1844: Joel Benedict Harris to Albert Tyler

Joel Benedict Harris

Joel Benedict Harris

This letter was written by 21 year-old Joel Benedict Harris (1822-1891), the son of Allen Harris (1790-1864) and Hart Lester (1789-1826) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Joel later married Susan Millicent Pond (1830-1852) of Worcester on 15 December 1847. We learn from the letter that Joel resided in Springfield with his brother, Daniel Lester Harris (1818-1879). After graduating from Wesleyan University (1837), Daniel became a civil engineer and was employed on the Norwich & Worcester Railroad, the Troy & Schenectady Railroad, and in 1843 went to Springfield to survey the proposed railroad to Hartford. Daniel was married to Harriet Octavia Corson (1824-1879).

Harris wrote the letter to his friend Albert Tyler (1823-1913), printer and manager for several years of the Barre Patriot, and later (1851) the pastor of the Universalist Societies in Oxford and Quincy (MA) and Granby (CT). Albert was the son of Timothy and Phoebe (Bates) Tyler of Smithfield, Rhode Island. He married Wealthy Hawes Drury in 1845.

In the letter, Harris invites his friend to attend the Whig Convention scheduled to convene in Springfield on 9 August 1844. The Commercial Advertiser (NYC) reported the following on 12 August 1844:

The great mass meeting of the Whigs at Springfield, Mass., on the 9th inst., was attended by at least twenty-five thousand, and has furnished another proof of the zeal with which the people are taking up the election of ‘Harry of the West’ [Henry Clay] to the chief magistracy of our great Republic. On the evening of the 8th, Springfield literally swarmed with delegations already arrived. About half past 8 in the evening, Rufus Choate, Governor Seward and Daniel Webster — a noble trio — arrived, and with them came the Kinderhook Clay club, preceded by a full and powerful band. The cheers which these three gentlemen received were such as only honest and lion-hearted men could give, or such men as Webster, Choate and Seward could elicit.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Albert Tyler, Esq., Barre, Massachusetts

Office of the Springfield & Hartford R. R.
Springfield, Massachusetts
August 3rd 1844

Friend Tyler,

I have been so long indebted to you for a letter that I am almost ashamed to write at all, but believing it is never too late to do good, I have concluded to write a short epistle to you. I know I ought to offer some apology for so  long neglecting to write, but I feel that I have no very good excuse to offer (except that I have been unusually busy for the last month) and I shall pass on without offering any other, promising to be more punctual in future and trusting that you will pardon this, my first offense of the kind.

I suppose you with thousands of other good Whigs will be here on the 9th of August at the Convention. It will be a great day here and some eminent men are expected here to speak among whom are Webster, Seward (of N. Y.) Winthrop &c. &c. Fearing lest you might possibly not be intending to be here at that time, I have concluded to write at this particular time to give you a particular invitation to come on at that time, and to remain here until Monday or longer the welcome guest of your friend J. B. H. I suppose you must know what is to be done here on that day, and I know it cannot fail to [be] interesting to you, and on Saturday I will endeavor to amuse you by visiting some interesting places in this vicinity. And if you can spend the time, we will perform a voyage on the raging Main to Hartford &c. Mark, I term this a particular invitation and I shall be much disappointed if you are not here. Please write and inform me that you will be here (at all events write) and to make it easy for you to find me I will stay in the office (which I have told you is just across the street from the depot in the 3rd story of the W. R. R. Building (brick) for a short time after the train arrives which will be at 15 minutes past 8 o’clock (I suppose of course you will come on in that train) and you will please come over immediately after the train arrives.

I board at E. Rowland’s in Main Street, 2d house below the Washington House. I expect my father here on the 9th. You probably recollect that I had a brother married about the time that I left Worcester. He is a R. R. man and has been living with me in this town with his lovely wife, and with them I spend most of my leisure hours. Well, what I am coming at is the important fact that I have within the last 10 days become an uncle. The child is of the masculine gender and is a stout, healthy boy and with his mother is doing very well.

But to something that will be more interesting to you, I see by the papers that you have moved your place of residence to Barre. I hope you may  find it as pleasant a place as Worcester, and that you may find your job printing and your business generally lucrative. I suppose you must miss that pretty Miss that lives in the long house in Worcester. Good luck and long life to her and her lover. If you should find it impossible to be here on the 9th, I wish you to write and tell me how Barre is situated, how far from Worcester and how far from the nearest depot on the W. R. R. and the best way to get there as I propose to visit Worcester within a month or two and should be pleased to see you.

Our R. Road goes on prosperously. The track is laid down for about 8 miles on this end and in November (or December) it will be open to Hartford.

I. M. Parsons (former keeper of the Hampden House) hung himself here some 14 days since as you have probably seen by the papers. ¹ He left an interesting family. He was a gambler and associated (as it is said) with bad women and undoubtedly deserved hanging at the expense of the state. I saw him soon after he was cut down as he lay on the barn floor on the straw. Villain was stamped on his countenance as distinctly as I ever saw it on any other man’s face. He attempted the day before to kill  himself but “couldn’t come it.” May the Lord forgive him for those he has wronged never can.

On Friday week a friend of mine named Smith — a conductor on the Syracuse & Utica R. R. was killed on the road. He was a whole souled man. Peace to him in death.

If you can stay here over Sunday, I should like to have you make a speech at the temperance meeting on Sunday evening. Gough has been here and spoken two evenings and was liked first rate. I should write longer if I did not expect to see you soon. Hoping to hear from you as soon as possible after you get this. I remain your friend.

— J. B. Harris

To Albert Tyler, Office of the Barre Patriot, Barre, Mass.

¹ This is a reference to Israel Merrick Parsons (1802-1844) who hung himself on 20 July 1844. He was married to Marcia Curtis and had at least four children. The National Aegis (Worcester, MA) published the following notice on 24 July 1844: “SUICIDE. We understand that a Mr. Parsons, formerly keeper of the Hampden House in Springfield, hung himself on Saturday morning last.”


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