1843: Ann to Sylvester Bumpus Shearer

The author of this letter is not identified. She retained her anonymity forever by signing her name only as “Ann.” We learn from the letter that she was engaged to the recipient of the letter, Sylvester B. Shearer, but that the engagement was “broken” by Shearer.

Sylvester Bumpus Shearer (1813-1892) was born in Stillwater, Saratoga County, New York. He was the son of Jason Shearer (1789-1854) and Mary Bumpus (1784-1846). After graduating from Union College in 1840, he studied theology with Rev. E. D. Maltby from 1840-1, and then graduated from the Auburn Theological Seminary in 1843. He was ordained a Presbyterian preacher at Chemung in 1846 and married Maria Decker of Havana, New York in 1851.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. S. B. Shearer, Mileport, Chemung County, New York

Brooklyn [New York]
December 26, 1843

Mr. S.,

I presume you have expected a letter from me ‘ere now, & the best reason I can give for not writing sooner is that it is a very painful duty to write to one with whom I have stood in such intimate relations and who can now frankly declare he loves me no longer.

Rev. Samuel H. Cox

Rev. Samuel H. Cox

Dr. Cox ¹ thought the contents of your letter to him were such that it would be best for me to them, & I will endeavor to answer both, as in the sign of Him to whom I shall answer all at he last great day. I trust you appreciate the kind interest Dr. Cox has felt in this matter. In writing you I heard him say he had no motive but to serve the best interests of both parties. The tried faithfulness, piety & experience of Dr. Cox as my pastor, entitle him to my confidence in trials & difficulties & when I knew not what to do, I have consulted him and his standing as a minister of the gospel entitles him to the respect of all.

You say “that when you received my last letter, you felt that I had will fully mistaken you.” I duly say, I did not willfully mistake you, but to use your own words, “I wrote as things appeared to me.” As to deceiving you, I detest such a principle in any female & can assure you such a thought never entered my mind. You speak of my bad disposition — jealousy — suspicion. As to the first, I can truly say I have never indulged such a feeling for I never had any reason for I never knew or heard of your attention to any other lady till after your avowal of the charge in your feelings toward me in your last. As to suspicion, I confess, frankly, that I have been suspicious of your affection for me ever since you graduated. With your letters before me from that time, I could not feel otherwise.

You say I never gave you a direct answer to your repeated propositions for a separation. I did not — nor could I. The reasons you gave were as a feather in my estimation, such as poverty, length of time, &c., change of religious views. Now when I entered upon the solemn vows which have bound me to you, I did it for life, feeling that a betrothment in the sight of God was as sacred as marriage & no reasons like those you mentioned would ever induce me to break an ____ of God.

You speak of a letter & paper which I have never received, not having heard from you since I last wrote, till I received yours by the kindness of Dr. Cox. Neither did I know where you were from that time till a week or two before he saw you at Auburn last August. During that time I knew not but you were dead. Your name was never mentioned to me and I confess I never expected to hear from you directly again.

You wish to know my motives in wishing Dr. Cox to enquire about you. You will allow I was not a little surprised when I learned you were at Auburn, for in your last letter to me you said you could not be a minister and gave your reasons, & left me under that impression. Now for my motives. I was very, very anxious to learn if your soul was any better established on the Rock of Ages & your faith more orthodox. I own I was so anxious to know these things that I did not even think or wondered how you felt toward me. And besides, a silence of more than two years satisfied me pretty well with regards to your feelings. Your soul was & is of more interest to me than to know what you think of me. After praying for you for that length of time under such circumstances, no wonder I felt anxious to hear about you.

The motives which you impute to me were as far from me as they could be. I would rather have you ___ faithful message because of your Master; with bread & water, than that you should possess the breadth of a continent. As to injuring your usefulness, I am sure I never intended it & I pray it may not injure either you or the cause you preach. And as to “to get satisfaction” — I can truly say I look to my Father in Heaven for that. You say I “guessed what girl you had fallen in love with.” I do not remember any such thing. Cousin S. says she ____ to something of that sort in writing to you. You say something about my writing to you when I would not see you. I know not to what you refer, but I know that I have always seen you when you were to be seem since our engagement. Shall I notice that other remark of yours — “Several other indiscreet & impolitic transactions.”  This from you — Mr. S. Can it be?

Now that you do not love me anymore I seem to feel so very disaffected towards me. I should not much wonder if all my conduct appeared indiscreet to you, but that it should at that time, when in your last letter to me more than two years since you say, “Your very appropriate behavior on all occasions is a surety for my increasing respect.” I say that you now accuse me of such things as occurring then, I do not comprehend. Can it be that you have thought thus of me, have written thus of me. Do I deserve this from you? Wherein? because I have written my happiness to you & have lived to find it all a delusion? because I have confided in your affection & awake to find it all a dream?

You also say that you have requested an audience with me to which I have not replied. I find nothing of this among letters I have received from you since you were last here. And now you ask if I will release you from your engagement. I will, if it is right in the sight of God to do so, I wish to act in this matter as well as in all others.

I have thus been particular in placing myself from some mistakes under which I appear to you and of which I trust, in the sight of God, I am innocent and kindly ask you to forgive all mistakes. All that pained your heart that I have ever written, I now kindly as forgiveness as I hope to be forgiven.

You say I cannot make you happy and I have no wish to give you pain or to injure you in my respect.

The Lord make you a faithful, wise, humble and devoted servant of “His” usefulness, his church, wise in winning souls to him, so prays yours respectfully, — Ann


¹ Dr. Samuel H. Cox (1793-1880) was a former Professor of Sacred Rhetoric and Pastoral Theology at the Auburn Theological Seminary (1835-7). In 1843, he served the church in Brooklyn, Long Island.


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