The following are letters written by Ellen D. Witherbee Atwell in 1899 and 1900 to her nephew Tyler Reed Woodbridge of Victor, Colo. She was age 64 at that time. She tells of her family life, traditions, and some facts of history relating to the Witherbee family, handed down by her parents and grandparents, written at Port Henry. The nephew typed these up in 1900 and inserted some comments.
These letters were sent to me from Bill Knowlton of Liverpool in 2002. Ellen Atwell was his great aunt.
"It could be spun fine enough to pass a knot of it through a finger ring, which was considered a great accomplishment. They made very durable table linen, towels, sheets, pillow cases, and wearing apparel. My grandmother made her wedding dress of cotton, spinning and weaving it herself, and as it was not common, it was considered very nice.
Grandmother kept house till her children left her. Then she made her home with a son in Albany, making her other children long visits. She was a very bright woman, fond of reading - not novels but more solid reading. She read the Bible through by courses several times. It was used as a Reader in school. She traveled quite extensively for those days, going as far as Michigan in Packets and Stage Coaches, for this was before the days of Steamers or Railroads. It was not very rapid traveling - the passengers could get off and walk if they were tired of riding. The Packet was drawn by horses and it took several days to go from Albany to Buffalo. She had a traveling basket with two lids and it contained a variety of articles. She did fancy work nicely. She was a small black-eyed woman, and rather stern in manner. We stood in awe of her as she never noticed us by playing with us. But I have the greatest respect for her. She was a Universalist in sentiment, as were many of her children."
"Mother lived in Dorchester with an aunt. While there she walked into Boston to see three pirates hung! When she was eighteen she went to Bridport, Vermont, to live with an uncle. She traveled in a stage coach, stopping overnight at Inns which were conveniently placed for the accommodation of the coaches, and where they changed horses, as they were several days on their journey. People sometimes carried their own provisions and they were allowed to make their tea and boil their eggs in the Inn kitchen.
I have been told that Mother was very beautiful and much admired. As she had two offers of marriage besides Father's while in Bridport. I think there was some truth in the statement. (A better proof of that is the beauty of her daughters, which is of the kind that never fades. Note by the editor). One of them was worth $2,000 - a fortune in those days. But she chose Father who had very little in comparison. He had only a trade, which every young man was expected to have unless he was a farmer. He learned the trade of Tanner and Currier. His father bought the Tannery in Crown Point Center for him.
They were married quite young - he was 22 and she was 20. Mother's wedding dress was a blue and red changeable silk - a beautiful color. She had blue slippers which were tied on with ribbons, crossed over the foot, and tied around the ankles. She also wore a cap, and ever after wore one for dress occasions. "
Joan Daby is town of Moriah historian.