1849: William Clement Dustin to David Decatur Darius Dewey

Grave marker of William C. Dustin

Grave marker of William C. Dustin

This letter was written by William Clement Dustin (1827-1901), son of Peter P. Dustin and Abigail Clement of Tunbridge, Vermont, who we learn came to Waukesha, Wisconsin Territory to teach school in 1849. By the early 1850s, William had relocated to Beloit, Wisconsin, where he and his wife, Frances J. Adams (1832-1905), taught school. William became the principal of the school there in 1855. By 1860, William had given up the teaching profession and gone into the manufacture of reapers.

William wrote the letter to his college chum, David Decatur Darius Dewey (1826-1906). After graduating from the Albany Normal College in 1849, Dewey went to Wisconsin to teach and then returned to Moira, New York where he became the railroad station agent, a merchant, surveyor, and manufacturer of lumber and starch. He married Mary Maria Lawrence (1830-1915) in 1852. [Source: Historical Sketches of Franklin County, NY]

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. D. D. D. Dewey, Albany Academy, Albany, New York

Waukesha [Wisconsin Territory]
September 16th 1849

Friend Dewey,

Your letter of July was duly received and although I feel somewhat guilty for not answering it; yet I doubt not that your sense will pardon me when I tell you the reason why. I received your letter and was glad to hear from one whom I have spent so many happy hours with. I had written to you before and sent papers, but never had heard from you before.

I came to Wisconsin last spring and on my way I fell in with a gentleman who told me that you had graduated and was teaching in Albany. When I arrived at Southport, I sent that paper.

The reason that I have not answered your letter before is that since that time I have been wholly unsettled as regards business or employment — not but what I could get enough to do — but I have been traveling over the state and felt as though I did not want to write even to my nearest friends as long as my mind and business was so unsettled as they were. But stop! I will make no more excuses but proceed immediately to business.

I left St. Lawrence County the 10th of last April for Chicago intending to go into business there. But the prospect was so great of them all dying with the cholera that I came to Southport. I there engaged in select school for one term and did very well. But wishing to locate myself permanently, I pulled up stakes [and] became “a wanderer.”

You wanted I should say what the prospect of teaching is in this part of the country. Well, friend Dewey, as to teaching here, I do not think that it is any better than it is East. Yet I think that in good schools, teachers do better than they do there but the number of those schools is very limited indeed. Good common school teachers command $20 per month. I was offered a few days ago $25 per month for six months but you will see by a circular that I send that I have taken a school on to my hands.

The town of Waukesha is twenty miles west from Milwaukee in a very pleasant town about the size of Malone. It is (the school) an Institute under a state charter and has once been run down by teachers who took no interest in the school. A young lady (a cousin of mine who is from Burlington, Vt.) and myself have taken the school and we endeavor to do well in the course of time.

But how do the Normals get along? I suppose that they are in their new building before this time and I suppose that if I should visit there that I should see no old faces. I would like to see old Albany once more, but don’t know that I ever shall. I have known but little about my class since I left there.

After I went home from there last fall, I took a school in my own district (in the village) and taught it until April and had $24 per month. My chum, Mr. [Thomas] Heaton, taught in the county for twenty-six dollars a month. I now and then come across a stray Normal. Miss [Phoebe A.] Budlong is teaching in Southport and Mr. [John F.] Hopkins in Milwaukee.

But to sum up the whole matter, I like the West and shall probably settle here. If I live and have my health, I shall probably in another summer return to [Potsdam in] St. Lawrence County and take her who promised years ago to be the companion of my bosom, and shall try to live my future life in such a way that when I leave this world I shall go where the weary are at rest.

Give my respects to any that should enquire while you receive the same. And if if will please let me hear of you again, I will subscribe [myself] your friend, — William C. Dustin


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