1841: Elizabeth Hubbard to Dr. John Hubbard

How Elizabeth Hubbard might have looked

How Elizabeth Hubbard might have looked

This letter was written by Elizabeth Hubbard (1796-Aft1860) to her brother Dr. John Hubbard, Jr. (1794-1869). They were children of Dr. John Hubbard, Sr. (1759-1838) and Olive Wilson (1762-1847).

When Elizabeth wrote this letter in 1841, she was the widow of Dr. William Case. After his death in Louisiana about 1834, we learn that she was hired about 1835/6 as a private tutor for the children of Robert Harrison Douglass (1792-1865) whose plantation was on the Mississippi River in Auburn Township, Lincoln County (then Arkansas County), Arkansas. Elizabeth, we learn, has just returned from Conway County where she has been teaching a select school, after a year’s absence from the plantation. She arrives just prior to the June marriage of the Douglass’ oldest daughter, Isabella Douglass (b. 1824) to Bushrod Washington Lee (1809-1876). The Douglass children she mentions besides Isabella, are the two oldest boys, Thomas Escridge Douglass (1828-1906) and Alfred Offut Douglass (1829-1873) — who are expected to continue their education in Kentucky — and the children remaining that she expects to teach: William Franklin Douglass (1832-1879), Catharine Douglass (1835-1857), and Ellen Douglass (1837-1906).

Robert H. Douglass and his brother-in-law, Isaac McLain (1780-1837) came to Arkansas from Fairfax County, Virginia. They came by way of Wheeling and down the Mississippi River, settling first on Indiana land in 1824 and then purchasing plantations on the Mississippi River in 1827 and starting the community of Auburn.


Dr. John Hubbard, Jr.

Elizabeth’s brother, Dr. John Hubbard, Jr., “graduated from Dartmouth College in 1816, and was subsequently made an M. D. by the University of Pennsylvania, and became eminent as a physician and surgeon. In 1843, he was elected to the State Senate of Maine, and six years later became Governor of that State. He gave much attention to the cause of education, and it was during his administration that the Maine Liquor Law was first enacted. In 1857 and 1858, Dr. Hubbard was a special agent of the United States Treasury Department to inspect Custom Houses.

In 1859, President Buchanan appointed him a commissioner, under the reciprocity treaty between the United States and England, to settle the fisheries disputes. Dr. Hubbard married, in 1825, Sarah H. Barrett, of Dresden, Me., a granddaughter of Oliver Barrett, one of the minute men at Lexington, who was killed at the second battle of Stillwater during the Saratoga campaign of the Revolutionary War.”

Two of Elizabeth’s brothers are mentioned in the letter: Cyrus Hubbard (1798-18xx), and Greenleaf Hubbard (1801-1885), as well as some sisters.

Elizabeth married a second time in April 1844 to Alexis Sappington (1796-Aft1860), a planter from the nearby Bayou Macon region of northeast Louisiana. For Sappington, it was his third marriage. His second wife had been a cousin of Mrs. Douglass who had resided with them and shared a room with Elizabeth Hubbard when she first stated tutoring for the Douglass family. [See: 1846 Letter: Elizabeth Sappington to Olive Hubbard ]

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Doct. John Hubbard, Hallowell, Kennebec County, Maine

Arkansas County, Arkansas
March 27th 1841

My Dear Brother,

I have just returned to this County after a residence of a year in Conway County — the place from which I wrote to you last — and fearing that my friends in Maine may have become uneasy respecting me and being very anxious to hear from them, I improve the first moment of leisure by writing to you. I think when I wrote to you from Lewisburg, the sickness had commenced there. It was unusually sickly throughout this state and also most of the southern states. I have never since I have been in this state known as much sickness. And in Conway County, there have been more deaths than have ever been known before in one season. The sickness commenced in June and continued until cool weather. Then the winter fever (as it is here termed) followed and was more fatal than the summer sickness. I believe when I wrote you last I had discontinued school in consequence of the sickness and had gone back several miles from the river to remain till the hot weather was over hoping I might thereby preserve my own health. I remained there until the weather became cooler when I returned to Lewisburg and again engaged in the duties of my school. My health has been uniformly good during the whole year which I spent in Conway although the sickness there has been much more fatal than in Arkansas County and I have been more exposed both to heat and cold than I have ever been before since I have lived in this climate.

