1845: Frances Maria (Benedict) Dibble to Electa Mann

Grant Wood's American Gothic (Dibble House in background)

Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Dibble House in background)

This letter was written by Frances Maria (Benedict) Dibble (1810-1866), the wife of Thomas Dibble (1808-1865). They were married in May 1836 in Saratoga County, New York. Charles Arthur Dibble (1836-1923) — the oldest child of Frances and Thomas Dibble — had a home built for him in the 1880s in Eldon, Wapello County, Iowa. This home was made famous by Grant Wood when he incorporated it into his painting, “American Gothic.”

When this letter was written in 1845, we learn that Thomas and Frances Dibble had just moved into a new residence in St. Louis. The 1845 city directory lists their residence on Fifth Street and the Dibble & Graham Foundry on Second Street, south of Pine Street on the alley. By 1849, the couple had moved to Van Buren County, Iowa.

Dibble House

Chas. A. Dibble House

Frances was the daughter of Levi Benedict (1761-1839) and Elizabeth Davis (1772-1854) of Ballston, New York. Frances wrote the letters to her friend, Electa Mann (1806-1888), the daughter of James Mann (1768-1866) and Tryphena Tarbox (1765-1850) of Ballston Spa, Saratoga County, New York. Joseph Mann was Electa’s brother.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Miss Electa Mann, Care of Joseph Mann, Kendall, Orleans County, New York

St. Louis [Missouri]
December 21, 1845

My Dear Electa,

Image 19Again I sit down to answer another dear and welcome letter from you. While I was yet in Iowa before I came to St. Louis, I received a letter from you and O how happy was I to receive it. I immediately sat down and answered it also, at the same time, writing to mother and Davis. I directed yours to Ballston Spring, N.Y. and theirs [to] Saratoga Springs, N.Y. I am sure they were put in the mail in good order and where they went, the dear knows. I have never received anything — letter, paper, or anything else — since and only one I believe from mother. The fault — and a good one it is — lies in the Post Office Department somewhere. So do not think that I could be so dead to every feeling of friendship, justice, and everything else as to neglect for a moment answering so dear and welcome epistles as yours.

My dear Electa, I would give anything I possess almost and run almost any hazard to see you once more or converse one evening on old times with you and your dear mother. O, here away from all those dear scenes and remembrances almost, those halcyon days of youth. How often does memory bring back the delighted scenes and times that we have passed together. May God in His mercy grrant that some time or other we may again meet and friendship again resume that place sway which absence has rendered almost like a dream.

I received your last letter the 18 of December and now I sit down with heartfelt pleasure to answer it.

Image 18We have been building a Foundry and Dwelling house and about a month ago we got nicely moved in and we have a beautiful little room out of our sitting room for mother and a chimney for a small stove in winter for her and I am so anxious to get her here, you can’t tell. We have tried to contrive all ways but it does not yet seem to bring anything to pass and Thomas has at length concluded to go down in the spring after her. It would be very agreeable for me to make the trip but it is almost impossible for us both to leave home at once and likewise he will go so much quicker.

How much I thank you for the interest you and your invaluable parents seem to take in my lone mother’s welfare. I am well aware that she is not happy where she is and it is the sincere wish of my heart to try to maker her so, My dear Electa, I enjoin it on you after this to write me often. It will give me great pleasure to hear from Ballston very frequently. How all the old neighbors are getting along and all the deaths, marriages, removals, &c. I had never heard of the deaths you mentioned. We have heard of the death of Marcia, Mary Ann and George Starr and also Peter Dibble and wife. Mr. Dibble (Thomas, I mean) has had a sister and brother married since we lived in St. Louis. They live in Iowa about 2 hundred miles north of us.

Image 17Ask Joseph if he recollects going to school to Bloose, Pulling, Kingsley, Daggett & others too numerous to mention and all the etcetera of youthful days. I do. And do you, my dear friend, remember some rides that we took not exactly on but with Foot. O, those were times to be remembered. Also I suppose he (Joseph) thinks he has the finest babies in all the world. For the sake of argument, we admit it. We dare not doubt it but tell him he cannot begin to compare them with ours. Now don’t call this bragging, will you.

Good bye my dear friend. Give my best love to your father and mother and accept a warm fervent kiss for yourself. Adieu. May we sometime meet again is the sincere wish of your friend.

— Mrs. Frances M. Dibble

You must see mother and read her letter. I have there written more at large.


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