Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reading Other People's Mail - 1861 Letter from an Unhappy New England Teacher!

"Never was a more corrupt or heathenish set of people suffered to exist than the inhabitants of Barnard [Vermont]..." - Dec 18, 1861 letter from Egerton Belcher

1861 Letter - Schmidt Collection
I love sharing items from my collection of vintage letters...and this one is a dandy!

A Vermont school teacher writes his sister in Massachusetts...and he's not happy about his situation!  The townspeople are "heathenish"...they eat mutton for breakfast, lunch, and dinner...and the kids are large...and, oh, he's...well...small.  In other words, the letter is AWESOME!


Cover: Miss H. A. Belcher - Randolph, Mass (Postmark 20 Dec 1861 Vermont, town illegible)

Barnard [VT] Dec 18 [18]61

1861 Cover - James M. Schmidt Collection

My Sister Hattie -

You can, to be sure, sympathize with me as a teacher, but beyond that your experience does not extend.  "Boarding around," and especially in the town of Barnard, may you ever be delivered from that fate!!

My school is not the one I expected.  I had never seen the place or the committee, but took the school simply by recommendation.  A friend of min engaged the situation for me, and I was very well satisfied, before I came, but a more lonesome homesick boy never "boarded around."  The society was recommended to me as good and to be sure I don't know but is good...for Barnard.  But...& etc. ________

The prevailing Religion seems to be Spiritualism or Spiritism and Paganism and never was a more corrupt or heathenish set of people suffered to exist than the inhabitants of Barnard.  Sodom & Gomorrah were, no doubt, justly destroyed and why in the world this town is not purified with fire and brimstone is surely beyond my limited conception.

Work continues as usual on Sundays.  They were at work all last Sabbath killing poultry at my boarding place, while I, good pious soul, walked 5 miles to attend church.

I do not board with the lower classes but the difference is not much.  Neither was my comfort increased to find fat mutton (not my favorite dish) to be the regular diet.  Do you wonder Hattie that I was lonesome and low spirited?

Your letter was the first I received and it was the greatest blessing I have enjoyed since I was a child.

You cannot imagine the good it has done coming as it did in the very "nick of time."  I was almost dead in spirit and your letter was the resurrection which I so much needed.  My correspondents have since done very well for me and I have now before me 8 unanswered letters from my best friends, but it does me more good to read yours than the other pile.

I have 26 scholars.  6 large boys, larger than I, and 3 large girls.  The boys at first thought to deny me authority because I am so small, but I surprised the school the other day by coming down upon a large boy while he was engaged in mischief with such force as completely to invert him.  Establishing my authority at the same time making friends with all.

I am ashamed to ask you to continue our correspondence.  I am writing in a room where 6 persons are talking so will you please excuse all failures and mistakes in orthography and penmanship & greatly oblige


1861 Letter - Schmidt Collection

1861 Letter - Schmidt Collection

1 comment:

Richard said...

Great stuff.

Thanks for sharing!