Calvin Smith

Historical Letter of Calvin Smith

Submitted by Marilyn Maxfield King, 2002.

George Lawton, in the process of moving to a new residence, had found, in an old spice cupboard, a journal belonging to Jane Woodward Smith, wife of Milton Smith, our mutual ancestors.

Also in the journal was a very long letter, handwritten by Calvin Smith, my fourth great grandfather, born in 1786. The letter was written in several parts, beginning in October 1862 and completed in January 1863. In this letter, Calvin spoke of his great love for his family, especially his son, Milton, who was my third great grandfather. He gives a brief account of his family history, whereby I was able to unlock some more of the puzzle of the Smith family ancestry. It gives a lot of the early description of the county.

At the time he wrote this letter, Calvin was very ill and believed he was dying. It was transcribed, as written, with spelling corrections made....items in brackets are added by transcriber.

Stockton Oct. 1, 1862 [Chautauqua County, NY]

My Dearly Beloved, My First Born, My only son. I have so little opportunity to converse with you personally, that I will employ a little leisure time in visiting with you in this way. And in the first place I have to thank my God, my heavenly Father, whose kind and protecting care has been over me, for preserving you until the present time, that I have one son left me, on whose kind, and generous, and benevolent nature, and tenderheartedness, I can lean with confidence whilst I am gradually sinking down to the grave; and I ardently pray that you may be preserved until my body is committed to its mother earth.

I will now tell you a little of your ancestry. Your great grandfather [Chileab] Smith was a patriarch, almost equal unto Abraham. He was raised in a Congregational family, in Hadley, a town on Connecticut River in Massachusetts, but removed from there in early life with his family, to Ashfield twenty mile into the wilderness, inhabited by Indians, an exploit almost equal to a removal to California now. But becoming early convinced of the error of sprinkling infants and calling it baptism, that he left the Congregationalists and became a Baptist, and with his family and some others who joined him there formed a Baptist church, a little more than one hundred years ago. They had to send fifty miles for a Minister to baptize them, there being no Baptist Minister nearer. In the meantime the Congregationalists had immigrated into town, and soon after formed a church of that order, from whom the Baptists suffered great persecution, until they sent a petition to the King for relief, which was in a measure granted.

My father was the youngest of four sons. When he was about thirty years old he married Miss Hannah Drake, a merry girl of fifteen, and when she was twenty-one, she had four sons, of whom I was the youngest. She was sister to Alvin Drake's father.

I was born Janr. 8th 1786. I was the youngest child until I reached nine years old, when my mother had another son, his name was Alfred, he died when about fourteen months old. When I was eleven years old I had another brother born, named Emery. He died in Winonren near Milwaukee, when about fifty years old, leaving a large family.

After Emery's birth my mother had three daughters. Two of them have died leaving large families. The youngest is still living in Ashfield, married but has no children. [Note in margin: Oct. 11th I am feeling very well today. I think I am getting better.]

December 14, 1807, I was married to Eunice Cobb, the finest girl in the world. We had each of us a good pair of hands, but little else to begin the world with.

The first year I carried on my father's farm upon shares. The next year we went to live with Mother Cobb, on her thirds. (She was a widow.) We staid there about four years. During that time a [perhaps "I"] traded fifty acres of new land, which I had obtained in Tully, Onadag Co., for Connecticut clocks, which had just then come in market, and peddled them out. Tully was then a new country.

Sunday, May 20, 1810 [Milton's birth] was a memorable day with me. It was pleasant and warm, I had finished planting corn the day before. The orchard before the door was in full bloom, and on that day our first born son was born. And a lovely sweet babe he was - how ardently we loved him, none but parents can know. He grew a sweet and playful child, and was beloved by all who knew him. Thanks be to God that he is still preserved to me.

On the 18th of March 1814, Alfred was born, and Lewis the 17th day of Sept. 1815. Priscilla, July 23rd 1818 - Theresa April 20, 1824.
Alfred died Sept. 24, 1837.
Your mother died Nov. 6, 1847
Lewis died Sept. 9, 1849

Oct. 2. It is a rainy & gloomy day, and I feel a depression of spirits and strength. Philip is gone to Dunkirk to nominate a congressman. Rosie is now on a friendly call. Hamlin [this name is spelled Humlyn in another place...his grandson] Miller went from home last Sunday night, and we have not heard from him.

A little this side of Albany one of my oxen became lame, and I had to swap the yoke with a Dutchman for another not worth as much, but which performed the journey well. In about eight days we arrived at my brother {????} in Tully where we stopped two nights and then drove on. We fell in company with great numbers of immigrants who like us were going to the far west, so that we did not lack for company. On the sixteenth day of Oct. we arrived here in what is now called Stockton, the snow was nearly ankle deep.

