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December 4, 2022

During the course of our restoration research, we somewhat serendipitously, came across two letters related to the Richardson family. Thanks to Pam Beverage of the genealogy and family history website, Heirlooms Reunited, our client was able to purchase these items and in one case return it to its former home. In January 6, 1840, 15-year-old Mary Lydia Richardson wrote to her father from Portland, Maine, where she was attending boarding school:

My dear Father,

I received yours of the 25th on the 28th. I am very much obliged to you for the money. Do you wish me to pay my quarters board with it?

Mr. Weed's school commenced last Monday, he had but twenty scholars, but is to have more. I wish that I was to be one of the number.

Miss Cross's three months will be ended in a fortnight after this week.

Miss Jane Jones called to see me last Saturday. She is spending a few weeks in the city.

We made candy here New Year's night, but it was such molasses that it was miserable stuff. Tonight, we are making some, I tried to work a piece, but it stuck so that I had to give it up. It is not equal to that we used to make at home last winter, especially when we had it stollen.

Monday evening, I spent at Mrs. C. Finkham with Miss Storer, the Miss Foster's and Miss Noyes & had a very pleasant time.

There has been a great deal of cold weather here this winter and I think more snow to make sleighing then we had in Eastport all last winter, but today it is a January thaw.

Mrs. Brook wishes to know if you will please mention to Elizabeth that she received the letter she sent by Mr. Chadbourne, by Mr. McLellan. 

I bought for myself for a New Year's Present a very pretty ring. It was a dollar. I had my name put on on it.

Is Water St. entirely built up? I expect by the time I go to Eastport I shall hardly know it.

Do most of the girls in E___ go to the dancing school, and Cotillions? I should like very much to be in Eastport this winter and enjoy some of the good times.

I have just been out to see how the candy was doing. It is stuck about from one end of the kitchen to the other. I hardly think it will be fit to eat.

Mr. Whitman* has been quite sick; he is not going to preach for several weeks. they have engaged a minister from Boston.

How is Mrs. Jackman this winter?  Please remember me to her, and Mrs. Hume with daughters and sons.

Has Louisa been in Eastport this winter? Did you distribute those Christmas notes I sent to you by the Cutter?

I must say one word about my nails. I have used that powder several times, and they look now like common people's nails.  I hope that they will continue to do so.

I must now draw to a close not for want of time but for news.

Give my best to love to Fanny, and to all of the girls.

Your affectionate Daughter,

Mary Richardson

* Likely Rev. Jason Whitman, Unitarian pastor of the Park Street Church, who wrote the book 'The Young Ladies Aid to Usefulness and Happiness,' published in 1838, drawn from lectures given to the young women of his parish.

Mary Lydia would marry constitutional lawyer, Thomas Hammond Talbot of Machias in 1862. Talbot was educated at Washington Academy, Bowdoin College, Machias and Dane Law School and Harvard. In 1852 published a paper discussing the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. He would practice law in Portland until the Civil War when he served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Maine Volunteer Heavy Artillery. He was brevetted Brigadier General, US Volunteers in 1865 for "faithful and meritorious services." After the war, from 1869-71 he served as the Assistant United States Attorney General before returning to private practice in Boston.

The second letter, somewhat more anonymous, is dated Eastport, June 29, 1853.  A gentleman named William writes home about his trip from Boston Harbor to Eastport. The purpose of his journey appears to be an effort to secure domestic help for his family. His contact in Eastport was Doctor Richardson.

