This letter was written by William Gooding Packard (1816-1895), a native of Bristol, New York. He was reared on a farm and educated in East Bloomfield Academy. At 20 years of age, he engaged in teaching and taught 16 terms, spending one year (1845-6) in Illinois teaching at Yankee Settlement near Lockport. In 1848, William married Cynthia Gooding — the recipient of this letter. She was the daughter of Ephraim Gooding of Bristol, New York.
Yankee Settlement, Illinois never had a post office. It was settled by Eastern farmers — Yankees who came from any State east of Ohio. It was located in Homer Township and consisted of the northern part of New Lenox and the eastern part of Lockport.
Charles Codding is mentioned in this letter. His father was Faunce Codding – also from Bristol. “Codding, Faunce — Lot 5—A nail maker in Dighton, he continued his trade in Bristol and made the nails for his barn, the first structure of its kind in Bristol. He died in 1810, age 40; his widow and part of his family moved to Lockport, Illinois.”
[Addressed to Miss Cynthia Gooding, Bristol Center, Ontario Co., N.Y.]
January 16th 1846
Miss Cynthia Gooding,
Respected Friend – After a delay of something more than three months, I now with mingled feelings of pleasure and regret comply with my promise. The cause of my not writing before is not from a want of desire to hear intelligence from you, and also a desire to keep alive and cherish that mutual friendship (mysterious cemment of the soul) which I flatter myself once existed. My reluctance arose from being in doubt as to what kind of reception this epistle would meet. I had heard of so many weddings there, I did not know but you had become affected with the strange infatuation, caught the epidemic, and ‘ere this had been carried off by a matrimonial fever. Laboring as I was under such an apprehension until I received Cousin Simmons’es letter, I presume you will excuse my delay.
Since I last wrote you, I have traveled considerable & come in contact with a great many persons. In almost every place I have been, I found some one I had seen before.
I presume David has told you about our calling upon your cousin, which was a little curious. While traveling, something new every day presented itself which delighted the eye and amused the fancy; and time passed quite agreeably. Do not imagine that my lot has been cast in such pleasant places that I have so soon forgotten our former intimacy, and the circle of friends in whose company I enjoyed so much unalloyed pleasure. Not until friendship is turned into hatred, confidence into distrust, and respect into disgust, shall I cease to cherish with feelings of grateful remembrance those many friendly and highly prised tokens of respect which I have received. We cannot duly prise friends, friendship, and congenial society until deprived of them. Although it has been a short time since I left Bristol (there is something in that word that causes a thrill of joy whenever I hear it spoken), I think I can now more fully appreciate the value of tried friends. While you are enjoying all the sweets of social intercourse with relative and congenial friends every day exchanging friendly salutations; with associates to call and while away an agreeable hour; while you are circling round in pleasurer cheerful rings dissipating in hilarity and mirth; if your mind is not wholly engrossed, please bend a though to your absent friend.
I will not say that I envy you your enjoyments, but would esteem it a luxury to be there and partake of them. One week goes and another comes, and no friendly calls; one day passes after another and no cheerful greeting, no friendly salutations. Often when I have been in company, I have felt lonely and longed for a congenial friend – someone whose feelings were somewhat in unison with my own. While imagination is busy in forming plans for the future, memory is constantly bringing vividly to my mind a thousand little incidents that have occurred, the many social parties and confidential chats I have enjoyed.
I am now teaching school in a neighborhood of Eastern people in which there is quite a number of young people. I have become acquainted with only a few and have but little anxiety to. You can find all sorts here – Hoosiers, Suckers, and some lately from the &c. Some of them are intelligent, some coy, and others domestic.
How long it will be before I shall return to Bristol, time and circumstances alone can determine. I think, however, I shall be down next Spring or Fall. I am well pleased with the country; think it offers many inducements to emigrants. I was much surprised to hear of the death of our highly esteemed and much respected …[illegible]…– Mary Gregg. I have heard of several other deaths.
Osro. Benjamin, Charles Codding, Bartlett and Mitchel are within about four miles of me. Anson Jones and Dow Mason are in Chicago. I believe they are all weel, in good spirits, and at work. I have but little to write than can possibly be of interest to you, and owe you an apology for trespassing thus long upon your time and patience. I shall offer no other than the motives that dictated these lines. If in recurring to what is past you think my course is marked with impropriety and that I have been _____ means of causing unpleasant feeling, I hope you will do me the justice to think it not intentional, for certainly nothing was farther from my mind. You will please except my thanks for past favors and if I have not forfeited all claim to your friendly regards, that I shall receive another in the form of a letter. Do not imagine that I have become so much enamored with the fair of this place that other friends have no place in my mind. I want you to write all the new, how you enjoy yourself, what you are all a doing. My respects to all our friends.
Yours with respect, — Wm G. Packard
P.S. Write as soon as you receive this for I shall not be where I am now but a short time. Direct your letter to Lock Port, Will Co., Ill. – W.G.P.
The Dictionary of Wisconsin History explains the nickname, by way of its definition of “badger:”
The name ‘Badger’ state for Wisconsin had its origin in the lead mining districts of southwestern Wisconsin. Miners from the south (Illinois) in the early days were in the habit of working in the lead mines during the summer and returning south for the winter, migrating like suckers [a species of fish], hence the name ‘Sucker” state. Those who came from the east, however, could not return to their homes in the winter and made for themselves ‘dugouts’ in the sides of the bluffs and hills, burrowing like badgers, hence ‘Badgers’ or permanent residents of the Wisconsin country.”