This letter was clearly written by Maria L. Proctor (b. 24 October 1827), a daughter of John Byam Proctor (1792-1864) and Louisa Brigham (1792-1863). It isn’t so clear, however, how this letter came to be addressed to herself (it says miss-sent) or who the “cousin Rich” was she was writing to. I have checked all of the family genealogical records and cannot find a cousin named Rich. My best guess is that Richard was the middle name of her cousin, John Proctor (b. 1823) who eventually married a woman named Jane Elizabeth Kellogg and had a daughter named Nellie. Perhaps Jane went by the nickname “Nellie.” John Proctor had a younger brother named George (b. 1835), which fits the profile of the letter’s recipient.
Maria’s family lived in West Rutland, Vermont but they appear to have had relatives living in Manchester, New Hampshire. It appears that Maria had a sister named Caroline living with a relative in Manchester in 1850, for example. Perhaps she was a mill worker. Maria married shoemaker George A. King (b. 1826) on 18 October 1853. Maria mentions George several times in this letter. She also mentions her older sister Laura and her younger brother Stephen.
Maria mentions attending a Lyceum where she heard Park Benjamin read his poem, “The Age of Gold.” She compares it to one she heard previously by John Pierpont. Her letter also mentions an acquaintance who returned from the California gold field with broken health and empty pockets — an altogether too common occurrence.
Manchester [New Hampshire]
December 26, 1850
Dear cousin Rich,
Through the earnest solicitation of mother I am seated this evening for the purpose of writing to you though it is so short time since I received yours. You know her baby is with you; hence her earnestness. How are you and Nellie? Is she contented and happy? You can imagine how lonesome we were after you left. It seemed as though half the house had gone. As Ed said, Cad did not get home until last Saturday. She did not stop in Nashua. She had a splendid time. If she can have time, I will have her give an account of herself. She has a lesson to get and is very busy.
I suppose you wish to know all about matters in and out of town, do you not? The evening of the day you left, I went to our Circle. Should not have gone had not sister Lauren called to go with me. As a matter of course, George came to go home with Lauren, not me. Mr. P_______y was there also, but my time was so much engaged that I could not see him very much. Mr. Hamton and Miss Brown – by the way, I expect that is a settled case – He was at the Lyceum with her a week ago last night and it would please you to see him eye her at church! He grows worse in that respect. By and by I expect he will not be able to see any one but Miss Brown. She is a very pretty girl & I expect he is a pretty man. Last Tuesday our Circle met again. My sister Caroline and Laura were present – but – their brother was prevented by absence from town. We have had an invitation to visit them tomorrow evening.
Last evening went to the Lyceum. The subject was “The age of Gold” – a poem delivered by Park Benjamin from N.Y. It was very good indeed. About as harmonious as [John] Pierpont’s (which you heard) but written in a different style and I think a prettier one.
Bessie has been here this afternoon. You heard her speak of a certain cousin (“Billy”) of hers who was in California, did you not? She received a letter today stating his return about a fortnight since. He came back poorer in health and less purse than when he left home.
Have you a sleigh ride yet? I have not & I think it is a shame. If George is at home tomorrow evening, I think I shall tell him I have not been to ride yet and ask him if he knows of anyone that has a horse and desire to let? Don’t you think it would be a good idea?
Frank’s wife came in shortly after you left to apologize in the most humble manner for her neglect of you. She said she told Frank she should never dare visit you in the world, she treated you so badly. She set two or three times to come but something happened every time to prevent her. I have seen Mary but had no opportunity to visit.
I went to Mr. Wallace’s circle last week and saw Lizzie Nichols. She was very sorry she did not see you. Sarah was here today [and] was quite well. Elisa succeeds very well with her school; having over twenty scholars. Elvira was at meeting last Sabbath but did not stop.
Have you received any Christmas presents? I have not a single one. Stephen was the only lucky one. He had a very nice gold chain and two books. I teased the master of the house for a watch but did not make anything by it. I have not heard from Boston recently. How is cousin George? Does he still hobble on crutches and didn’t he give you a real scolding because you came home so soon? I knew he would not want to see you. Before I write again, I am going to try and find out who that man was who was kind enough to cheat himself and also learn where he lived. Please give love to all inquiring friends and accept from cousin Maria.