Plymouth County Massachusetts

Benjamin Smith Drowns at New Orleans
“. . . I am going over board . . . ”

Stampless folded letter sheet:
Red circular postmark: Duxbury Mass, Aug 15
and Red handstamp rate: 5
         Mrs. Jacob Smith
         Westford Mass

Letter’s author: Martha (sister).

Duxbury August 17th 1848
         Dear Sister Ann,
         You have probably before this, heard of the sad news of Dear Cousin Benjamin death, can it be that he is dead, he that we all loved so well, he was then at New Orleans, expecting to stay there more time, he was not well, and very much affraid he should have the Yellow fever. Capt D. Winsor saw him often and would say to him, “Well, Smith, how is it with you,” and he would reply I am sick and very low spirited, and want very much to get home. The night of his death, he seemed to be more unwell, and he says to the mate, go for the Doctor, and he hesitated, as he did not like to leave him, but he says again, I tell you to go. The mate started and no sooner left him, when Benjamin rushed on deck, and says to the steward, “I am going over board.” The steward caught him, but he threw him down, and jumpted over board and swam for the middle of the River. They since found his body and had it enclosed in a lead coffin, and its on its way home. Is it possible? Can it be, that he is dead. Uncle B-- family are in great distress, Uncle is not well, I fear you will [not?], were see him again, unless you come soon. Miss Coraline Sampson [Caroline Samson?] is with them. It would greave you to see her, she is in great trouble: every member of the family is at home. What a sad change, they have been in high life, visiting and receiving calls every day of the week. I was just thinking I was most too gay, and said at the table that morning before the news came that I feared something would happen to some of the family, but I cannot tell why I had those feelings. This is a true saying, “In the midst of live, we are in death.” It will be a trying time for them when his things come, they keep saying, what shall we do when his things come home, Capt W. has seen that every thing is sent safe.

         ---- You say in your letters, when are you coming up to Westford.

         It is uncertain when I shall come. It is Julia’s vacation now, and we do want to come very much. But how can we? I dont know of any one I could get to keep house and then Ann, our purse is low, and that you know is bad, but I think now I may come some time this fall, but dont look for me. If there is a spot on earth I enjoy visiting, it is Westford. Julia is sure[?] disappointed, we are all pretty well, but my head seems to be sick yet. I do not think I shall get entirely over the noise in my head, and at times it is very trying for me. It is Sunday, Emma and Ellen are sleeping on the sofa in the parlor Mr Stetson in the dinning room a sleep, and Julia at the table writing to Aunt Caroline, this is our third letter to her, and we have received no answers. Do you hear from often? Next time you write her, tell her we want very much to hear from her, we have had no letters since she movd.
         I spent the afternoon at Mary C--- last week, she is getting better of her trouble, but poor girl it was hard for her, she said she was glad you saw her children. She sends much love to you, I have last seen Julie since I received your letter, she was here not very long since and spent the day, they are all well. Why cant you come down next month, if you will I will promise to go back with you. Jacob, I am much obliged for your letter, and wish you would write often. We want very much to see you all, much love to the children, and your Mother and Fanny, they are all well at Marshfield. The house is getting along finely. Write us often. With best wishes I must say ___.

Your ever Martha

My best love to our friends in Westfield
and the Pa-- I do want to see him.

From the Collection of Frederick Smoot
Provenance: eBay Online Auction 1998

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