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Julia Ann Riley

Riley letterIn March, 2012, the Crawfordsville District Public Library received a donation of a 1834 folded stampless letter written by a Crawfordsville resident, Julia Ann Riley. At the time of this letter, Miss Riley was serving as a missionary in Crawfordsville, and was reporting to a Christian friend in New York on her current circumstances on the frontier town. She mentions many family members, and provides a status report on Wabash College, at that time less than 1 year old. Riley was apparently not in Crawfordsville for long; Montgomery County, Indiana marriage records show that a woman named Juliann Riley married William Rodgers on September 21, 1835. Shortly thereafter, the Board of Foreign Missions and the Board of Missions of the Presbyterian Church Missionary Chronicle reported that William S. Rogers and Julia Anne Rogers were sent as missionaries to northern India, and embarked for their new assignment in November of 1835. We are very grateful to Eric Scott for his generous gift that has provided our community with an extremely rare glimpse of life in early Crawfordsville.

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Letter Transcription

The transcription, made unusually difficult by the layering of two directions of script, follows. Text enclosed in square brackets is either a transcriber’s note not occurring in the original letter or an uncertain transcription.

Miss Caroline Phillips, Phillipsburg, Orange County, New York
Crawfordsville, August 15th, 1834
My dear Caroline,

Is it possible that it is more than a year since I wrote to you last? So my memorandum would represent it – and nearly the same period since I despatched a letter to your kind father, the last communication that I have sent to friends so much beloved. You might almost conclude, that all feelings of love and gratitude towards you, had departed from my heart, and that memory had ceased to recall to mind Phillipsburg friends. But could some little bird ever and anon, have winged its flight, from your far distant friend and whispered in your ear, you would not unfrequently during this twelve months’ silence have been assured that “Julia now thinks of you” and wishes – vain wish —  that she were with you. But as no such aerial messenger has been engaged in kindly hearing tidings of my oft affectionate remembrance of you, dear Caroline, Maria, Harriet, Mother, Sarah and all; I should not wonder, if you had been tempted to indulge in hard thoughts respecting my silence – more especially as my obligations are so great – for last Oct brought me a long letter from you , and in Nov I was gratified by receiving one from your father enclosing one from the dear girls – I have, however, occupied sufficient of this paper with this subject, without prolonging it, by an endeavor to excuse myself indeed, although I could offer some good reasons, still I apprehend that a spirit of procrastinating until “a more convenient season” has been indulged in for many months and caused me to neglect all my correspondents; not excepting my dear Mother, whose claims are so great, and whom is so apt to indulge in anxieties for her children – that I will do better in future, I feel disposed to promise, tho I may not [Writing changes slightly] – Thus far had I written when I was interrupted, and now at 6 o’clock on the morn of the 16th day of August, I again address you, Caro, though with the fear that I shall not have time to fill this sheet that it may be despatched by to day’s mail – Ere I enter upon any account of self I would refer to some of the contents of your last. I cannot tell you with what feelings I read it. You then told me would you have said yea – you would probably have soon become a resident of this wide valley, and of that particular section of it that I so often hear named, as a beautiful country – and indeed one of the very spots to which my attention was directed when I left New York having letters to Springfield. As to what was your duty – you were far better able to judge than I – and I trust that your decision has been right; But, oh Caroline, what a happiness would it have been to your friend to have had you there; not that we would have been able to have had much intercourse, if I remained here – for 2 hundreds miles [written above this part is] I am inclined to think this is too far. [picking up after miles] in this country (particularly across to Springfield, as it is through a portion of Illinois that is mostly unsettled) is a serious distance ; but then perhaps it might have been that when a powerful magnet was there I would have consented to wander farther west, if the field for usefulness appeared as great as here – But it may be all right and doubtless is, for I might have yielded to the temptation, when duty did not say go,but then, how happy, ( I think) I should be to be united with you in laboring in this portion of our Master’s vineyard – Ere I dismiss this subject I would enquire if it is altogether vanished from your mind? and would add that if ever another invitation is given to “go and do likewise” – weight the matter well. ask “Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?” consider where you probably can do most good, by displaying Christian conduct – I am more and more persuaded that the disciples of Christ, must have in view, more abidingly that they are not their own, but that they have, at all times, and in every situation, work to do for their great Redeemer, and that they must regard the Providences of God as directing them where and how they shall labour for his cause. And what can we desire more, while travelling, to our Heavenly Home, than to be co-workers with our Lord and Savior in leading others to that fountain, which cleanseth from all sin; to those joys that earth cannot give – to those hopes of eternal life, that are founded on the Rock, Christ Jesus. But great is the privilege – but who is “sufficient for the work – we are weak, sinful beings – “My grace is sufficient” what an encouragement – Oh, Caroline, let us seek more earnestly than we have done for this gracious assistance , and go on, doing “whatsoever our hands findeth to do” – that you are engaged in active exertions for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, in your sphere, I doubt not – I believe , that you feel that “much has been forgiven” and that, therefore, you “love much” – and that by your “fruits” you will testify your love and gratitude – I am again obliged to lay down my pen – will resume it when I can – Adieu
August 17th Again do I take up my pen, with the hope that I shall be able to fill this sheet at this sitting
that today’s mail may convey it towards you – but what I would not give if I could put away pen and paper and talk face to face to my dear friend — but away with such desires — But how can I altogether subdue them, this heart will cling to those who are so dear to it, and I feel this [moment?] as if I could hardly divert my thoughts from the East — not that I am ready to leave this spot — no, by no means — there is too much to be done, for me to feel that I could yet forsake it, and a longer acquaintance with the kind people here, only endears them more to me — but such feeling as above alluded to, will come over me — and very often when I commence writing to a dear friend — indeed, I do believe that the fear of awakening such unlawful and unprofitable thoughts and desires, deters me sometimes from taking quill in hand to confab with them — But again I say away with these insurgents to my peace of mind — You, doubtless conclude that I am still acting as School Madame. I should like to introduce you into my splendid school house — I think you would say with a laugh this looks like the beginning of things. You must know that a new tenant took possession of the house in which I had boarded and been accommodated with a delightful room for a school for 1[8?] months and that therefore Miss Riley had to decamp — and so great has been the demand for a room for families to abide in seem[ed?] to be no alternative [if?] I continue[d]  to teach, but to cuten a little log cabin, one of the first erected in this place, and in something of a dilapidated condition — hither I went, expecting that the school would be small, but it averages 25 this session, and I assure you, that some of the extreme warm days of this summer — it has appeared something like an oven, but we have met day after day, and and are not yet burnt to a [crust?] on the contrary, I am happy to be able to tell you that for two months past, my health has been very good — far better than for that length of time since I came. There is one particular connected with my school, that I would name to you with the request that you will make my present charge an object of frequent prayer. I have not one professor of religion among them — this has never before been the case here — it makes me feel more deeply than ever the responsibilities of my station. I said “make my charge etc” but I would add let your friend be often pleaded for — I regret, that there is, nought of uncommon interest to communicate to you of a spiritual nature. In June we were favoured with having several anniversaries held here for the first time — the meetings were very interesting, I think I enjoyed them as much as any that I ever attended at home. We had some talented and devotedly pious men with us from Ohio and other parts. I thought that a blessing would follow, but I fear our hearts were not right and that we did not pray for the blessing as we ought, or why this cold, indifferent, state now? We have at present 2 Sabbath schools, I teach in both the same class and tell Jane Potter (if that may be still be her name) that I am doing as she had done, teaching the dark race — not that I prefer it, but there seemed no one else disposed to take the class — and I could not think of having it neglected, I therefore took it, and I must say that I never had a more attentive [class ]  or where a greater desire was manifested to learn– may it not be in vain– and hear I would remark, that I am grieved to see that N.Y. and elsewhere, this class of society is exciting such disgraceful movements [am—] some men — but I can not assent to all that [– — ] and your friend Mr.Ludlow and others would have us here is the end of my third page– well I have much more to say and it is school time I must quit bye again and when I can will fill the corners good bye

