1848: Mary Ann Foster to Temperance Harding (Foster) Shaw

How Mollie Foster might have looked

How Mollie Foster might have looked

This letter was written by Mary Ann (“Mollie”) Foster (1808-18xx), the daughter of William H. Foster and Betsy Harding (1786-18xx) of Gorham, Cumberland County, Maine. Mollie was unmarried and living with another sister — Margaret (1813-1897) — who was married to Edward T. Smith (1808-1885) of Gorham.  Margaret and Edward’s son, E. H. Foster (“Foster”) Smith (1844-Aft1891), is mentioned frequently in this letter.

Mollie wrote to her sister Temperance Harding (Foster) Shaw (1810-1866), Temperance was married (1835) to Thomas H. Shaw (17xx-1862) of the firm Shaw & Merrill, furniture merchants, Bangor, Maine. Thomas was the son of Samuel Shaw and Rachel Veazie (1771-1797).

Betsy Harding was the daughter of Capt. David Harding (1762-1831) and Temperance Davis (1760-1810) of Gorham, Maine.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Messers. Shaw & Merrill, For Mrs. T. H. Shaw, Bangor, Maine

Gorham [Cumberland County, Maine]
June 8th 1848

My dear Tempe,

I expect you have had forty conscriptions about my not answering your letter before but I could not seem to. I was finishing off Foster’s sack when we received your letter, and then I had an irritating plaster on my side and that was as much as I could attend to for two or three days and this week I put it on my stomach. I laid awake almost all last night with it. It makes me so nervous that it seems as if I could tear myself all to pieces. You don’t catch it on me again in a hurry. The Dr. wants it put on my side every little while but the remedy is as bad as the disease.

We were very glad to get your good long letter. I had begun to think it almost time. I am glad Mrs. Holton keeps you out so. It is better for your health, but I know one can’t do so much work. Why did not you tell us more of your jacket, and when you wear it, or all about it? Elisabeth came down here the next day after we received  your letter. She says I must say to you that she has given up the idea of going to Bangor. She don’t feel any spirits to go. She keeps in such a worry about Gardiner. He had been to that place only a month when he had one of his spells, raining & training nights, & frightened the folks all to death most, so they sent him back to the Hospital again. Our selectmen will only allow her half a dollar a eek for his board there, & the board is two dollars. They told her to write to Uncles and see what they would do about it. She told Uncle John she only wrote to him to pacify the selectmen, but she did not want him to give a cent. Uncle James wrote back and asked a few questions — what the board was, and what the selectmen would allow. Uncle John wrote he would do his part and wished he could bear the whole. I don’t know what Uncle James will do. Elisabeth wrote him and said she would take the money that was in his hands and pay his board rather than he should go to this poor house, which is the only alternative unless his board is paid. So Elisabeth don’t feel much like visiting. She says it seems to her as if it would be wicked for her to go. If she wanted to go and I was well, I could keep house for her, but as it is, I think it just as well for her to stay at home. She wanted me to ask you if you could send that vist__ pattern.

Did you ever see so much dismal wet rather? The farmers do groan for they can’t do anything on the land. They ought to be all done planting and they have hardly begun & the ground all full of water. Their work will all come in a heap as it did last year & the crows are pulling up what corn Edward has planted & they have to plant over again. Mrs. Pike was down to Bangor. She staid three weeks and did not have a pleasant day all the time she was there.

Friday, June 9th.

Cold, rainy & the wind blows. Our beautiful month of June is passing away and so dreadful rainy & cold too. It really seems gloomy. If it was November, I should not think so much of it. Dear Tempe, I should like to send this letter tonight, but I don’t know as I shall find anyone going to the [post] office. We are all blue as whet stones. How is it with you? You have more variety than we do (or dull days). I suppose you are glad of such days to get your sewing done. I don’t think anyone feels so much like it though.

How Foster Smith might have looked

How Foster Smith might have looked

We have finished Foster’s little sack. It is stone colored alpaca. I embroidered it round the bottom, pockets, collar, & double sleeved. It looks very rich, I think. I like to embroider with braid. It is like play. I drew the pattern on tissue paper as you said. Foster went to meeting Sunday. He has got a straw hat, the rim turned up all round & a round crown, and he looks quite killing in it.

