Lydia Haskell papers  1820-1857
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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.

Show all series level scope and content notes