Helen Powers Griswold, Lyme, Connecticut, to Capt. Robert H. Griswold, London Coffee House, London, January 19, 1845,via Packet Ship Queen of the WestQueen of the WestThe Queen of the West sailed from New York to Liverpool for Grinnell, Minturn & Co’s Swallowtail Line.
While Robert is in London, Helen’s mother Julia Powers (1787-1852), along with several hired servants, helps care for their two children and maintain their household. Despite the pleasures their daughters afford, Helen laments her husband’s absence and looks forward to accompanying him on his next voyage. She has weaned their second daughter Adell (1844-1913), now ten months old, and is taking iron pills to regain her strength. While praising their older child Louise (1841-1896) and sending news of the Griswold family, Helen also comments wryly on the much publicized trial in New York of Bishop Onderdonk (1791-1861), accused of sexual misconduct. She remarks that female parishioners are unlikely to come forward with public accusations, expects the Bishop to be restored to his office, and speculates vaguely about Robert’s female acquaintances.
My Dear Dear Husband
I received your kind letter from the HookHookThe maritime pilot who guided the Northumberland out of New York harbor and past the treacherous shoals at Sandy Hook, N. J., carried letters from officers and crew before the ship began its long voyage across the Atlantic., and feel grateful that you had not neglected to write as I feared, I am uneasy about the trouble with your crewCrewAmong the many possible dangers faced by a packet ship captain was trouble with his crew. Fighting and insurrection were thought to result in part from the scarcity of American-born seamen. In 1845 two captains from each of the principal lines of New York packet ships submitted letters testifying that native seamen typically made up only a quarter of their crew. Capt. Robert Griswold’s letter, written January 7, 1845, was submitted to Congress in support of a Naval School to train American seamen. President John Quincy Adams had urged Congress to establish such an academy in 1825, but not until 1845 was a Naval School established in Annapolis, Maryland, which later became the U.S. Naval Academy., you did not say whether that wretch hurt you, and I shall be constantly fearing he did, or that you may have more trouble with the others, You know not dear Robert how anxious I feel when you are away and exposed to danger, I dread these long winter voyages, had we no Children dearest how willingly I would accompany you, and endeavor to render them more cheerful, I love my Children, and am sensible how many sources of happiness I have, that you are deprived of, yet all do not compensate for these separations from you, how much I look forward to being with you next timeNext TimeHelen and their elder daughter Louise, age three, would join Robert on his next voyage to London and sail from New York in May 1845. and you too I trust will enjoy it, I shall endeavor to behave my best, and not allow trifles to annoy me, you Robert must not look for perfections, I do not, and am satisfied with my husband, and think probably he is much better than I deserve, and know that I have never seen one whom I could love so dearly,
You must have patience with me dear Robert, but always reprove me when I do wrong, and I will take it kindly and try to profit by it, You express anxiety about my side, I have put on the plasterPlasterA poultice of mustard seed plaster was thought to promote healing. as directed and am taking Iron, to strengthen me, as DoctDoctDr. Shubael Bartlett (1811-1849), who had married Robert’s niece Fanny Rogers Griswold (1822-1877) and lived nearby, visited Helen frequently and attended to her medical needs. says I am weaker than he has ever known me, but I shall be better soon, as I have weaned AdellAdellHelen and Robert’s second daughter Helen Adele was born March 19, 1844; Helen’s mother Julia Powers (1787-1852) helped with her care. , Ma keeps her at night so that I get good rest and I already begin to feel differently Doct thinks that Richard GriswoldRichard GriswoldA partner in the prosperous New York shipping firm N. L. & G. Griswold, Richard S. Griswold (1809-1849) had built a stately home, later called Boxwood, on the highway through Lyme. in a bad way, he has been in New York some days past, probably you saw him, since he returned he has been troubled with a cough what a loss it would be to Lyme as well as his family, should he be taken away, this weather is unhealthy, warm, and wet for the season, a great many complaining – Doct and FannyFannyRobert’s niece Fanny Rogers Griswold (1822-1877) married in 1842 Lyme physician Shubael Fitch Bartlett (1811-1849). Two years later the Bartletts became Helen’s neighbors when they built a home on today’s Lyme Street based on drawings from a book of cottage plans by architect and landscape designer Andrew J. Downing (1815-1852).
