Based on advice I heard at many sessions during the FGS 2012 conference in August, I decided to consult the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. I was familiar with NUCMC from my college library days, but to be honest I hadn’t thought enough about consulting it for genealogy. I think I focused on the word “manuscript” and didn’t think of it in the very broad sense of any unpublished papers.
I started with some manuscripts that I knew I was looking for, for instance, the papers of Norwich, Connecticut Congressman John Turner Wait. The NUCMC search screen is not all that intuitive, so it took me a while to develop some methods for successful searching. I found very little on Mr. Turner, but I did find some interesting documents for some of my grandmother’s family – for instance, she is distantly related to one victim in the Sacco-Vanzetti murders, a paymaster named Frederick Albert Parmenter. I had pretty good luck using a name and a place:
I had just turned my attention to the Spauldings and Baldwins when I got the biggest surprise I’ve had in a long time:
To see what this was, I chose the “More on …” link, to go to the item record:
I couldn’t believe Polly (Spaulding) Baldwin’s name appeared in a set of letters. My ggg-grandmother died at the age of 33, in 1839. At the time of her death she was already a widow, living an obscure life. The idea that something she had written, perhaps a letter, had survived in an archive amazed me. If I had to rank all direct ancestors in order by how likely they were to have a personal (not legal) document in a repository she probably would have been voted least likely.
To find out where the letters might be, I chose “Tagged Display” to see all tags:
Surprisingly, when I checked the list of abbreviations,
location CO3 turned out to be the Boulder Public Library in Colorado.
The Boulder Public Library
Well, that was surprising. I was on my own to actually look it up at the Boulder Library site, but that wasn’t hard because of the detailed record in NUCMC. I found what I was looking for located at The Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, and sent a message to the librarian asking if there was any way for me to get digital copies of the letters. I also saw some evidence of old Spaulding Family photos and inquired about those, too.
As I was waiting for that, I looked into the Colorado folks who had left the letters to the library. I had seen the name Hannah (Spaulding) Guise of Gold Hill, Colorado before, in her aunt Harriet Spaulding’s probate documents. Hannah was likely to have been close to her grandmother Lucy and her unmarried aunts Harriet and Ruth since they all lived at her father Daniel’s house while she was growing up.
I read in the Boulder library finding aids that Hannah was a teacher from Townsend, and had written to a Congregational minister in Boulder to look out for a post for her. This turned out to be Gold Hill, where she met and married miner James Henry Guise. They had at least one daughter, Mabel (Guise) Montgomery and stayed in Gold Hill for most of their long marriage. Both Hannah and daughter Mabel (also a teacher) are featured in the Revealing our Roots: Women of Boulder County site.
Today the nice librarian sent me the letters. Amazingly, it turns out that three are written by my ggg-grandmother Polly (Spaulding) Baldwin (1806-1839). The fourth was written by my gggg-grandmother Lucy (Emery) Spaulding (1789-1862). I don’t know too much about the provenance of these four letters, except that they ended up in the possession of Hannah Spaulding Guise in Colorado, Polly’s niece. I don’t know who Sally Bouttell is. There are clues in here that I will be following for a long time. I have transcribed the records exactly as they appeared, with transcribing difficulties noted in [brackets].
Letter from “Polly” to “Miss Sally Bouttell, Townsend”Townsend, Nov 21st 1823 Again I take my pen and atempt writing you a few lines, but what shall be my subject? Shall religion or the affairs of the world engross our attention? I believe the former will be of the most consequence to us, but as important as it is I feel strangly indifferent to it. My health not having been as good as usual the past Summer, and hearing others inquire what they should do to be saved, I have been led to reflect on my own state and I have found myself to be a lost sinner and continuing so I must eternally perish but still I remain in the same sinful state, I can say the harvest is past the summer is ended and I am not saved, and why? The Bible tell us that Christ is ready to receive all all who will come unto him it must be then that it is because I do not come to him that I do have life. Sometimes the world appears to me as it really is trifling and vain not worth an anxious thought heaven and hell seem to be realities, but soon the world intervenes between God and my soul and I am left to pursue a phantom. Yesterday I attended meeting heard a very good sermon hope I shall remember it, I wish you could go to meeting. When I hear good conversation and preaching I want you should hear it too. Today I went to my uncle Joel Spaulding’s returned about dark and went to the Conference. How differently has this evening been spent from the evening after Thanksgiving last year. I was then at Mr. Clements’s. I presume Hannah C and H. Hart it well remember we spent it very foolishly in playing and dancing. I hope you enjoy your health better than you have done, and your mind too. I hope you will make me a visit before long I want to see you very much. Pardon my neglect in not writing before be assured it has not been through neglectfulness nor want of inclination. I will tell you more about it when I see you, I should like to write longer but you see my paper will not hold out. Write every opportunity your Letters are very acceptable, I hope you will not expose any [?] Your Sincere Friend Polly
