1849: Benjamin Goodrich to Fanny (Goodrich) Simerwell

This letter was written by Benjamin Goodrich (b. 1815), the eldest son of Allen Goodrich, Jr. (1782-1842) of Mont Vernon, N.H., and Mercy Emerson (1791-1841) of Amherst, N. H.

Benjamin married Sophia Boutwell (1812-1881) and eventually moved to Iowa. This letter mentions Benjamin’s siblings, namely: Jarvis (1818-1853), Sarah (1822-1849), Asa (1824-1852), John Franklin (1826-1863) – who graduated from Harvard in 1849, Rebecca Francis (1828-1865), and Mercy Ann Emerson (b. 1830).  Benjamin mentions the previous death of his parents; Allen died 26 January 1842 at age 60. Mercy died 16 December 1841 at age 50.

Benjamin wrote the letter to his Aunt Fannie Goodrich. She was a younger sister of his father. Fanny Goodrich’s parents were Allen Goodridge (1749-1805) and Sarah Crosby (1756-1812) of Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. Her biography as well as her husband’s, Robert Simerwell, are below:

Robert Simerwell (1796-1868), a Baptist preacher, came to the United States from Ireland with his parents, his four brothers, and his sister, arriving in Philadelphia in the spring of 1812. All the members of his family died from ship fever except Robert, leaving him a 16 year-old orphan. He found employment as a blacksmith apprentice, receiving his food, lodging, and clothing, while he attended school at night. “He had then served as a missionary among the Pottawatomie Indians in Michigan Territory and later at the Baptist Shawnee Mission on Pottawatomie Creek in eastern Kansas. In 1848 the government set up a new mission a few miles west of Topeka. In a three-story stone building with twelve rooms, boys and girls were given instruction in the manual arts, as well as in reading, writing, arithmetic, and religious subjects.” In the fall of 1854, he and his wife, the former Fanny Goodrich (1789-1855), retired from active work in the Pottawatomie Mission, to homestead on 160 acres southwest of Auburn, Kansas Territory.

Fanny Goodrich Simerwell

Fanny Goodrich Simerwell. “As a mother, educator, pioneer, and missionary on the frontier plains of Kansas in the mid 19th century, though, Fannie’s life was anything but easy. In 1848, Fannie Simerwell and her husband Robert began work as educators at the newly established Potawatomi Baptist Manual Labor School along the Kansas River, near present day Topeka. Fannie and Robert were in their fifties at the time of arrival, and members of a small staff including missionaries such as Johnston Lykins and Eliza McCoy. Fannie assisted Eliza in teaching domestic skills to young Potawatomi girls while Robert taught blacksmithing. Fannie was born in the 1790s and grew up the daughter of a farmer in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. After moving to her sister’s home in Lexington, Kentucky, Fannie was recruited by the Baptist Church to work as a missionary at the Carey Indian Mission in Michigan. While in Michigan, she married Robert Simmerwell, and together they moved to Kansas in 1833 on the advice of Isaac McCoy, a fellow missionary. In 1848, Robert and Fannie were working at the Potawatomi Baptist Manuel Labor School. Finally retiring from active missionary work in 1854, Fannie and Robert built and moved to a nearby farm. Life for Fannie at the Potawatomi Baptist Manual Labor School was often difficult. Disease spread quickly in the close quarters of the school, killing both students and teachers. Work was hard and exhausting. Both students and teachers cooked, cleaned, and worked on the farm to keep the mission going. Limited funds and governance issues plagued the school. Attendance of Potawatomi students was often low due to competition with a nearby Catholic mission and the resistance of some tribal members to send their children to a white-operated school. Fannie and Robert wrote to their daughter Ann in 1853, “I think we will not stay long, the work is to [sic] hard for your mother and I.” Indeed, they did leave missionary work the following year.”

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[Addressed to Mrs. Fanny G. Simmerwell, Westport, Jackson County, Missouri]

Amherst [New Hampshire]
January 28, 1849

My Dear Aunt,

I take up my pen this time [to] converse with you on paper for the distance that are apart will not alow us to converse face to face. We are all enjoying a good degree of health and I hope that these few lines will find your family enjoying the same great blessing. Sence I wrote to you last, my health has been very pore. Directly after I had written, I took a very bad cold. A cought set in. I was very slim through the fall and winter. My lungs was very much affected. When the Spring come to open, I was taken down agin so that I was very slim through the month of April. After my cough got better, my side and stomach was so lame that I was not able to do much through the summer, but the warm weather had a good effect on me so that through the goodness of God that I have got my health so that am able to do something to support my family. How thankful I ought to be that the Lord saw fit to spare my life and that I now enjoy such a good degree of health now. But I am afraid that I don’t feel to say as good did that it was good for me to be affected. I think that I experienced religion in year 1835. I think that I found that comfort that the could not give nor take away. I think that I was willing to commit myself to God, but I soon lost my first love and I have not lived as a Christian ought to. It has been two years sence I have been could [called] to part with my Father and Mother and we must all soon follow them, and if we all live such lives that when we are could [called] to leave all things here below, that we may all be so happy as to meet our parents in [heaven]. What a happy meeting it will be, there to meet to part no more. How thankful we ought to [be] when we are called to part with our friends – to think that they have gone to that happy place where sin and sorrow cannot reign.

I suppose that you would like to know [how] the Baptist in Milford git along. I don’t know as I shall be able to give you much information about them but I think that thir cause is onward. The Deacons are yet alive and [a] good many of the old members you would find, if you could be permitted to attend meeting there. There is not one of our famley that goes to meeting there. They are all in Waltham, Mass. Jarvis is in the Baking business. Asa is [in] the store in Waltham. Sarah and Francis and Mercy Ann is there. Franklin is a gitting an education. I believe that he thinks of [preparing] himself for the Ministry. They all think that they have met with a change but Mercy Ann. But whether they have or not, the Lord only knows. I am afraid that they lost there parents too young for their benefit. You know that such children need a Mother to look upon them. Jarvis is their guardian and I am afraid that [he] is to easy with them for their benefit. They have five hundred and fifty dollars apiece and they might all [be] well off if they manige it as they ought. Cosby and Saffrin are alive. I think that they must feel the loss of them very much for they use to have home to go to but now they have none. I want to have them come and see me but it ant like the place where they was born.

I have got two children – a girl and a boy. The youngest was two years old last November. I want to have [you] answer this letter as soon as you can. I want to have you let me know how [many] children you have yet and all about your Mission. Give my love to all your folks. I don’t know as you will be able to read these few linds on account of the bad spelling and writing.

Please except these few linds from your nephew, — Benj. Goodrich

Fanny Goodrich Simerwell Gravestone

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