Author: Henry E. Woodcock

Recipient: Ellen Woodcock

Date: 9 June 1883

Location: Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers, Record Group 30/81, Series 1. Correspondence,  Oberlin College Archives

Document Type: Autograph Letter, Signed by the Author



This letter is part of a correspondence between Henry Woodcock and his daughter Nellie. At the time this was written, Nellie, who was then 26, was on a series of visits to the Woodcocks’ friends and family on the east coast. In this letter, Henry mixes standard correspondence – updates and salutations – with deeply emotional thoughts on life, death, and relationships during one’s time on earth. In the second part of the letter, note how he comments on the personality and character of the hired help in his household, and his and his wife’s (Nellie’s mother) interactions and relationships with these women.
7-1[added later in pencil: A fine letter]

Lawrence, Kans.

Dear Nellie, June 9 1883


Yours from Weston and Almond1 received & read with pleasure. We have great reason to be thankful for your enjoyment. Trust your visits will be not alone pleasing but profitable. You will be glad to hear from us. So I will endeavor to get this off to reach you before you leave Arkport.2 I think you will enjoy your visit there & give our best wishes & love to all the good friends. I have enjoyed their friendship & society since the beginning of my ministry. I was rather destitute of congenial society at Burns3 so I went to Arkport for congeniality. In this way Elizabeth, my first beloved learned our united sympathies & spent the brief period of our oneness in life. There she bade us good by [sic] till we meet again.4 She has been in the mansions with her Savior while I have been a sojourner & a pilgrim toiling still looking for that country out of sight. I too shall see it when lifes [sic] journey is ended. I begin to realize that now is my salvation nearer than when I first entered the ministry at Burns. Life has had its trials but the darkest clouds have not wholly obscured the light of the Sun of Righteousness.

The darkest cloud has been lifted but it has left its impress which cannot be forgotten. The trials of life will soon pass then we shall be able to see as we are seen & to know as we are known.5 If our joys here are a hundred fold more than our sorrow what must be our happiness when heart aches [sic] cease & all tears are swept away?

Let the remainder of the life you now live in the flesh be that of abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has loved you & gave himself for you.

7-2My last addressed to you at Wellsville6 informed you of our state a few weeks ago.

As usual there have been changes since Mrs. Critger hurried away to give room for Mrs. Hessleman & her children. After they enjoyed the room & it was prepared for them they settled at her fathers & we have not heard even a word of apology why they do not come.

A school teacher a Miss Baily from [Boston?] came & occupied the room. I think she will remain & atten [attend]  the Festitude7 which commences about the first of July. She is a fine lady & good company.

[Dergen?] the last of our students left a week ago. He did not stay for comment.8 Spangler9 engaged places with us for his friends who came to see him graduate. His father & brother were with us two days as table boarders [sic]. A Mr Lake & wife & two children from Concordia10 were with us five days. All pleasant. We find it a pleasure to entertain such company. Nellie Osborn came Tues & is with us still. Mrs. A. seems quite herself & much more comfortable. Mr. O. is at Topeka in the Asylum.11 The report from there is favorable.. [sic] Mrs O does not know he is there. Frank thinks he will secure a home for them here. [Lurnan?] is doing well at Fairmillers. H.E. boards [sic] at constants. My charg [sic] McCoy has not improved as fast as I had hoped. I am somewhat confined with him. Have not been to prayer meeting at church only last Sat. I preached for the Baptists. Had a full audience & attentive. I get to my S.S. class.12 Mrs Scott & her son have gone to new mexico. [sic] on account of his health. Cardly13 was here this week to marry Miss Bulline. Jest Foster is married. Young & several of your classmates were here at commet [sic].14 The exercises were all well attended, all passed off15 in first class order. [Bruce?] took the prize. Gleed gave the address Tues. eve. Rained but few present.

7-3Prof. Adams of Ann Arbor is appointed to take the place of Chant Marvin16 resigned. The students are petitioning to have Marvin remain.17 Patrick & Miss Campbell are superseded[sic].18 Prof Canfields nephew is to take the place of Patrick I think.19 The Democratic Regents must make some changes. So the world goes. Lizzie Wilder is home. I think she tried to get into city here. Did not succeed. We shall try to secure the school in Hashally district for you.20 It can not be positively secured till election of officers in Aug. So with all districts. [sic] you can be examined in Sept. We think you can visit till then. I judge you will find it best to visit Ada next. Then Lawrenceville & c.o [sic] I hope you can go & see Elsie Close. you then can go to Elmira & on. [sic] We do not hear any thing more of small pox [sic] in the city. Deacer. [sic] Smith died21 & was buried about two weeks since. Mrs S. is still in her house alone. What she will do I cannot tell. [Added in pencil around the outside of the letter: Dear Nellie I have not time to read this but want you to stay with Susan22 & Ada23 as long as you can. They have the first claim. Good bye darling, the [illegible] is waiting for me___.]

7-4Nancy Estees has full sway in the kitchen. She does all the cooking washing & ironing & snarls if any one [sic] comes near her work. She will not let me do any thing [sic] to assist her & grumbles if your Ma touches any thing [sic] about her work. While she assumes all the responsibility yet there are many things to perplex. How long she will stay she nor we know. She may leave us any day. If she should our tears will be shed now that comment24 is over. If we do not have any more in the family than now I think we can easily secure help. I pay her $3. per week & board her & boy & dog. The boy helps her do the work.

Your Ma seems as well as usual. She is gathering cherries to cann [sic] to_day [sic]. We have a nice lot & are now in fine condition. Straw berries [sic] are plenty in market & even new potatoes are coming in.

you you [sic] are where trees are just in the bloom [sic] It has rained for three weeks, much of the time ground to [sic] wet to cultivate. corn crops look well.

