This letter was written by Mary Macomber Haines (1821-1867), the wife of Ezekiel Porter Eastman (1817-1860). Mary wrote the letter to her husband’s sister, Julia A. Eastman (1815-1887), the wife of Philip Morse Stubbs (1805-1876) — a lawyer in Strong, Maine, who was one of the builders of the Leeds & Farmington Railroad and was also connected with the Androscoggin Railroad Company.
Porter and Julia were the children of Samuel Eastman (1784-1864) and Jane Hitchcock (1786-1865). Porter graduated from the Medical College in 1838. A web article records that “Ezekiel had been married just one month back in Strong when [his older brother] Benjamin wrote [from Platteville, Wisconsin] to a physician friend in Boston urging him to marry quickly and come to Wisconsin, promising excellent prospects for his medical business. The old friend declined, but within a few the next few years, Ezekiel [Porter], as a newlywed doctor, took up the challenge because Eastmans knew how to grow a challenge into an opportunity.” We learn from this letter that Porter travelled to Wisconsin in 1841 in advance of his wife and that his wife probably rejoined her husband in there in the spring of 1842 in company with her father, but the family history relates that, “In 1842, Ezekiel [Porter] and Mary made the long journey west to the frontier territory, settling into a young village on Lake Michigan called Milwaukee that had reached a population of 1,700 inhabitants a few years earlier.”
Porter and Mary resided in Wisconsin until 1844 when they traveled back east during her pregnancy and they re-established themselves in Lynn, Masachusetts. Dr. E.P. Eastman went on to a successful career in eclectic medicine and did well marketing his own elixir called Yellow Dock Bitters which “exited the bile to do its duty in digestion.” Source: An Old and Bitter Storyteller, by Andrew V. Rapoza, 2006]
Addressed to Miss Julia E. Stubbs, Strong, Maine
Readfield [Kennebec County, Maine]
February 22, 1842 Evening
My dear sister Julia,
I have at last commenced upon a little duty which I intended should have been performed some day since, Indeed, there has hardly a day passed for a week or more but that I have resolved to write you before its close. I hope, however, it will not be unwelcome at this late date. Some weeks have passed since I received your kind letter and I assure you, dear sister, that I was not less grateful because I did not answer it immediately. On the contrary, it caused feelings of gratitude and pleasure. I felt as I always feel when perusing your dear letters, that you were my sister and none can be truer, kinder. Yes, Julia, your letters are a true type of yourself — affectionate, kind, and true. I cannot be otherwise than happy in such a correspondence. And now that you know that you are contributing so much to my happiness, you will not discontinue it, will you?
I was sadly disappointed this morning when they told me George called on me yesterday. I was very confident that I saw him pass Saturday, but could get no one to join me — and when I had looked for him all day Sunday, I began to think my eyes deceived me. Then to think that he should come the first time I have visited in town this winter [and] the only day I have been absent this winter, is really almost beyond endurance. But it cannot be helped now. Please say to him if he will send word a few days before he comes next time, I will endeavor to be at home and that I intend to answer his kind letter soon.
I am all alone this evening. I visited a cousin of ours yesterday where cousin Ann Bates and our sister Emma are spending the few days. Howe took his wife up this morning and brought me back. I could not stop longer because of my lessons. You are expecting me to say something of my dear husband — which I am going to do. The last time I write my Strong friends, I said I thought from what he wrote he would not make a home in Wisconsin. Since that I have received word that he had sent an agent — or rather he found a gentleman in Galena who was coming East — and had made arrangements to have me return with him. The next letter informed me that he had been disappointed; the man would not return until late in the spring and would spend more time at Washington on his return. Letters of a later date say that he intended to start for home by the first boat. For the last two or three weeks, he says he wishes me to go west if I can find anyone that is going — or that will go with me.
His last letter, which I received Saturday, says they are surrounded by sickness and death on all sides, that there were three deaths in town [on] the day before he wrote. They were not his patients. He has been very successful & says that the disease is very easily subdued if one understands it. There is quite an excitement with regard to physicians and Porter thinks he is getting into favor fast. He wishes me to come as soon as the boats begin to run on the Ohio and Mississippi and wishes me to persuade father to go with me. He says that the people say that he shall not have long enough to come after me. Nevertheless, if I do not conclude to go, he shall make preparations to return this spring. And among the last words in his letter are, “consider well and act wisely. I rather not go East if you can come.”
And now sister Julia, my intention is (if Porter does not see fit to alter his recent plans) to make ready to start in April or May for Wisconsin. I think Father will go most of the way if not all of the way with me. He is quite anxious to visit that country and can probably go this spring as well as any time. I feel now as though Porter is settled and has a good stand for practice, and his situation it seems to me must be rather pleasant than otherwise. I do really think that it will be better for him to stay a few years at least. They say that I am getting along fast with my music, but I suppose I am too anxious. I do not improve so fast as I want to. I shall continue here one month longer if I go west. If I do not go, I shall spend another quarter here.
I want to visit you very much and intend when I have finished this term to go to Strong and make as long a visit as I can. Dear Frances, I am sorry to hear that she is so much afflicted. Is she doing anything for her eyes?
This is a proud day for the Washingtonians. It has been celebrated throughout the country. Some of the brethren from this place have been to Augusta, some to Winthrop, and some to Mt. Vernon. All were awake and happy in their freedom.¹
Wednesday eve between nine and ten. I have just returned from an astronomical lecture by Moses Springer of Portland which was very interesting and illustrated by the magic lantern. Another lecture tomorrow eve finishes the course. You see, my dear sister, from my blunders that I ought not to write now. But I must close this for the morning mail. With much family to your family and the rest of my friends, I remain your affectionate sister, — M. M. H. Eastman
¹ Mary is referring to their freedom from alcohol. The Washingtonians were a Temperance Society or Total Abstinence Society begun in 1840.
² In the book entitled, “History of the city of Belfast in the state of Maine” by Joseph Williamson, it is recorded that, “the Rev. Moses Springer, editor of the Maine Farmer’s Almanac, delivered an interesting course upon Astronomy.”