Avery family correspondence  1841-1852
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Avery family correspondence consists of letters sent to Robert S. Avery and John Avery of Preston, Connecticut, in the mid-19th century. The letters display a strong Congregationalist religious sensibility and chronicle life in Connecticut during the pre-Civil War era. A majority of the letters in the collection were addressed to John Avery, then a student at Yale College and, later, Yale Divinity School, from family members and friends. Avery's siblings, Robert S. Avery, Jr., and Sarah Avery, were some of John's most frequent correspondents, along with his friend James A. Darrah. Higher education was a prominent theme throughout the correspondence, and in a letter of February 14, 1842, John laid out an extensively detailed summary of his expenses at Yale for his brother Robert. The letters John received during his time in New Haven often originated from his siblings, who described weddings (February 15, 1847 et al.) and deaths, among other occurrences in their daily lives. His correspondents also displayed a pronounced religious fervor, discussing the nature of God and of Christianity in mid-19th century Connecticut; these ruminations often came to dominate their letters. Of particular interest among the religious correspondence is a lengthy letter from James A. Darrah, who described various religious denominations in Leesburg, Virginia, including Presbyterians and Methodists (June 21, 1848). John Avery received two printed commissions, dated May 1, 1851, and May 1, 1852, from the American Home Missionary Society and the Connecticut Missionary Society, both of which affirmed his position as head of the congregation of Exeter parish, in Lebanon, Connecticut.

Though the writers in the collection most frequently focused on daily life, higher education, and religion, political consciousness was not entirely absent from their thoughts. On March 22, 1841, John Avery wrote to his sister Sarah, "The Amistad captives who have been in New Haven till recently have now gone to Farmington to be brought to labor." Later, William L. Prather, one of Robert's acquaintances, provided his opinion on the Mexican War: "There is no news of importance…except the news from Mexico, which is glorious indeed, some of the most briliant [sic] victories are gained by the arms of the United States, there has been many valuable lives lost, which is to be lamented but the war with Mexico (in my humble opinion) is a just one in every sense of the word but it seems to be the opinion of every one [sic] that there will be no more fighting there now of any consequence" (April 4, 1847). Also of note is a letter dated April 11, 1848, in which F. D. Avery reported that he recently heard a "sermon by Henry W. Beecher of Brooklyn, he also preached 2 evenings. I liked him very much." Overall, the collection provides a detailed look at the religious and personal life of a Connecticut family in the mid-19th century.

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