1845: William Edgar Rust to Horace Bush

This interesting letter was written by William Edgar Rust (1822->1900), a native of Orwell, Addison Co., Vermont, where his sister Emily D. Rust lived with her husband, Horace Bush. Emily and Horace were the recipients of this letter. Horace’s parents were Stephen Bush (1771-1851) and Abigail Nichols (1772-1831). William and Emily were the children of David Rust (1769-1850) and his wife Mary Pearse (1782-1872).

From the content of the letter, it’s obvious that William Rust considered himself a physician but in 1845, he was having difficulty finding a suitable place to practice his profession without severe competition. To sustain himself, he has fallen back on his previous experience in teaching a select school — this time in the Erie Canal port of Macedon in western New York. The school was in the midst of a Quaker community.

William may have returned to Vermont to marry Mary E. Rice on 23 April 1848. There is a marriage record in Vermont under the name of William E. Rust. It is certain that he married Cynthia Smith in 1861. She was the daughter of Israel Smith and the granddaughter of Hon. Pliny Smith of Orwell, Vermont.

William may have gone to California to reside during or after the Civil War. The next record we can find for him is the 1880 Census where he and Cynthia are found enumerated in the town of Peninsula, Grand Traverse Co., Michigan. Oddly enough, the next notice of him is in 1900 in Worcester, Massachusetts, where at age 78 he is working as a machinist in an arms company. His wife Cynthia is shown (in 1900) residing with her unmarried twin sisters, Jane and Ann Smith, back in Orwell, Vermont.

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[Addressed to Horace Bush, Esq., Orwell, Vt.]

Macedon [New York]
6th November 1845

Dear Brother & Sister [Horace & Emily D. Bush],

According to my promise to you, I improve an early opportunity of giving you an account of my comings and goings since I left you. You have heard ere this that I am to stop in Macedon this winter and busy myself in teaching the young idea how to shoot. You can sympathize with me in my affliction if you recollect that of all things the business I am engaged claims my most unqualified abhorrence. But I am poor and must not grumble at what fate appoints me to do. My salary this winter is $18.00 per month – a good price you will say but much too small for the employment, I think. I am engaged for 3 ½ months. This will come to $63 you perceive if I remain for the full term. And unless I am turned out, I shall do so.

It is noon time now and to while away the time I am busily engaged in writing to you. Once since I have seen you, I have been sick; no mistake. The day before, I walked 20 miles in search of a school and that day 20 more. And I confess I was never before so completely used up. My feet were blistered and sprained, my head ached intolerably, and to make matters still worse, I could hardly stand so faint was I. I was then in Lyons. I got my trunks put on board a line boat and came up to Palmyra which place I am at present. You will please direct your letters to me at Palmyra, Wayne Co., N.Y. I shall find them there sooner than if you sent them to this place. Write soon for my sake. I am in the society of quakers and utterly without society save what I may get from letters. I trust I may not be forgotten by all my friends since now I am so dependent on them for amusement and interest.

The place here is beautiful and very fertile also. Near here is a farm of 100 acres for sale at $45 per acre. It might be bought for $40. It is the most beautiful situation I know of and far exceeds any we have in Orwell. There the land is more fertile by half than our best. ‘Tis a beautiful place and could one get half a dozen of our folks here would be a very delightful residence. I am enjoying good health and considering all things, am in fine spirits. But you know I have many things when I am teaching to consider. Write within one day after you get this and tell me of many things which I want to know and you do.

I intend returning to Vermont in the spring and stopping, or going south at once then. It won’t do to be idling way time if I intend to make myself a home; and a home I must and will have speedily as may be. This going with elbows out, I can’t stand – especially if I am at the same time conscious it will be a difficult matter to get them mended.

The West is jammed full of doctors and making a living  by our profession is a thing here not to be thought of. I have visited one town since I left Vermont (Vienna, [Oneida Co., New York]) which in a population of 2000, had 14 doctors. And that, I assure you, is but little more than a fair sample of the country. How do the profession live, say you? I said just so for a while, but at last I have the mystery unraveled. You couldn’t guess in a fortnight and so I’ll out with it. They marry rich wives. ‘Tis a fact and if I had not been such a simpleton, I could have gone into the speculation with a first rate chance of success for I come out under the patronage of an old Quaker worth some two or 3 times as much as common and of considerable influence. But my cake is dough & I’ll quit the country. I’ll have off now so as to have something to do tomorrow noon.

Nov. 7th. I have 35 minutes to spare this morning and I resume my letter to you as I can employ my time in no manner so pleasing to me. Last night I was gratified by the reception of a letter from Vermont. It came from one of my old classmates, Thos. J. Page – one of the best of fellows. That put me in good spirits for a while. I dare say they will last till Saturday (tomorrow) when I shall call at the office for another. If I can manage to receive two letters per week, I think now I may manage to get along tolerably well. I have written to every one in your parts I dare to and I shall expect their answers soon. I should have said something by letter to you ere this but I feared you would be negligent in answering.

Teaching a Seclect School

I have had 32 different scholars in my school and they tell me it will increase considerably yet. So you see, I am likely to have enough to do during school hours. I shall teach my scholars in the easiest way for me and at the same time in what appears to me to be the best way for them so that I may make time fly away pleasantly during the hours for teaching. They pay much more attention to schools here than they do amongst us, so I am not sure I can give as good satisfaction as I used to in Vermont.

I am boarding now with a quaker family who are all you would suppose those of this persuasion ought to be; I.E., they are plain, bigoted, and stupid. Tonight is the last night I shall stay with them so I consider myself nearly over one bad scrape.

The weather here has been beautiful since I arrived. It has been for some time an Indian summer. It is now past though.

Emily, I suppose you found my small knife which I left in your small work box. You admired it and I thought I would  leave something which might every now and then give your remembrance a jog concerning me. If it causes you to spare a moment to thoughts of me when you use it, it will be better occupied than it would be in making pens for my young quakers. Write me soon and consider when you do that the hour or two you spend in doing so whiles away a day or two for me. I suppose you are all as usual, enjoying yourselves first rate and I sincerely wish it long may continue to be so. Has Esther got home yet? And did she find her blue dress at Harry’s? Give her my respects, my ______. I don’t hardly know what expression Hannah Moore would make use of in such a case if you do use it.

Believe me ever, — your Brother, — William E. Rust

  • It was common for a teacher of a select school to obtain their room and board in the households their student’s families, usually staying a week or a month at a time with one family and then moving on to the next.
  • I think Rust is referring to Hannah More in his last paragraph.

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