This letter was written by Sarah Mellis (Tilton) Howard (1807-1887), the daughter of William Tilton (1778-1819) and Catherine Mellis (1771-1843). Sarah was married to William Langford Howard (1789-1864), Navy Commander. Their son, Thomas Howard was born 3 September 1831. The 1857 New York City Directory reveals that Thomas Howard was the proprietor of a dry goods store at 43 Chambers Street. The Howards lived at 278 Jay Street in Brooklyn. Sarah’s letter speaks to the economic downturn brought on by the Panic of 1857.
Sarah wrote the letter to her 14 year-old nephew, Edward (“Ned”) M. Tilton (1843-1864), the son of Mellis S. Tilton (1810-1891) and Rachel Cook (1811-1886). Edward was attending a Quaker boarding school in Haddonfield, New Jersey — just a few miles from Philadelphia. Edward died young of consumption in 1864. Sarah mentions Edward’s older brother, William Tilton (1836-1915) in the letter.
The 1837 New York City Directory has Mellis S. Tilton identified as a “clothier” at 78 Cherry Street and a residence at 183 Henry Street. The 1850 Census has Mellis S. Tilton enumerated in New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York and laboring as a farmer. In 1860, he is enumerated in Harrison, Westchester County, New York, still laboring as a farmer. They later relocated to New Jersey. Mellis and Rachel were prominent in the Quaker faith.
In the letter, Sarah mentions “Aunt Gulie.” Guliema Maria Springett Penn Cook (b. 1824) was Edward’s maternal aunt. She was married to a Philadelphia Cabinet Maker named George D. Jones who lived at 62 South Fourth Street in the 1820s and died in the 1830s. In 1857, Gulie lived at 827 Race Street where she took in boarders.
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Addressed to Edward M. Tilton, Care of Richard D. Allen, Haddonfield, New Jersey
Brooklyn [New York]
11 month 23rd 1857
I should not have allowed so long a time to have elapsed without addressing thee a few lines had I not been unusually complaining for the past few weeks. I was very sorry that thou wast so slightest the first week of thy sojourn amongst strangers in a strange land. Not a line from one of the family. It was certainly very neglectful.
I think of thee very often my dear and regret that a school could not be found more accessible that we could see thee more frequently, but we must try to bear these separations cheerfully remembering that it is not always but for us to have our wishes gratified in all things. Thy letters afford us much pleasure and satisfaction. They give evidence of thy being interested in thy studies. Continue my dear to apply thyself diligently to thy lessons [and] also to conform as much as possible to the wishes of Friend Richard and his wife. By so doing, thou wilt contribute greatly to the happiness of thy parents and friends and will most certainly ensure a portion of the same for thyself.
I will now try to tell thee of what has occurred since William addressed thee. [My son] Thomas made a very pleasant visit to Harrison, the particulars of which thou will probably hear through letters from home. I was very glad he went as Father was very much cheered and encouraged him in his business prospects. Matters and things at 43 Chambers Street have assumed a pretty dark face and Thomas has been looking and feeling very sad ever since his return from the South. He reached home from Harrison on Sixth day morning and on the same afternoon took the H. R. R. cars for Hudson to make his Father a visit. We had not received a word of tidings from Uncle William for several months and were feeling a little uneasy about him. Tom found him well and received a kind welcome. He spent Seventh day very pleasantly with him and returned in the evening train. Got home at 1 o’clock. Had a lonely walk in the City. The weather very cold, snowing.
William’s business seems to be looking up a little. We have strong hopes now that he will be retained, which will enable us to go on housekeeping. Thomas talked a few weeks since of breaking up and retiring to the Asylum at Harrison. I have reminded William & him of thy father’s expression that, “it should be a home for all that would work.” I trust things will in a few months brighten a little and assume a more cheering aspect.
I heard on Seventh day that Cornwell White (Doble Baker’s son-in-law) had made a bad failure. We are hearing of many of our friends who were considered wealthy, that although likely to get through without failing, will lose almost everything. I have written thee a great deal about business not knowing that it will interest thee. Thomas sent thee a paper a few days since. Today is mild — quite warm. Not much prospect of skating for William on Fifth day which is the day appointed for Thanksgiving. He intends going home Fourth day and returning Sixth day.
Aunt G. is promising herself the pleasure of 3 holidays this week. One day to clean her room & Fourth & Fifth days. I must close my letter. I am afraid I have been tedious. I do not approve of writing long letters to school boys. Perusing them infringes on play hours. I shall be pleased my dear to have a letter from thee, but will be satisfied with a few lines knowing that thy time will be much occupied with thy studies. Julia bids me say she is glad thou art not obliged to live on cat fish. She listens attentively to thy letters as they are read.
Affectionately, thy Aunt, — S. M. Howard
P. S. Aunt has received thy nice letter and intends answering it soon. Is next 2nd day Monthly Meeting? I hope thou wilt have a nice visit at Philadelphia. Aunt & William sit by me and send love to thee. I think I hear Tom’s footsteps. Yes, and he says give my love to Ned, and say he intends to write at no very remote period.