Cool thus far this season.

Lizzie was home Decoration.25 Went to Linwood & secure pupils. Home till Wed. [illegible] in. Went to Fairmount26 Expected on train this [smudged] [illegible]. Is as well as ever. Will go to Linwood27 Monday.

Elbie28 does not improve in obedience very fast. Is picking cherries today.

Has no time to write this to [illegible]

Love to all the friends at Arkport & all others. All send love & many [good?] wishes

Affectionately yours [sic] Father.


Transcribed by Mimi Stern and Rebecca Debus.

1Weston most likely refers to Weston Mills a town in western New York. Almond refers to Almond, New York, a village in Allegheny County. The Woodcock family lived in Almond for a time when Henry was younger, and his sister Rachel Woodcock Cline, was born there (Oberlin College Archives, The Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers, Series 4. Files Relating to the Woodcock Family. 1987/67. 1989/141. RG 30/81).

2Village in western New York, where Elizabeth Hurlbut, Woodcock’s first wife, was born. She also died here. (Hurlbut, Henry H. The Hurlbut Genealogy; Or, Record of the Descendants of Thomas Hurlbut, of Saybrook and Wethersfield, Conn., Who Came to America as Early as the Year 1637. with Notices of Others Not Identified as His Descendants (J. Munsell’s Sons, 1888, 483)).

3Burns is in Allegany County, New York. Henry’s first pastorate was located there, and he lived there when he married Elizabeth Hurlbut. (Oberlin College Archives, Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers, Series 4. Files Relating to the Woodcock Family).

4Here, Henry is discussing his brief marriage and relationship with Elizabeth Hurlbut, the mother of his first child, Arthur. They lived in western New York, among the towns that Nellie was now visiting.

51 Corinthians 13:12.

6Wellsville is in Allegany County, New York. It is quite close to where Henry and Lucy Woodcock grew up (Independence, New York) and a number of the Woodcock family still live there. Several, including Eliza Marie Woodcock, and Lucy Angela Woodcock, died there (Oberlin College Archives, Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers).

7It is unclear what Festitude Henry Woodcock is discussing here. He may simply mean that there was an early start to the celebrations for Independence Day.

8Likely an abbreviation of commencement.

9Spangler refers to William C. Spangler, a student at the University of Kansas who graduated in 1883.(“Harry Edwin Woodcock family Collection,” Kansas Collection, RH MS 729, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, web address, accessed 23 June 2015; Oberlin College Archives, Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers, Series 1. Correspondence).

10The Asylum in question is the Topeka Insane Asylum, which opened in 1879, only a few years before this was written. Under its first head, Dr. Barnard Douglass Eastman, it appeared to be a decent institution, and patients not deemed likely to harm themselves or others were released after treatment. In the early twentieth century, however, it became the site of horrific abuse and mistreatment and many patients died. Up until 1919, admittance to the Asylum required a court order and thus an insanity trial, despite the objections of Dr. Eastman that such practices were demeaning. Thus, “Mr. O” must have been admitted to the hospital under a court order, making it somewhat surprising that his wife remained unaware of his condition. (Mike Hall, “Topeka State Leaves Mixed Legacy.” The Topeka Capital Journal, 07/17/2000).

11Probably referring to Sunday School.

12This may refer to a Richard Cardly. Among Henry’s transcriptions of Lucy Woodcock’s letters, there is a list of signatures, which includes both his own name and that of Richard Cardly. It seems he was reusing a piece of paper, as there is no indication what that signatures were for, though the signers do all appear male. The note appears in the midst of the transcription of Lucy’s letter dated 3 April 1856 (Oberlin College Archives, Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers, Microfilm).

13Likely commencement.

14Second “f” added in pencil.

15Chant Marvin refers to the Chancellor of the University of Kansas, James A. Marvin (“Harry Edwin Woodcock family Collection,” University of Kansas Libraries).

16The petition appears to have been unsuccessful, as the Chancellor left office that year in 1883, having held the position since 1874 (“Harry Edwin Woodcock family Collection,” University of Kansas Libraries).

17This may possibly be a misspelling of the word “suspended” but the text in unclear.

18The underlining here seems to be simply to define lines of text on the top of the page, however it is sporadic and does continue into the areas where the paper is already lined, so it was included in this transcription.

19From these comments, it appears that Nellie was attempting to obtain work as a school teacher by her home. Though economic opportunities for unmarried women were beginning to increase around this time, teaching was still one of the most common and respectable professions for young unmarried women.

20The “e” in died was omitted and added later with pencil, apparently by Henry Woodcock himself before he mailed the letter.

21Susan is possibly Susan Beecher, who was a probable relative of Lucy Thayer’s (“Harry Edwin Woodcock family Collection,” University of Kansas Libraries).

22Ada is could possibly be one of two aunts of Henry Woodcock’s named Adaline (see Woodcock Genealogy) but is most likely Adaline Thayer Merserean, one of Lucy Thayer’s sisters (“Harry Edwin Woodcock family Collection,” University of Kansas Libraries; Oberlin College Archives, Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers, Series 2. Writings).


24Decoration Day was created after the Civil War as a holiday to pay respects to soldiers and decorate the graves of the fallen veterans. It then became the holiday known as Memorial Day.

25Most likely Fairmont, Kansas, about 85 miles from Lawrence.

26Linwood, Kansas, about 13 miles from Lawrence.

27Elbie is Elbert Clutter, Henry’s adopted son. There is little information about him, but it seems as though he would have been fairly young at this time (“Harry Edwin Woodcock family Collection,” University of Kansas Libraries; Oberlin College Archives, Henry Edwin Woodcock Papers).