Margaret & Edward were in Portland half a day last week. They did not call anywhere, only a minute to William’s. Thomas was down this week. I asked him what they were doing to the old house. He said thay had gone to letting it again so I guess all parties can’t agree and it will stand yet. Edward had a letter from Uncle last week asking what time he should be most at leisure if he could leave home. He should like to come here at that time. I suppose as usual we may be looking for him this month. Mary wrote a few words. She says the Dr. wants Caroline to go away for a short journey and she has concluded to go as soon as the weather is settled as far sa North Hampton for a week or two. I hope she will be benefitted by it. I wonder they don’t try Dr. Kelly. I guess he has had his day.

I don’t hear anything of any other movements in the family. I don’t hear anything of Aunt Abby’s journeying. I have been wondering whether she would go to Bangor but have said nothing about it. Have you said anything about it to her this spring? I don’t care what their movements are to be, we shall not pass any compliment to either of them. Mary says we don’t have the horrid east winds that they do but our air is soft and balmy. I just told her straight back that we had not nothing but cold east winds all this spring. I have been wondering why we have not heard more of the Hilliards this winter. Mrs. Smith wants me to ask for her, where Marian is, if she is with Mary? How is Eliza’s health? How unwell is Mrs. Hilliard? You may tell her for me that she need not be discouraged till she has had the diver complaint as long as I have. Then she may begin to be discouraged. I would like to hear particularly of them.

Our neighbors don’t branch out much in the House.¹ They have a handsome three ply carpet on the parlor facing our road and a very handsome piano with the attachment, a marble top centre table, stands between the front windows. The Piano stands where Mrs. Hilliard’s sideboard did. Then opposite is a sofa or couch covered with drab broadcloth & handsome fringe round it. They have two boxes or tabberays covered with red velvet & handsome fringe so that no frame is seen, a large mahogany rocking chair, dark colored cane seat chairs & rocking chair, a number of portraits of their brothers painted in crayons hung round the room, rather small size. The couch & boxes are covered with calico. They have a very handsome carryall just come from Boston. The Library they have fixed up for their grandmother. They expect her next week. She is in Fryeburg. Her name is Chandler. Perhaps they are related to Dr. Dean’s wife. They have fitted up Madam Tyng’s room for a sleeping room the same as the Hilliard’s did — a common woolen carpet, the furniture this light drab or some such color, the bedstead french form. Margaret says it looks very nice indeed. They have nothing but straw carpet on the entry stairs. Mrs. Jones said just as they had bought it their Father wrote them word that a woolen one would be cheaper. I should have got a straw stair carpet. Mrs. Jones said she was most sorry she had got the entry carpet. It is the plaid & fades very much. Margaret told her she could take it for the chambers. She said they had the chambers furnished with the white. They have set out a great many fruit trees and are setting out a row of firs from the house slantindicular down the road and taken away that side of the front yard fence so that it looks very much better.

They are outrageous mad with Pike for cutting down so many trees. we cut down a good many in front of the house and all the willows side of the road and some beautiful great Oaks on the Hill near us. He cut a clearing on all sides of the house. After he cut down the willows, he said he could see clear down to Bixby’s. They sent to Boston for help — I mean the Johnson’s — and they have got a paddy girl. She said she had lived on a farm three years so they thought that was recommendation enough & they felt rich, but come to she could not do anything of herself. Mrs. Jones says she has to set in the dining room and tell her everything. She can’t do one thing without being watched. If she had anything baking, she would let it burn all up or let the fire all go out and yet they give her nine shillings a week. She don’t milk or churn or beat over the butter. Their uncle milks; he does it from choice. They have lived in Augusta most of their time I guess for the Father was Secretary of State. ² One of the girls plays very prettily on the guitar.

