1846: Mary Elizabeth Field to Stephen J. Field

This letter was written by Mary Elizabeth Field (1823-1856) who resided in New Haven, Connecticut, with her older sister Emilia Ann (Field) Brewer (1807-1861), Emilia’s husband, Rev. Josiah Brewer (1792-1872), and their children, Henrietta, Fisk, David, Emilia, Marshall, and Mary. She wrote the letter to her brother, Stephen J. Field (see biography below). Mary, Stephen, and Emilia were the children of Rev. David Dudley Field and Submit Dickinson, who resided in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, at the time this letter was written. Fisk Parsons Brewer, of whom much is said in this letter, graduated from Yale in 1852 and eventually became a Professor of Greek at the University of North Carolina, then the University of South Carolina, and finally at Iowa College (now Grinnell).

Stephen J. Field

Stephen J. Field was born on November 4, 1816, in Haddam, Connecticut. He was graduated in 1837 from Williams College, and for the next four years read law with his brother’s law firm. He was admitted to the bar in 1841 and practiced law with his brother for seven years. In 1849, after a trip to Europe, Field settled in Marysville, California. In 1850, he became the chief local administrative officer of Marysville. When California was admitted to the Union that same year, Field was elected to the State Legislature. There he drafted the criminal and civil codes for the new State. After he was defeated in a bid for the State Senate in 1851, Field resumed the private practice of law. In 1857, he was elected to the California Supreme Court, where he served for six years. On March 6, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Field to a newly created seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment four days later. Field retired from the Supreme Court on December 1, 1897, after thirty-four years of service. He died on April 9, 1899, at the age of eight-two.

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Addressed to Stephen J. Field, Esq., 41 Wall Street, New York [City]

New Haven [Connecticut]
June 7th 1846

My dear Brother,

Accept my warmest thanks for your most affectionate letter and the books which accompanied it. I wish that I could send you even one expression of love for each score of kindnesses received from you.

I know that you would be happy to hear of the success of our school. I do not believe that any one in New Haven has better prospects. The impression is abroad that scholars are made to study here. This prosperity has its natural effect upon the spirits of Mr. Brewer and Emilia. Both have a great deal of care and much labor to perform, but they now feel that it is to some purpose. They hope they shall soon be able to commence paying their old debts and this they will do with good heart when they have cancelled the few standing against them here. Every one thinks the school has met with wonderful success since it has been established. We ought indeed to be grateful that Providence has so ordered events for their happiness. Mr. Brewer does not need your assistance now and he hopes and thinks she shall soon be able to dispense with aid from every quarter.

Fisk is now attending the Grammar School – the best place to prepare boys for college in the city. He is a great favorite with the teacher who is proud of his scholarship. Still Mr. Olmstead thinks he had better not enter college this fall. Though he might possibly be prepared, yet another year’s study will be of essential advantage. In mathematics, he has already gone through the Freshman course and Mr. Olmstead would like to have him bring up his languages to the same point. All unite, therefore, in thinking he had better wait another year. What say you? He is a fine, studious boy and of a most upright, conscientious character, and I have no doubt will distinguish himself wherever he goes. Another year then he may be glad to accept your kind offer.

The other children are coming on finely. Henrietta is doing very well in her studies and music. Emilia is one of the best scholars in school. She excels all the children of her age whom I have ever seen. You can scarcely think of a more thorough, persevering little creature. She understands a lesson in Mathematics or History far sooner, and better too, than some of our number who are 5 and 6 years older.

David and Marshall & even little Adele are all in school and striving to see which will accomplish most. Emilia has reason to be, and I think is truly grateful that she has such promising children. In the present way, they will all be well educated, and what more can we ask?

You speak of a bonnet for me, dear Stephen. This is very thoughtful and kind in you. I wrote to Mary the other day enquiring the price of shined silk hats. Mrs. Durand had a beautiful one here which she bought in New York [City]. Hers cost six dollars and a half but I think a plainer one would be quite good enough for me. I did not direct Mary to purchase one but asked her is she was willing to take the trouble and how much I should probably have to pay for it. I did not give her very minute directions as to what I would like, but will do so as I am now about writing to her concerning other matters. Still I can easily bring myself for a willingness to do without a new hat this summer and I sincerely hope that you will not give yourself inconvenience for it. I shall feel your affectionate regard for my comfort just as deeply without it.

I could write to you a full hour longer and then leave much unsaid but the clock has just struck eleven and warns me that I must be prepared by rest for tomorrow’s duties. Do come and see us soon. Don’t you feel compelled to run away and enjoy a quiet country Sabbath? It’s a long time since we have seen you. Father and Mother were well when last heard from home. Love to all, your wife, &c. Good night my dear brother. Your ever affectionate, — Mary


I have just heard from home by our representative. All are well there. Father says he has bought a new horse and that he hopes to take Mother to Fomers next week. The General Association of the State meet here and it will be a pleasant time for Mother to revisit her native place. Both are anticipating much pleasure.

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