1831: Rebecca (Parker) Hallowell to Louisa (Davis) Minot

silThis letter was written by Rebecca (Parker) Hallowell (1782-1843) and her husband, Judge John Hallowell (1785-1839) who lived a few miles outside the city of Philadelphia.

In his book, “The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, now Deceased,” Henry Simpson described Rebecca as being “of a sprightly disposition and fluent in conversation, with great decision of character. Her family connections were numerous, respectable, and influential among men of business, and gave their cordial and valuable support to her husband.” At the time this letter was written, Judge Hallowell was nearing the end of a seven year term as judge of the District Court — a commission he received by Governor John Andrew Shulze in 1825. Judge Hallowell suffered a stroke in 1832 and again in 1834 that effectively ended his career.

Painting of Niagara Falls attributed to Louisa Davis Minot, 1818
Painting of Niagara Falls attributed to Louisa Davis Minot, 1818

Rebecca wrote the letter to her good friend Louisa (Davis) Minot (1787-1858), daughter of Daniel Davis (1762-1835), solicitor-general of the Commonwealth, and Louis Freeman (1768-1820) of Massachusetts. Louisa was married to William Minot (1783-1873), an 1802 graduate of Harvard who afterwards studied law in Boston with Joseph Hall and was admitted to the Suffolk Bar in 1805. Specializing in the areas of trusts, wills, and estates, he practiced in Boston at his father’s 39 Court Street office. The city of Boston trust funds and the Harvard Class of 1802 were among the trusts in his care. They lived on Beacon Street and had five children. During the summer months, he and his family resided at Woodbourne, a country house in West Roxbury. In the later years of his life, William grew lonely mourning the lost companionship of Louisa, who died in 1858.

Louisa Davis Minot was a poet and a surprisingly accomplished painter. There are two paintings of Niagara Falls painted in 1818 attributed to her hand but no others, leaving us to wonder where and how she acquired this artistic training.

1831 Letter
1831 Letter

Addressed to Louisa Minot, Care of William Minot, Esqr., Boston

3 Mo. [March] 22nd 1831

My dear friend,

I feel anxious to hear how you have endured the inclemency of this Siberian winter — have you been frozen up in ice or buried in snow drifts like ourselves?

Our great snow storm came on January 14th — sixth day evening — and continued snowing and blowing with the utmost violence until first day 2 o’clock P.M. Scarcely an individual ventured out on Seventh day either with milk or marketing. Some who lived at a considerable distance and left home before the snow commenced were compelled to remain until it was over and the road beaten for their waggons. The sanctity of the Sabbath had to be violated. As soon as the storm abated, about eighty horses were employed by the waggoners who had been detained in the city to break the road and a hundred workmen followed merely to open a carriageway on our turnpike to the city which was completely blocked up.

We had excellent sleighing for a month and even now, in some places, there are vestiges of snow remaining. March commenced very mildly that I apprehended out early fruit thus would be brought prematurely forward, but these last few days have produced a seasonable shock.

Thy letter of last June was handed to me in bed as I was confined with the inflammatory rheumatism. It seemed at first a considerable disappointment that we did not see you, but I was brought to acknowledge it all for the best, as I was not able at that time to enjoy your company. What do Mary and thee think of a trip this Spring? Can all the difficulties and obstructions be removed that prevented the accomplishment of your wishes last summer? If so, we shall be pleased to see you. Perhaps Margaret would join you. We were much pleased with her other visit. Helen (I suppose) we shall be compelled to give up as she has been so often within a few hours ride of Philadelphia and not thought us worth even a short visit.

How is Doctor Freeman? Has he not suffered from the severity of the winter? Remember me affectionately to him.

Thy Father [Daniel Davis] and my husband has suspended for a time their interesting correspondence, but if anything should occur to arouse his feelings, we should be much pleased to receive again the conversations of his pen.

Our city and suburbs are increasing rapidly. The gentlemen are full of speculations in buildings, coal mines, canals, and railways. Locomotive carriages no doubt will follow.

Our family are all well at present except this cold which I observe by your newspapers you have very generally labored under. Little Rebecca is a lovely child, upwards of thirteen months old, can walk alone and say a great many words. She has just been on a visit here for several days while Mary was in town with her mother.

Our visit to Boston seems in very distant prospective. I find my daughter’s cares are mine, and altho’ Eleanor ¹ has excellent assistance, yet there is a prospect of her family increasing about the middle of June which is sufficient to detain me in the city or its environs.

Remember us affectionately to all the family. George I have a lively recollection of & expect by this time he is a well-informed, fine young man. How old is Julia? The pleasure of seeing her is I hope yet in store for us.

Thy sincere friend, — R. Hallowell

I add a few lines for Mr. Minot & your good father. Are they both in the land of the living & well? It is something less than a century since we have corresponded. I should like to hear something about them. I hear your father has removed to Cambridge. Is he still solicitor-general? or has the revolutionary wheel been at work upon him? I believe, however, that in the land of stead habits, it does not operate as it does in our more southern quarter where thorough republicanism prevails.

My commission is temporary & will expire in about a year. Whether I shall retire of my own accord, be reformed out, or receive a commission for seven years longer, I cannot as yet tell. If your father will write to me, I promise him a prompt & cordial answer.

Yours with sincerity & friendship. — John Hallowell

March 26, 1831

¹ Eleanor Hallowell (1804-1892) was married to Hon. George McDowell Stroud (1795-1875), a district court judge in Philadelphia.

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