By a late letter from sister [E?], I find that your cousin Harriet is a neighbor of hers – I am glad for several reasons, one I know she must be a pleasant one, but another, I feel pretty confident that you will not be there without going to sisters — you must always do it —  Oh, how much I do wish to hear from you, I am almost ignorant of any of your procedings for nearly a year — do, do, do, write soon and thank your father for his kind favor — it would gratify me much if he would often write me — do ask him to sometimes — As for the girls — I cannot express the pleasure it gives me to read their letters containing not only expressions of their affection, but evincing that they are improving their minds and the sentiments expressed are so correct that I trust that they are also cultivating their hearts — I do wish to write to them, and think that as soon as I discharge some of my many epistolary debts to others that I will remember theirs — Love to them. Where is Sarah? Has she been sent away to school — Oh how I want to see you all — Will not cousin Adeline write me — she surely has more of that valuable commodity time than I have remember me with affection to her and tell her to write me — Is Julia still with you or has someone carried her off? and Elizabeth, Delia and all remember me to all of them with our aunt, uncle, etc — what changes have been made in your burgh! Has does the Sabbath school flourish? Tell Sis Corwin that he had better emigrate to the west — What a good superintendent would he be for some of our schools — You, no doubt, felt sensibly the death of dear Fisk have you a settled Pastor? Where is [Mrs?] Fisk? Has your aunt Mary been with you this summer and how is her health? how i should delight to see her but who is there that I do not wish to see when I think of them — You know that Henry is at present at chatawaen Mother is with him this summer. I hope he will be blessed in his labour — Have you ever received the Child’s newspaper? I have sent it a few times to show you, that you were not forgotten and as specimens of the publication, I am much pleased with it — Is there not some young ones in your Uncle William’s family to subscribe for it — Tell Delia she ought to take it for her flock — It is calculated to be very useful to children. Does your Sabbath School take the S. S. Journal?

