1842: Thomas Masters to Martha Caldwell (Masters) Taylor

Grave of Martha and Henry Taylor

Grave of Martha and Henry Taylor

Thomas Masters (1781-1844) was born in London, England, to Thomas Masters, Sr., and Sarah Rowley. He married Isabella Caldwell (1783-1841) of Philadelphia on June 3, 1807. They had eight children, including Martha Caldwell Masters, who married Henry Wyllys Taylor, and Sarah Rowley Masters, who married Jeremiah Wilbur. Thomas Masters worked in the mercantile business for thirteen years before collaborating with his brother-in-law Francis Markoe, Sr., in 1810 to form the firm of Markoe & Masters. Francis Markoe (1774-1848) was married to Sarah Caldwell. Masters had important business connections in England, as well as in Philadelphia and New York, while Markoe’s business ties were in St. Croix and Philadelphia. Later, after Francis Markoe fell into debt, they formed a new company under the name Masters & Markoe. Masters was the more active and successful partner, eventually shouldering most of the responsibility for the firm. In the early 1840’s, he was elected director of the Bank of the Manhattan Company. Masters died on November 13, 1844.

Henry Wyllys Taylor

Henry Wyllys Taylor

Henry Wyllys Taylor (1796-1888) was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, to the Reverend John Taylor and Elizabeth Terry. After graduating from Yale University, he was admitted to the bar in 1819 and a year later he opened his own law office in Canandaigua, New York, where he became a prominent attorney and judge. In 1832, he married Martha Caldwell Masters, the daughter of Thomas Masters and Isabella Caldwell. Taylor was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840, and to the Michigan Senate in 1846. He served as a justice of the New York State Supreme Court from 1856-1860. In 1869 he received an honorary law degree from his alma mater Yale. Though the family was rooted in Canandaigua, they lived in Marshall, Michigan between 1840 and 1847, before returning to Canandaigua. [Source: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan]

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Taylor, Henry W. Taylor, Esq., Marshall, Michigan

New York, [New York]
Wednesday Evening, August 31, 1842

Dear Martha,

I have been busy writing all day for the Britannia Steamer which leaves Boston tomorrow so that I shall not do much in writing to you tonight. I sent off a letter on Monday afternoon. Yesterday your Uncle & Aunt Markoe returned from Buttonwood very much gratified & your Aunt Sally in fine spirits as well as ever I knew her and quite affectionate and kind to me. I informed you that I intended to leave Anna with Fanny a little while longer with what she seems very much pleased & I wrote to Ann ¹ last week by Jeremiah [Wilbur] — and she has written me in reply more than a sheet of paper in which the sentiments she has set forth have gratified me exceedingly. I wrote her that the demand of Mr. Tappan ² I thought was enormous but stated I would not grudge the expense if she would improve the opportunity & avail herself of the advantages of it. I will copy a part of her letter if I was to copy all that pleases me, I should copy the whole of it. “If I go to Mr. Tappan, I shall by all means endeavor to improve as much as possible to make myself a fit member of society & to have something to talk about when in company with distinguished individuals. Dear Sister Martha will be with us next summer & how much better able I shall be to appreciate her intellect for now she is so exalted that to touch the hem of her garment is all I dare to do — not that I am afraid of her — but my understanding & knowledge compared to hers is so inferior. If I make a prosper of my time I shall be able to converse with & read & understand what she does & she will take more pleasure in my society & aid in my efforts for improvement.

Benjamin Philip Tappan, ca, 1860s

Benjamin Philip Tappan, ca, 1860s

She goes on to say she thinks I had better dispense with any tuition in music this winter & she will try & improve herself & then adds, “I had thought all along of asking you to let me study French this winter & as I am going to study it — it is so fashionable & I know enough of it just so that I cannot say I do not understand it, but yet I would make a fool of myself if I attempted to speak it. I thought if you had no objections you might make your arrangement with Mr. Tappan while making the other by which I might study it.

An another place she says, “Frank is going to Newburg to attend court on Monday next & sister is going to leave me with Fanny as she will be so very lonely by herself. She is exceedingly lovely in every respect — indeed Father, I do love all my sisters most devotedly. They are all exceedingly lovely in their own way & my aim shall be to combine the lovely edification of all.”

