speculate on the relationship. There is a strong possibility that Lavinia was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Barstow (1777-1813) of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, who was a native of Sharon, Litchfield Co., CT.  Dr. Barstow was married to Lavinia Wilcox (1777-18??) and they had at least three known children: Pluma Amelia Barstow (1803-1847), Charles R. Barstow (1804-1880), and Oliver A. Barstow (1809-????). It is believed that Lavinia was born about 1810 — just a couple of years old when her father died. Her mother’s death has not been found, but it may have been about the time that her brothers Charles and Oliver went to live with their uncle, Judge Gamaliel Henry Barstow, in Nichols, Tioga Co., N.Y. in 1825. If this is true, then Lavinia would have found herself orphaned as a teenager which may explain her residence with an Aunt and Uncle in Groton, N.Y. Lavinia’s handwriting suggests that she was well-schooled and she may have attended Sarah Pierce’s Female Seminary in Litchfield, CT where her older sister Pluma is known to have attended in 1820.

Tompkins County records show that she married Ebenezer Sprague Marsh (1813-1874) of Groton, where Lavinia lived with her Aunt and Uncle. Ironically, though she makes no mention of it in her letter, and despite her claim of “not being much in favor” of matrimony, she married Ebenezer on the 29th of December 1842 — less than four months after writing to her cousin Cornelia. Ebenezer was the son of Zineri Marsh (1785-1843) and Creusa Hubbard (1787-1864) who came to Groton in 1822.

According to Marsh family records, Ebenezer “spent the early years of his life in Groton, was a justice of the peace there many years, represented the county of Tompkins in the legislature. From 1868 to 1872 held a position in the comptroller’s office at Albany, was inspector of state arsenals under Gov. Seymour, holding a position in the custom house, N. Y. City for a time. He was an ardent democrat, scrupulously exact in all matters of business or duty. He resided also at Waverly, N. Y. and Elmira. He died at Elmira, N. Y., May 11, 1874, leaving a wife and two children, a son and daughter, Charles Barstow (b, 1844), and Florence M. (b. 1850), who followed him in the years 1878 and 1875.”

Though Lavinia addresses Cornelia as her cousin, I cannot (yet) establish the relationship through on-line family records. Lavinia implies that she was visiting Barstow relatives in Geneva and she may have attended the Geneva College commencement exercises out of curiosity or because she knew a graduate. I notice that a John N. Norton graduated in the class of 1842 who may have been a relative of Cornelia’s though I think it likely Lavinia would say something about him if he were. My best guess is that Lavinia’s relationship with Cornelia was through her mother’s side of the family (Wilcox).

In the letter, Lavinia mentions hearing of the recent death of Cornelia’s grandfather. I feel certain this is Adijonah Pangman (1758-1842) who was the father of Cornelia’s mother. Adijonah and his wife Mable Peck (1759-1830) are buried in Cornwall, Litchfield Co., CT.

Stampless Cover

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Groton, [New York]
September 6, 1842

Dear Cousin Cornelia,

Perhaps you may have concluded before this time that I do not intend to write you at all in answer to your last, written about the first of June. But let me tell you I had no such intentions. No, cousin, I never meant or wished our correspondence to close unless you requested it to be so so, and my vanity led me to suppose that you would not make the request. As we are situated, I think we may find time to write to each other occasionally at least.

You are married, have changed your name and residence, have formed new connexions, and entered upon new duties which must of course occupy much of your time. Therefore, I do not expect to hear from you by letter as often as formerly. Still I hope to now and then.

But before I proceed farther, I wish to explain to you the cause or causes of my long silence, for rest assured I am as much interested and delighted in hearing from you now as ever. I have been absent from Groton this summer visiting my relatives west (the Barstows) — those whom I had never seen before.

I had a very pleasant time indeed in forming new acquaintances and seeing new places. I have such a propensity for traveling that I am just suited when an opportunity offers for a journey. I should have been very happy to have taken you by surprise on my return home. I returned with one of my friends by private conveyance and came as near you as Geneva, but that was not quite near enough, you know.

We remained two days at Geneva and attended [the Geneva] College commencement there. I had the pleasure of seeing some of the “Big folks” and of listening to a splendid address from Dr. Pattee of Union College. I presume you have been at Geneva. Do you not think it very delightful?

I think it a little curious, Cos, that we have lived within one days ride of each other so long and have not yet been favored with a personal interview. But I really think, yes I do verily believe, that I shall see you this fall. Cousin Frederick has graduated and is engaged as teacher of Mathematics in Aurora Academy for the coming term, which is to commence on Wednesday of next week. He will wish some time in the course of the term to come home on a visit. Our people will send someone after him and I can go too. Is not this encouraging? I think it is. He has been passing the summer at Auburn, is now home a few days, but will leave tomorrow for Auburn when he will settle up his business and will be in Aurora the first of next week to commence his duties there. He says he shall call upon you as soon as convenient. So whenever you see a tall, light-complexioned, blue-eyed stranger making for your door, you may claim him for a cousin. I presume he will call frequently if his health will admit.