Letter from “Polly S.” to “Miss Sally Bouttell, Townsend”March 8, 1825 After so long a silence I hardly know whether I ought to write at all. But as unworthy as I am of your correspondence or friendship yet I still wish to preserve them. But though my not writing before may have the appearance of neglect, yet I think if you knew how my time has been [taken?] up you would forgive me. I have begun to write more than once and have not had time to finish. Perhaps you would like to know how my time has been employed. Not very profitably I assure you. The first two weeks then after I received your letter I was almost sick with a cold, and a lame arm, which prevented my doing but little of anything. Since then I have been at school almost every day, and of course had but little time to write except the evening and in cold whether among so many by one fire it is very inconvenient to write. I went to a party at Captain Turner’s three or four weeks ago. There was between twenty and thirty young people nearly of my age. The evening was spent chiefly in playing and although I joined in the play with my gay companions I am far from approving our conduct. No I will not attempt to excuse what I know to be wrong, nor will I knowingly be the advocate of sin, how much soever I may be the subject of it. To me my own fireside with a book or a friend would have been far more agreeable than such childish amusements; gladly would I have exchanged my seat then for one by your side. I went to Mr. [Hubbard's?] school three days the week before last – I think he is a very good master. I think he has been unjustly blamed for his conduct respecting Lucy W. and Thersa P. I should consider it a great privilege to attend such a school as his; he prays night and morning in his school. I like his praying very much, they are short but very comprehensive; I think he is a very pious young man and anxious for the welfare of his scholars. A [neat?] difference between him and our master who seems to care but little whether his scholars study or play, and as to religion he appears to scorn the very idea. How quickly another winter has fled and gone beyond [really?] The lovely spring approaches and soon it will appear in all its beauty. May it be a delightful one to us. May our life, health and sense be open to us, to enjoy it. And while we admire the beauties of nature may we be led to adore the author. How often have I wished for a friend before I met with you, but I find there [is?] but few among my acquaintance who are real friends. But if I have one friend, I shall think myself happy. I trust I have commenced a friendship with you which I hope will last as long as we exist. No I never shall forget you. Let others do as they will; were I in any way worthy of such a friend as you I should be [far?] better than I am at present. I think by this time you must be tired of reading such scrawls as mine – Forgive what [ ] wrong and if I have written anything which deserves an answer I [sh****] [**pect] one soon. This [ ] [**ur] much obliged but unworthy friend Polly S. [on back:] I thought I should have seen you before this time. I hope you will come and see me soon.
Letter from “P. B.” to “Miss Ruth Spaulding, Lexington Mass.”Townsend Apr. 4 [no year given, but likely 1835 since she refers to her mother finding the dress unacceptable, the same as her mother does in the next letter, which is dated 4 April 1835] I was quite surprised to hear after I had been gone from home a fortnight that you had started the same day that I did. I was almost sick with a cold all the time I was gone, I think I never had a worse one. I stayed at Father’s 10 days at uncle S’ 4 days & nearly a fortnight at Lucy’s. Edward is at his GrandFather’s now. I expect to move before a great while. John wants to fix the chamber first. I expect to go to Mr. K. Bloods to work a while this month if I am able. I suppose I shall not be able to write much news beside what mother has written. Things go on here very much as usual. N. is as uneasy as ever &c &c. We want you to write again soon and let us know how you get along. You need not take pattern by us we have spoken about writing very often but that was not writing I know. We thought at last we would wait for your gown but it is done so poorly that mother concludes not to send it. Yours in haste P.B. May the best of Season’s blessings Rest upon you from above
Letter from “Lucy Spaulding.” to “Miss Ruth Spaulding, Lexington”Townsend, April th 4 1835 I received your letter on the day it was mailed and have delayed writeing on account of your gown thinking to send a letter and that together, but am disappoint now. We have not got it til yesterday and it does not look very well and I think it had better be coulord black so I think I will not send it but let it be til you come home. I think you had better buy you a good dark calicoe one. My health is pretty much the same as it was when you left. Daniel is at home he has had the mumps but is better and talks of going to Lowell next week. We have heard from Isaac he has sold out and is coming down in the fall. The wrest of the folks are well. Polly is at home now but expects to move to John’s before long. If you come home the last of May as you wrote I think it probable I shall want you the wrest of the summer. I have hired Miles and John Conant. If you are not well enough to stay come home any time. Nancy wants you to come home and fetch her something. Your grandmother remains pretty much the same. Nancy Warner has got better and is with her now. Mary has gone to Lowell. Mr. Rogers is a going to leave us in September. I don’t know as I have any more news to write in partikular. You must be a good girl and put your trust in him who has said he is a farther to the fartherless and the widow’s God, and may he ever direct your steps in paths of virtue and religion is the wish of your affectionate mother Lucy Spaulding [faint scrawl on back:] Mother’s
There are additional photos and documents in the archive that I will explore. These letters will go a long way to help me start exploring the Spauldings. By the time of the 1835 letters, above, Polly was a widow, and the “Edward” she named was my mother’s great grandfather, Edward Baldwin. She died in 1839. I intend to follow up on each person and fact mentioned.
I never expected to see a letter from either Polly or Lucy. The letters from the teenaged Polly show a sensitive girl trying to figure out her world. I love the image of the large family gathered around one fireplace, and I love the chatter about the new dress not being right. I sounds just like a conversation I would have with my daughters today.
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