I should be a Missionary's wife



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The first letter presented here was written from Augusta to James shortly after her return to Owego, New York from Hartford, Connecticut, where she had attended the wedding of her Uncle. The second letter was written a month later, while revisiting Hartford to visit a dying Aunt.

Owego, [New York]
November 2, 1854

My Dear James,

Yours from Milton [Missouri] was gladly received this afternoon having been remailed in Hartford yesterday. I had begun to think it time to hear from you before we left Connecticut and if you had not been journeying in such a way should have felt very anxious. We have reached home at last after an absence of just ten weeks instead of six as we expected. It was hard work to come away even then, and I do not allow myself to think of friends there, feeling that I have seen many of them for the last time on earth.

I stayed long enough to love my Aunt very much and that tended to make the parting more trying. I cannot tell you in a letter how much we all think of her. I know of none other who is so well calculated to make that a pleasant and happy home. Every one is pleased with her and she pleased with Hartford and Hartford people.

Friday eve. I was too tired to write more last evening and tonight I am not much better off. We have been very busy since we reached home, and I get tired more easily than in former years, although my health is better than when I left home.

I wrote you last from Hancie’s [and] directed to St. Joseph. Have you received it? We had a fine visit in Glastonbury [Connecticut] and found our friends usually well. Hancie [Abbey] and Maria both wished me to give their love to you. Hancie seems very happy indeed. I saw many of my friends in Hartford & called a number of times on Mrs. Wright who is not well since [her daughter] Sarah [Maria Wright’s] death. It was a great blow to her. Now she has but one child left.

I saw Dr. [Joel] Hawes a few times. His health is rather better and he preaches half a day. He is the same in heart as ever.

Miss Webb is kind as ever. I spent one evening there in company with the Bird family and two of the Missionary [William] Goodell’s daughters and had a nice time. She gave me “The life of Lady Huntingdon & her Friends.” [1] I told her about you and your going to Nebraska. She is interested in you for my sake she says, and is gratified to think she prophesied that I should be a missionary’s wife. Although I never knew what she could see in me fitting for such a position. Her health is not very good.

Mr. Beach’s family are pretty well. We started for home on Monday afternoon in the boat, and at Middletown Rev. Mr. Williams from Durham & wife came on board. He was with us at the meeting of the Board. We spent the evening very pleasantly on the boat, but did not sleep any. We were stopped by the fog and did not reach New York [City] until nearly eight o’clock, too late for the Express train, but just in time for the mail train, which started at a quarter past eight. Mrs. Williams went with us in the carriage to the Depot & we had no difficulty. We did not reach home until a quarter past eight in the evening. All were glad to see us again.

I hear that your mother is pretty well and is there alone yet. [Your sister] Mary [is] still in Springport [New York] enjoying herself. I am very glad she likes [attending the Oakwood Female Seminary there] as it will be much better for her; only your mother must feel very lonely.

Copy of Union_Spring_1859.jpg (351714 bytes)
An 1859 map of Springport [Union Springs], New York
Frontenac Historical Society, Cayuga County

While attending the Oakwood Young Ladies Seminary, Mary Griffing lived with her older brother John Griffing, whose house is indicated in the center of this map with the name "Mrs. Griffing" next to it. John Griffing died in 1855, and the house was occupied by his wife Sarah Anne [Beardsley] Griffing and daughter when this map was drawn in 1859.

They say [your brother] Henry’s wife [Nancy Orcutt] is not very well and has not been since the birth of her child. I believe the rest are well as usual. Ma is about the same – if anything a little better than when we went away. I was much interested in your account of your journeyings. How I should like to see you “help wash,” and help get breakfasts. I was rather disappointed when I read your destination. It is farther south than you expected, is it not? But I hope it is healthy.

[My brother] James really intends going west this fall & will probably go in a week or two, so that we are pretty busy getting him ready. He thinks of going to Minnesota as he has heard there is little or no timber in Nebraska. How is it? I so wish he would go there, but his mind is made up to go to Minnesota. [My brother] Ralph will write and put in with this. He is very much pleased with the books and says they are & will be of use. I hope to hear very soon again. May God bless your labors of love is the prayer of your  -- Augusta.


[Hartford, Connecticut]
[December 7, 1854]

Addressed to Westport, Jackson County, Missouri
For Lawrence, Kansas Territory

[Dear James,]

Thursday Evening, the 7th of December [1854]. Aunt Mary had for her a very comfortable night, sleeping some and coughing a great deal. In the morning early she did not breathe very freely, but did not take much notice of it, thinking she was wearied. At about a quarter to seven she took a very little nourishment & a wine, but not her usual quantity saying she did not feel as if she could. At about seven she said she must cough, and when she was turned over, coughed very hard & seemed to lose her breath. She spoke and said call Aunt L. which I did and Uncle too, and she was most gone, having but little strength. Sent immediately for the doctor and her mother, and in a few minutes, both were here and her father also. She could not speak for some time, but after taking brandy, she revived and from that time appeared very sleepy. She took a little nourishment and brandy at times, which seemed to revive her. She continued to suffer very much from want of breath, saying she was almost suffocated – but in no pain. She continued to fail and we knew that she would soon leave us, but she whispered, “Home,” meaning she was most home, and on her mother’s saying she was most there, said, “Oh, I wish the time was come.” She was very sleepy and asked if she might go to sleep, and we moved her to be more comfortable, and she appeared to be going to sleep, but breathed shorter and shorter. When her breath stopped without a struggle and she was “asleep in Jesus.” Before going to sleep she said, “Lo – he – giveth – his – beloved – sleep.” The first few words she repeated very slowly as her strength was nearly gone and her Mother finishing it for her wanting to know if that was what she meant and she nodded her head, meaning yes. Her father came in just as she was breathing her last and made a short prayer but she was not conscious. Dr. [Joel] Hawes came in just after two and made a short prayer. At half past two, she breathed her last. A few moments before she died, as her Mother was giving her brandy, she asked Aunt Mary if she knew it was her mother. She said, “Yes, I know it is you mother, but I cannot see good.” The night before she died, while I was sitting by her bedside, after sending some message to different friends, said, “If I had no hope what a wretched house this would be [and] how miserable I should make you all. But I know I am a sinner, and I know I have come to Christ.”  [Yours affectionately, -- Augusta]