Bradford family papers  1831-1834
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Collection Scope and Content Note

These eight letters, several of which contain more than one letter, were all written from Cincinnati back to the mother, father, and sisters at home in Duxbury. Claudius, Maria, and after she joined them, Lucia, all wrote long, dense letters detailing their experiences in the "western" United States.

The births of Maria's two girls are the focus of three letters. Claudius joked about girls being "all the fashion," and reported that "some think it is a sort of provision in nature to supply the deficiency -- there being 2 males to 1 female in the Western country. At any rate, it is a remarkable fact (as far as our knowledge extends) that most of the children that are born are females" (1831 October 20-24).

Maria's loving letter to her mother after the birth of her first daughter is quite specific. The delivery was quick, and the "pains for the last 1/2 hour were exquisite but very short." Maria told her mother, "as soon as I heard the child cry I began to laugh but the Doctor said I must not laugh or talk for a day or 2, as it would disturb my whole system" (1831 November 21). The doctor also refused to let her drink spirits, because they "cause a fever in the breasts, which is the cause of so many people suffering from the ague &c." Having a child of her own made Maria feel even closer to her mother and her mother's experiences: "I know now what it is to be a mother, and I hope and pray to God that I may make as good a mother as you have been to me, and I hope my child will love me as well as I do you."

The baby died the next summer, but there is no correspondence from that period of time. The next letter is from Lucia and Claudius, announcing the birth of a second daughter, who "looks pretty cross," according to her aunt (1834 February 19-20). Claudius was relieved that this baby, although "not so pretty as our other little one," appeared to have a better constitution. He added, "Maria thinks herself and child being so well is owing to her drinking so much beer . . . every day for a long time when I came from school, I have had to go & bring her a bottle of beer & a gingerbread horseman ."

Lucia remained in Cincinnati with her sister's family until they all moved back to Massachusetts in the spring of 1835. In her letters home to her parents and sisters she expressed a desire to return to Duxbury, and even asked her father to send Elizabeth out in her stead, but he must have refused. Lucia's homesickness and the dullness of helping her sister keep house was somewhat offset by her thriving social scene and exciting local events. She had a best girlfriend, Caroline Sampson, and was quite close to Sophia, the nurse. She played chess with Mr. Prescott on a regular basis, and played card games (old maid, whist, and vingt un), and blind man's bluff at parties.

Living with her sister possibly gave her more freedom than she would have had living with her parents. Lucia took long, unchaperoned walks in the woods: "Girls do not often go alone but Miss Matthews and I have been and are going again, as we did not meet with any accident" (1834 August 21), she informed her sister Elizabeth. During the hot summer, she also developed a taste for beer, and wrote that "Maria has porter now all the time I like it very well but I used to hate it" (1834 August 21).

In addition to her more private entertainments, Lucia soaked up exciting civic events. She witnessed a balloon ascension, "the most beautiful sight I ever saw" and election fever (1834 December 22, November 11). Lucia shared her entertaining observations of male behavior during election time with her sister: "The Jackson candidate was Mr. Lytle and the Whig candidate Mr. Storer. They had stages driving about filled with people they kept crossing from one street to another and all of the men in them screaming hurra for Storer and hurra for Lytle. The Jackson men on their stages had hickory brooms stuck all about them I could not think what it meant at first. They looked just like birch brooms. . . . So it was nothing but hurra for Storer and hurra for Lytle for several days."

The open-minded Lucia also took advantage of the numerous opportunities for edification. She reported, "I went last week to hear a black man give an account of the colony at Liberia where he has been spending some time. It was funny to see a black man speaking in a church before an audience but it was something new and quite interesting" (1834 November 11). Mr. Sampson, her friend Caroline's father, invited Lucia to a meeting of the Swedenborgians or New Jerusalem Church, but she had a party to go to instead. Nevertheless, she wrote, "I like to go to their church very much but am not quite a New Churchwoman yet" (1834 December 22). Although she still missed her parents and her sisters at specific moments ("enjoyed myself as well as could be expected without either of you with me"), by the end of her stay in Cincinnati Lucia had really come into her own (1834 December 22).

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