This letter was written by William Stevens Balch (1806-1887) of New York City to his half-sister, Maria (Balch) Peabody (1820-1848), the wife of Samuel H. Peabody (1820-1903) of Andover, Vermont. William’s parents were Joel Balch (1774-1845) and Betsy Stevens, who died of tuberculosis in 1810 when William was only three. Joel’s second wife was Abigail Joy Edwards (1786-1852) who was the mother of Maria.
William S. Balch was a prominent Universalist preacher, as well as “an evangelist, a denominational organizer, journalist, politician, teacher, and historian.” Having mentored many students for the ministry, he “promoted formal theological education and was a founder of St. Lawrence University.”
[Addressed to Mrs. Samuel Peabody, Andover, Vermont]
April 5, 1847
Dear Br & Sister,
I have made some inquiry about horses and find the market to be dull – except for fancy horses – very handsome, very fast and always sell quick and high. They must be beauties and trot a mile in 3 minutes. Then they will go at any price. Common horses sell slow at present. Dr. Harriot did not like his and he has sold or swapped it. Somehow it did not turn out well for what he wanted.
If you should conclude to come on with it [your horse], I will do what I can. But expense & risk won’t be considerable. The river is not open to Albany yet, but doubtless will be in a day or two.
I am not exactly sure of going West. A circumstance has occurred which may prevent it for a time. If I do not, [I] think I shall go to Europe and travel a few months.
We were happy to hear of your improving health and of the present [an infant daughter] you have received. I hope it will be long spared for a comfort to you and a blessing to the world. The care of children is great and the responsibility incalculable. We hardly begin to live before our whole life is bound up in providing for others – for the generation to come after. It is but a day since we were cared for by our parents and now we, in turn, are to provide for our children. Well, such are the progressions of life. But soon we shall go to the enjoyment of that life where success shall be more permanent and happiness more perfect.
We are at present in very good health – all of us. Mine has not been better in years. Indeed, I count myself well thanks to the “Cold Water Cure” and a plain diet. I have taken three baths daily — been wrapped in cold wet sheets, set in a tub of cold water for a hour at a time – had a stream two inches in diameter falling thirty feet on to my limbs, been steamed and a wet bandage around me night and day – changed every few hours wrung out of cold water, &c &c. & I should add, drank from 5 to 20 tumblers daily — sometimes 8 before breakfast. I have eat and drank nothing hot – no tea, coffee, meat, nor grease of any kind. I have gained 23 lbs. and now weigh more than I have in twenty years – 166. We use nothing but water for a cure. Croup is removed at once by a wet bandage about the neck – changed as it gets warm, and drinking freely of cold water. A sure cure. Oh, had I that good spring in our old west field. I won’t count it a fortune if situated just where I could wish. It is worth more than all the Dr’s. nostrums in the land. I have good reason to be enthusiastic.
If you conclude to risk a journey to sell your horse, just write me and I will be at home and do what I can.
By the way, I have been thinking this must be a good sugar year if with you as ir has been here. What is the price of good clean maple sugar, well drained, first quality? If I should remain here, I will buy some – it is so good for sauces. Perhaps you can make a turn about or top trees and make a lot. Shant it sell as cheap as it has sometimes. I don’t take two or three hundred. Please write me.
Adaline and the children send lots of love. Remember me to Mother, [my sisters] Susan [and] Betsy, and all friends.
Fraternally years, — Wm. S. Balch