1843: William Andrew Westervelt to Lydia Hayes Drake

How William Westervelt might have looked
How William Westervelt might have looked

This letter was written by 28 year-old Rev. William Andrew Westervelt (1815-1899), the son of Abraham Westervelt (1783-1841) and Catherine Vas Blarcom (1780-1830). Abraham came with his family from Ithaca, New York, to Laporte, Indiana in 1836. A history of Marshall County, Indiana, records that “during the year of 1843-44, Rev. William Westervelt preached in Plymouth for a few months with much acceptability, and then returned to Oberlin college, Ohio, of which institution he was at that time a student.” Oberlin College awarded William a theological degree in 1846. Earning a theological degree in the same class was William’s good friend, Alfred A. Whitmore (1817-1886), who is mentioned in this letter.

William wrote the letter to Lydia Hayes Drake (1819-1913), whom he married in August 1846. Lydia was the daughter of David Hayes Drake (1794-1881) and Catherine Jones (1794-1851) of Lorain County, Ohio. At the time this letter was written in 1843, it appears that 24 year-old Lydia was attending classes at Oberlin College in Ohio.

Contains an interesting summary of Westervelt’s first missionary attempts on a circuit Rev. Westervelt rode between Plymouth (Marshall County) and Rochester (Fulton County), Indiana — two communities that were a little over 20 miles apart. The town of Argos was most certainly one of the communities served by Rev. Westervelt.

1843 Letter
1843 Letter

Addressed to Miss Lydia Drake, Oberlin, Ohio
Postmarked Plymouth, Indiana

Plymouth [Indiana]
November 7th 1843

My Dear Lydia,

You remember I wrote in my last letter that I intended to remain in Plymouth on the next Sabbath after I wrote and then the coming Sabbath go to Rochester and then return again to Plymouth. So I have done. I now find myself again in an upper room, warm and agreeable at my brothers.

My dear Lydia, you can not tell how pleasing — very, very pleasing — it would be to me if you were here so that I could tell you all about my first missionary excursion. Often on my return to this place, I found the desire springing up in my mind. I would that Lydia was there so that I could spread all the circumstances of this first attempt of doing good (in this capacity) out before her, who I knew would listen with pleasure and then would join with me in thanking our kind Father for making my way prosperous and at the same time in supplicating a throne of grace for His blessing to rest upon the people. Lydia, the pen is a substitute for this privilege, for which I feel very grateful. Although it is a substitute, yet it is not to be compared with the reality for I cannot hear your voice in reply. I cannot witness your smile nor tear. I feel that something is lacking. Especially I wished that you were here when I remembered that I had a present for you. It is a large apple. It was given to you by a mother in Zion. The following are the circumstances.

Just after I arrived in Rochester, I found a good old Mother whose whole conversation, whose whole strength was taken up in serving God. As soon as I became a little acquainted with her, she gave me an apple, and on Monday morning she gave me another. I told her I would take that to my mother. She then gave me one for my mother and said take your other one to your sweet heart. Lydia, it is yours. And as I cannot keep it till next sprain, and as we are one, I will accordingly eat it myself. And will not that do just as well?

I am not yet certain whether I shall remain in this place during the winter or not. The Lord seems to be opening the way. A description of my ride on my circuit may not be interesting to you. I set out from Plymouth Saturday morning November 4 in a very good state of mind, putting my trust in the Lord. It was snowing very fast and continued to snow till noon. Thus it seemed that the Lord was trying me to see if I would face the storm. And yet it was no real trial for I was well prepared for it with a good horse and comfortable clothes and the love of God in my heart. Dear, although I rode through the snow about 16 miles out of the 20 miles which I then traveled, it was a happy day.

I arrived in Rochester about 1 o’clock and sent word through the place on Saturday before night that I would speak in the evening, which I did to an attentive audience. As the Sabbath was occupied during the day, I could not speak again till Sabbath night. Then I spoke again with ease to myself and I hope God was honored.

On Monday morning I rode about nine miles to a back settlement and spoke to a dwelling house full of people although the word was not given out only about two hours before meeting. If the Lord lets me remain here during this winter, I shall expect to see good done in this settlement. On Tuesday morning, I set out for Plymouth and arrived here safe. In each of the above-mentioned places, I received every encouragement of remaining here.

Monday morning, November 13th, 1843

Dear Lydia, When I find a desire springing up within me amounting almost to impatience to see you, then I take my pen and write a few lines on this sheet of paper, and when I have written it full, I shall send it to you. If I should give way to my feelings this morning, I am sure I should fill up this paper before I should lay it aside again. I endeavor to turn my attention to the work of the Lord immediately before me. I, however, find this true: When I have gone through with my duties and have a few leisure moments, my thoughts will roam and at such a time I do not try to check them very much. I think of the many pleasant hours of the last summer while sitting in that rocking chair; and yet it was not the chair that made the time agreeable. The reason I leave for yourself to find out, and I do not consider it a very difficulty problem to solve. When I have thought for some time about the past summer, I look forward to the coming summer when I suppose that Lydia will be willing that I should occupy some of her leisure time, for I suppose that she will during the winter not only make amends for the past hours but will prepare for the future. Lydia, you see what my future calculations are and now there is only one way to keep me from encroaching on your time, and that is to get ahead of your time during the winter for I do not suppose that I shall be any better next summer than I was last. Although I have deep feelings, yet, I am willing to stay and do my Master’s will, for the truth is that the Lord is doing all things for me here that I can ask, so far as I am concerned.

