Correspondence of Rhoda Waterbury and
G. W. Clinton
Rhoda Waterbury and G. W. Clinton
1865 - 1867
by P. M. P.O. Box 299,
Vol. 2. No. 138 [D 88]
Schoharie Jan. 5th, 1866
letter dated a year ago Tuesday has just arrived and strange to say it seems as
fresh as if of recent date, and I am almost crazy with delight, if you only
will come! How I wish I was young and handsome and literary just for one
week, not that I want to go over life again, I have got past those foolish
times and am glad of it, but it is so natural to admire youth and beauty, and
was ever a woman born that did not like to please? I am me & am afraid
you will think I am young and be so shocked! I am half a mind to tell you my
age and weight, but that would just prove what our folks say, that I cannot
keep a secret and I must wait and see you. I know just what you are like, I
shall know you though you will not let me see your photograph, and now before
I rattle on any farther I must tell you all about it. We are four miles from
the depot by stage but it will be so much nicer for us to meet you with our
own conveyance and we have two daily mails from Albany so you can drop me a
line any day after you arrive there, however if you enjoy a surprise it will
not be difficult to find us as we are old residents (My father has been here
near forty years) and the Schoharie stage will bring you within half a mile.
Please do not disappoint me. None of them, Prof. Gray or any one else will be
half so happy to see you I know, and I want to get just the right directions
about my Herbarium. How I wish I had something really worthwhile for you to
come and see, well perhaps some day I shall for I think you have some years
the start of me after all. Oh dear: I hope I shant be afraid of you. I don’t know how I dare to
write so to Judge Clinton. The truth is, if you are half as good as I think
you are I shall just tell you every thing I ever knew, and then afterward I
shall just think how foolish it was at my age, that is the way I lecture
myself almost every day for my indiscretions. What fun we do have here when
Homer is well. He is the seventh son and we call him Doc. at home for a pet
name. I would like to tell you of all my brothers but some of them you will
see and I am so proud of them I might over draw the picture. my second brother is editor of the Sandusky Daily, Triweekly & Weekly Register, that is Charley, none of
them are noted men but as true as steel I know, and christians.
I must save my sisters to tell you about when you get here. I am afraid you
will leave for
Still your disciple,
Hon. G. W. Clinton
I am so glad you are full of fun in winter and I must try to modify my laugh before you get here for I am given to laugh loud. There I have foolishly told of it again. Do try to snare Mr. Peck one of your Polemoniums for I do think a great deal of him, he is so kind and patient with my mistakes I wonder at it.
Rhoda’s reference to Homer being the seventh son is a reference to the biblical and mythic tradition of the “seventh son of a seventh son,” a person of magic qualities. His nickname “doc” probably refers to healing properties associated with the seventh son.
Phascum of the corn field, probably Phascum cuspidatum Hedw., a common, pygmy species of farming districts where fallow fields abound, but also grassy roadsides, especially where bare, calcareous clay soil is exposed; cf. Pleuridium above; see note Oct. 28, 1865 above. Phascum bears its great round ball of a capsule immersed down among its broad leaves making the soil appear decorated with minute, glistening beads.
Rhoda has not yet sent
The stove pipe hat is reminiscent of the images
of Abraham Lincoln, in the photographs of whom the
stove pipe hat appeared in all weather. In old Democratic or Anti-federalist
strongholds in New York State, this hat may have drawn some hostility as
representing the class of privilege, the money class which Lincoln, a man of
the highest statesmanship and steeped in American ideals and patriotism,
affected as the first Republican president.
Clinton had been writing to her that Asa Gray looked forward to his visit and that Clinton has learned how to construct and organize a herbarium along the lines of that developing at Cambridge under Gray’s direction (see Clinton Journal January 1865).