Once more do I entreat you to write soon and often. I really think that considering the difference in our situations as to time – of correspondents etc — I ought to receive at least two letters for everyone I send.  — “Farwest”

[Notes in margin:] I really fear you will not be able to read the red text of this. In another location: What do you read now a days? What a delightful writer Abbot is! Have you seen his Corner Stone- Just received it from my dear mother.

[Another margin note:] I wish you success in reading this, had I known that I should have spun it to such a length I would have taken a larger sheet — You must excuse all faults, it has been written by piece meal — and is I hope concluded now Augt. 23rd and ready to be mailed J.A.R.

[Written in red ink vertically over black text written horizontally over the letter:] Aug 21st Once more, dear C. will I attempt to finish this epistle. And what do you think I am agitating in my mind? I have been all summer anticipating making a trip to Ohio to visit Mrs. Crane and Young but have been disappointed as to a suitable opportunity. If I could jump on a poney and ride that distance I might go almost any time. But as yet my longest ride has been but 6 miles so that I have not yet become a Housier yet (Read Indianan) but I feel desirous to go somewhere for a little change and [——-] and as I now see no way to go to Ohio I am cogitating whether to accept my good old friend [–] Gilliland’s invitation and accompany him — where do you think — to see your Aunt Evertson — Yes Caro, possibly by the middle of next month – I may be seated beside  — Oh I know I shall enjoy it – how much will we have to say about Phillipsburg – However there are some reasons which make me hesitate, but which it is unnecessary to occupy this paper with [—-] but should I go — you may expect if [—-ed] to return that it will not be long after ere I wrote to some of you — Last Jan’y your Aunt wrote to me in reply to my letter — I feel that I am almost acquainted with her
How is your dear Mother’s health — I did rejoice to learn that your dear mother had obeyed the last command of her [La—-] and I doubt not but she had enjoyed many consolations that she was before a stranger to, for I do believe the real Christian will find that obedience to the command, “This do in remembrance of me” will serve to confirm his hopes, and strengthen him in the discharge of other duties.  Your letter also informed me that your cousins Julia and Elizabeth had both declared themselves on the Lord’s side [.] I hope that in this, others of that dear band of [——-] have decided that they will choose God’s service Has not yet Adeline decided ? and are not there other members of your own family seeking “the one thing needful”? Is Charles still in N. Hook? Alfred engaged in the factory and John in the store or have they taken to themselves wives and departed the other places? How is it with the rail road that was talked about when I was with you? How is your orchard? how I wish I could have access to it — you know my fondness for fruit — imagine then how great the privation — I have not seen any fruit of any description this summer except about ½ a pint of currants — The late frosts of last spring killed about all the fruit in this region, which under the most favorable circumstances is scarce. Is little Mary still with you? She ought to be a subscriber to the Child’s paper. Does she learn rapidly? Where is your brother Henry? How is Emeline — love to her when you see or write her — Do you distribute Tracts monthly? we go on quietly now that the alarm is over — Our Sowing Society has commenced its third year — we donated $5 the first year to A.B.C. Fell. [Fellowship?] and 15 $ the second to A.B S. hope to do more this year  — Have you any similar society at P– do write and tell me all you do — etc — I will be glad to receive even such a motley coloured checkered and badly written communication as this although it might exercise my patience to decipher it, as I apprehend it will yours but it will perhaps still be welcomed by you, and assuring you that you are still loved by Julia Ann
How is the [—-] family? Is Margaret married ? Is she the same interesting girl she was? Have you seen or heard of Mr. Hovey? the Gentleman who is on agency at the East for our college — I wish you could meet with him and his wife they could tell you all about this land — He was sent out by the Home Missionary Society and was 2 years settled about 20 miles from here. You know, I presume, that we have an infant college within ½ mile of town — it has been in operation about 9 months — number of students encouraging — but friends love the principal, such a gentleman from New England who arrived here last fall with his wife and imported 3 young ladies and a gentleman, and all of whom are scattered about within 30 miles of us teaching “young ideas”. When I last wrote you I may have named my success in marrying off my scholars 8 having taken a helpmate — Now I can say that other and my opinion at this time, [illegible] success attends me — 3 are now school madams one in this town (as competition) though not regarded so by me Another in a destituted part of this state bordering on Michigan has a school of 20 – I must but feel that I have done something for the cause of Education tho I see there is still too much  [aff —ence?]  [ore?] regards female education tho i think interest has been considerably awakened. 2 of the girls alluded above are professed disciples of Christ one became so while in [writing obliterated by red wax seal] , and they both, I trust, will exert a religious influence over their charges Oh how [writing obliterated by red wax seal] ble a station it is I do think that none but those who feel the worth [writing obliterated by red wax seal] our, should engage in training young immortals And yet even they are too apt to forget their duties to them , at least I am —