1841: Sarah to John Lawrence

The identity of the members of this family have not yet been established. The letter was written by a woman named Sarah to her parents. We know that her father was John Lawrence of Brooklyn. The 1840 Brooklyn Directory has a grocer by that name residing at 104 Joralemon. This John Lawrence was the sheriff of Brooklyn in 1831. This may have been Sarah’s father.

We learn from the letter that Sarah is married and she refers to her husband as “Catlin” which is probably his first name. They reside in Monticello, Jasper County, Georgia.

The content of the letter is predominantly about the recent death of Sarah’s sister, un-named, who resides in Tuscumbia, Alabama, — I believe — and is married to someone named Addison, which is probably his first name.  The letter reveals that Addison is left a widower with three small children. No more family clues stand out in the letter except that Sarah has received a letter from Hannah who was probably another sister.

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Addressed to Mr. John Lawrence, Brooklyn, New York

Monticello, Jasper County, Georgia
Saturday, June 5th 1841

My dear, very dear Parents,

The dark and stormy waves of affliction have burst over us by removing my dear, long to be lamented sister from us. We are called to realize that death steals o’er the loveliest & youngest of Earth as well as those of riper years & infirm health. Our Heavenly Father doubtless saw that we needed the bitter draught & gave it us. He does not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men, but I feel ’tis hard for our Nature to submit to these trials. ‘Tis  a fearful thing to love what death may touch! I find my heart rebellious to the will of God. For days I struggled to utter, ‘Thy will, O God, not mine be done.’ I could not in sincerity, but blessed be God I now feel more resigned.

Should we not find consolation in the reflection that she could utter from her her heart those very words & be perfectly resigned to the will of her maker. Then not a murmur escaped her lips during her whole illness — that she suffered but little if any after three days and had her reason until the last moment of her life that she could converse with calmness and freedom of her approaching death. That she, it is evident, was more anxious than otherwise to go from her own words, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Welcome to this heart of mine.” Then she said, “Weep not for me.” Oh surely our loss is her gain and we sorrow not as those without hope. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those also, which sleep in Jesus, will God living with him.” — 1st Thessalonians 4 & 14.

I have not a doubt on my mind but that my beloved sister is now among those happy spirits around the throne of her redeemer & that her voice is now swelling the anthems of the blessed and giving everlasting praise to Him who died on Calvary’s cross for the remission of all sins. All my sister’s letters to me since she proffered to be a Christian have breathed the humble devoted spirit of a child of God. It seems, indeed, that our Heavenly Father was preparing her heart for that change with none but Him could foresee.

In the last letter I ever received from her, in speaking of her regret that she could not see me again before we left Alabama, she quoted the passage, “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.” As she wrote they had been calculating that Addison would come to Jacksonville in July and carry me to Tuscumbia [Alabama] and she had thought so much of it that she hardly thought anything could prevent. Oh had I only known her situation it seems to me I must have gone, or had we been in Jacksonville and Addison wrote us directly, she was taken so sick we should certainly have gone. But I know she had kind friends there & I trust she had everything done for her — every comfort that  could be — and Addison, I know, was a most kind & affectionate husband & I doubt not done all in his power for her.

A week ago last Monday, Catlin got a few lines from Addison stating of her being very dangerous. He mentioned it to Mrs. Crowley & she advised him & he thought it best not to let me know it just then. The next afternoon some ladies had just left when Catlin came to the house. I saw at a glance that he was very ill or something dreadful had occurred. He spoke [and] the dreadful truth came upon me as a thunder bolt. My Catlin wept with me. I thought my very heart would break. My spirit was overwhelmed within me & my heart seemed desolate. Oh, how I felt for you, my dear parents. How my heart yearned to be with you. It seemed that I could have received consolation to have wept with you. My dear husband sympathized with you & me as if it had been his own dear sister. My heart has been humbled & subdued by this affliction. I feel as if a voice was constantly saying to me, “be ye also ready.” We know not which of our family will be the next called. My sister, on her dying bed, sent her dying love to all of us & said we must prepare to meet our maker & to meet her in Heaven. Oh, “Let us come boldly to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy & grace to help in time of need. Let us draw nigh unto God and he will draw nigh unto us.” From Heaven alone may we receive consolation. We may then exclaim with the Psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted.” I am persuaded that sanctified afflictions are blessings in disguise if we improve them aright. Oh, if my poor humble prayers could avail ought this affliction will be sanctified in its effects to you, my dear parents & to all of us.

Oh how I feel for those three little motherless ones. What is to be done with them? Addison cannot expect to raise them there himself. I wrote to him that after we return from the North, if we situated so we could, and he was willing, we should like to take one of them. Oh, it would indeed be a pleasure to me for their mother’s sake, to teach them to love & reverance her memory. We expect if nothing happens more than we now know of, to see you all in August. But do not let us calculate too much upon it for we know not what might happen to prevent.

Mr. & Mrs. Cowley, children & two servants left last Wednesday for Mr. Shot___ — expect to be gone 3 or 4 weeks. We are keeping house for them & have the charge of 6 negroes. Get along very well indeed. We are both very well & Catlin sends love to all. He has been trying to make up his mind to write you but feels so much for you it seems he cannot.

I received Hannah’s letter in 5 days. It does seem as if we were much nearer home. I have been very anxious to hear again as Hannah wrote Pa had an attack of the pleurisy & Harriet & Nancy had the scarlet fever which I think is contagious & I fear it will get through the family. Do write very soon & oftener than you have done. I have had a black crape hat made as it is lighter for summer & have a b_____ at the dress makers. Do let us hear from you soon. I will answer Hannah’s letter soon & write also to _____ & Grandma.

My love to all. Ever your affectionate child, — Sarah


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