Courting couples of the nineteenth century even played out the
roles of the traditional married couples of the period. Women offered domestic
services when mothers of the men were not available. On the Ohio frontier, this
was not uncommon, since many of the men had come from elsewhere to preach or
establish businesses. The men, in turn, offered their protection and guidance
for the entirety of the couple’s life together, seeing it as their
Steubenville April 14, 1821
And so my "pathetic complaints"--the very dolorous repinings of my
last letter "afforded you not a little diversion"? well, I had much
rather you would laugh than weep, albeit the laugh were at my own expence; yet
at the same time it must be confessed, I had much rather myself laugh with
than be laughed at. However, as Dr Johnson says--one step beyond the
sublime becomes the ridiculous; I only take credit to myself for having been too
sublime, and will take care hereafter to keep within the due bounds provided
you will forgive the past flights of oratory so expressive (as I thought) of all
the eloquence of grief on my part and so productive it seems of mirth on yours.
These [privy] whinings & sickly sensibilities are indeed contemptible,
and I should despise myself were I obliged to descend to the stuff of novelists
and romance for expression of my feelings. If on all mankind a common doom is
passed--if all are fools and lovers first or last--I at least will strive to mix
some wisdom with my folly. If with me that time already have arrived, I will
endeavour not wholly to surrender the reins of judgment and reason into the
hands of passion. I will be the philosophic, or rather the Christian lover whose
affection is not bounded by time, but extends throughout eternity--whose esteem
is not produced by the beauty of form, but by the graces of mind, and therefore
shall exist undecayed and unimpaired when beauty is no more when mind alone
Verily it is not good for man to be alone, I would have a friend in my
solitude; and like Adam, I would have that friend an[d] helpmate--yea, bone of
my bone & flesh of my flesh.
Do you not remember an expression of mine in a sermon on the creation of man?
It was to this effect--Beneath his arm, from near his heart was woman taken, and
wherefore but to teach him he should be her guardian & her friend.
I trust you are convinced of my friendship; when shall follow the
guardianship? when shall I be permitted to call you mine? [O], when will
Providence remove the obstacles which now divide our paths & prevent their
journeying into one? Do not think me too impatient. No, I will be patient as the
man of [?] for a better wife than he had. I will be the calm, the rational, the
philosophic lover; whose passion, if it rise not into exstacies and transport,
will be less liable to sink into despondency & declension--& bid fairer
for permanent durability. I remember Cowper’s fable; [?] time anticipated; and
had a melancholy example of its fulfilment before my eyes during my late journey
to this place. "Poor birds!" thought I when the rain descended, and
the snow fell, & the winds blew, "poor birds, how unwise &
thoughtless have you been!" Thus are the blossoms of hope & expectation
chilled by the cold maxims of prudence. And thus are we made wise at a less cost
than our own experience. Which of these sentiments is most appropriate to the
subject, I leave you to judge. For myself, I think both proper.
Some time since I was sleeping in a cabin, where the portions were very
slight, and awoke myself in the morning by saying "Dear Mary! my own
Mary." This trifling circumstance I should not mention to any but yourself;
and to you only as it proves what is the subject of my thoughts sometimes by
night as well as by day--in visions of sleep, as in daydreams. And do you not
sometimes think of him who in journeyings often encounters perils by land &
perils by water, for the sake of the Church of God and the perishing souls of
his brethren? If the present is to be the last year of my missionary life, by
God’s grace and blessing, it shall be an active one & diligently employed.
Accordingly, since my arrival here, I have held service five times in the
neighbouring towns, Smithfield, Springfield, Wellsburg, and Wheeling; and next
week, expect to go out about twenty miles west on a similar occasion and duty.
Revd Mr Armstrong is very popular among all denominations at W. & the church
is commenced on a larger scale. His son is expected back from England in July,
& we hope will settle somewhere in the west. I also look for two clergymen
from N.Y. in the course of the summer. They were formerly my fellow students
& chums. If one of them would take charge of Z. I then could confine myself
entirely to this parish & St. James: All goes on well here.
Early Ohio coverlet.
Woven coverlets such as this were
very popular in 19th century Ohio.
If nothing prevent, I shall be in C. about the middle of June but my stay
will, of necessity, be short--yet it shall be my endeavour that Mr. S. &
yourself have a larger portion than before. Do not neglect writing to me early
next month at Z. and let me know respecting the health of Mrs S. & of all
your joys & all your sorrows, if you have any; for I both rejoice &
sympathize with you, and feel a deep solicitude to hear from you daily were it
Tell your dear [m]other that if I become her son-in-law, her daughter’s
happiness shall be my constant & earnest care; and if we meet not in this
world, yet it shall be our hope thro’ Christ to meet, with joy, in the world
to come, never more to be separated.
And now farewell. May the good God ever bless & keep you!--May He cause
the brigh[t]ness of his face to shine upon you now & over is the fervent
prayer of your affectionate & sincere friend,
Chillicothe May 4th, 1821
My dear Friend,
Conscious that I do not merit the very high opinion which you
entertain of me I shall endeavour in this letter to lay before you some of my
failings & defects in the hope that they may have more eight with you than
the caution which my last contained(?) appears to have had. I would rather you
thought less of me now that I might indulge the hope of rising in your
estimation after marriage instead of having the fear continually haunting me
that a closer intimacy must produce disappointment to you of Mortification to
me. Altho’ you profess to be indifferent to personal appearance it is my duty
to inform you of natural failings: but lest you should be too much alarmed at
the formidable catalogue, I will first tell you what I suppose you have some
curiosity to know, my age, on the third of next month I shall count 28 years,
perhaps you may think there is some mistake in the number, when I add that I am
getting grey hairs, losing my eyesight, teeth, & strength. Much ill health
& an uncommon share of afflictions have caused these infirmities to appear
earlier in me that they usually do in most persons.
With respect to mind the defects are as many that they cannot
possibly be enumerated. I am told that my temper has of late become more
irritable & I feel it is so: you must form your own judgement of my
The education I received was a very singular one: my Father
having a large family thought it most prudent to employ a private Teacher for
his daughters: but being one of the old School was more wishful to have us good
Housekeepers rather than good Scholars. He engaged a good Moravian Sister, who
paid more attention to our hearts than our heads. She was indeed better
qualified to fit us for Heaven than Earth. I passed my childhood under her care
my life since that period with the exception of the three last years has been
principally spent in attending to sick relatives which left me little or no
leisure for the improvement of my mind. The [scenes] I have gone through would
fill a volume.
Now though your feeling heart may readily allow there is
sufficient excuse for any deficiencies: yet I am aware you will much regret to
learn that I have not received a more liberal education.
I hope you will find time when you visit us to write to my
Mother. I received a letter from on of my Sisters yesterday in which every thing
is said which is kind, & tender, & every appeal made to my feelings to
induce me to return to [letter here]. If you feel any wish to change your mind,
only tell me so; if [you set] me [free], I will surmount every other difficulty.
So consider well before the fatal knot is tied.
Mrs Steinhauer’s health is tolerable, Mr S. has many very
vexatious trials to bear from these Ohio Parents; they really do not deserve to
have a faithful Teacher for their children. I hope to hear from you before I see
Do not fancy there is any impropriety in the question which
follows, Can I be of service to your wardrobe either in making or mending? if I
can bring me the articles when you come.
Excuse this mean paper I did not observe it was so bad but I
have an idea you would rather have it then wait some days longer for another. I
almost fear I shall be too late for the mail as it is. We are without help at
present so have little time for writing love letters.
yours most affectionately,