1849: Abigail (Billings) Williams to Elizabeth (Billings) Barber

This letter was written by Abigail (Billings) Williams (1782-Aft1849) to her sister, Elizabeth (Billings) Barber (1777-1859). They were the last two surviving children of Capt. Alpheus Billings (1746-1820) and Elizabeth Wickwire (1750-1824). In the letter, Abigail mentions their deceased sister Nancy (Billings) Royce, wife of Solomon W. Royce. Nancy died in October 1847. She also mentions the recent death of their sister, Hannah (Billings) Barber, the wife of James Noyes Barber. Hannah died in January 1849 in Ohio.

Col. Smith kept a store in Springport that also served as the Post Office. He sold groceries and clothing.

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Addressed to Mrs. Elizabeth Barber, Care of Col. Smith, Spring Port, Cayuga County, New York

Havre de Grace [Maryland]
September 5th 1849

Dear Sister,

I now attempt to write to you & hope you are well & the family. I have been delaying writing as I have never received any answer from the letters I have written. I now write once more & hope you may receive this & that I may get an answer.

I was very sorry I did not know for certain that Mr. Royce was going to see you. I should have written & sent you a present. Margaret thought she could not go to leave her family. I was very sorry that they did not go to see our dear sister. She was very ill at that time. You no doubt have had the news of her death. Yes, she is gone & you & I are only left out of nine & our turn will soon come & hope we may be as well prepared as them that are gone. Mr. Royce told you of my being at his house & the particulars of our dear sister Nancy’s death.

I have received several letters from Mr. Barber & family — one lately from Fanny; Mrs. Jones. She wrote me all the particulars of her dear Mother’s death. She said she was the happiest person she ever saw. She not only expressed a willingness but a desire to be gone. She said, “Don’t mourn for me. If you knew how happy I am, you would not mourn.” She said no one could enter her sick room without being profited. One or the other of her daughters was with her all the time & Mr. Barber never left her. I think Fanny must be a fine woman by her writing. When I look back to days past & gone, I am lost in wonder how we have been separated living so far asunder & we have neglected to keep up that communication that we ought to have done. I feel very thankful that I went to see Nancy. I had a pleasant visit although mingled with grief. I should have staid longer but was unwell & afraid I shall be laid up. Mr. Royce’s sons are fine, sturdy men: 6 are professor of religion. I feel as if it was a kind Providence that directed Hannah & Mr. Barber’s visit here. They said they were very anxious to see us & know of our welfare — both temporal & spiritual. He appeared to enjoy religion very much. I went as far as Baltimore with them. It was hard to part but I hope we shall all meet to part no more.

My dear husband [James] has been dead two years 25th last June. He had been declining for a year or more. He died with a paralytic. He made a profession of religion & was baptized at eight years. His funeral sermon was preached from Matthew 25th-34th. Henry & Elizabeth joined at the same time. Henry always had a particular feeling for you. He has 3 children: 2 daughters — Laura and Cornelia — [and] a son 2 weeks old. I want them to call it Joseph Henry. Abby’s family are well except herself. She is quite unwell. Benjamin has one child — a daughter. Elizabeth has 3 children. William lives in the house with me. He has a son — calls him William James. Mr. Billy William & Mr. Bartol died last summer. Mrs. William enquires after you.

Old Mrs. Knight has been dead about a year. Lewis William is a Doctor on board one of the States Ships. You would not know Havre de Grace. Now I must close & hope you will try to answer this. I should like to see you & the once dear little Abby but never expect to in this world. I never shall forget the time I parted with her nor the tears I shed that night. I thought it a great trial then & so it was for I loved her. But I have seen many severe trials since then, but if they work for the good, we shall say it is good to be afflicted.

I remain your affectionate sister, — Abigail Williams

I shall get William to subscribe this letter.


One response to “1849: Abigail (Billings) Williams to Elizabeth (Billings) Barber

  • Patricia Enger

    Thank you so much for posting this! Hannah Billings Barber and James Noyes Barber are my great + Grandparents… This is just wonderful…

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