1839: Henry Kellogg Raymond to John M. Olmsted

This letter was written by Henry Kellogg Raymond (1813-1880) — one of at least 11 children born to William Raymond (1777-1847) and Mary Kellogg (1785-1870) of Elba, Genesee County, New York.

We learn from this letter that Henry graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York. The alumni catalogue of 1854 records him as a graduate in the class of 1839 and lists his occupation and last place of residence as teacher in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It is conjectured that Henry, like many students of the times, taught select schools during the years he attended college and that one of them was in nearby Maltaville.

We also learn that following graduation, Henry taught a select school in Elba, New York. He apparently remained in Elba for several years because his name appears in the District School Journal of 1847 as a teacher of common schools in Elba, New York. Following a residency in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Henry relocated before 1860 to Nebraska City, Otoe County, Nebraska, where he served as a school teacher and later as the County School Superintendent. He died there, unmarried, in 1880.

Henry wrote the letter to his friend John M. Olmsted, a resident of Malta, New York, with whom he probably formed an acquaintance while teaching a select school in the community. The identity of this John M. Olmsted remains unconfirmed, however. One possibility is the John M. Olmsted (1791-1845) who was the son of Lemuel Olmstead (1761-1805) and Silence Weed (1759-1832). John was married at Malta, NY  (1818) to Suzannah Bates (1800-1831) and they had 5 children. After Suzannah died, John married (1833) his first wife’s sister, Sarah Bates, and they had 4 children. The letter suggests, however, that John’s mother was still living in 1839 and the mother of this John Olmsted died in 1832.

More likely, Henry wrote the letter to the John M. Olmsted who was born around 1812 who became a farmer in Malta according to the agricultural census of 1850. He later (1860) resided in Glenville, Saratoga County, New York, and still later (1870) in Ballston, Saratoga County, New York. He married a woman named Hannah (1817-18xx) and had several children.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. John M. Olmsted, Maltaville, Saratoga, New York

Elba [Genesee County, New York]
December 3rd 1839

Friend J. M. O.

I cannot permit any longer time to pass without writing to you. Indeed, I do not know whether I am indebted to you or not; but, be this as it may, I will commence again our once happy correspondence, and endeavor to revive old associations. I once told you that I hoped that we should never leave off our reciprocal communication and that we would by frequent correspondence remind each other often of the many pleasant seasons we have spent together. I must say that I still hope the same. Though I may never be so situated as again to enjoy seasons of long contra_____ in your society, yet I trust that I shall often learn the sentiments of your heart, and hear the words of your lips through the frequent communication of your pen. A letter ffrom my worthy friend J. M. O. has always been a rich feast for me. And you may be assured that such will always be the case. Happy should I be in visiting you and once more sitting in the circle of your and my Maltese friends. Many a worthy friend, and many a kind and hospitable family have I found there. And long shall such be held in memory. Whenever I shall have occasion to think of the scenes and pleasures of a college life, then also will I think of Malta — for there no very small part of that life was spent. And never can I engage in the delightful task of imparting instruction to the youthful mind without giving rise to thoughts and associations connected with your interesting district and neighborhood. I often think of my school in your neighborhood and it is pleasurable to do so. And never shall I forget them.

In writing and sending this epistle, I may be calling to mind in another, associations that would never have arisen otherwise. I know not but I am forgotten by my old friend J. M. O.  He may have found better friends and those more worthy of his regard. Or he may have found and made choice of one and one only upon whom he has centered his entire affections. It may be that I am as one blotted from existence  as regards him. If so, I am sorry — I. E., I would not be entirely forgotten, though I may be less worthy than many others, and though it were justifiable to choose a very different character as a special and bosom friend.

You will pardon me, Friend John M., for the little courtesy I showed you upon commencement day. I would have spent more time with you and other Maltese friends if I had been favored with an opportunity, but as you are aware of the ceremonies of graduates on that day, you will probably overlook everything that savored of an appearance of disregard. The people of Malta may think it strange that I did not visit them during the summer and probably have come to the conclusion that since I have pocketed my diploma, I care nothing about good country people. In wondering they are justifiable. But in coming to any such conclusion, they must have forgotten my make and measured me by some pedantic city student. Such is not Henry K. Raymond. He knows better in what worth consists.

But stop! This is boasting. I will change my thoughts.

You may be anxious to know where I am and what I am about and what I intend to be about. If so, I must tell you that I am in Elba, Genesee County, and engaged in teaching. After my graduation, I started for the West and reached my father’s as soon as I could. Found my friends all well and spent some tie in visiting. I then started for Buffalo and Niagara and having visited those interesting places and returned to my home, I was requested by my friends to open a select [school] in this place & accordingly did so.

I commenced my school on the 16th September and am this week closing the first quarter. My number of scholars has been small during the past quarter, but there is a prospect of a large number for the one to come. The school is pretty interesting. Most of my pupils are young men and women.

I shall stay in this place until spring. Then I know not where I shall go. It has been my intention to enter Andover Seminary until within a short time, but by reason of my health, I have not been enabled to pursue my studies preparatory to the entering of that institution and I know not as I shall be able to continue my course. If not, I must be resigned to whatever situation may be before me. If I cannot study, and am able to teach, then teaching will probably be my business. I want to be as useful as I can and I know of no employment more useful than this, except that in which I intended to engage. I mean that all that I do shall be for the good of my fellow men and the world — as well as for the glory of my heavenly Father.

You may ask, is Raymond still engaged in the temperance cause? He will answer you, yes. We have been holding temperance discussions here all the fall and the subject has been well brought before the people. This is a hard place, yet we hope to purge it some. Drunkards are numerous. Religion is at a low ebb, yet the friends of religion are making some exertions to raise the standard.

Now, I want to hear from Malta very much and in order to get all the news, I shall put several questions and shall expect you to answer them in full. How do the people all do? What is the state of religion? What are you doing for temperance? Who is your school teacher? Are any of the students in your quarter? Are any of the young people getting married? And who? Are you married? Is Mr. [C.] Lockwood ¹ your pastor? Has the Stone House commenced operations? And what kind? How does J. Talmadge get along and is he yet that persevering and ardent friend of Temperance? Where is Samuel Park? How does the Col. do and also his family? Does Abiram Hill remain with you? How is friend Dunning’s family? What of my very intimate friend Capt. Parks? ² How I should like to see him.

These and all singular questions I want you to answer — and that too, as soon as you can. Tell me how ___ Waterbury and family are. And also all about brother Lockwood, if there.

Tell the Capt’s family that as thanksgiving day came along, I did not forget my suppers with them. I had the pleasure of sitting down at my father’s table the last thanksgiving. Tell Fellows that I wish that he would send me my temperance papers, if they still come to his office — and also that he would inform me whether I owe him for them and how much. He will please direct them to me at Elba, Gen. Co. Tell him to send them another year if convenient and I will endeavor to settle with him.

Remember me to your Mother, Sisters & Brother, to Capt., Col., Deacons, Ministers, Fellows, Uncle Jo___’, Dubois’. Widow Johnson’s, Dunning’s, Talmadge’s &c. &c. families, as well as to all the young people in the neighborhood. And having read this, sit right down and answer it as direct as possible and then, as well as now, I shall be your most faithful friend. Excuse my haste.

— Henry K. Raymond


¹ Rev. C. Lockwood was the pastor of the Maltaville Congregational Church in 1839.

² Probably Capt. Patrick Parks who was the son of Jehial Parks, an early settler in Maltaville. Patrick helped to build the church in Maltaville.


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