Lydia Haskell papers 1820-1857
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Biography

Lydia Stockbridge Haskell (1803-1858) was born in Freeport, Maine, to Micah Stockbridge (d. 1847) and Mary Pinkham. She had at least two brothers, Micah and Ebenezer, and a sister named Catherine. Ebenezer Stockbridge eventually moved to Georgia and became an ordained deacon and preacher. In her early 20s, Lydia taught school in the nearby town of Harpswell and first recorded her stirrings of religious feeling.

In January 1827, Lydia married William Haskell (1798-1843) of Harpswell. In June of that year, she and her husband were baptized into the Methodist Church by Rev. Allen H. Cobb. She confessed to a full sense of salvation in December 1837. The couple had at least three children: Sarah (1827-1844), Rollins (ca. 1829-1893), and Willabe (1838-1913). The family lived near Freeport until 1839, when they moved east to the Harrington area, in present-day Washington County, Maine.

Lydia began participating in female prayer meetings, and in March 1841 felt called to pursue the "public duty" of "calling sinners to repentance." Over the next few years, she traveled to villages and churches in her district for several weeks at a time to encourage strangers to convert, to teach in Methodist class meetings (prerequisites for those seeking membership in the Methodist church), or to engage in temperance efforts. As she reflected on several occasions in her papers, she recognized these activities as "contrary to the wishes of some of my friends -- contrary to public opinion -- [and] contrary to the usages of my own beloved church whose ministers & members were dear to my heart" [Journal, 16 Feb. 1845]. In the midst of this ministry, her husband and daughter died, in July 1843 and October 1844, respectively.

She continued in these activities until struck with a debilitating illness in the fall of 1845 that largely kept her confined to her home or sickbed for the remaining 13 years of her life. Lacking the ability to evangelize in person, she wrote accounts of her spiritual condition and her sense of the local state of religion to ministers and acquaintances. She also actively sought out the fellowship of ministers in order to continue receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion in her home. These efforts, particularly her conviction of her need to partake of the Eucharist weekly, prompted a long-standing struggle with various ministers in the Methodist church. The debate reached a crescendo in 1855, when the local authorities who had been participating in this weekly practice briefly refused to continue doing so. Haskell responded by petitioning to them and a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York and succeeded in having her weekly rite reinstated. However, the following year, she lamented to friends that the church had officially labeled her a "delusionist" and "monomaniac" for her insistence on this practice.

Haskell and her two sons spent much of her widowhood in poverty, relying for support on the charity of family in Freeport and the members of local churches in the Harrington area. In a series of letters she exchanged with Rev. Hezekiah C. Tilton in the late 1840s, Haskell expressed particular concern over providing a suitable education for her younger son Willabe. The family moved around the Harrington area several times following Haskell's illness, finally settling in Bucksport, where she died in 1858.