Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Bradford Family Papers, 1831-1834

Finding aid created by
Rachel K. Onuf, April 1998, and Meg Hixon, December 2011

Summary Information
Title: Bradford family papers
Creator: Bradford, Sarah B., b. 1772
Inclusive dates: 1831-1834
Extent: 8 items
Maria W. Bradford and her husband Claudius moved from Massachusetts to Cincinnati in 1831 when he was appointed Professor of Languages at the newly established Woodward High School. Soon after, her sister Lucia joined them. Maria, Claudius, and Lucia all wrote long letters to the mother, father, and sisters back home in Duxbury, Massachusetts, detailing their experiences in the "western" United States.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1994. M-3021.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


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:

Bradford Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Descendants of Governor William Bradford had lived in Duxbury, Massachusetts nearly as long as there had been a Duxbury. Gershom Bradford (1774-1844), was the son of Sarah Alden (1731-1788), and Col. Gamaliel Bradford Jr. (1731-1807), who commanded the 14th Massachusetts regiment of continentals during the Revolutionary War. Duxbury is conveniently located right along Plymouth Bay, and Gershom was a mariner by trade. He married Sarah B. (b.1772), who was probably the daughter of William and Elizabeth Hickling (1745-1827). They had four girls, Maria W[eston?]., Lucia Alden, Elizabeth Hickling, and Charlotte, and a son who only lived for 4 days.

Maria W. Bradford, the eldest girl, married Claudius Bradford on April 12, 1830, and they moved to Cincinnati. On June 6, 1831 Claudius was appointed Professor of Languages at the newly established Woodward High School, which opened that October. Claudius and Maria had a daughter, Sarah Hickling, on October 22, 1831, but she died the following July. Lucia came to Cincinnati to help her sister during her next confinement, and the baby, born in February 1834, was named after her. Claudius resigned his position on April 4, 1835, due to ill health, according to his biography in the Woodward School memorial volume. According to Maria's letters to her mother, there might have been other reasons for his resignation: Samuel Lewis, the principal founder of Woodward School, was a difficult man to work for, Claudius was making $600, which he did not consider a sufficient salary, and Maria missed her native Massachusetts dreadfully.

The correspondence halts in 1834. The Woodward School volume states that the family returned to the east, where Claudius studied for the ministry. He might have taught at a boy's school in Dorchester. Two sons were born, Gershom in 1838, and Laurence in 1842. In 1848 the family was residing in Bridgewater, about 15 miles inland from Duxbury. At some point, probably after 1855 (for he does not appear in the 1855-1856 college catalog), Claudius became a professor at Antioch College in Ohio. He died there on February 2, 1863, after a few months of failing health, and Maria probably returned to Plymouth County.

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).

Subject Terms

    • Childbirth--United States.
    • Cincinnati (Ohio)--Social life and customs.
    • Education--Ohio--Cincinnati.
    • Infants--Care.
    • Motherhood--United States.
    • Pregnancy--United States.
    • Pregnant women--Alcohol use.
    • Woodward High School.
    • Bradford, Claudius.
    • Bradford, Lucia Alden.
    • Bradford, Maria W.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   17, Small Collections  
    Bradford family papers,  1831 October 20-1834 December 22 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data


    • Bradford, Charlotte, b. 1813.
    • Bradford, Claudius,
    • Bradford, Elizabeth Hickling, b. 1809.
    • Bradford, Gershom, 1774-1844.
    • Bradford, Lucia Alden b. 1807.
    • Bradford, Maria W., b.1804.
    • Bradford, Sarah B., b. 1772.
    Related Materials

    See also: Claudius Bradford letter to Artemas Hale, 1848 February 8, in Artemas Hale Papers, Clements Library.


    'Old Woodward' A Memorial Relating to Woodward High School, 1831-1836 and Woodward College, 1836-1851 in the City of Cincinnati. Cincinnati, Ohio: s.n., 1884).

    Vital Records of Duxbury Massachusetts To the Year 1850. (Boston, Mass., 1911).

    Partial Subject Index
    • 1834 November 11
    Balloon ascensions.
    • 1834 December 22
    • 1834 February 19-20
    • 1834 August 21
    Bradford, Lucia Alden, b. 1834.
    • passim
    Bradford, Sarah Hickling, 1831-1832.
    • passim
    Card games.
    • 1834 November 11
    • 1834 December 22
    • 1834 November 11
    Childbirth--United States--History--19th century.
    • 1831 October 20-24
    • 1831 November 21
    • 1834 February 19-20
    Cincinnati (Ohio)--Schools.
    • passim
    Cincinnati (Ohio)--Social life and customs.
    • passim
    Elections--United States--1834.
    • 1834 November 11
    Infants--Care--United States--History--19th century.
    • passim
    Lewis, Samuel, 1799-1854.
    • passim
    Liberia--History--To 1847.
    • 1834 November 11
    Lytle, Robert T.
    • 1834 November 11
    Motherhood--United States--History--19th century.
    • passim
    Mothers and daughters.
    • passim
    New Jerusalem Church.
    • 1834 December 22
    Physicians--United States--Attitudes.
    • 1831 October 20-24
    • 1831 November 21
    Pregnancy--United States--History--19th century.
    • 1831 October 20-24
    • 1831 November 21
    • 1834 February 19-20
    Pregnant women--Alcohol use.
    • 1831 October 20-24
    • 1831 November 21
    • 1834 February 19-20
    Pregnant women--Cravings.
    • 1834 February 19-20
    Sampson, Caroline.
    • passim
    • passim
    Storer, Bellamy, 1798-1875.
    • 1834 November 11
    Whig Party (U. S.) Ohio.
    • 1834 November 11
    • 1834 November 11
    • 1834 December 22
    Woodward High School.
    • passim
    Women--Alcohol use.
    • 1831 October 20-24
    • 1831 November 21
    • 1834 February 19-20
    • 1834 August 21