1843: Olive E. (Page) Kenney to Hannah H. Clough

Great Comet of 1843

This letter was written by Olive E. Page. She married George W. Kenney (b. @ 1820) on 11 December 1842 in West Newbury, Essex Co., Massachusetts. I believe that Olive died in the 1850s leaving George with three children: Edward H. Kenney (b. 1844), George F. Kenney (b. 1847), and Warren W. Kenney (b. 1852). George is found residing in Salem, Essex Co., Massachusetts in 1860 and 1870.

The recipient of the letter was Hannah Clough in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. I believe that this is the same Hannah H. Clough who married Asa Clark on 7 August 1844 in Barnstead, New Hampshire.

Miller’s year of the Second Advent dawned with the appearance of the most brilliant comet anyone could remember. This letter was written on 12 April 1843, soon after the Great Comet of 1843 was seen in the skies. First observed in early February, by February 27 it was observed in broad daylight roughly a degree away from the Sun. It passed closest to Earth on March 6, and was at its greatest brilliance the following day. It was last observed on April 19. This comet developed an extremely long tail during and after its perihelion passage. The vision of the Great Comet heightened the religious enthusiasm of the Millerite sect.

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TRANSCRIPTION

Addressed to Miss Hannah Clough, Pittsfield, New Hampshire

West Newbury [Massachusetts]
April 12, 1843

Absent Friend,

It is indeed natural to us to wish and to plan, and it is merciful in the Lord to disappoint our plans and cross our wishes. I confess I have been negligent in writing. I have set time after time to write you but something would happen to disappoint me. Do not think I have forgotten you. Believe me, there is scarcely a day passes but what I think of you as well as my other Hampshire friends [and] the many acts of kindness you all have conferred upon me, which I hope ever to be grateful.

I am at present quite ill – have the Tic Doloreaux in my teeth and head – also in my side and stomach. Have not been able to finish combs for 3 weeks. Am bloated considerable. Am taking a new kind of medicine for the dropsy which the paper stated would cure the dropsy. The ingredients are these: 1 half pound of white mustard seed, 1 handful of horse raddish root, and two small garlicks steeped in one gallon of Holland gin. Take one table spoonful three times a day before eating.

My mode of living is quite simple. I eat no kind of food whatever, nor fruit, but live entirely on milk. Can drink as much new milk with nothing in it as I wish, although I have not been taking this about a week. I feel as though I wanted salting. This method of living has cured the dropsy when all kinds of medicine has failed. I am determined to give it a fair trial. I verify believe it will not hurt me like the poisoned calomel [even] if it does no good.

I suppose you have heard that I have changed my name. Mr. Kenny is well. We board with Miss Pillsbury. She is very kind and obliging. She is a real mother to me. Perhaps you will not thank me for writing about one that is an entire stranger. I merely wish to let you know that I find real friends among strangers. I want to see you more than pen can express. I wish to know how you do, where you are, and how you enjoy your mind. I have heard there has been a revival recently in Pittsfield and Barnstead. Dear H., are you not enjoying it? Also O.? I trust you are. How many times I have thought of the happy meetings we have had together – the many hours we have spent in each other’s society. Can those days all be forgotten? No, methinks your heart will respond with mine and say there is reality in religion. Although I do not enjoy my mind so well as it is my priviledge to. My mind is unstable [and I] am too much allured with the vain things of earth. Could I see my own heart as God sees it and realize how fast time passes – how I must give an account for every moment – I should shrink beneath the burden and cry Lord have mercy on me. I may not long have a place in this world. The messenger of pain and disease are daily sent to inform me that I am mortal. Experience is the best school. Did we not suffer with pain, we should not know how to prize our health and the use of our limbs. It is by our sufferings we learn to pity and sympathize with others. Afflictions do us good as they make us more acquainted with what is in our own hearts and thereby promote humiliation and self-abasement.

Yes, dear friend, you have been deeply afflicted by being bereaved of a kind and valuable friend. In his last days, life must almost have been burdensome. He is now freed from all suffering. I hope and trust is now possessing all happiness. Dear friend, I trust the Lord has favoured you with an habitual sense of the wisdom and propriety of all his appointments so that when his will is manifested by all the event, you are enabled to say all is well. I fear your patience will be exhausted in reading such an epistle, barren of ideas. I, therefore, forbear writing more on this subject.

There has been some excitement about Millerism and the comet here but not so much as the cause of slavery. There has been one or two fugitive slaves lecturing in the place. They have set forth slavery and the awful abominations of it in its true light, and many of the people here begin to see and feel that it is an awful sin to have parents torn from their children, husbands separated from their wives, and sold in bondage and manacled in chains, beat and bruised, by the wicked slaveholder. This is not the rule our saviour laid down. When will slavery be abolished?

I had almost forgotten to mention Abby’s name. She and her family are well. Her babe grows nicely. His name is Albert True. She has got a very pretty house. I should think she might enjoy herself as to this world’s goods and even to meetings for they are very [illegible writing…..] have her choice. Asenath and family are well. If you can read this, you will do well. If you cannot, just run down and I will read it for you. Please answer this if you think it is worthy of your notice. Nothing would please me more than to have you and Dolly _____ jump into the stage and come and make me a good visit. Give my respects to all enquiring friends. Yours with respect, — O. E. Kenny

FOOTNOTES

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN), tic douloureux (also known as prosopalgia, the Suicide Disease or Fothergill’s disease) is a neuropathic disorder characterized by episodes of intense pain in the face, originating from the trigeminal nerve. It has been described as among the most painful conditions known. It is estimated that 1 in 15,000 people suffer from TN, although the actual figure may be significantly higher due to frequent misdiagnosis. In a majority of cases, TN symptoms begin appearing after the age of 50, although there have been cases with patients being as young as three years of age. It is more common in females than males.

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