1845: Seth Ely Case to Albert E. Morrison

What Seth E. Case might have looked like in 1845.

This letter was written by Seth Ely Case (1825-1864) while attending Yale College in December 1845. He was the son of Col Aurora and Betsy Case of Simsbury, Connecticut. After graduating from Yale in 1847, Seth married Minerva E. Wilcox (1830-1868) and became a successful lawyer in New Britain. He was one of the shareholders of the Walnut Hill Park Company, and later became a Judge of Probate for the District of Berlin. Case was involved in many church and civic causes and was president of “The New Britain Young Men’s Christian Social Union”. He died suddenly at the age of thirty-nine in 1864.

Seth wrote the letter to his prep school chum, Albert E. Morrison (1820-1873), the son of John Morrison (1791-1870) and Betsey Palmer (1794-18xx) of Willington, Connecticut. Albert became a physician and gentleman farmer in Windsor, Connecticut. He married Harriet Elizabeth Bartholomew (1824-1864) in 1851. From this letter, we learn that Seth Case and Albert Morrison attended the Ellington Institute together before pursuing their separate professional careers.

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Addressed to Albert Morrison, Esq., Pittsfield Massachusetts, Willington, Connecticut

Yale College,
December 7th 1845

Dear Albert,

There is no more pleasing task than that of writing a letter to an old friend, provided the resistance of “Inertia” is once overcome. Get the paper spread out on table arm, placed on the same, pen firmly clinched in hand, old associations scared out of their dormitory & the weight, which has long lain like the centre of gravity of the Universe on one’s conscience, tormenting his dreams & embittering the serenity of his waking hours, immediately dissolves into nothingness. The pen which was before gazed at as a useless tool now becomes the most efficient engine & what which lay imbecile in a pool of stagnation bristle up, shake their feathers, & are prepared for a gay & rapid flight. Well what if they are — let em fly.

Albert Morrison! What are you doing? What have you become? How do you like your residence of the Polar snows? By the way, it’s cold enough down here. Give an account of yourself. [William Lorenzo] Humason asks me every time I go home, “Have you heard from Morrison? What has become of him? Has he turned hermit? I haven’t heard from him since I left Ellington.” Others make the same inquiries. Such a state of things must exist no longer. You must either show yourself down here in Connecticut or publish a ten volume edition history of yourself. Instead of dancing in your train of mountain nymphs, why wasn’t you present to Charlotte in her distress — to relieve her from the greatest agony under which she ever labored? Surely she was worthy to experiment upon. Two days after the bowel tearing conflict, I was invited to behold the result of her labors. Charlotte lay in her bed smiling like a moon beam — little innocent was being dandied on the mid-wife’s knees. Charlotte solemnly betrothed it me & I as solemnly accepted the offering. O blest celibacy! I behold thy charms in the distance!

Jeffrey remains at home — growing shady — much attached to business. Mary has gone to New York with Charlotte. [William Lorenzo] Humason continues teaching in Weatogue; has a large school in Winter, small in the summer. Does not intend teaching there, I think, after this season. Has been long reported as intending to marry Eunetia Eno. Things indicate such an event, I should think, but he delays so long I shall soon cease expecting.

We received a letter from Eliason last vacation written on birch bark from near Lake Superior. He appears to be engaged in lots of business speculation, surveying, farming &c. Swears he’ll be rich in ten years. However, you have probably heard from him since myself.

With these exceptions, the graduates of Old Ellington — both male & female — have been to me as if they were not. I hope the males have all made their fortunes [and] the females met with Heaven’s choicest gift — rich, handsome & indulgent husbands. God bless them! As to myself, I cannot give you much news. What I was, that I am still — older & crosser, it is true. [I am] steadier perhaps, & less fond of women. Yet I am virtually the Aunt Betsy of Ellington — which appellation, however, I am not honored with her as it is know in but one or two instances. A college life is as undeviating in its course as is the revolutions of the heavens around their common centre.

Yale Professor Denison Olmsted

As far as concerns the knowledge of the world, it is four years of non-existence. Still, thank God there is progress & in my view, the latter end is not so bad as the first. After having for some time been delving in the dry, mathematical, theoretical part of Philosophy, we have at length arrived at the practical division, which is illustrated by two lectures a week from Proff [Denison] Olmsted attended by experiments. In fact, our brains do fare somewhat better than they did, for it must be admitted that dead languages & pure mathematics, is somewhat indigestible fodder.

Latin & Greek constitute a ____ — an excellent study, but after having been pursued four years without change, they bring a satiety. I believe we drop them next term unless we prefer to continue them as optionals. I think I shall take French. Our recitations during the week are fewer than they were. The full number continues in the morning, but at 11, there are but four during the week, & in the afternoon but two. Still we can find enough in the shape of reading, writing, & debating to occupy every portion of our time.

