This letter was written by Elizabeth (Kimball) Gray (1814-1871), the wife of Eugene Frederick Winsor Gray. “Betsy” and “E. F. W.” were married in August 1839. Eugene was the only son of Rev. Cyrus and Belinda Gray of Stafford, Connecticut. He became a printer, a journalist and editor of the long-established Weekly Gazette, of Newburg, New York, and first publisher of the Daily of that city. He was active as an old-line Whig, this prominent position bringing him in contact with the political leaders of the time, and from them he received a flattering offer to remove to Washington and edit a paper there which he declined. He did accept an appointment to the New York Custom House in 1849 which was probably offered through political patronage. Compelled through ill health to give up his chosen profession as a publisher, he settled on a farm in Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey, in the spring of 1864. Doubtless the change prolonged his life, which terminated April 6, 1871, while on a visit to Brooklyn, N. Y.
Betsy took a four years’ course at the Ipswich Female Seminary, graduating in 1832. She was under the instruction of Mary Lyon — the distinguished founder of Mt. Holyoke Seminary — who doubtless was a guiding influence in her life. At her marriage with Mr. Gray she wore a brocaded silk wedding dress, imported for and worn by her grandmother in 1763. Betsy was in sympathy with the Abolition movement, an earnest temperance worker, a writer of prose and poetry, active in the church and charming in social and domestic life. The home of the Grays was an attractive and hospitable one to the early settlers, who found in this household evidence of the highest New England intelligence and culture. [Source: The Vineland Historical Magazine]
The Gray’s had three daughters. The eldest — referred to as “the rose-bud now expanding in the midst of us” on this letter — was Elizabeth Kimball Gray (b. 1840).
Betsy wrote the letter to her parents, Rev. David Tenny Kimball (1782-1860) and Dolly Varnum (Coburn) Kimball (1783-1873) of Ipswich, Massachusetts. Rev. Kimball graduated from Harvard in 1803. After attending theological school, accepted a call to the ministry at Ipswich where he served for nearly half a century.
This letter, in two parts, includes both Betsy’s letter to her parents, as well as a whimsical “petition” for a beloved Aunt Rachel (Dolly’s sister) to come visit and assist in the housekeeping of the Brooklyn residence shared by the Grays with Betsy’s brother, John Rogers Kimball (1816-1883) and his wife Lydia Ann (Coburn) Kimball (1821-1868). John was in the mercantile business in New York City at the time but left soon after for Boston.
Addressed to Rev’d D. T. Kimball, Ipswich, Massachusetts
Postmarked Salem, Massachusetts
To the Household of David, our Father:
The Petition of J. R. K. & Anna, his wife, & E. F. W. & Betsy, his wife, & our well beloved sister, Elizabeth, & the posterity of the people aforesaid, humbly herewith, that whereas the said J.R. & Anna do propose immediately, if not sooner, to remove their tabernacle from out of this land of Gotham (a land overflowing with mud & pigs) & take up their residence in the land of their fathers, & whereas the said Elizabeth also proposes to depart out from among us, to take up her abode on the banks of the pleasant river where the golden harvest fields & the richly laden branches are bathed in the sunlight, & whereas the said E. F. W. & his spouse also propose to remove their household goods to parts unknown so soon as the Spring time opens a new world of light and beauty, & whereas there is a certain damsel appertaining to your household whom we are exceedingly anxious to have abide among us for a space, while our tents are still pitched in this delectable region round about,
And, whereas lastly, there is a little rose-bud now expanding in the midst of us which insists that the damsel aforesaid combines the sunshine & shower necessary to bring forth the full blossom in time to greet the singing of the birds & the perfumed gales of the springtime.
Now, therefore, we whose names are hereunto signed, do most earnestly beseech of you to take the prayer of this petition into consideration & to grant the same, if consistent with the welfare of all concerned.
And the undersigned will ever pray &c. Witness our hands & seals this 23rd day of January 1845
John R. Kimball
L. A. C. Kimball
E. F. W. Gray
Elisabeth K. Gray
E. P. [Peter] Coburn
E. K. († her mark) Gray, Junior
[Seal] James Harper, Mayor
January 23, 1845
My dear father and mother,
You may be surprised with the request of the cottagers respecting your daughter Rachel. We have long thot of making the proposition of a visit from her, but have felt that what assistance she could render dear Mama was strongly called for. But when cousin Peter was here he mentioned that you had a girl [to assist you in your household duties] & if you have, we feel that the invite may not be altogether out of place. Nothing could give us greater pleasure than such a visit.
My own health — which has been wretched for some weeks — has improved so that I hesitate on that ground to urge a visit immediately. If you think best (which we hope you will) to spare her till the first of May, just write & let us know so that Mr. Gray may be at the cars to take her home. Sis has already planned a thousand ways to entertain her auntie. She will sleep with cousin Elisabeth & as we keep fires in both parlors she can accommodate herself pretty comfortably.
Dear parents, I often think of you & wish it were in my power to promote your happiness, & if at any time I can do anything, I will most cheerfully. If you conclude to send Rachel, please make up your mind soon as we must make some change in May & housekeeping is so wearing to me that we shall probably board in the summer house. Hon. says as fond as he is of a home & his wife’s cooking, he never will housekeep again. Besides the Hon. Doctor Alex. Van Pelt has serious intention towards your adopted daughter, he has requested me to invite her to Brooklyn as his profession will not allow of his leaving to visit her. Father knows the venerable gentleman & he is coming in some evening next week to beat me in checkers. But enough, the dear girl shan’t have him. He’s too aged though he is monstrous rich & shrewd as a Dutchman & thinks more of Yankee girls than all others.
I hope you will forgive me for coming before the public with my rhymes but I would give my old shoes to write for the edification of others or to satisfy myself. Dear me! Tis late in the day, but I must listen to internal promoting & perhaps ere I go into my narrow house, write something that will have a good effect in forming the character of yours & my bud of promise.
Yours &c., — E. K. Gray
I love you very much & want to see you all summer. Tell J. How I am very glad he well & I want to go next summer & I have got my rocking chair. It has very long rockers & it is a very pretty one. It is a beauty. And I send my love to Aunt Mary & we got some letters fr her but I think they are not written good. I hope you and mother is more comfortable & I’m glad grandpapa’s toe is better. I’ve got a lamp with two wicks. Broke my other. I’ve lost my thimble & want Mr. Gray to buy me another. I go to work whenever they tell me to & when they want me to go anywhere. Santa Claus made me many presents & sent me this Kringle’s book. — Peter