Saturday afternoon [3rd September]. It was on Thursday the dear ones came home leaving Anna behind them. All well except dear (?) Belle & she was complaining of a gum bite — ___ thin & sunburnt but very hearty — and Mary lovely — almost as beautiful as her picture. What a paragon of ladylike propriety & good manners she is. Dear little Martha Masters — as fat as a seal & in fine spirits. She leaves us for Philadelphia on Monday morning. Your dear sister seems very well. We are all going to Sarah Coffin’s this evening to take tea.

Dr. George E. Potts

Dr. George E. Potts

Tomorrow our church is to be reopened. Dr. [George E.] Potts has hardly been out of the City this summer and he seems very well. The affairs of the Church in Washington Square are all unsettled. Mr. Hutton is to preach there tomorrow. His party have hired it for a short period. But the intent is to get the people who live in these parts to take pews — and after a while there will be a combination to sell the pews to pay off the debt & settle a new minister when, if Dr. Potts is invited, he will come. Mr. Mason is stirring in the business and the idea with him seems to be that this church is to be the University Church uniting in a bond of influence. I expect I have told you all this before.

The news per Caledonia Steamer has arrived today. Tom showed me a letter from his mother who still lives in the beautiful little village in the Isle of Wight where we staid with her. She speaks of being very happy and contented although lonely. Mary’s health is better. Frank the same. His mind she thinks becomes more imbecile as he grows older. She expected William down to spend a few weeks as usual with her in September. John follows his business as an upholsterer & Mr. Foote was coming home too often having been absent since the month of May, attending to his business as a traveller for some house. Miss Patty Empy & Miss Wallbrook had been down to pay her a visit. She mentions the weather as being uncommonly lovely — dry & warm — so that when writing they were sitting with all the doors & windows open.

Thomas Masters may have written this letter on this desk, reputed to have been made for him.

Thomas Masters may have written this letter on this desk, reputed to have been made for him.

Sabbath morning, 4th September. I was called off from my writing last evening to go to Mr. Coffin’s where the whole family had been invited. We enjoyed a very pleasant evening having none there but ourselves. After we got there, it came on to rain violently. The children remained to sleep there and have not yet come home. Sarah received your letter yesterday morning and was delighted with it. Your expressions of affection seemed to afford her much happiness. Dear child, her heart goes out very warmly in affection to us all — and our dear Sarabo friendship will be invaluable to her. Mr. Coffin as a gentleman & a man is first rate — the more I see of him the more I am satisfied about him — their greatest danger will be found in their associations. Mr. Coffin may be accessible to an influence which is New England Association — which from the absence of the safeguard of evangelical religion may be unitarian or skeptical or anything.

Kitty told me last night — incidentally, I was talking to her of improving her mind — that Mr. Eames had been recommending Sarah to read Tenoni — only think of it — you have read it and surely upon the face of the earth where is there to be found a writing of more corrupting character to an unstable & vacillating feeble mind. Would you recommend it to an human being whose piety & holiness of heart you would wish established & enlarged in the enjoyment of an happy experience — in the fear of God & in a Savior’s love? — or even the purity of whose imagination or stability of ____ moral sense — you would wish to preserve? The danger lies in the talent of the man & the fascinations of his writing.

On this point I have reason to believe Sarah will not be vulnerable. She will not read Bulwer’s novels and at present I have reason fully to believe that the influence of this wretched man over her is killed. I am told she sees very little of him and that altho from Mr. Coffin’s former friendship — he cannot be shaken off — yet I think neither Mr. C or Sarah now approve of the man or of his principles. Believe me, dear daughter, it is possible for talent & taste & knowledge in a worldly literature to exist in a mind as herein there is a very little if a sound practical judgement or even of common sense — and such is Mr. Eames.

Sabbath evening. We have been down to church twice today. In the morning the children walked to church & back again. This afternoon, ____, Sarah & I & Martha went together. Dr. Potts preached well as usual. In the morning on prayer — in continuation of the same course of sermons of which we have had four or five & this afternoon on the words, “Compel them to come in.”

Dear Martha will leave us tomorrow morning for Philadelphia. We have had a lovely visit from her. She has been very affectionate & tender to me and I have shown her all the affection in my power. And I think she has been happy with us.

It is my intention to throw myself loose & go to spend a week at the farm. I shall go on Tuesday afternoon. Frank will be at home the first part of the time but if I defer it, I may not go at all. If Frank is absent, I may do some good perhaps in looking at the men work. I think too I may be of some comfort to dear Fanny who feels no doubt somewhat lonesome after the departure of so many.