For many reasons, I disliked a residence in Lewisburg although I had given general satisfaction as a teacher and was about to leave to go to the county seat of Johnson about 60 miles higher up the Arkansas where I had engaged to teach with a prospect of being much more pleasantly situated in every respect than I was in Lewisburg, when I received a letter from my friends here urging my return and requesting me once more to become a teacher in their family. I have already informed you of the ind treatment I have received in this family and of their request when I left them that I would consider their house my home. I did not  long hesitate respecting my course, but soon concluded to get released from my engagement, and return. I did so, and as my last letter to them had informed them that I talked of going higher up instead of returning, my arrival was entirely unexpected. Although I had always been treated with the same affectionate kindness which was shown to their relatives, and by their conduct was made to forget that I was so far removed from all with whom I could claim kindred, yet I was not aware that I could claim so large a share in the affections of this family, or that I had become so much attached to them, until I was separated from them. I was received with the most unaffected expressions of joy, by both white and black, and with so hearty a welcome that it would have repaid me for a journey over the Rocky Mountains, could I have hoped to meet it upon my return.

Very considerable changes had taken place during my absence. Two highly valued friends had been removed by death. One, an aged lady, the grandmother of Mrs. Douglass, had died of fever last summer. The other, Mrs. Douglass’ only brother. Her grandmother was an uncommon woman, one of the most worthy I have ever known. Her brother, a highly respectable & worthy man & a valuable member of society, resided in her house and had been consumptive for about 3 years. As she was his only sister, and their parents both dead, she is sole heir to his property consisting of a large plantation adjoining this, and quite as valuable, and several servants.

The eldest daughter — who is little more than 15 — I found on my return was about to be married. When I first came here, she was a little girl 9 years of age and had never been to school. The two oldest sons had just returned from a distant part of this state where they had been at school during my absence. I found them almost grown to manhood and expecting soon to go to Kentucky to finish their education. The third son, about 9 years of age, and two very interesting little girls, both born since I have been in the family, are to be entrusted to my care, with the addition probably of two or three more belonging to a cousin of Mrs. Douglass’. I shall not commence teaching again until after the wedding which will take place in June and as I am to have a new school house built, it will probably be autumn before it will be ready.

I have been thus minute respecting my own affairs, more particularly for mother’s satisfaction, as I know it will give her great pleasure to learn that I am pleasantly and comfortably situated. She may rest assured that my life here is far more comfortable and easy than it ever was in Maine, or could be now, if I were there. While in this family, I have nothing to do but to teach a small number which leaves me many leisure hours to spend as I choose. My board, washing, and every thing necessary is found, and a servant to do any thing I require, and whenever I wish to ride, a horse is provided. I want for nothing, nor ever have since I have been in this state; as I have been able to gain more than sufficient to supply all my wants.

A sketch of the Douglass Plantation during the Civil War

A sketch of the Douglass Plantation during the Civil War

In this family, I have found father, mother, sister, and brother. Mr. Douglass and his late brother-in-law, Mr. McLain, have showed me all the kindness & attention which could have been expected from brothers, while by their solicitude for my welfare, and attention to all my concerns, they have well supplied the place of a father. By the death of Mr. McLain, I feel that I have lost a real friend. He kindly remembered me (although I was absent) when near the close of his life and remarked that had he been spared, I should never have wanted a friend. To the great Author of all our mercies, I ascribe this, and confidently believe that to Him, I am indebted for the blessing of friends since I came to this country. In almost any other situation I could have found here, I should have been uncomfortable. There are but few situations for teachers in private families in this state, and still fewer families like this; and there is so little interest taken generally in education, and so great a want of unanimity in towns and neighborhoods, that it renders the business of teaching unpleasant.

