1833-5: William Sage to Mary Louise (Sage) Beach

These six  letters were written by William Sage (Abt1812-18xx) to his sister, Mary Louise (Sage) Beach (1814-18xx). She was the wife of Henry Harrison Beach (1809-1877) — a shoemaker in Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut. Mary and Henry were married on 8 October 1832.

William and Mary Sage were the children of _____ Sage (17xx-18xx) and Polly Price (1785-18xx). We learn that Polly Price was the daughter of Paul Price from the following account:

Paul Price, a native of Yorkshire, England, came to this country as a soldier in the British army in 1775. He was a sergeant, was in the battle of Bunker Hill and other engagements. His regiment was transferred to New York, and, in a skirmish there, he, with some others, were taken prisoners. He was brought to Litchfield a prisoner and in 1780 was paroled. He remained in Litchfield, and the same year he married Widow Vaill, whose maiden name was Sarah Berry. She had three children by her first husband, one of whom, David Vaill, made a home in Goshen, and was the paternal ancestor of all the Vaills in this section….Polly Price and ____ Sage had two children, a son [William] who disappeared, and a daughter [Mary] who married Henry H. Beach; …Polly took Archibald Bierce (1785-1865) as her second husband and had three more children. [Source: History of the town of Goshen]

At the end of his January 1835 letter, William references the “Cornwall cousins.” These were the three children of his uncle Paul Price (1782-1855) who married Mary (“Polly”) Butler Wickwire of Cornwall, Connecticut. Polly Wickwire was the daughter of Oliver Wickwire (1745-1829) and Louis Beckwith (1752-1813).

We learn from these letters that William Sage was probably in his early 20s when he wrote to his sister and that he was a mariner until sometime between 1833 and 1835. The last two letters are from the Kentucky-Ohio region though he gives no clue as to the nature of the work he is engaged in.

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 1
Addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Beach, Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut

Newport (Rhode Island)
April 21st 1833

Dear Sister,

I have now been in America a fortnight and why I have not written before, I cannot tell. So I shall not try to make any excuse at all.

We have had a tolerable pleasant voyage — and middling luck — but oil is so low that my voyage will not amount to an independent fortune exactly. I think that I have done whaling, and nearly done with salt water although I am now on board a vessel bound to Richmond (Va.). I shall probably return in ten or twelve days to New Bedford where I shall expect to find a letter from you.

You must write every thing you can think of. Do not write a short letter because I do for in fact I have nothing to write that would be worth your reading.

My health never was better than it is at present and I think now I can safely trust to live ashore awhile. The weather has been so cold that I think best to try the southern air a few days until it gets a little warmer, and I am not certain but I shall make Virginia my home for the future. But hat must depend upon circumstances.

Give my love to Mother, Mr. & Mrs. G., and reserve a share to yourself.

Yours forever, — William

P. S. Write as soon as possible and direct to New Bedford.

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 2
Addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Beach, Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut

New Bedford [Massachusetts]
June 25th 1833

I had been waiting a long time for a letter from you and had got quite out of patience with hearing the answer “none” to my repeated enquiries for letters. But yesterday I was much pleased to find one. It was post-marked April 30th and upon enquiring why it had been detained so long, I was told that it had been put with the letters P. instead of S. by mistake. Upon reading it, I found you had written one before [and] this I found had been misplaced in the same way. So I have now got them both.

I suppose you have scolded me a good deal for not writing sooner, which I should certainly have done if I had received yours in season. I am glad to hear that you have regained your health so far, for to tell the truth, when I was at home last, I very much doubted whether you ever would enjoy good health again. But getting married does wonders sometimes.

I suppose now you will turn the laugh upon me for I am really getting pretty near the edge of “Old Batchelorship” and I see no prospect of my ever getting married. You write that A. H. hopes she shall see me again. Please give my compliments to her and tell her from me that I think she has either altered her mind since I last saw her or else she does not always speak truth.

Since I wrote you last, I have been to Virginia and from there to Maine, but have been back here about 4 weeks. It is impossible for me to tell when I shall be at home, but I think probable sometime in the fall or winter — perhaps not until next spring.

Drawing of Napoleon's Tomb as it looked in 1833

Drawing of Napoleon’s Tomb as it looked in 1833

In my last, I believe, I did not tell you that we stopped at St. Helena on our homeward passage but so it was, and I visited the tomb of the great Napoleon which is more than any of your acquaintances can say. I would give you a short description of it but I have not time at present. My vessel is waiting now. We have a fair wind and 2 hours more will see me on the blue waves bound to old Virginia. I should have written to Mr. G. but we start sooner than I expected so must send my love to them through your courtesy.

I shall (accidents excepted) return here in three or four weeks so write here before that time. Love to all. — William

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 3
Addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Beach, Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut

New Bedford [Massachusetts]
September 5th 1833

Dear Sister,

Yours of the 22nd July I received about three weeks ago. You wished to know for what I was posting back and forth from here to Virginia. It is for the sake of fifteen dollars a month and not for the pleasure of sailing, I assure you.

You want to know if I expect to find a wife on salt water. I cannot say that I wish to find one, and surely not unless I could find one better than the common run — which I do not deserve. So I think I shall give up marrying altogether.

