Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Lydia Haskell Papers, 1820-1857

Finding aid created by
Mary Parsons, 2001, and Kate Silbert and Meg Hixon, July 2012

Summary Information
Title: Lydia Haskell papers
Creator: Haskell, Lydia Stockbridge, 1803-1858
Inclusive dates: 1820-1857
Extent: 1 linear foot
Abstract:
The collection concerns Lydia Haskell's spiritual life and involvement with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Maine between 1820 and 1857. Her papers consist of 27 journals, 12 bound packets of letters, memoranda, additional correspondence, a hymnal, and loose documents. Her papers record her evolving sense of salvation, call to ministry, and conflicts with ministers over her work and her views on the Eucharist.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1994. M-2994.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Lydia Haskell papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Memoranda
  • Series III: Journals
  • Series IV: Books

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.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection concerns Lydia Haskell's spiritual life and involvement with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Maine between 1820 and 1857. Her papers consist of 27 journals, 12 bound packets of letters, memoranda, additional correspondence, a hymnal, and loose documents. Her papers record her evolving sense of salvation, call to ministry, and conflicts with ministers over her work and her views on the Eucharist.

Two or more series contain content related to some of her most pressing spiritual concerns, including:

  • The death of her daughter Sarah in October 1844
  • Missionary efforts in China and the work of the Missionary Society (1846-1847)
  • Ministers in the area who preach universalism (1847)
  • Efforts to receive the Eucharist weekly during her chronic illness (1849-1857, especially 1855)
  • Class meetings of the Methodist Episcopal Church

Series I: Correspondence, 1837-1856, n.d.

The bulk of this series is comprised of correspondence between Haskell and one of her most cherished pastors, Rev. Hezekiah C. Tilton, and his wife. In these letters, Haskell openly shared her afflictions and joys, communicated information about the local church and common acquaintances, discussed her views on church practices, particularly that of the Eucharist, and sent copies of her "exercises," with requests for correction. Tilton responded in kind, with a similar mix of family and church news and spiritual reflection. He shared his opinions about her son Willabe's educational prospects with particular detail.

The series also contains 12 pamphlets that Haskell made of her correspondence and bound together in the same format as her journals. Some of these pamphlets contain chronologically-arranged letters addressed to a series of recipients, while others contain a series of entries addressed to a single individual or a single, lengthy testimony directed to a local church congregation. In most of these pieces, Haskell provided an account of her personal spiritual condition and exhorted her correspondents to do the same.

Finally, Haskell's correspondence includes letters she exchanged with various members of the Methodist clergy and with her allies in local churches during the debate over her weekly practice of receiving Communion.

Series II: Memoranda, 1844-1853, n.d.

This series is comprised of other documents Haskell composed regarding her spiritual life, including:

  • 2 copies (one incomplete) of Hezekiah C. Tilton's memorial on the death of her daughter Sarah, dated December 1844
  • 2 packets that record when, from whom, and with whom she received Communion between 1849 and 1853
  • 3 relatively similar packets of scriptural passages, dated April 1837 to 1850 (and in one copy to 1852), upon which Haskell meditated as part of a daily spiritual exercise - she directed one of these booklets, with an explanation of her practice, to Hezekiah C. Tilton in June 1850
  • 2 poems, one signed "N. A. Soule," and the other made up of extracts from several religious poems and hymns
  • A packet on the care of pastors (see longer version in letter to members of the M. E. Church in Millbridge and Steuben, June 1849)
  • A resolution by parents to pray for their children on Tuesdays and to meet together for support and prayer, signed by 12 individuals, including Lydia Haskell and acquaintances of hers from the Harrington area

Series III: Journals, 1820-1857

Lydia Haskell's 27 religious journals, spanning from 1820 to 1857, offer extensive personal reflection on her spiritual life from the time she was a late adolescent to her final years as an invalid. The entries tend to address her sense of spiritual well-being and trials, her concern over the welfare of unbelievers, her relationships with various ministers, or her religious practices of prayer, memorizing scripture, and attending church meetings. During the years of her public ministry, the entries also include details about her work.

She reflected at intervals on her unique position in the Methodist Church as a "poor unworthy female" working publicly for salvation and on her anxiety about being perceived as a nuisance to local ministers.

The journal also includes entries in which Haskell addressed denominational differences or national matters, such as:

  • A summary of a sermon in which different Protestant groups are characterized as the various companies of a divine army [6 October 1837]
  • Her temptation in a dream to leave the Methodist Church for a community with a greater "willingness to recognize females as fellow laborers in the vineyard of the Lord," namely the Society of Friends [4 March 1845]
  • Her anxiety over the presidential election of 1856 and whether "the oppressors will continue to hold the reins of government" [5 November 1856]

Haskell quoted scriptural passages or portions of hymns, usually without explicitly citing them. She also transcribed a long portion of Washington Irving's short story "Rural Funerals" on the subject of "sorrow for the dead," shortly after the death of her cousin Lucy [Journal, 1824].

Over the years, Haskell apparently revisited some of her earlier entries, such as those from the early 1830s, which are followed by "Remarks," mostly dated July 1846, in which she reflected back on her earlier state of mind.

Series IV: Books

The collection includes an 1849 Methodist hymnbook: Hedding, Elijah. Hymns for the Use of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. ed. New-York: Carlton & Porter, Array.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Camp meetings.
    • Cumberland County (Me.)
    • Education--19th century.
    • Evangelistic work.
    • Invalids.
    • Itinerancy (Church polity)--Methodist Church.
    • Lay ministry.
    • Methodist Episcopal Church--Clergy.
    • Methodist Episcopal Church. Maine Conference.
    • Second Great Awakening.
    • Spiritual life.
    • Temperance.
    • Washington County (Me.)
    • Women--Religious life.
    Contributors:
    • Hopkins, M. R.
    • James, Bishop.
    • Knox, L. L.
    • Tilton, Hezekiah C.
    • Wetherbee, Seba F.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Hymnals.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Memorandums.
    • Poems.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
     
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   1
     23 December 1843-14 April 1846 (12 items)
    Box   1 Folder   2
     1 May 1846-1 December 1846 (7 items)
    Box   1 Folder   3
     30 January 1847-24 June 1847 (5 items)
    Box   1 Folder   4
     [11 July 1847] (4 items)
    Box   1 Folder   5
     24 July 1847-16 May 1848 (8 items)
    Box   1 Folder   6
     21 June 1848-17 November 1848 (7 items)
    Box   1 Folder   7
     15 January 1849-30 June 1849 (6 items)
    Box   1 Folder   8
     [June 1849] (2 items)
    Box   1 Folder   9
     6 July 1849-23 November 1849 (7 items)
    Box   1 Folder   10
     11 January 1850-26 May 1850 (9 items)
    Box   1 Folder   11
     22 June 1850-30 September 1850 (5 items)
    Box   1 Folder   12
     14 January 1851-3 February 1855 (7 items)
    Box   1 Folder   13
     5 February 1855-23 September 1855 (7 items)
    Box   1 Folder   14
     [1855?]-25 November 1856 (7 items)
    Box   1 Folder   15
     undated (7 items)
     
    Memoranda [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   16
     December 1844-March 1853 (5 items)
    Box   1 Folder   17
     undated (3 items)
     
    Memoranda [series]:
    Box   2  
     1844-1853, and  undated
     
    Journals [series]:
    Box   2  
     1820-1857
     
    Books [series]:
    Box   2  
    Hymns for the Use of the Methodist Episcopal Church
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    An account book in the William Pote family papers includes entries for Lydia's father, Micah Stockbridge, and father-in-law, William Haskell.