Thomas Masters Grave

Thomas Masters Grave

Wednesday morning, 7th July [September] at Buttonwood. I left town yesterday at 3 o’clock, arriving at Goshen. I had to here a conveyance to get out — although I wrote on Friday I was coming, they did not receive my letter until last evening at 8 o’clock. They sent Sharry down immediately but he came too late and I missed him. Frank went to Newburg on Monday morning to attend court as a juryman. His work will go on well. He has faithful men. He is progressing gradually with the improvement of the farm & is really doing as well as I could expect. His crop of hay is abundant and he will be able to keep over a considerable stock of cattle. He is ploughing some of his lots for wheat & Rye and will have an increase of oats & corn. It is a first rate farm & undoubtedly a great acquisition if we can only make out to sustain it, of which now I think there is no doubt. The meadows look beautiful & green & the lots on the other side of the road are affording fine pasture. The Dahlias received from England are all coming out fully & freely & look beautifully. The churn id going — they churn every dsay & make as fine butter as any in Orange County — about 50# per week at 18. $9.38 from 14 cows. I told you Frank had sold his fat steers at a profit of $15 ____ since last fall when he ___ them & he has replaced them by new ones.

Shall I say anything more to you about the “delight of my eyes” — it is hardly necessary. I fear saying too much — as when you come you may perhaps feel disappointed & your exclamation may be, “Is this all?” I will say however she is so lovely & amiable as ever, receiving me with all the affection & kindness of an own child & lavishing attentions upon me. She is very well & seems to be quite active & industrious & in fine spirits. Dear Anna too is well & very happy with Fanny. She saus she does not want to go home, and Fanny says she wishes Anna could live with her altogether. Fanny’s amiability & loveliness of ___ber & manners has I think already wrought a happy change in Anna, softening down her natural acerbity of feeling & expression. I called to see Mr. Tappan on Monday afternoon but he was out of town. I never saw him. I want to see and judge of him a little & hear what he has got to say for himself.

Rev. Mancius S. Hutton

Rev. Mancius S. Hutton

Sarah Cummins is here and I believe intends to remain the week. She is a fine girl but not very happy in the loneliness of Florida without congenial society. She expects to spend part of her time this winter in Philadelphia & a part in New York. The Doctor expects to be called to the church as pastor on Saturday & to be installed by the Presbytery next week — which has never yet been formally done altho he has now been preaching some time. He is a very excellent man & an admirable friend to Frank. It has been a wonderful working of Providence the way in which Frank has been led. He will be I expect made an elder of the church. I could have wished it otherwise — he is so young & as yet unstable & desultory in his mind & habits. This however may helt to fix him and there seems as if the call to the office could not be waved in the view if Frank’s religious standing & the need there is for some native cooperation to sustain the Doctor & the old school cause. I trust the Lord will strengthen & sustain him that he may be a burning & a shining light. What he will do with his congregational predilections I know not.

I told you that last Sabbath Mr. [Mancius S.] Hutton preached in the church in Washington Square — usually called Dr. Matthew’s Church. ³ In the morning the church was so crowded that they had to put seats in the aisles. In the afternoon it was full. What a blow this will be to Dr. Matthews. When he preached t the time the church was hired by his friends, scarcely any or very few persons attended. The Doctor will find out at last in spite of all his vanity & self sufficiency that he is a man of fallen fortunes [and] that in all New York perhaps, there is not an individual who has sunk lower in public estimation than himself.

Aqueduct over Harlem River

Aqueduct over Harlem River, 1450 feet long with 14 piers

Cyrus Mason has been to the White Mountains with a large party — Mr. Butler’s family & others. I met him at your Uncle’s week before last. He was perfuse in his attention & he ___ & asked me if I had ever bee to see the Bridge they were erecting for the waterworks over the Harlem River and said he would take me some afternoon. I closed with his offer & told him that any afternoon after this day week last past I would go with him. He took your Aunt Sally out riding on Saturday afternoon & apologized by her for neglecting me. He meant to have called for me that afternoon but was too late having been detained &c. This is all probably I shall hear of it. Still I gave your Aunt Sally to understand fully that I held Cyrus to his promise. I do not care at all to go with him, but I have a very spiteful feeling towards people who make promises without meaning to keep them. I told you I suppose all about the Croton water.† We have it in the house and it is excellent. Softer than rain water & delightfully light & refreshing as a drink.