We put up a little log house with Sawyer Philips, and had to go a mile into the woods, and built a house to winter in. Sunday, Oct. 5.

The storm is over, it is very pleasant today, but rather cool. I feel very well today almost like a well man. Your mother has gone to meeting, I am alone.

In the year of 1820 the town of Stockton was organized, and as Paul set us a pattern of boasting, (see 2 Cor. 11th) I will follow his example and boast a little. At our first annual town meeting I was chosen Commissioner of Common Schools. Afterwards I served several years as Commissioner and Town Clerk. I was soon elected Justice of the Peace, which office I held more than twenty years. For two years I was Supervisor, the second year the Chairman was called away and I was chosen chairman pro tem.

I was appointed foremen of the grand jury by the court. I was once Moderator of a large Baptist council held at Forestville and Chairman of an Assembly District Commission, but I will boast no more, you will think I am childish and so I am.

God has been very gracious unto me, through dangers seen and unseen he has preserved me, and bestowed many favors upon me, not the least of which is the preserving to me my beloved son, on whose kind care I can lean while descending to the grave, for which time I am quietly waiting.

I have to bless the Lord for his favor to you, which I esteem as if done to myself. He has surrounded you with blessings. He has blessed you in your "basket and in your stone." He has blessed you in a kind and faithful companion, who may well be said to be a crown to her husband. He has blessed you with children, of whom any father might be proud, and should be thankful - but Oh my dear son, has he blessed you with that change of heart that he bestows on the heir of salvation? Do you love God supremely and have faith in Jesus Christ? I have a strong impression that you are one chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. I still entertain that impression and believe if I am counted worthy to enter the gates of the new Jerusalem above, I shall in due time meet you there, where we can spend eternity in joys unspeakable. In the mean time whilst I remain in this feeble body, that, knowing your tender heart and benevolence, I can lean on you so far as human aid can go with perfect confidence. Calvin Smith

[This is a second letter from Calvin Smith to Milton Smith. Calvin was born Jan. 8, 1786, making him almost 77 when this letter was written. He lived until Dec. 8, 1865.]
Stockton, Dec. 7, 1862 A talk with my only son
No. 2
My Dearly Beloved Son, since the close of my last talk with you in this way, my health has been improving slowly, but I have some sick days. Last Thursday was a distressing day for me, a severe headache and vomiting frequently, reduced me almost as weak as ever. But I had the kindest of nursing from her whom the Lord has given me for a companion, and am almost as well as before. I do not know how long I shall remain in the body, but I know that the time is short. I love to sing the following verses so I will transcribe them for you. In twenty four years you will be as old as I am now, when, perhaps you will like to sing them as well as I do now. How swift time passes, let us endeavor to spend it all in wisdoms ways.
Now age has come o'er me and youth is no more,
And the moralist, time, shakes his glass at my door;
No pleasure in beauty or wealth do I find,
My beauty and wealth is a sweet peace of mind.
That peace, I'll preserve it as pure as 'twas given,
Shall dwell in my bosom, an earnest from heaven,
For wisdom and virtue can warm the cold scene,
And seventy can flourish as gay as seventeen.
And when I, the burden of life shall have borne,
And death with his sickle shall cut the ripe corn.
I'll ascend to my God without murmur or sigh
I'll bless the kind summons and lie down to die.

In my last talk with you in this way, I recalled a [C.S. wrote "I"] few events in my pilgrimage until I arrived at Stockton. I will now mention a few more events since then.

My first winter in Stockton proved the truth of one of Shakespeare's sayings: "There is a destiny that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will."

I had been told that snow did not usually fall very deep here, that chopping for clearing could be done through the winter, and the cattle would do well on the tree tops. I accordingly contracted to have five acres chopped, and intended to do as much more myself and by hiring some day work, expecting to get in ten acres of crops in the spring. But the nineteenth day of November there came a deep snow which did not go off until the next May, and it kept on snowing most of the time through the winter, and it got so deep that chopping could not be done, nor cattle fed from tree tops. I had a yoke of oxen and two cows to take care of, and hay was not to be had without going beyond Cassadaga. The snow was so deep that oxen could not work in the yoke, so I had to make a short yoke and do all my teaming with one ox.

The snow became four feet deep in the woods. In the spring the storm changed to rain, which continued until the first of June, so that it was nearly impossible to clear land. Consequently I got but little seed in the ground that spring - my end was well rough hewed, but destiny shaped it otherwise.

You probably remember going with me to Fredonia with an ox team after brick. Then, the way to Fredonia was by Cassadaga and Shumla [poss. Thumla]. We had to go a mile below Fredonia to the brick kiln. About sun set we got ready to start for home. And about the same time it began to snow very fast. We made out to get along with our load to the foot of the hill this side of Cassadaga , but the snow got to be so deep that it was impossible to get up the hill with the load. I therefore unyoked the oxen, took the yoke on my shoulder, turned one ox forward of the other. I followed next, and you behind me. Thus we marched home, single file and arrived there before morning.

