1839: Susan G. Poisson to Ann Marie Ells

Written during the Aroostook War  — a nonviolent confrontation between the United States and Great Britain brought on by an international boundary dispute, this letter describes the war fever in Orono, Maine and also relates an incident in which the author had sulphuric acid (vitriol) accidentally splashed in her face, causing skin burns and temporary blindness.

The author’s name appears to read Susan G. Poisson but a search of census records for Penobscot County, Maine did not reveal any families by that name.

Susan addressed the letter to Ann Marie Ells in Camden, Knox County, Maine. I feel pretty confident she is the same woman enumerated in the 1860 Census as Ann Ells (b. about 1827) residing and working as a servant in the Henry and Susan Colburn residence in Orono, Maine. The Colburn family, you will notice, is mentioned in the first paragraph of the letter.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Miss Ann Marie Ells, Camden, Maine

Orono [Maine]
February 26, 1839

Dear Ann,

I received a paper from you a short time ago which gave me much pleasure, for I began to think that you had forgot your old friends at Stillwater and should have sent you one had I not met with a sad accident about that time by having my face badly burnt with oil of vitroil [vitriol]. I was keeping school one day for Maria and Elizabeth Colburn came in to see me & noticed that she had something in her hand and curiosity led me to examine the paper to see what it had in it taken so, and behold a bottle of vitroil discharged its contents in my face and besides robbing it of its hide, liked to have put out both of my eyes. I was entirely blind for about a fortnight but have recovered my eyesight. My face is very red at present but I am in hopes it will leave in time and I shall be myself again & see Susan and Mary quite often. They are quite well.

I told Mary that you wished to know if she was sure were never a going to write. She said she was a going to learn you to be a better girl about writing in which I hope she will be successful.

Oh, Ann, I wish you were here for everybody is having such a time about WAR — the old women are crying, the young girls a sighing, their lovers a flying, and sweethearts a dying. The bells are all ringing, the drums are beating, the fife is separating, the Indians a sneaking, the soldiers a meeting, the British retreating, and there is nothing but _____; such ___ all for the wars. 5000 people has gone through Shit__ntes during the last week. I suppose you have your share of it down in Camden. Has there any troops gone from there.? Hold on to yours beau, and do not let him go is all I can say to you. There is scarcely a young man left in Orono and but a very few old ones.

Martha Hall watched with me while I was sick. She sends her love to you as well as all the rest of the gals. Do write as soon as you receive this. If you do not, I shall think you have forgot us all.

Yours in haste, — Susan G. Poisson


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