[1844 Autograph Letter Signed by Mrs. M. A. Stebbins of Janesville, Wisconsin Territory to Emily A. Chase of Warwick, Massachusetts].
A heart-wrenching 1844 letter from Wisconsin Territory
From Wisconsin Territory to Warwick, Massachusetts, news of the death of Sewell Holman, classical scholar, and “a literary genius, [who] printed with his pen the first paper ever published at Janesville, Wisconsin.” ¹ Holman had emigrated from Massachusetts to Janesville.
Here the news of his death is related from one woman, to another:
Altho’ you are personally an entire Stranger to me, still I feel it a duty incumbent upon me, to pen a few sad, but I trust sympathetic lines, for your friendly perusal, while I endeavor to strengthen and fortify your mind for the reception of the sad news... Sewell, your dearest & most beloved Friend, is alas, no more! …He departed this life on Friday the 3rd inst. [May] about 9 o’clock in the morning…
This heart-wrenching letter written to a young Emily A. Chase, by M. A. Stebbins, a sympathetic, older woman details the unsuccessful measures taken to save the life of a Sewell Holman—the young woman’s beloved—and the efforts made to comfort him as he was dying. Stebbins pens:
I will describe to you as nearly as I can his last sickness. At first he was taken ill & apparently threatened with the bilious fever. Dr. Stoughton an old and skillful practitioner was called in on thursday, the week previous to his death, and prescribed for him & he was better so much so that he would get along without any more medicine, consequently sent the Dr. word that he need not call again.
But on Monday following…[Holman] had not been asleep more than an hour when Mr. Stevens [an old friend of Holman’s and his roommate] was awakened by singular noises, such as singing and hallooing &c. from Mr. Holman, he immediately arose and went to him & found him quite delirious up in bed & throwing the bed clothes one way & another with much violence…there had been vary unfortunate change in him, his legs and feet were cold as death to his knees & his hands were very cold, but his head was very hot, he went to rubbing his limbs & chafing them..his symptoms were very bad.
[W]hen I went into see him he knew me & seemed pleased when I told him that I had come to take care of him & do what I could for him. I took a small swab and some cool milk and water and washed his mouth for him & dressed his blisters, washed his face, rubbed his feet and done all that I could for him…he said he was in much pain.
Holman and Stevens had gone West “to get theirs.” In the letter, Stebbins revealed to Chase that she too had lost “the dear object of my youthful affections…I cannot describe to you my feelings, but you will realize them now.”
Description: [1844 Autograph Letter Signed by Mrs. M. A. Stebbins of Janesville, Wisconsin Territory to Emily A. Chase of Warwick, Massachusetts].
Janesville, [Wisconsin Territory]. May 8, 1844. [3½]pp. Quarto. Approx. 1200 words. Fold lines; integral address panel with hand signed postmark; cross-writing. Stains, weak at some folds, ink lightened, but legible; good.
1. Moses, Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of the Representative Men of the United States… (Chicago, 1896) I:391 [and:] Cutler, Medical and Dental Colleges… (Chicago, 1896) p225