Don’t you think the folks do say that Dr. Stone is engaged sor____ to a Miss Roberts of Saccarappa. We have ached to ask him about it but could not seem to. We heard of it three or four weeks ago. I should think he might tell us of it. He comes here once a week to see to me. I have been taking blue pills & billious pills & drops, and have to put my feet into an acid bath every night. My food has not distressed me so much since I began taking medicine. Sometimes I have a good appetite & sometimes I don’t. I have lived on oysters the last fortnight. I have often wished I knew how you fixed them when they were so good. I shall not have any more at present. I have got tired of them and they didn’t seem to set very well the last I eat.

Dr. Cummings' Compound Extract Sarsaparilla, Portland, Maine

Dr. Cummings’ Compound Extract Sarsaparilla, Portland, Maine

Thomas was gunning the other day & shot a wild pigeon so gave it to me. Margaret stewed it. It was very nice. And yesterday young Johnson shot a grey squirrel and gave it to Edmund so I had some of that for my dinner today. It was very nice. We had a very pleasant call from Mr. & Mrs. Adams a fortnight ago. They came on purpose to see us and staid over an hour. They have to up to the new meeting house now. I don’t know what kind of a looking thing ours will be. Hope it will suit. When it comes pleasant & good riding, I think I shall try to get up to the corner. I am going to try riding a horseback if it ever comes pleasant. The Dr. says I must. I am sorry you don’t feel smart (if you did it would be something new, would it not). How comes it you have left the Kelley medicine? Does the sarsaparilla physic you any? Margaret is not very smart and she is taking Dr. Cumming’s sarsaparilla that does not physic any. I don’t know as it should. I guess it wold not do me much good if it did not. I reckon I should have to take a barrel full before it would have any effect on me.

Mary goes to school. Isaac Cobb keeps it and is a very good teacher. Edward is the Agent. Mary has had dreadful walking all the time. Her father carries her when it is raining hard. Marshall Irish has been very sick for more than a week with an abscess in his bowels. If it breaks inside, it will kill him, or cousin Mary would say, death will ensue. His wife told him this. He said he did not see how he could feel reconciled to leaving her in her situation. She is expecting every day & her friends have been worrying about her. She is so one-sided. She is as calm as a philosopher. We have not heard from him since Tuesday. We should like much to hear.

I suppose you saw Grana’s William’s death in the paper. She was not confined to her bed and wrote her Father that she was not quite as well as she had been and would like to come home. So we started to go on for her as soon as we got the letter and when we got there, she was dead. She died of consumption [and] has left a child about a year old. She was brought to Portland. Louisa Connett went to the funeral. She said she had not known her. She looked very old. Capt. Williams is bound down with trouble. His soul was bound up in her.

I wish we could have seen your cactus. I don’t believe ours is going to bloom this summer. You did not keep yours for nothing, certain. I don’t know as I have any thing pretty or new to tell you and you must excuse me if I do not fill all up. Hope we shall all feel a good deal brighter next time I write and I hope you will feel better too. I don’t blame _____ for giving John Veasie [Veazy] a set. Only think of the risk and of his impudence. I don’t believe but they will hoot him out of town yet. Do you suppose I would help support them in such business & extravagance? I think Gen. [Samuel] Veazie is to blame. ____ ____ I would speak to her if I met her.

You must kiss all the children and tell our Willy boy that Foster is anticipating grand times when he comes. I guess the way they will make the hay fly will be a caution. The other day Foster got his savings bank and then he said he wanted some big buttons without any handles (eyes he meant) so he put them in and shook them once or twice and then came up to me and said, Aunt Mary, does it make you head ache?” Every morning when he gets up he asks me if my head aches. I should like to call in and see you today. Really, dear me, I believe the sun is coming out. What a marvel.

Perhaps Edward will go to the [Post] Office tonight so I will do up my letter. All send love to you all & kisses to the children. Yours truly, — Molly


¹ Molly is describing the house once occupied by Rev. Timothy Hilliard (1776-1842) and his wife, Eliza Heddle (1775-1837). Eliza was the biological niece and adopted daughter of “Madam Tyng” (wife of Col. William Tyng).

² Philip C. Johnson was the Secretary of State in Maine in 1840 and again from 1842-1844.


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