Dear Mary

I am at last in Eastport, having arrived here this afternoon at 1/2 past one o'clock after a very plesant trip so far as weather and good sea go to make a voyage plesant. I left Boston as I expected at 11 o'clock A.M. But Cousin Mary was not there to meet me - so I am all alone once more - The voyage was quite monotonous, nothing to see but just the rocky shore of Maine in the distance. We arrived in Portland at 1/4 before 8 o'clock and made a stop of 15 minutes - jumped on shore so that I might say that I had been in the place. It seems to be a thriving place the eastern part is lately built over and looks new around the Lighthouse. The Rail Road runs along between the city and the water's edge and tends to make it look more business like. The business is mostly trade with the West Indies. When we arrived Neal Dow of Maine Liquor Law notoriety was on the wharf - having his eyes on what was going on. Two miserable sots aboard when we left gave three cheers for "Dow" and the Law" out of spite - they were then so drunk that they could hardly stand much to their discredit. we left the wharf at 8 o'clock - and I turned in for the night and slept soundly until about 5 o'clock My eyes felt and looked as though they had been boiled and smarted like pepper - in the morning were well in shore, which was nothing but barren rocks with a little stunted wood upon it and a few Islands interspersed along the shore. Now and then a few headlands find their way to the water - but otherwise it is not very high. We came in sight of Machias light about 11 o'clock leaving them to the south and next made Grand Monland Island [Grand Manan Island] which was left about Southeast of us 20 miles from the main land and run around the Island which belongs to Admiral Owen of the British Navy - and lays east of Eastport. After I arrived, I brushed up a little and called upon Doct. Richardson, found him at home - also his son in law Mr. Billing* who married his youngest daughter [Fanny} and arrived with his wife and child in the same Boat with me. I saw also Mrs. Richardson - was very politely received and was invited to tea, which I did not think advisable to accept until tomorrow. He racked his brain for me and finally concluded to let the old gossip of the place know my errand across the way and the morrow I expected to be frosted. Good night to you & Ella.

June 30th - It is quite plesant this morning and I have been looking over the island and I find it nothing but sterile rocks with now and then a tree upon it. The people live by fishing and logging. The Doctor told me that there was a good deal of Aristocratic feeling in the place and the ladies consisted of two classes. The parlor and the kitchen girls no medium - poor & proud and how they contrived to get a living and comfortable support was more than he could tell. I suppose I shall have to go back into the country a ways to find what I want. At any rate, I am laying my plans for a general scour and I shall be able very soon to know what I can do.  

I am stopping at "Mabee's Hotel". The Landlord is an old sailor. And the sign swings on a pole before the house. It has a steamboat on one side and Gen. Taylor giving orders to Capt. May to storm the Battery on the other. By the way, the Street is called Washington St. and on one side it is all planked the whole length of the street and Doct. Richardson lives at the head. You must know that this is the promenade and that the Custom House is close by and the British Consul office right above us. The street is very narrow and steep and I can go down at an easy pace. On the hight of land overlooking the town is situated "Fort Sullivan" with a garrison of soldiers on duty. Officers one Colonel and two Lieutenants a regular dog life they live. They drill about 3 hours per day and sentries are on duty the whole time. About 60 miles from here they catch salmon and close off the shore they catch Cod & Haddock in any quantity, Haddock bring the enormous sum of 1/2 cent per pound after it is all dressed. I am awful lonesome here and shall be glad when I get home once more. I intend to finish up business this time so that I shall not have to go from home again. It is as cold as September here now but in an hour, it may be as hot as Dog-days. Take good care of yourself and Ella until come back and look out for mad dogs, cats & c__. As for the garden, pick and eat and spare not, on my account - but be sure and not get sick.

July 1 - I called on the Doctor last evening and took "tea". I think he is a very fine man and his wife is a very fine woman indeed. He will ride over the island with me today and call on those that he thinks will answer. And if I can find none here, I shall strike off into the interior. One old gentleman at the Hotel from the western part of the State advises me to go to "Prince Edwards Island" as there are an abundance of such families who have nothing to do - and are of Scotch descent. But it will take me a week to get there and back from this place. It is one complete mass of fog this morning yet. I think it will clear off before noon for the sun is trying hard at times to get a peep at the "Earth" if rocks can be called such.

Tell George all about what I am doing and tell him to write me. If I cannot get such a family as we want, I must get some single girls. The Boat starts for Boston this morning and I wish I was one of the passengers, don't you? Kiss Ella for me and let Ella kiss you - and I trust I shall be home soon. The breakfast bell is ringing and I must bid you good morning. Write often - say every other day - And think of me as your affectionate


I cannot stop to read it over -

Sadly, the map below cannot give the option to travel by sea, let alone to travel by sea, then by land across the Isthmus of Chignecto and then again by sea to Prince Edward Island, but it will have to do.

*William B, Billings, a druggist, married 1848

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