1848: Harriett Crum Sweet to Capt. Edward Sweet

How Harriet C. Sweet might have looked

How Harriet C. Sweet might have looked

This letter was written by 22 year-old Harriett Crum Sweet (1825-1907), the daughter of Capt. Edward Sweet (1792-1851) and Sylvia Crane (1796-1842) of Bristol, Vermont. Harriett married Samuel Fish Everett (1822-1902) in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in December 1850. The Everett’s later relocated to Iroquois County, Illinois, where they raised their children.

Mentioned in the letter are two of Harriett’s siblings: Permelia Sweet (1817-1883), Adaliza Sweet (1834-1900).

From the letter we learn that Harriett labored as a cotton mill worker in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her employer was the Massachusetts Corporation and she operated three looms on a 12-hour work shift. She earned approximately $3.50 per week and paid $1.25 per week for board. She roomed and worked with another young woman named Jane who I believe was also from the same hometown in Vermont.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Capt. Edward Sweet, Bristol, Vermont

Lowell [Massachusetts]
February 27, 1848
Sabbath Eve

Dear parents and friends one and all,

It is with feelings that I cannot describe that I take my pen to address you. I have just returned from following the remains of my sabbath school teacher to his last long home — a man eminent for piety and devotion, a man whose loss in universally regretted and lamented and most sensible felt in sabbath school. 7 of us (his scholars) followed him as mourners. He was a free mason; therefore, buried in the masonic order. About 80 of the order were present. The ceremony was performed with deep solemnity. But ah, he is at rest. I have heard his last warning, his last admonition. Three weeks ago today, he was in good health and served as teacher for the last time. He had been a member of the Me[thodist] Church several years but now has gone to reap the reward of the faithful.

I received Permelia’s letter of January 29 soon after date. I had long looked for one and had almost began to think that I was forgotten, but forgot all such feelings at the reception. The kind one from father and Adeliza of February 20 I received last Saturday. I did not expect another so soon but was not less gladly received. Adeliza speaks of a great deal of enjoyment of which I’m very glad to hear. She writes that Permelia has a daughter. Then there is another that by and by will say (Aunty). I should like to see my little niece. I suppose that when I get home she will call me aunt. Tell me how old she is &c. for if my health remains good and nothing calls me away I shall stay in Lowell much longer than I have been here and perhaps longer than I anticipated when I left home. Adeliza says that our folks say they know that I am homesick but will not own it. Has anyone inferred from any letter that I have written that I am homesick? Has anyone reason to think by them that I am sorry that I came to Lowell?  If so, they have not conveyed you my correct ideas and views if they have told you that I was homesick.

My hand has sensed that which my heart would not sanction but if memory serves arightly, I have said in some of my letters that I never have experienced one moment of regret that I came to Lowell and I still regard the same statement as truth — that is, if I have sensibility and judgement enough to know my own feelings.

Lowell, Massachusetts in 1852

Lowell, Massachusetts in 1852

We now work 12 hours a day. We shall work ¾ of an hour less after next Tuesday which will bring it to the first of March when we shall come out to breakfast. After then, we shall be released ___ or rather when it is dark at first. I think there is no place better than Lowell for one that is dependent upon themselves for support. I have said so before and say it still, I am not so taken up with Lowell that I never think of home. No, my mind often is carried in fancy bright vision to my paternal home. It is bound to my heart by many of nature’s endearing ties and ties to be severed only by death. Should I be thrown upon a bed of sickness and languishing, home would undoubtedly look dear to me but I trust on whose arm I can lean in time of trouble.

March 5 —

My letter has already begun a week and is time that it had reached you, but through my negligence, it is still here. I will, however, try to make amends by finishing it today. Jane and I are well. I lost 3 weeks time the last payment. I took cold and it settled about the muscles of my lungs and stomach for which I was obliged to stay out and rest. I worked for my board. I could do anything else but attend my work in the mill but now I am entirely well of it and feel as well as ever.

A power loom in a cotton mill

A power loom in a cotton mill

Adeliza writes that Charlotte Smith is in Lowell. Next time any of you write, write if you know what corporation she works on and then I can find her. Nancy wrote that Amanda Doud had gone to Manchester or Lowell. If any of you can ascertain which place she is, I wish that you would write and if she is in Lowell, what corporation she is on. Week before last, I took off 25 pieces of cloth. Last week 26. If I had worked half an hour longer, I should have taken off 27. But never mind, I shall have a whole piece to begin with Monday morning. We have 13½ cents a piece (40 yards). [I] pay $1.25 [per week] for board so you can judge what we earn. I run three looms. If I can have four looms, I shall stay where I am. Four loom weavers average $3.50 [a week]. If I cannot, I shall go into another mill in the same yard or go to some other corporation where I can make more.

Jane says if anyone thinks that we are homesick, she wants when the railroad is completed that they should come and see us and see what they think about it and she will pay their expenses. For my part, I should like to have every girl that works for a living to come to Lowell. I think they would not be sorry. The mills are full of help now. It is rather difficult for a new hand to get in. If one comes anytime from the first of May to November, there is but little trouble about getting employment in the mills.

By Permelia’s letter, I should think that people were doing business at a pretty good rate. She requested me if I wanted my letters directed different to mention it, I will just say that I have not changed my boarding place and when I do, I will mention it. All that is necessary to put onto your letter is (28 Mass) and it will be just as well as Massachusetts Corporation. If nothing is put on it, I suppose it will be brought to my boarding place for I left y name at the Post Office to have them brought.

If I could see Adeliza, I would laugh at her for directing her letter as she did. I don’t [know] how it had the good luck to find me for there was no Lowell on it. It was directed like this: “Miss Harriett C. Sweet, Massachusetts Corporation, Mass.”

Tell Permelia to take good care of the little one. I wish I could see it. I dreamed about it last night. I thought it was very pretty — had blue eyes. I dreamed of holding it and kissing it. I want her to write as soon as she can. Give my love to all inquiring friends, if I have any.

The next letter I write I shall direct to Adeliza. Whenever you hear from Daniel, I want you to write. I wrote to him a full week ago but have received no answer. Adeliza wrote that Submit Peet was married. I want to know if the story that was in circulation respecting her before I left was true or not. Finally, there is a great many things that I would like to inquire about but must reserve them until I can see you. I don’t think of anything more now that I can write. I don’t know as you can read my last page. If you can’t, you must guess it out for the girls have [been] talking all the time I’ve been writing so you must excuse all my mistakes.

Yours affectionately, — Harriett C. Sweet


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