Vol. 2. No. 158 [D 66]
Schoharie, Jan. 19th, 1866
I don’t know but I ought to fear you, there is something of the stern judge about those eyes, but that mouth I can trust, ah there is where the pleasant things come from I know! and there letters that keep me cheerful all the time even then you tell of those shocking errors. I do hope Mrs. C. don’t care about it, but I do like you and I knew I should. Then too you more than pay me for any little effort I make by your kind appreciation, how pleasant to learn of such a teacher. I am so glad the “Happy New Year” was admired at your home and the Polemonium coeruleum pleased you. I feel so inefficient so as if I could do no service, that I mark every place where I can be of use. In regard to the “... apple” I must explain as I see I have left the impression that I have taken the “subacid, watery, green excrescence” for the fruit, whereas I merely called it by the popular name among us. I quite disgusted the juveniles in our neighborhood last spring by telling them they were eating a worm’s nest, and of course they contended against it stoutly, but I showed them by the make of the flower and the dry pods of last years seed which were quite plenty [i.e. in the neighborhood] that it was not the fruit, and as I knew such peculiar excrescences were sometimes mentioned in Botany, I examined but found no mention made of this and promised them to write you about it, but you see how ignorant I am of entomology. I kept an eye out for you all last week and as our folks were down to the depot several times with friends I gave them a strict charge every time to look for Judge Clinton, (much to their amusement) and they said they did. Ah how I shall weary you with questions when I get you in sight! There is after all an advantage in knowing very little, as no one expects much of you and you have no pride about it, indeed I have become so accustomed to your kind “I apprehend you have fallen into an error” that the blood does not mount to the face, as it would you know if I knew just a little more, but I have to confess I am shocking stupid sometimes. Now about that photograph. It is said in the use of language the rule is the “practice of the best speakers and writers,” does not this apply in other things too? well let me see, last September it was I think when I managed so nicely to ask what I had long wanted to but dare not - your photograph, five months ago, well I dare not send mine now. It would be contrary to all rules of etiquette besides Mrs. Willard used to tell us in her private lectures never to be in too great haste in these things, but then there is that “Please do” that always prompts me to obey as soon as possible! “I am in a straight betwixt two”, well I will see how the thing appears when I close this. I am tired of this kind of winter just snow enough to cover the ground so I cannot look for any thing but not enough to take a sleigh ride, and only now and then skating. I wish I was amiable and loved all kinds of weather but I don’t, but after all do you think amiable people do the most good in the world? I don’t, but then every body likes them, and how pleasant that must be.
say you must be in
As ever your disciple,
Hon. G. W. Clinton
How could you say you reluctantly sent me your photograph when it gave me so much sincere happiness? and of course you cannot appreciate your own face, and you don’t know how I like to look at it, and think of the kind good letters I have received during a whole year, you have made me happy so many times.
Carte de Visite of G. W. Clinton
The annual Regents meeting occurred between Jan. 11 and Jan. 23, 1866. Hall was appointed before the 23d.
According to letters written to
That Clinton was to have trouble with the proper display of his virtues expressed in his so-called physiognomy can be seen among the expectations of Rhoda Waterbury, but also of Leo Lesquereux, in a letter of nearly the same date: Jany 7th 66 “When I received your first letter, I [judged] you at once as a man whose heart contained something better than a mere blank book with Dollars and cents on the pages, and whose mind was provided with the best materials constituting a reasonable being. I long to get your likeness, to see if the ideal which I have got of your physiognomy is near the truth and I hope that you will soon fulfill my desire of obliging it. I shall be sincerely thankfull for it.”
Lesquereux, upon receiving
Recd. Feb. 17 “
After the Regents meeting,
Laura Catherine Spencer, the wife of George
William Clinton, was the daughter of John Canfield Spencer (1788-1855) of
Ambrose was still alive when George Clinton
married Ambrose’s son John’s daughter Laura in 1832, after
The reference to Mrs. Willard and to exclusive
lessons is to the famous Troy Female Seminary which Rhoda apparently
attended. So, too, did Elizabeth E. Atwater, the diplomat’s wife, a
In the advertisement in French’s 1860 Gazetteer, it is said that the Troy Seminary had been in operation for 50 years where “Every facility is provided for a thorough course of useful and ornamental education, under the direction of a corps of more than twenty professors and teachers. The members of the Institution have the benefit of Lectures of the highest order on science, history, literature, art, &c.m &c. and the use of a valuable Library, an extensive Philosophical Apparatus, a well selected Cabinet of Minerals, and Shells, Maps, Charts, and Models.” The “members’ enjoy Superior Music Teachers, French is learned with classes in drawing, painting, oil and water colors. Every arrangement, we are told “is made for [the members] physical education and the improvement of their manners and morals.”
Vol. 2. No. 166 [D 58]
My dear Sir,
Hon. Geo. W. Clinton
Recd. Jan. 26.
For notes on James Hall, see introduction above.
It appears that unbeknownst to Rhoda,
is possible from this note that
The voucher specimens for John Torrey’s 1843
Flora of the State of
Vol. 2. No. 168 [D 56]
I must write you or you will go east while I am here and visit Schoharie. I was called here by telagram [sic] to the death bed of my pet and namesake, my sisters oldest child a lovely little creature of ten years. It must be that you know the bitterness of these things, for I know that kind sympathetic nature must have been educated in some school. How shall I write you, my heart is breaking, we buried her yesterday in the snow, how can I live all these long! long! years without her. There is no more sunlight, no more hearty, but so lonely, sister is heart broken. I can not leave her now.
Do send a word of comfort to
Your afflicted disciple
Hon. G. W. Clinton
Direct Care C. H. Dawn.
Recd. Jan. 30 & ansd.
“Direct Care C. H. Dawn” written by Rhoda on this letter may be an avenue to historical or genealogical information on Rhoda’s sister. The sister’s husband’s surname may have been Dawn, if “C. H. Dawn” was Rhoda’s sister’s maiden name.
The burial seems to have been literally
“in the snow,” not while snow was falling, and not in the ground.
The body would then be preserved until a proper burial could take place in
Rhoda’s handwriting here is not so school-girlish or careful as in her other ones.
According to French’s New York State