My health is very good. It has been gaining ever since I left the lake. The sickness I had there did me a great amount of good. My peace of mind is as a river. Sister, I love to be engaged in the work of the Lord. I am endeavoring to sow the seeds of eternal life in the best way I can and if I have the blessing of God, good will be done. I now have seven different places where I expect to speak — the people here call it preach. Plymouth & Rochester being the places where I spend my Sabbaths alternately, and the other places either on the road or in the back settlements. I intend to visit these places once in two weeks. I shall speak tomorrow night and then shall speak every night until I have gone around with my missionary excursion. Then I shall return to this place. Plymouth & Rochester are 20 miles apart and I take all the important settlements 8 or 10 miles each way. So you see the Lord has opened a field wide and I hope it may be effectual.

Dear Lydia, if you were here I would not be with you more than half of the time and I do not know that I shall be any better in future life. Are you not sorry that you ever had anything to do with me? But I do not see any way for you to get rid of me now unless you get married before I return next spring. I do not suppose that you will do this for you are not yet through with your studies and neither would Lydia’s principle let her take any such a course, and so I do not see that you will get rid of me at all. Why do I write in this way? When I know that Lydia’s prayer is now and will be in the future that the Lord would bless me and make me useful.

November 15. Two days later. Lydia, while I am writing these words, I am eating a pear presented to me by your own hand. Think if you can what must be my feelings. I cannot describe them. A few minutes ago my sister-in-law came into my room. I opened my trunk and took out your token of kindness and cut it in two and gave her half and I told her that it was given to me by a young lady. She asked if it was Lydia. Your first name she learned from seeing it written on a paper containing some verses which I read to her. I told her it was given to my by Lydia. And then she asked me, “Do you like her?” Dear, how could I answer that question? And while we were eating the pear, she asked me many questions — some about you and some about myself. As the conversation was pleasing to myself, perhaps I told her too many things. Forgive me this wrong.

I wish you were here now for after an hour I shall leave and hold meetings until next week every night and shall be in the midst of strangers until I return again to this place. Four of the places where I shall go I have never visited before. When I am about to go away from my brother’s, and also when I return, I always have the greatest desire to see you. But all feelings of this kind I lay at the feet of Jesus and I find that he is more than all else to me. My constant prayer is that I may see souls converted in these various settlements this winter and God greatly honored.

November 22. Lydia, you must excuse me for not writing sooner for the following reasons. One is I wished to get a letter from you and another reason is that I wanted to be more certain about my staying. And another reason is I wanted to go once more around my circuit. All these have been realized. I rode the first day 3 miles and preached in the evening. The next day 10 miles and spoke in the evening. The next day 15 miles to a neighborhood where I preached the other time I passed around and here I had meeting or preached as the people call it. The next day, Saturday, I rode 10 miles and preached  at night. Sabbath morning, rode 5 miles to Rochester and preached to a large and attentive audience and at night I preached in the same house again. It was a solemn place. I hope to see good done there before spring. Monday I rode 20 miles to Plymouth, hastened to the post office and took out two letters — one from Brother [Alfred A.] Whitmore and one from Lydia. Bro. Whitmore is in West Bloomfield, New York, and is doing very well. He is teaching school and preaching occasionally. His prospects are very good. I was glad to get a letter from him.

Lydia, your letter eclipsed the feeling which I might have had if I had received his letter at another time. Lydia, you said that it was a long month from the time you first received a letter to the next. I suppose this month will be just as long and I am only in the fault. I suppose the time does not seem as long to me as it does to you, for I am in so many difference places and so much care on my mind and so many souls that I must meet by and by at the judgement coming before me from day to day. And then in addition to all this, the preparation that I must necessarily make to fill my various appointments. These things occupy all my time. Weeks fly away and I can hardly tell where they are gone. Your circumstances are different. Dear, if I do not write oftener in the future, you must write often enough to make it up.

Tell Mary that it would have been very pleasant to me to have had the pleasure of eating some of her apples for apples come very acceptable in this country. tell her I sometimes get apples given to me here but I suppose that they are not near as good as if the were given by her hand. Tell Margaret that I cannot put my love in a letter for it would not hold it for it is not large enough. A six horse team with a large waggon could not carry it. How then can I send it in a letter? If she will wait till spring, I will come and bring it to her.

Tell all my friends that I send them as much love as a letter can contain. Lydia, I find that this paper is too small for me to mention half I wish to say. I have scribbled this letter when I have been too tired to write skeletons. If I can get the thoughts I shall be satisfied. My writings may appear egotistical. The reason why I write so much about myself is I suppose it to be the most interesting to you. In your letters all that is said about yourself interests me the most. Write as soon as you receive this. I am yours, — William A. Westervelt

I am going out three miles to preach. Then I shall have a resting spell for some time to come. I have all things arranged for the winter. I hope to have a pleasant time and with the blessing of God, good will be done. My relives are all well. — William W.

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