Wadsworth family papers  1833-1853
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Collection Scope and Content Note

Most of the letters in this collection are from Alice Colden Wadsworth to John and Maria, and although it is far from a complete run of correspondence, these letters give a fair picture of both the anxious mother and the young frontier family. Alice kept hoping her sons would return to the east, fantasizing that once William became an attorney, he would "go into partnership with some friend in the city, and come and live with us." When she heard that John had sold his farm, she "almost wished that you would purchase a situation in Durham, that we might enjoy the happiness of living near each other. . . . Then I could often see my own little Alice Colden and teach her to love me." Years later she admitted that her sons had succeeded better than the young men who stayed in New York, but still lamented, "oh, my dear son, you fixed your habitation too far away!"

Although her son William wrote frequently, and gave Alice news of his brothers' family, months would go by before she would hear from John and Maria directly. The young people were probably too busy establishing themselves in the new settlement to write home very often, and even if they succeeded in scratching out a letter, the mail service was undoubtedly undependable. In addition to farming and raising a family, John and Maria were actively involved in the growing community in Monroe. By 1838, John was holding "many respectable offices" as a Whig, and in 1843, his mother congratulated him for "pleading the cause of Temperance, and forming Societies," and was delighted that in "every work of piety and benevolence, your dear Maria participates and enjoys." In a letter to Maria, John gave a lengthy description of how almost the entire Whig ticket, including himself, lost in the local elections of 1840: "I say never mind, because this child is not yet dead & they cannot kill me yet, I am resolved to be something or nothing -- & next year I will try them again, perhaps as Senator to the State Legislature." Although he was never a Senator, he did get elected Supervisor of Raisinville in 1843. Still an ardent Whig, he wrote despairingly to his father-in-law about the 1844 national election; "Henry Clay defeated by one James K. Polk -- let the nation weep."

The modest financial, political, and social success enjoyed by the Wadsworths was severely overshadowed by the deaths of two of their children. Their second child, Joseph, probably died in 1840. In a letter to Maria, who was back in Durham visiting her family, John lamented their loss, comforting himself and his wife with the words, "Our Joseph is, or may, be seen running about, & pratling the praises of the lamb -- Our dear children are not our own, they are bought with a price, and that price is the blood of the Lamb & the purchaser God, they are committed to us for safe keeping, let us discharge our trust, as becomes those who are to give an account." Two years later their daughter Alice died while Maria was confined after the birth of another child. The New York relatives send a letter full of heartfelt sympathy and assurances. Susan, for instance, wrote, "Grievous as is this trial may it be blessed to each one of us, and our beloved Alice be made the means in God's hands of drawing each one of us nearer to himself." The last letter in the collection is to Maria from her son John, busy studying for college, intimating that at least one child made it through the precarious years to young adulthood.

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