This letter was written by Mary Melanie Ely (1825-1877), daughter of Calvin Ely and Mary Tennent Grinnell. She wrote the letter to her future husband, Nicholas Bishop Keeney (1822-1905), son of Joseph Keeney (1780-1846) and Mary Bishop (1783-1877). Mary and Nicholas married in 1846.
[Addressed to Mr. N. B. Keeny, LeRoy, New York]
Cheektowaga, [Erie Co., New York]
Feb. 2nd 1845
Two weeks from Saturday night from have passed, and the manuscript which should have reached its destination at that time, lies yet blank before me. And now that I have “plentifully declared the thing as it is,” bear patiently with me while I set forth the reasons for which this seeming negligence should be forgiven. I meant to fulfill with promptness the engagement to write, and had commenced – when unexpectedly I started off to Aurora to attend the marriage of Miss Paxon’s sister. So suddenly did this occur that I had not time to send even a paper. I hoped that by this time I should have known something more of the Aurora school, but I do not. Miss Paxon has not yet returned. She may bring some intelligence. I hardly expect anything favorable. Indeed, I am not sure that it would be a favor to place me in school, as a teacher. However this may be, I feel many misgivings – many apprehensions.
Have you learned the secret of trusting the future with calmness and confidence to Him who says, “Commit thy ways unto the Lord and he shall direct thy steps.” I am afraid that I have not well learned it for though I sometimes try to give up all, and doing present duty leave the event with an overruling Providence, yet my unquiet spirit is ever vexing itself with fruitless care for the future or unavailing regrets for the past.
It was my intention to keep a diary from the day you left Cheektowaga and send you that in letter form that you might have all the occurrences in which I had been particularly interested and the different moods of mind that had possessed me. Had I fulfilled this design. I should sometimes have written from the overflowings of a contented heart. At other times my pen would have told sad tales of disaffection with the world and with myself. I sometimes am just ready to wish that I might be a “hermit in the crowd.” At other times, it is my joy to mingle in the busy haunts of life. O tell me Dear N., can you listen undisturbed alike to “mournful knells or joyous chimes” and when day is over smoothe down your cares and calmly breathe? Are you subject to this fitful fever which so agitated me? If you are not, tell me how to attain constant calmness.
I fear you will think I write like one who knows not whereof she discourseth. Well, be it so. I am a little beside myself tonight. Since last we met somethings have sorely tried me and I have found it difficult to preserve my equanimity. I will not repeat them now, for I fear that they would seem to you matters of little moment, accustomed as you are to the “rough and tumble of life.”
Tuesday. P.M. Did you get sick riding home in the storm? We were apprehensive that you would find it rather a serious affair – that storm – and regretted very much your leaving before the storm had ceased. I wondered much if with your place there were as beautiful traces of the falling sleet as there were here. Perhaps you remember the appearance of the trees and shrubs at the [Niagara] Falls two years ago when Miss Ingham’s Painting Class, with some others, visited them. This was like that, only that now the icy garments were transparent and in the sun glittered like diamonds. The unbroken surface of the snow lay like a polished mirror, suggesting to my imagination the “Sea of Glass” spoken of in the Apocalypse. With what ease and simplicity Nature can portray a landscape far excelling the [hard] labored performances of the Artist.
I alluded to the wedding. My Uncle S. did not find it convenient to [wait] upon us as Miss Paxon proposed and I did not much feel disposed to go with other company such as was at hand – you understand me – but feeling that more than one or two would be disaffected, we concluded to accept the proferred service of Cousin Columbus who waited upon us in his best style! The party consisted of thirty or forty – mostly the youth of Aurora – and cousins of the principal actors. A very pleasant time, especially to those whose thoughts were not wandering t the “loved and absent.” The Bridegroom appears to be [a] sensible, intelligent fellow – the finest looking gent in the company. The Bride [was] prettier than her sister whom you have seen, amiable, and rather genteel in her deportment.
Enough of this. We expect to go to Darien tomorrow to attend the Conference & perhaps the Missionary Meeting. I feel greatly dissatisfied with this which pretends to be a letter but my time is so far spent that I cannot possibly rewrite it if I go tomorrow to Darien. I hope to see Mr. Daniels there. I wonder if there will be anyone else from LeToy. I need not ask remember me in prayers, I know you will. “And thou shalt be remembered.” – M.M.E.
Thursday. A fearful storm has been blowing since Tuesday evening. For two and a half days the snow has fallen until now. “Dear Mother Earth” seems not only wrapped in a snowy shroud, but almost enclosed in a snowy mausoleum. So far from being able to attend at Darien. I fear it will be some time after a good while now that I shall be able to send this to the P.O. Having in mind this idea, I have broken the seal in order to talk more.
If you visit Rochester soon and can without inconvenience do something for me, please inquire for [John] Mason – On Self-Knowledge, and get a copy if there is one to be had. I have recently received a gift 1,50 cts. Which I design to expend in the purchase of one or more books. I can get in Buffalo the three volumes of [J.H. Merle] D’Aubigne’s History of the Reformation – bound in cloth for one dollar. It is a very excellent work. Had I not better get it? Perhaps you know of something that would be preferable. I wait to hear from you. You may be able to do better in Rochester if you are going, but do not put yourself to any inconvenience in relation to them.
Mrs. Prior’s history is received with great delight. I wish it was more extensively circulated here. There is but one other copy of it in this vicinity that I know of. But more, I wish that her self denying spirit was felt and her labors of love imitated. Reading of her patient sacrifices and unwearied toil and holy life, I was just ready to render the wish that her descending mantle might be felt on me that I might tread in her path. But the thought was checked as I read her own words, “Serve God, my dear, in the station where he places you” – a remark that she made to youthful friend in her lifetime, and the very one to apply to me – was it not? For O how infinitely far from doing it I am. May abundant grace be given! And unto both of us this blessing be added – purity of heart, holiness of life – diligence in the service of the Master of the vineyard.
Will you write soon? If you see fit to reprove me for filling up of margins and some other things which appear disorderly, I will try to take the reproof in a becoming manner, being already aware that it is deserved. As ever, Mily Ely
- Keeney, N. B., p. o. Le Roy, N. Y., was born in Le Roy, October 4, 1820. His father was a native of Connecticut and came to Genesee county in 1816. His mother was Mary Bishop; they had ten children, only two of whom are now living: Mrs. Emma K. Bixby, of St. Louis, and N. B. Keeney. Mr. Keeney was educated in the common schools and then engaged in farming. He now owns 2,400 acres of land in South Dakota, making sheep and cattle raising a specialty. He is also engaged with his son Calvin N., in the produce and seed growing business, in which they have a large and successful trade. Mr. Keeney married Mary M., daughter of Calvin Ely of Lancaster, N. Y.; they are the parents of Calvin N. Keeney and Mrs. Martha K. Robinson. Source: Our County and it’s people. A descriptive work on Genesee County, New York, Edited by: F. W. Beers. J.W. Vose & Co., Publishers, Syracuse, N. Y. 1890