1848: Aunt E. to Sally Bradford Leonard (Ingell) Norris

The identity of “Aunt E.” who wrote this letter has not yet been revealed. She was likely born around 1790 and lived in the Taunton, Bristol Co., Massachusetts area in 1848. She states in the letter that she has three children living in St. Louis in 1848. And, of course, we know that she was the aunt of the recipient of this letter, Sally Bradford Leonard Ingell (1808-1891). Sally’s parents were Abiathar Ingell (1763-1828) and Prudence Leonard (1773-1809). Sally’s husband was Dr. Benjamin Norris (1803-1870) of Rhode Island, the son of Benjamin Norris.

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[Addressed to Mrs. Sally B. Norris, Care of Doct. B. Norris, Pittsfield, Illinois]

March 13, 1848,

My ever dear Sally,

I cannot remember when I have been more gratified than by the reception of y[ou]rs – and now among five letters that I have to answer, yours shall be the first and the longest. Yet I direct letters westward with a feeling of despair for somehow they are never received. I answered y[ou]r letter a year ago promptly and wondered at y[ou]r silence, and perhaps this too will not reach you. But if it does, I hope you will not fail to acknowledge it, and at the same time believe that if you receive not my letters, I have not failed to write. I am tired of writing letters to no earthly purpose. Our three children in St. Louis are constantly complaining of my not writing, when I have & do discharge all debts at sight. Do not you doubt me, dear Sally, for indeed I have only clung too closely to old friends for my happiness and to my new ones, I devote myself with all my ability and more.

I have some news from dear New England, but not all pleasant. Frances Williams is married to old Doct. Baylies. Alfred Baylies, his son, who married Jane Richmond has died leaving her with two children (one unborn at his death) and without means of living. She & her children have gone to live with Mrs. Chandler. Sarah Duxbury’s husband is a sot and she reduced to extreme poverty.

Mr. [Charles] Richmond is bankrupt again = a most astonishing circumstance has occurred. Don’t you remember old Mrs. [Lucy] Eddy who formerly lived in our family when you were a little child? [She’s the] mother of Sam Woodward’s wife, of a Mrs. Wilbur, of Sally Amanda Eddy, & perhaps other daughters of ill fame. For many years Mrs. Eddy has lived with & governed old Mr. [Galen] Hicks – not much to any credit in public opinion. It seems Mr. Richmond, in order to get funds for business, paid great court to old Eddy, inviting her to dine with him, to ride out with him, & bringing her presents from Europe. Finally he got old Mr. [Galen] Hicks on paper to the amount of $100,000. Mr. Richmond has fouled again and could only secure Mr. Hicks in a Mill valued at 40,000. Mr. Hicks, greatly troubled at his losses, reproaching Mrs. Eddy & denies his signature to two of the papers. Mr. [Charles] Richmond was arrested on the charges of attempting Mr. [Galen] Hick’s life by prussic acid & croton oil – and of forgery? On trial, [Charles] Makepeace – who had married Amanda Eddy & was the witness, so obviously perjured himself on the charge of attempting murder that Mr. R_____ discharged [the case] on both accounts. Mrs. Eddy, greatly enraged, is willing to swear to anything against him. Caroline Hicks is married to a second husband, Mr. Van Zandt, the prosecutor in this affair.

Sam’l King was, as he supposed, knocked down one evening & left senseless near his own door, but as neither he nor any body can imagine who did it, many suppose it must have been a fit & that in his struggles, his ear was torn to pieces. He has been slowly recovering & somewhat deafened.

Mr. Shepard has been dangerously ill. This is about the amount of T[auton] news. Cousin Nancy (George Breed’s sister) has lost her second husband & cousin Sarah Breed (Mrs. Allen) is dead.

I rejoice that little Willie has gained his calf & foot, but beware of Chloriform – it has killed people, and is getting into disrepute. I have got to the end of my paper & have not said half what I wished, but when you tell me this is received, I shall have more disposition to trust the Mail. Remember me to your friends my acquaintance. With love to you & yours. Affectionately, your Aunt E.


Newspaper account of attempted murder trial

  • Dr. Benjamin Norris, a graduate of Brown University, … came in 1835 to Pittsfield. He was a native of Rhode Island. He was a leading physician, and very useful and successful, as numerous families can well attest. He was skilled as an entomologist and sent some valuable and rare specimens of insects to the Smithsonian Institution: he had some rare specimens and a large cabinet of insects collected by himself which he left in high state of preservation at his death.” History of Pike County, A Centennial Address delivered by Hon. William A. Grimshaw at Pittsfield, Pike County, Illinois, July 4, 1876
  • Click here for a letter written by Sally Norris to her husband in 1837.
  • Francis Amelia Williams (1813-1900), daughter of Abiathar Williams and Nancy Dean, married Dr. Alfred Baylies in Taunton, Massachusetts on 21 November 1847. On 13 September 1849, they had a child named Maria Williams Baylies.
  • Alfred S. Baylie (b. 1815, son of Dr. Alfred Baylie), died in Taunton, Massachusetts, on 12 August 1847. He was married to Jane Ingell Richmond.
  • Amanda Eddy married Charles Makepeace in Boston on 5 November 1827.
  • Sarah Johnson Breed (1789-1848) was married to William Allen (1784-1868) and lived in Northampton, Massachusetts. She died 25 February 1848. She was the daughter of John McLaren Breed & Rebecca Walker.
  • Nancy Breed (1788-1868) and George Breed (b. 1799), were the children of Shubael Breed (1759-1840) and Lydia Perkins (1767-1861) of Stonington, CT. Nancy’s first husband, William Coit Williams (1781-1818) died at sea. Her second husband, Nathan Whiting (1772-1848) died on 19 February 1848.
  • Prussic Acid is the historical common name for Hydrogen Cyanide.
  • Rev. Galen Hicks (widower) died of consumption on 8 November 1848 in Taunton, Massachusetts. He was 76 years old. His wife had died in 1833.

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