This letter was written by Elisha Kimball in April 1849 from Newfield Village in Tompkins County, New York to his good friend Jacob Willsey, the founder of Willseyville, Tioga County, New York. Not much is known about Elisha Kimball. It is believed that he is the same “Elder E. Kimball” who served as the first lay preacher of the Baptist Church organized in Willseyville in 1839. Jacob Willsey and others of his family were among the 15 members of that society.
An Elisha Kimball appears in the 1840 Census in the town of Danby, New York, where the author of this letter claims to have sold a farm in 1849. If the same man, Elisha would have been born between 1790 and 1800; his wife between 1800 and 1810. By 1840, this couple had two boys and two girls living in the household with them.
More is known about Jacob Willsey, to whom the letter is addressed, He was born on October 3, 1774, in Pittstown, Rensselaer County, New York, the son of Cornelius Wiltse (1736-1821). He was married to Sarah (Sally) Hall (1780-1860) of Norway, Herkimer County, New York. The couple moved from Herkimer County to Tioga County in 1815. He is credited with organizing the Baptist Society in Willseyville (with Elisha Kimball), serving as the Justice of Peace, Postmaster, and as an associate judge of the common pleas court. Jacob Willsey kept an early-day hotel on the road between Ithaca and Owego and was one of the owners of a stage line operating between these two centers. He died in Willseyville on December 5, 1860 and is buried in Maple Cemetery in Candor.
Newfield, [New York]
April 10, 1849
Dear Br. Wilsey,
We have rented our farm for this year, and moved to Newfield Village. We are in good health, bodily, but our church is at low ebb. We have no preaching, and are not able to sustain a minister. We should be glad to hear how you prosper, and as we have come down from the hill, we shall be more in your way than heretofore.
I have sold my place in Danby for six hundred & twenty-five dollars — have received two hundred & twenty-five down and take a bond & mortgage for the remainder, which I should be glad to dispose of for the money. I still hold the two hundred dollar mortgage on the Mecklenburg [New York] property on which I want the money. Can you take one, or both? If so, will you drop me a line by the first opportunity?
Yours, &c. — E. Kimball
- Mecklenberg, New York is located about 10 miles due west of Ithaca, approximately midway between Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga in the Finger Lakes Region.
- According to the book, Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York (1894), the First Baptist Church of Newfield was organized in 1820. Meetings were held in school houses until the first church was built in 1842. The church prospered for awhile but “for some time there has been no minister and no services held.”