You say you expected Jane in July to spend some time with you. Has she been and returned home? I should have been very glad to have accepted your invitation to visit you in July had I been home. Remember me to her when you write her.

I intended when I began this letter to have said something about my visit to Connecticut last summer, but I perceive I shall not have room. When I see you, I must tell you all the particulars. We hear from Ct. often. Our friends there are in usual health except cousin Melvina. Her health is very poor indeed. We have heard of the death of your Grandfather which intelligence, I presume, you have received before this. I wish you to write me next week, if possible, and you shall receive an answer in less than two or three months.

Are you in your new house, living so neat and nice? And, above all, have you a “front yard?” Give my regards to my new cousin, Mr. G. What news do you get from Sangerfield? Is Maria married? Your mother told me something about it when here. I have a thousand questions to ask you but have no room. I remain ever the same — Lavinia Barstow

Uncle & Aunt send their respects to you and husband; also Cousin Frederick. I am spending my time with Aunt now. You ask me if I am about to enter the married state or purpose to live single. As to these matters I cannot tell and shall not probably make up my mind till I have seen you when I shall expect you to tell me just what you think of matrimony. You know I am not much in favor of such connexions. Besides, there must be just so many old maids to take care of the little ones. My own health is pretty good Adieu. L.B.

P.S. Perhaps you do not know that my Uncle De Lano at Ct., together with his family, are expected here this month or next to live. You remember visiting them, do you not?


Ancestral Chart for Lavinia Wilcox Barstow

Ancestral Chart for Cornelia Pangman Norton

  • Doctor Samuel Barstow, son of Seth Barstow, of Sharon, Conn., came here (Barrington) about 1808, and engaged in practice with his brother, Gamaliel II. Barstow. Samuel was a democratic politician, and was a fine supporter of the right of his country, a member of the State Senate in 1812. He died in Barrington at the age of 36, in 1813, June 26th, of an amotion of liver and stomach; bore his long sickness with calm resignation, and died in hope, greatly lamented. Gamaliel removed to Broome county, N. Y.; was a member of the New York State Senate, State Treasurer of New York, and a member of Congress.” (Taylor.)
  • Oliver A. Barstow. “Mr. Barstow is a fine old gentleman of friendly ways, who is quiet in his demeanor and honest in his purposes. He is plainly a thinking man, though of few word?, and, when convinced of the justice of a measure, his mind is not easily shaken in its conclusions. His ancestors came from England, in 1635, and settled in Hanover, Massachusetts; they were, for several generations, seafaring men and ship-builders. He was born in Great Barrington, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, in November, 1809. He is the youngest child of Doctor Samuel Barstow, a gentleman of excellent talents, who was reputed a skillful physician, and was held in high esteem in the political circles of Massachusetts. At the time of his death, which occurred in 1812, he was a member of the Senate of his State.

    Oliver A. Barstow remained with his mother, acquiring such education as could be obtained in the common schools, until he was sixteen years of age. In the mean time, he had not only gathered to himself quite a fund of knowledge, but he had also been favored with all of those pure influences which pervade a home presided over by a mother. In 1825, he became a member of the family of his uncle, the Hon. Gamaliel II. Barstow, of Nichols, Tioga county, New York, who was then Treasurer of this State, and who had previously been a member of both branches of the Legislature, and First Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Tioga county. In passing, it is due to Judge Barstow’s memory, to say that, as State Treasurer, he bore a spotless official record. The same may be said of him with reference to every office which he ever held. His election to Congress, in 1830, was an honor well bestowed, and his intimate acquaintance with political reminiscences, rendered valuable aid to Mr. HamMond in the preparation of the Political History of New York. Young Oliver remained in his uncle’s family until he was twenty-one. It is to be supposed that his character was shaped by his surroundings, for his uncle’s frugality, sound practical sense, and eminent honors, must have have had their weight upon the young man; ‘and these things, coupled with the trainings of his earlier days, left a lasting impression on his memory. In 1830, he went to the Western States, and found employment as clerk on some of the river steamboats. But he remained in the west only a year or two, and then returned to Tioga county and went into business. His life has been industrious and laborious, his attention being directed to merchandising, lumbering and agriculture. In whatever undertaking Mr. Barstow has embarked, he has put his own hand to the oar, and weathered storms which would have made more timid natures shrink.

    Politically, he was, in past years, a Whig, but ever since the organization of the Republican party, he has uniformly acted with it. He has been Supervisor of the town of Nichols, several years, and, for the last twenty-three years, has been Justice of the Peace. In his election to the Legislature of the present year, he received twelve hundred majority over his opponent, Daniel D. McDowell. Mr. Barstow is a member of the Committee on Canals, in which capacity we believe he will be of material benefit to the State.

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