Dr. Shubael Bartlett house, shown ca. 1880. LHSA have been here spending the day, he thought I was low spirited and brought Fanny to enliven me, and I have passed a very pleasant day, dear LouLouLouise Augusta Griswold (1841-1896) was Helen and Robert’s first child. has also enjoyed it, for the Dr always frolics with her, Fanny says that Mrs Stephen LordMrs Stephen Lord Sarah Ann McCurdy Lord (1807-1884), wife of Stephen J. Lord (1797-1851) and sister of Charles J. McCurdy (1797-1891), lived next to the church on the highway through Lyme. told her, she never in her life saw so beautiful a child as Louise,
“You know not dear Robert how anxious I feel when you are away and exposed to danger.”
I must mention a droll speech of hers, the last time EllenEllenEllen Elizabeth Ely (1841-1927), daughter of Matthew Griswold (1792-1879) and Phoebe Ely Griswold (1804-1904), was one month younger than her cousin Louise.
Ellen Elizabeth Ely Griswold, ca. 1890, Courtesy Griswold Family Archives and she were playing together, Ellen said to her, “if you don’t behave I’ll put you out of doors,” Nonsense Nonsense! Says Lou in the most contemptuous manner, how delighted the dear Soul will be with everything aboard Ship, and how much comfort you will have with her — I understand that they are endeavoring to suppress the publication of Bishop OnderdonkBishop OnderdonkHelen comments about the widely publicized and controversial trial of New York’s Episcopal Bishop Benjamin T. Onderdonk (1791-1861), who was accused of “immoralities and impurities” against female parishioners. See Patricia Cline Cohen, “Ministerial Misdeeds: The Onderdonk Trial and Sexual Harrassment in the 1840s.”
Image: Bishop Benjamin T. Onderdonk’s Trials, and it is thought he will soon be restored, and that the statements have been misrepresented, I am sure that no Lady would come forward publicly with such accusations unless they considered it an honor, and I am confident that he would never have taken such liberty unless he had reason to suppose they were willing, I cannot imagine for an instant how any delicate female could come forward with such statements-, although she may be among the number of your acquaintances, All are well at Black HallBlack HallThe section of Lyme where Robert was born and where the Griswold family had lived for almost two centuries was called Black Hall.
Image: Approach to Black Hall, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, February 1876, and Mother is coming up next week to stay a while, Dear Robert I have written you by the “YorkshireYorkshireThe Yorkshire, built in 1843 and reputed to be the fastest packet ship on the North Atlantic, sailed from New York to Liverpool for the Black Ball Line.
Image: Alexander Charles Stuart, Black Ball Line Ship Yorkshire, ca. 1843. Oil on canvas. Courtesy Skinner, Inc.,” and next will be by the SteamerSteamerLike the scheduled packet ships that sailed from New York to London, steamers operating regularly between Boston, Halifax, and Liverpool also carried passengers and trans-Atlantic mail.
Image: The Cunard Line’s steamer Greenock launched in 1850, dear Lou is in bed and asleep or she would have added a PS
Oh Robert dear dear Robert I can think of nothing but you, and shall have no happiness until I hear from you, do write me long letters, tell me if you have been well, remember me dearest and ever as your own affectionate
As to BetseysBetseyHelen likely refers to Elizabeth Griswold (1795-1848), called Betsey, widow of Robert’s brother Capt. A. H. Griswold (1789-1836). Robert often purchased in London or New York items not available in Lyme. Dress, get her some cheap muslin, rather neat, not very gay, two Blue or a lilac, something rather delicate she says she would like, —
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Credit: Collection of Robert Lorenz