This letter was written by Dorastus Wooster (1787-1855) to his son, Orlando Wooster (1822-1906). Orlando graduated from Middlebury College in 1844 and was a teacher in Windsor (Vermont), Middlebury (Vermont), Moriah (New York), and Randolph (Massachusetts), until admitted to the bar in 1848. He practiced law at Moriah about a year and then went to work for the Burlington and Rutland Railroad. He married Ava Spaulding in 1871.
This letter contains some fatherly advice as Orlando begins his teaching career following graduation from college.
Addressed to Mr. Orlando Wooster, Windsor, Vermont
September 10th 1844
Mt dear son,
It appears a novel proceeding for me to sit down to hold a correspondence with one who has been an intimate of my family and a member of the same for more than twenty years. I received with pleasure your favor of the 8th instant. I waited with anxious expectation to hear from you. I was glad to hear that you arrived safely at Windsor and found in the Rev. Mr. Wilson an agreeable companion. This is what i expected. Tho I never had an intimate acquaintance with him, but have seen him and his appearance impressed me favorably. I hope you will not be discouraged by small beginnings and small earnings but remember that you have entered upon a course of apprenticeship both to instruct and be instructed. Professor Smith was not quite correct in his Baccalaureate address to your class, “that you were educated men.” You have just begun to learn, you have just passed the threshold of knowledge. “The prospect wide and unbounded lies before you,” [and] you are forming a character for time and eternity. The sentiment of the Poet is correct: “Honor and shame from no condition rise, Act well your part, there all the honor lies.”
I now commence writing again and wish to inform you that the two Miss Strongs, Mr. Graves, and a Mr. Alba from New Hampshire are boarding with us. Mr. Rankin commenced boarding but is sick and has gone home. Mrs. Tudor is going to Salem and the Dr. T. will board probably with us so we shall have a physician in the family. Mr. Strong informs me that your Uncle Moses has gone to his place of destination. I have this day made an offer of my place to Mr. Weiker for a thousand dollars to be paid $200 down and the balance in yearly installments with annual interest on the whole. What will come of it, I can not tell. There is some prospect that the trade will be perfected tho I am not sanguine. He says that he calculates to stop here and must have a place. I am inclined to believe that it will be better for my family to find some other place. What business I have here will not support us and to be throned by creditors, it is too intolerable. This may all seem as mere gossip used to fill up my letter but I can not tell. The claims of those near and dear to me are strong and powerful and I feel it a duty incumbent upon me to meet them the best way I can. The few remaining years which await me here I should be glad to have them pass away in peace and quietude.
You request in your letter to be informed whether the preceptorship in Middlebury be vacant. The President called on me after your departure for Windsor to enquire about your care at Windsor whether the prospect was that you would continue there. I suppose his object was to obtain you here should you fail of continuing there. He has now employed Mr. Julius Bingham ¹ as preceptor and has now commenced operations. What the prospect is for a school I do not know. Whether Mr. Bingham will continue here in the capacity of preceptor longer than the quarter, I do not know. I have made no enquiry upon the subject. Should a vacancy happen, I will inform you.
You have now entered upon a state of “untried being” and you need the council of the wise and the exertion of all your faculties to direct you in the path of prudence and safety. Your mother and myself feel a strong interest in your welfare, and you know I can scarcely conceive the strength and power of a mother’s affection. It is as lasting as life and even extends beyond the grave. We hope that you will cultivate an acquaintance with things of a piritual character. We hope you will try to understand the relations which exist between you and Him who made you for in honoring Him is involved your everlasting good.
Study to make yourself approved in the discharge of all your duties in whatever situation you may be placed. Suffer not any blot or blur to rest upon your moral character. Be ever ready to acknowledge a fault and be quite careful not to furnish any occasion for such acknowledgements. We live in an evil world surrounded by temptations and we must frequently make some sacrifice of feeling and of interest in the discharge of our duties.
Religion affords to the sinner his only hope and to the Christian his only ___tation. I hope then, my son, that you will soon make your choice if you have not already made it, to live the life of a Christian and I sincerely hope that you will place your standard of action high above all the blandishments of vice, the fear of man and the corrupting influence of this world’s a____. The great Edmond Burke when dying, appreciated the serenity of worldly renown when he exclaimed, “What are the honors of this world when the cold damp dew of death is falling on my brow.”
I am your affectionate father, — Dorastus Wooster
¹ Julius Fenn Bingham (1819-1914) was the son of Jeremiah and Rhoda (Feen) Bingham of Cornwall, Vermont. He attended Middlebury College from 1841-1844 but did not graduate. He afterwards became a farmer and married Mary E. Woodruff in 1860.