This letter was signed Marianne Haslett but I have been unable to find anyone by that name in on-line records. She may have been related to Joseph Haslett (1769-1723), the former governor of Delaware. In the letter she says she is visiting with her Aunt and Uncle in Leesburg, Virginia, and contrasts the village with Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where she either resided or had visited recently with a sister named Caroline who lived there.
Marianne asks that any return letters be directed to the care of David Ogden whom I infer was her uncle. At the time of Marianne’s visit to Leesburg, David Ogden (1781-1863) was married to his second wife, Eliza Crow of Wilmington, Delaware. Eliza’s father, Thomas Crow was a famous clockmaker in Wilmington.
Since Marianne pleads with Harriet to send her some news from Delaware, I assume it was David’s wife, Eliza, that was Harriet’s biological aunt. David was a clock and cabinet maker in Baltimore, Maryland, before relocating to Leesburg. As a side note, an Ogden family history claims that David was with Commodore Stephen Decatur in the Mediterranean when he “punished the Barbary States for piracy upon American commerce.”
The letter was addressed to her ‘dear friend” Mrs. Harriet Slaymaker of Columbia, Pennsylvania. Again, I was unable to confirm her identity from on-line records but she was probably related to the Samuel Slaymaker of that village who built the Margaretta Furnace and put it into operation in 1825. Samuel and, subsequently, two of his nephews named Slaymaker kept that furnace in operation for decades.
The letter includes a transcript of the poem by Barton entitled “The Grave” which Marianne favored. The poem had recently been published in a popular book of poems.
Addressed to Mrs. Harriet Slaymaker, Columbia, [Lancaster County] Pennsylvania
Postmarked Leesburg, Virginia
November 30th 1827
My dear friend,
Everyday I think of you and always conclude something must have changed your feelings toward me or I should hear from you. I will not say more for I hope not — only that I wrote to sister Caroline and directed it to you. I fear you think it was a mean act but Harriet my motive was, that, perhaps Chad left you and I hoped you would answer it. I have got a foot stove and have locked my chamber door. How much I should love you with me. Several young ladies have called on me but I think I shall return but few.
I went to an Exhibition lately as my cousin ¹ was to take an active part. Uncle went with me. I thought the boys performed admirably but it was too theatrical. The play was “Rights of Hospitality.” They continued it two evenings but I was satisfied with going once.
I do not admire this place as much as Columbia. It seems very secluded. Perhaps ’tis because I have not rode much to see the neighboring towns. When I did ride, I thought the roads very rough. From Aunt’s chamber window I have a view of the Sugar Loaf Mountain. It looks very blue and proud.
I should like to go to Washington City — it is about 40 miles from here. We are 12 miles from the Potomac. We crossed it on a flat-bottomed boat pushed by 3 slaves. I do not call it a large river — some places it can be forded. There is but one 3-story house in this place. Surrounding the town, there are many cabins. From what I hear of the slaves, they are more saucy than at Pennsylvania. I should be afraid to live farther south.
I think the climate more variable than at home and notwithstanding, I enjoy better health than I did. I thank you sincerely for your kindness to sister. May you be rewarded by the Almighty is my fervent prayer.
I have a excellent library but I waste much time and do not read. I can either go to m meeting or to church. I delight to hear the church minister. Please remember me in your prayers, dear Harriet. Were I called to exchange worlds, I am not prepared. For 7 years I have been a professor of religion but I fear that is all. O that I could tire of serving Satan. How is it with you? Perhaps you will not be pleased to receive this letter. Well if you are not, tell me so in your letter which do favor me with very soon. To you, I believe writing is no task. Therefore, please send along one. I love your letters so much. Aunt sends her love. Tell me some Delaware news if you have any. Will you accept of these lines? I like them.
I love to muse, when none are nigh,
Where yew-tree branches wave,
And hear the winds, with softest sigh,
Sweep o’er the grassy grave.
It seems a mournful music, meet
To soothe a lonely hour;
Sad though it be, it is more sweet
Than that from Pleasure’s bower.
I know not why it should be sad,
Or seem a mournful tone,
Unless by man the spot be clad
With terrors not its own.
To nature it seems just as dear
As earth’s most cheerful site;
The dew-drops glitter there as clear,
The sunbeams shine as bright.
The showers descend as softly there
As on the loveliest flowers;
Nor does the moonlight seem more fair
On Beauty’s sweetest bowers.
“Ay! but within — within, there sleeps
One, o’er whose mouldering clay
The loathsome earth-worm winds and creeps,
And wastes that form away.”
And what of that? The frame that feeds
The reptile tribe below,
As little of their banquet heeds,
As of the winds that blow. — Barton
Dear Harriet — I conclude with telling you to give my best respects to Mr. Slaymaker. Believe me to be yours truly and affectionately, — Marianne Haslett
Please direct to the care of David Ogden, Leesburg, Virginia
¹ Marianne’s cousin was probably Benjamin Franklin Ogden (1811-1874). He would have been 16 at the time and a student at Leesburg College. After graduation, he began teaching school in Virginia, and subsequently followed that vocation in several states in the South. Previous to the war he taught school on a large plantation in Louisiana, on which several hundred slaves were employed. This did not prove to his liking, as he was a strong Abolitionist, and as a result he returned north and taught school in Pennsylvania. It was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that he met and married Mrs. Hannah (Supplee) Frame. In 1865 they came west to Wapello county, Iowa, where he was already the owner of a farm of 349 acres, in Columbia township. He died July 30, 1874.