There is a fellow here attending medical lectures who was pointed out to me as lad from Tolland. He is a tall & most ungainly looking genius & it struck me he might be the lad who attended school at Ellington — & whom I have often heard you mimic to my uncontrollable laughter. I do not recollect where the latter one was from, but I imagined a resemblance.

Morrison, I wish to have you in your physical investigations analyze the subject of teeth to a nicety. Don’t leave a nerve unexperimented upon nor a prong untouched. And if at length you can come out with an invention which will relieve mankind of the horrors of the teethache, then you will be immortalized as their benefactor. A few nights ago, I spent the entire interval from eight until eight, in cursing the dullness of physicians because they had not invented a remedy for this matchless species of torture. Not one minute was I relieved from pain on account of the worthlessness of you, confounded lazy sect. Use the “cold iron” you paltry coward, says the enraged & scornful doctor. Very well but we can’t take them to bed with us, & if we could, when is the operation? Besides the nerves are so related to each other that if one tooth leaves, his mate begins to clamor & the matter is in a worse state than before. Therefore, I say in spite of dentists who never yet were of any benefit except to pick the pockets of the poor — in spite of them I say investigate this chief of subjects. Show yourself a philanthropist and save me from the sin of any more nights pursed in cursing sleeplessness.

I look back to the time when we were associates together at Ellington as one of the happiest periods of my life. I am frequently reminded of some of the tricks which it was “our lot” to be particulars in. This season of the years remind me of the apple bin up in the fourth story & my mouth waters at the thought. Then again, good friends former & the ____ with accompanying circumstances steals across my memory. The statesman-like dignity with which we remonstrated against the oppressive demands of Mr. Kellogg. The hervinian of the ladies has put many a blue devil to a precipitous flight. I know that the beauty of their pictures is heightened the older they become. Still I am not to be cheated out of the idea that we did not have some real substantial enjoyment & that the associations connected with them are worthy of all the sacredness which they possess. But the actors in those scenes are separated & the place itself appears the ghost of what it was. I cannot look upon Old Ellington Institute without a sensation of lonesomeness not unalloyed with melancholy. I know your situation & business, perhaps that of Eliason, that of one or two other & with these exceptions, I am ignorant of the residences, occupations, & prospects of the jovial throng of Ellington. I imagine you have long since ceased to think of the lovely mountain nymph on account of the defacing influence of former impressions caused by the winning smiles of the handsome Pittsfield lasses. But I think I recollect that all of these might charm in vain for Broad Brook (I may be mistaken in place) contained a greater charm than them all, being as I suppose toward the end of professional course. God grant that you may seal the diploma with the kiss of an amiable & beautiful partner.

And now, getting rather compressed in my limits, I must close with enjoining upon you to give an immediate account of yourself in order that I may have the pleasure of informing our friends whom I may in the coming vacation & ____ with assuring you that you have the best wishes both as regards your health…

Your friend, — Seth E. Case


  • Denison Olmsted (June 18, 1791 – May 13, 1859), U.S. physicist and astronomer, was born at East Hartford, Connecticut. Professor Olmsted is credited with giving birth to meteor science after the 1833 Leonid meteor shower over North America spurred him to study this phenomenon. In 1813, he graduated from Yale University, where he acted as college tutor from 1815 to 1817. In the latter year, he was appointed to the chair of chemistry, mineralogy and geology in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here he proposed and executed the first state geological survey that was ever attempted in the United States, publishing reports of his work in 1824 and 1825. Although the state authorized the execution of the survey, Olmsted received no compensation for his services. In 1825, he became professor of mathematics and physics at Yale. He published an elaborate theory of hail-stones in 1830, which caused much discussion, but finally received the general approbation of meteorologists. The shower of shooting stars that fell in November 1833 attracted his attention, and he studied their history and behavior until he was able satisfactorily to demonstrate their cosmical origin. Olmsted and his associate, Elias Loomis, were in 1835 the first American investigators to observe the Halley’s Comet. In 1836, his Yale professorship was divided, and he retained that of astronomy and natural philosophy, the department of mathematics being assigned to Anthony D. Stanley. For several years, he carried on a series of observations of the aurora borealis. Olmsted possessed considerable mechanical talent, which he used in promoting and perfecting the inventions of others, but while he himself frequently invented articles of convenience and comfort, such as the Olmsted stove, he seldom secured his rights by patents. He died at New Haven, Connecticut, on the 13 May 1859. Source: Wikipedia
  • William Lorenzo Humason (1820-1889) married Eunetia Minerva Eno (1824-1915) as predicted in this letter. The wedding occurred on 10 May 1846 in Simsbury, Connecticut. William was the son of Jeremiah Humason (1781-1846) and Roena Barber (1802-1836). In 1853, Humason became a partner in the Humason & Beckley Manufacturing Company of New Britain, Connecticut, which produced fine cutlery and other hardware.

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