Fanny came to tea just now & I asked her to write you a few lines but she says no, she wants to write you a good long letter. I told her I feared it would be a long time before the long letter would be written.

Coming up yesterday afternoon, I met with Dr. M’Carter & his son who is a physician & who contemplates going on a mission. They had with them [Divie Bethune Duffield –] a son of Mr. [George] Duffield’s who had just finished his education at Yale College & contemplates a preparation for the law. He seems to be a fine youth. Duffield’s eldest son [George] is a settled minister over a [Presbyterian] congregation in Brooklyn & is doing well.

Dear Ann has made some pies this week and this morning Sarah Cummins & Anna have been washing the breakfast things — Anne cleaning the lamps, only think of it.

We have heard nothing yet of Mrs. Wells. Young M’Carter gave me the impression that she was not coming.

I have enquired again about the lithography. Another stationer says they would rule it & it would look better — their terms would be $12 bound.

I have not yet got Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Architecture at the Mercantile Library. It had been stolen from there. I mean to get a friend to enquire for it at the U. T. Society Library.

Fanny & I intend to go down tomorrow morning to the Goshen Post Office and hope to be there in time to get this letter & one she is writing to Frank down to Newburg by the morning’s mail. I have also your letter to Martha Masters which was directed here & is postmarked at Kalamazoo. This I send to her in Philadelphia. This has been a delightfully cool & pleasant day. I have been wandering about the farm. The men are engaged ploughing a large field which they mean to sow with Rye next week. He will also have a field of wheat and where his corn is now growing together with an adjoining field he means to sow with oats in the Spring. His corn on the bog meadow is doing very well.

This is a desultory letter. I do not know what you will make of it. I cannot remember as usual hardly a word I have written.

This evening Miss Sally & Miss Augusta Thompson came here to tea. You will recollect them perhaps as the next door neighbors. They are quite smart girls — and their father is a very good neighbor to Frank. Frank seems to be generally on very pleasant terms with his neighbors which is quite satisfactory. Sarah intends to write you a letter for next week.

Your affectionate father — Tomas Masters


¹ Thomas is referring to his daughter, Anne Auchincloss Masters, who married Charles Henry Augusta Bulkley in September 1847.

Advertisement in Commercial Advertiser, 1842

Advertisement in Commercial Advertiser, 1842

² This was no doubt the School for Young Ladies at No.13 Carroll Place (Bleecker Street) in New York City. The Principal and proprietor was Professor Henry Philip Tappan (1805-1881). Born in Rhinebeck, N. Y., 1805; graduated Union, 1825; studied theology at Auburn (N. Y.) Seminary, 1825-27; Asst. Pastor Reformed Dutch Church, Schenectady, N. Y., 1827-28; Pastor Cong. Church, Pittsfield, Mass., 1828-32 ; Prof. Intellectual and Moral Philosophy and Belles-Lettres, 1832-38 ; conducted school for young ladies in New York City, 1838-1852 ; first Pres. Univ. of Michigan, 1852-63 ; died 1881.

Washington Square Reformed Church

Washington Square Reformed Dutch Church

³ The Reformed Dutch Church on Washington Square was formed after the Great Fire of December 16, 1835, destroyed much of the lower part of the city, including the South Reformed Church which stood on Garden Street (now Exhange Place). Members of the South Church were divided on where to rebuild: a part of the society elected to build a new church on Murray Street; the others, many of whom had removed their residences to far “up town,” joined their pastor, the Rev. Dr. James M. Matthews, and held services in the chapel of New York University at Washington Square. Dr. Matthews’ group purchased a lot on the corner of Washington Place and Wooster Street, fronting Washington Square, and a new church was built from 1837-1840. Dr. Matthews was also the first Chancellor of New York University.

† “The Croton Aqueduct was a large and complex water distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842. It brought water by the force of gravity alone 41 miles (66 km) from the Croton River in Westchester County into reservoirs in Manhattan, where local water resources had become polluted and inadequate for the growing population of the city. Water started flowing through the aqueduct on June 22, 1842, taking 22 hours for gravity to take the water the 41 miles (66 km) to reach Manhattan.[5] Even though only 6,175 houses had been connected to the system by 1844, the Croton water had already dramatically improved both domestic hygiene and interior design. Baths and running water were being built in the private homes of wealthy New Yorkers and public bathing facilities were constructed for the masses.” Source: Wikipedia]


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