1815: Rev. Jedidiah Morse to Rev. Abel Flint

Rev. Jedidiah Morse

Rev. Jedidiah Morse

This letter was written by Rev. Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826). Morse became a pastor in Charlestown, Massachusetts (across Boston harbor) on April 30, 1789, where he served until 1820. Among his friends and numerous correspondents were Noah Webster, Benjamin Silliman and Jeremy Belknap. In 1795 he received the degree of D.D. from the University of Edinburgh. More historically important, Jedidiah Morse was the father of telegraphy pioneer and painter Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), and his textbooks earned him the sobriquet of “father of American geography.”

The letter constitutes a recommendation and endorsement of Rev. Timothy Flint (1780-1840) for employment by the Congregational Missionary Society to explore the western states (west of the Allegheny Mountains). Timothy “graduated from Harvard College in 1800 and was ordained pastor of the Congregational Church in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, in 1802. Struggling with a fragile health, he moved his family to the Ohio Valley hoping a change of scene and climate would reinvigorate him. This began an intinerant life throughout the western territories to the Mississippi Valley and the Spanish frontier.

Rev. Timothy Flint's grave marker

Rev. Timothy Flint’s grave

“A series of letters to his cousin, the Rev. James Flint in Salem, was collated into a “Recollection of the Last Ten Years … Passed in the Valley of the Mississippi,” that became an immediate success among Americans insatiably curious about the nation’s western territories and opportunities. He followed that success up with a “History and Geography of the Mississippi Valley.” He was also the author of a biography of Daniel Boone, still in print, and several western-set romance novels that were widely praised for their descriptions of the west, if not for their plot and characterizations. His literary successes led to his accepting editorships of The Knickerbocker magazine in New York and the Western Monthly Magazine, published in Cincinnati. He settled in Alexandria, Louisiana, but in 1840 his health began to deteriorate and he left for a visit to New England hoping a cooler climate might ease his ailment. He died at the home of his brother, Thomas. His descriptions and accounts of the western territories and the settlers, emmigrants and Indians he encountered there continue to be mined as a source for historians studying America’s western expansion.” [Source: Find A Grave]

The letter was addressed to Rev. Abel Flint (17xx-1825) who was serving, at the time, as the Secretary of the Congregational Missionary Society in Hartford.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Rev’d Abel Flint, Secretary of the Congregational Missionary Society, Hartford, Connecticut

Charlestown [Massachusetts]
July 8th 1815

Dear Sir,

Mr. Banks informed me a few weeks since that the Congregational Missionary Society wished him, or some one else, suitable for the Mission, to take a tour of observation & enquiry, to do also other missionary service, in Kentucky & other states west of the Allegheny Mountains. He said he could not go & desires to know if I knew a suitable person who would go. I have one in mind who would wish to go in such a mission, & who is as well-fitted for it as any man I know. It is Rev. Timothy Flint of Lunenburg in this state. He has taken up his connections with his people for want of health, has been employed with great acceptance for many months by our Society for promoting Church knowledge, & is the very man for your purpose & will, if you wish it, go immediately.

You will please to write him immediately on the subject stating your wishes, should he be employed, & the compensation. If you are otherwise supplied let him know it, that he may engage on our service where he is wanted. His health would be benefitted by a tour to the South & West __ this ___ & to visit that region, he is induced to change the field of his labor. A line to him early addressed to Rev. Timothy Flint, Lunenburg, Massachusetts, will oblige him & your friend & servant, — J. Morse


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