1838: Dr. Abel Humphrey to Philo Bundy

This letter was written by Dr. Abel Humphrey (1815-1890) who married Celestia Rose (1817-18xx) in December 1840. Celestia was the daughter of William Rose (1780-1852) and Diadamia Corey (1781-1843).

The Papers & Proceedings of the Tioga County Historical Society, Vol. I, states that Dr. Abel Humphrey was born in Chenango County, New York and came to Tioga County, Pennsylvania, in 1836. “He was a gentlemanly man, kind and considerate, and he had the faculty to a marked degree of inspiring faith and confidence in his patrons. He enjoyed a considerable practice at Tioga that continued for many years. He was always regarded as a safe and judicious practitioner…He occupied a high position in society and was considerable of a politician, becoming an Associate Judge of the county. Ill health compelled him to retire from active business.”

I believe that Dr. Humphrey wrote the letter to Philo Bundy (1814-1901), the son of Solomon Bundy (1774-1851) and Jane Frazier. Abel and Philo were about the same age and were probably close childhood friends. Philo married Margaret Amelia Burt. The Bundy’s settled in Oswego, New York, where he worked in the grain trade.

We learn from this letter that Abel left Oxford rather abruptly under the cloud of having engaged in improper carnal relations with some woman in the community. Though falling short of claiming innocence in the affair, young Humphrey tells his friend that he was seduced and that he has since ¬†learned to abstain from all “fleshy lusts.”

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter


Addressed to A. Bundy, Esq., Oxford, Chenango Co., New York

Rutland [Tioga County, Pennsylvania]
June 21st 1838

Hon. Sir,

It is with feelings the most heart rending that I attempt to pen a few lines to one on whom I have ever had the utmost confidence in as a true & substantial friend and one in whom I could ever confide in and entrust with my most secret affairs and feel that they were kept as inviolably as if retained in my own bosom. Sir, you and I have often met and exchanged views on subjects of vast importance to me & trust with some little interest to yourself & never has the time been but what I could meet you or communicate through the use of the one with some little degree of hope that it would meet your entire approbation and be received as a token of respect and friendship from one I have some reason to suppose you have heretofore looked upon as a young man of some little principles of morality.

But the picture may be somewhat changed and you may now look upon me as one of the vilest of the vile and guilty of crimes too horrible to think of. But be this as it may in your opinion, I can say of a truth and be not that the charge alleged to me was as false as forgery and the King Eternal is my witness. I do not pretend to deny conversation that passed between the young woman and me nor never have which it would have been wisdom to have let alone, but sir, she done more towards urging it on than what I did and could you know the truth as God knows it, you might perhaps say as many others do that few would have done as little towards gratifying their carnal appetite as what I did for as true as there is a God in Heaven, she told me she was assisted in the business & had done it & more than once too & with a great deal of emphasis & now where is there a person in the world that under such circumstances would not have made some advances?

But enough concerning this contemptible transaction for should I fill my sheet with remarks upon it, it would neither add nor diminish it in the least. I therefore have come to the conclusion to leave it for time and opportunity to tell the story. Sir, you may well imagine the feelings I had to have such a charge brought against me, while engaged in the business I was in where better things was looked for. Money could not have hired me to have underwent what I did. The fact is there is so much meanness in mankind I am almost compelled sometime to think the meaner a man is the more he is respected. But when I look a little farther & see the verification of truth in the face of it, I am led to form an opinion the reverse. Notwithstanding publick opinion is in a great degree in its favor. But Sir, I don’t despair at all. Yet my course is onward & my progress unimpeded. The fact is, innocence will stand & the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it & if God be for us, who can be against us? My endeavor is to cultivate a love for truth — a forgiving spirit to love my enemies, do good to them that despitefully use me. Sir, I have not an enemy in the world that I wish an injury nor would do them one were it in my power but would sooner cry out in the language of a Jeremiah of old, “Oh! that my heart was water & mine eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day & night over the dark & benighted practices of this vice.” (That is persecution.)

Sir, I am no libertine nor no base profligate. Neither am I void of the principles of virtue. But on the other hand would wish that such principles were more rigidly observed & cultivated. It is that which distinguishes us from brutes that perish. Sir, this concern has I humbly hope & trust, been of the whole a benefit & a blessing and not a curse for in it I learned that it was neither good to touch, taste, or handle the unclean thing but on the other hand, to look upon it as deadly poison & have come to the conclusion to ever abstain from all fleshy lusts that war against the soul. You very well know the many instructions I have received from one who ought to have thought better things. The fact is I was like a lamb to the slaughter — unconscious of approaching danger. But the fact is, I have labored hard for the little I have got & to support a fair & untarnished reputation & it is hard to be robbed of it.

I am now in the Town of Rutland, Tioga, Pennsylvania, doing business for myself & studying where I have taken upon myself the limb of Physick & am practicing in this place & have had as yet first rate luck & a Medical gentleman there is no one — especially young man that is more respected than myself. Dr. Boyanton reports that I am the most scientific young man he knows of. Also Dr. Hart, President of the board at Elmira. Also Dr. Wood of this place. I am called by our old physicians in counsel (& my opinion accepted). I have been here about three months & have charged about 150 dollars & that doing pretty fair for a stranger & new beginner.

No more at present for want of time and paper. And now for God Sake, don’t fail to answer this as soon as you receive it & write that to me that you would not be ashamed of for I am in a land of strangers & news from a friend is cheering. Please prefix the title of Dr. to my name in as much as I have assumed it.

Yours in haste & friendship, — A. Humphreys


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