Dec. 24th, evening.
Your mother [stepmother] is gone to meeting, and as I am alone I will talk a little more with you. I am enjoying comfortable health, but old age is creeping on, my joints are growing stiff, my blood circulates slowly, like a river on level ground ground (sic) near the ocean. I have reason to be thankful and to bless God that I am so comfortable, whilst I wait for my change to come.

Your mother [Eunice Cobb] was very much troubled with a rupture for several years before her death. She had been to Obed Taylor's to visit at the birth of a child, and when coming out through his gate, it being slippery she fell, and she always thought the rupture was then caused. It was in a very bad place, being at the navel. It came down frequently, but she could reduce it herself until the day before her death. On that occasion she found she could not reduce it, and being in great distress I ran for Dr. Ellsworth who was soon here, but it resisted all his skill. It was just at night when she was taken and it was now evening. Finding Dr. Ellsworth's efforts unavailing a message was dispatched for Dr. White of Fredonia. He came and brought Dr. Walworth with him. Dr. Harrison was also called in. The Doctors consulted and hesitated a good while, but at length to perform an operation, which was accordingly done. But it was too late, mortification had already taken place and she died the same evening a little more than twenty four hours after she was taken.

As I stood by her bed side, I said to her we have often sang together, "Jesus can make a dying bed feel soft" and asked her if she found it so. She pleasantly said yes - and soon after fell asleep in Jesus.

At the funeral Elder Way, at my request, preached an excellent sermon from Psalm 46th 10, "Be still, and know that I am God."

My disconsolate and lonely condition, I will not attempt to describe. None but those who have experienced the like can realize it.

As I have long been in the habit of making rules for my future conduct, I resolved to live alone a year, and after that to be governed by what I should think would be most for my happiness.

After a lonely year had passed, I made up my mind that I should be happier with a suitable companion, than to be alone. And I thought if I could find one amongst my old friends and companions it would be desirable. I knew of a widow who was a daughter of a cousin of mine, with whom I was well acquainted in my youthful days, having been school mates together, who was four years younger than I was. She was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan and said to be worth fifteen thousand dollars.

When I went to visit my friends in Detroit, I made up my mind to call on her, it being but an hours ride on the cars. Accordingly, I called on her on Saturday and she insisted on my staying over Sunday, which I did. I found her a smart, healthy, intelligent woman, of a strong and ardent temperament. A great politician of the Whig Party, said that if she had a child that was a Democrat she would disown them. She boldly and openly discarded the Bible as unworthy of belief, did not believe in a future state of existence. She never attended meeting, except the Roman Catholic, which was near her house. She lived in a large elegant brick house, and a daughter, who was married and had two children lived with her. She treated me with great kindness and hospitality and gave me much information about relatives and old acquaintances that I had not heard before. Of course, I said nothing to her about wanting a companion.

After that, when I was on a visit to Unil {unable to read this word) [it is Uriel] Smith Jnr. At Milwaukee, he told me that his aunt Lucy was a widow, that he was well acquainted with her, having been often at her house, and said he thought she would be just right for a companion for me. When I came home, I wrote a line to my brother [Uriel], whose wife was her sister, stating what his son had told me of his Aunt Lucy and saying to him, as he was well acquainted with us both, that if, in his judgment such a union would be for our mutual happiness, he might write a line to her, and if she would accept a visit from me with that view, I would go and see her.

As she was about making a visit to her two sisters in that region, she gave him to understand that I might meet her at his house.

I accordingly met her at my brother [Uriel's]. I found her all that she had been represented to be, and could say as the Queen of Sheba said of Solomon, the half had not been told me. Our acquaintance resulted in a union for life, and I have reason to be thankful that I am blest with a companion so exactly "meet" and suitable for me. I shall probably go the way of all the earth and leave her behind me. Her own children are all away from her, but I have not the least doubt, that your kind and generous nature will treat her with all the kindness and attention due to an own mother. She has been very kind and attentive to me during my long sickness, and I trust she will be rewarded in this world and that which is to come. Janr. 5 1863.

Last week I was quite unwell but yesterday and today I feel much better. On the whole I think I am gaining some. How long I shall remain here I know not. I am patiently waiting for my change to come, with firm and abiding hope, that I shall meet my beloved first born son in that world of bliss where parting will be unknown.

You are so nobly and generously keeping the fifth commandment, you do, I trust also keep all the others. That God by his grace will prepare you to meet me in a blissful immortality, is my daily prayer.

My dear son, Milton
Your Father, Calvin
[Calvin lived until December 8, 1866, almost four more years, after writing these letters]