Tell Mother I cannot expect to see her again on earth, and after what I have written, she ought to be entirely satisfied respecting me. Were it even practicable for me to get back again to Maine, I do not wish it. Providence has placed me here, and here I choose to remain. I have become attached to Arkansas and have no wish to exchange. I have never been sorry that I left Maine, and do not regret the past. All has been well for me, and I am perfectly contented & satisfied with my condition, and do not wish it otherwise. With proper care, I believe I may enjoy as good health here as in Maine. The little remnant of my days will soon be spent. My chief concern is that it may be well spent, that it may be so improved that I may be well prepared for the eternity which is before me.

My last letter from Maine was from sister Joann, dated October 11, 1840 in which she gave me an account of a visit made to her relations and acquaintances in Maine and informed me particularly respecting them. Of [our brother] Greenleaf, she spoke in a very melancholy strain which has made me feel very uneasy respecting him. She remarked that it made her heart ache to think of him, that he looked old, broken, & disconsolate — that his health was poor — that he worked hard and fared hard. I wish you would write me particularly respecting him, how much he owes for his place, and what is his prospect of paying. I have feared his embarrassment was owing to a [paper torn] capacity for business, or ability to keep property. If so, how could this be remedied and has he any prospect of relief? Is his health so bad? She informed me that Nancy’s health was still bad and that she was more emaciated than ever. Do you think she will ever recover and what is the cause of her being in such a state of health? You will oblige me by answering these questions.

She gave me a description of your children, of Sophia’s, Nancy’s, Sister Cook’s, &c. and of many of our acquaintances, which was very interesting to me. I shall hope to hear from you very soon after the receipt of this, as it is so long since you wrote me, and hope also that you will give me all the news you have that will be interesting to me. Remember me to all old acquaintances who may inquire after me — particularly Mrs. Mann, and her connections. I shall never cease to remember them and to feel for them a particular regard. Mrs. Mann need not ask again why I have not written to her. I did so when I first came to Arkansas & having never received a line in answer, I did not write a second time. I wish you to send this letter to Mother. It is designed for her as well as yourself. Please to send it also, if convenient, to the more remote members of our family. I wish them all to hear from me and cannot write to them individually, and should I do so, it would be the same I have written to you.

I hear from [our brother] Cyrus occasionally. His last letter, dated about a year ago, was written from Plattsburg, Clinton County. He appears to be prospering in business, and is I find a decided Universalist. Remember me affectionately to Sarah and her father’s family. When I requested you to send this to other members of our family, I forgot to request you to erase some remarks respecting Greenleaf’s circumstances which you will please do. Wishing you prosperity in this world and especially in the world to come, I must bid you adieu.

— E. Hubbard


3 responses to “1841: Elizabeth Hubbard to Dr. John Hubbard

  • Robert Reed

    I was delighted to find this letter describing the family of my 2nd great-grandfather, Robert Harrison Douglass. In your opening comments on the letter you mention Isaac McLain, the father-in-law of Mr. Douglass. Could you please give me the source for the birth and death dates you cited for Isaac McLain. I have been unable to find those elsewhere. Any other information you have on the Douglass or McLain families would also be very helpful. Thanks very much for your dedicated research.
    Robert Reed

    • Griff

      I’m sorry. It’s been so long ago, I can’t remember where I found Isaac’s birth and death dates. I should do a better job recording my sources, I suppose. — Griff

      • Herb Reed

        Griff . . .
        My brother, Bob, sent me the Hubbard letter for my files. Great stuff! You included (part of) the Waud sketch of the Douglass plantation. Although I’m involved in genealogy, I’m a better watercolor painter than genealogist . . . Bob is the family leader there.
        I saw the original Waud sketch in a New Orleans museum, then from an Internet version, I did a painting of the plantation from an Arkansas River viewpoint. Send me your email address, and I’ll send you a jpg image if you are interested. Mine is Herb.reed23@gmail.com.
        Herb Reed

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