You must excuse my writing for I am in a dreadful hurry. I have just engaged myself to sail tomorrow morning and have not a minute’s time to spare. We are bound to Eastport, Maine, and from there to Baltimore where I shall be probably in three or four weeks. If you have any news to write, direct to me there.

My health never was better than at present.

My love to all enquirers. Yours in haste, — William

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 4
Addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Beach, Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut

Boston [Massachusetts]
December 4th 1833

Dear Sister,

It is a very rainy day and I have a plenty of leisure time, so I will now redeem my promise.

I received yours of the 23rd on the 28th which was Thanksgiving here as well as with you. The only item of “real news” is that A. H. is married. I am heartily glad of it, I assure you, for I must confess that I have frequently though of her and it has sometimes given me some uneasiness. But it’s all over now and my heart is as light as ever. If his Doctorship has not got stunned [?] this time, I’ll be hanged. Mark and remember.

We had a very pleasant time from Philadelphia here where we arrived on the 19th inst. So I had to wait nine days for your letter — but better late than never. My health is very good and my situation tolerable pleasant — so far — so that I do not wish to change it at present. When I wrote you last from New Bedford, I had shipped as Chief Mate of the Brig Rinaldo (of Boston), ¹ which situation I now hold. I did not inform you of it at that time nor in my last fearing that I might lose my place, but as I have now held it three months and as far as I can ascertain haven given entire satisfaction, I think I may safely venture to let you know it. My wages have been twenty-two dollars per month, but are now raised to twenty-five, and as I had neither money nor rich friends to assist me, I think I may without bragging ascribe my good fortune solely to merit. You will now, I hope, freely excuse me for not coming home this winter, for if I should leave my present employers — at least before I get my character established — I could not expect to find another situation equally as good as the present. We are now taking a cargo for New Orleans and expect to sail on Friday or Saturday of this week. We shall probably return either here or to Philadelphia some time next March. You must not expect to hear from me again before that time.

Give my best respects to Mr. & Mrs. G. and tell them that I should be very happy to see them but interest forbids my coming home at present.

If you should see Mrs. Sperry, please wish her much joy for me. My love to mother and Mr. Beach. Yours affectionately, — William

¹ Sailor’s Magazine reported that the “Brig Rinaldo, from Boston, was wrecked on Eleathean about the 16th of January [1841]. Crew saved; vessel and cargo lost.”

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 5
Addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Beach, Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut

Shelbyville, Kentucky
January 4th 1835

Dear Sister,

Yours of the 27th of October I received the 11th of November and left Cincinnati the same day intending to go to New Orleans, but on my arrival at Louisville, hearing that the yellow fever had broken out there, I gave it up. I stayed in Louisville until the 24th of November and then came here where I shall probably stay until spring — perhaps longer. This is the county seat — a pretty little village about one half as large as Litchfield. It is very healthy and about 30 miles southeast from Louisville. So if you have a map, you can see where I am.

I looked for a letter with much anxiety on your account and was much gratified to hear that your health was so much better. I feared otherwise from the letter which you wrote me in June.

My health is tolerable good tho’ not as good as it was before my sickness last summer. But I think the country air will bring me around right again by spring.

A short time after I wrote you last, I saw Alexander North.¹ We had been living within a few miles of each other all summer but had not met until then. He has a very pretty wife, and seems to be doing very well. He told me that Eben Norton ² and David Wadhams had been there this summer but I did not see them.

You must not scold at my writing short letters but “return good for evil.” When I get married, I will write more but now I have no one to write about but myself and I am but a dry subject at the best. You cannot write anything about Goshen or its inhabitants that will be uninteresting to me. Remember this and write soon.

My love to all enquirers (Cornwall cousins always excepted)

Yours affectionately, — William Sage

¹ Presumably this is the same Alexander North (born in Connecticut) who appears in the 1840 US Census enumerated in Cincinnati, Ohio (Ward 5). He was married to Jane M. Schaffee (1810-1860). There were several North families residing in Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut, and it is conjectured that Alexander was from there.

² Presumably this is Eben Norton (1805-1855), the son of Abraham and Rhoda (Thompson) Norton. Eben married Clarissa Griswold and died in Goshen, Connecticut. He was at one time the Justice of the Peace in Goshen.

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 6
Addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Beach, Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut

Cincinnati [Ohio]
August 23d 1835

Dear Sister,

I received a letter from you (dated February 17th) about the first of March. I wrote to you the latter part of April but have not as yet received any answer. I have waited very patiently thinking perhaps that you were out of paper or waiting for some interesting news for me, but have at last given it up and resolved to “try again.” I do not remember what I wrote in my last, but presume if you received it, you found it dull as usual.

I returned from Shelbyville [Kentucky] here the 6th of May. My health was very poor through the winter but has improved rapidly since I have been here. It was never better “ashore” than at present.

I am not married yet. Neither is there much prospect of it. I am waiting to be uncle first.

You wrote that I promised to return in three years. I believe I did, but I have “renewed the lease” so you must not expect me this year — not but that I should like to see “old Goshen” and some of the folks, but I am too poor at present. I have nothing interesting to write so must make another short letter. Return evil for good you see is my way, but do not follow my example. Write us a long letter as soon as you receive this and give us all the news.

Cincinnati is very healthy. The crops in the country very abundant. Money plenty by working for it.

Give my best to all. — William


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