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“It is a stormy dreary day…”A Letter from Emily Selleck Waterbury to Joseph Wakeman Mather

Emily Selleck Waterbury (13 Dec 1809-7 Nov 1909) was the daughter of Hannah Mather (1778-1857) and Charles Selleck (1766-1846). Hannah was the eldest of Deacon Joseph Mather and Sarah Scott’s eleven children, and the one not born in Homestead. In the letter she refers to her sister Louisa (Selleck Tompkins) as the only other of her own parents’ eleven children still living. Louisa was born 31 Mar 1825 and died 22 Mar 1901. Emily and Louisa were first cousins of Joseph Wakeman Mather, Stephen Mather’s father.


She wrote a letter to Joseph Wakeman Mather which, because of its sincerity and simplicity, is transcribed here in its entirety and without comment.


Excuse all imperfections age 87

New Canaan

Feb 12 [assume 1897]

Dear Cous

It is a stormy dreary day. Do not feel like work. As thought can travel as well in the storm as the sunshine, and you are the nearest relative in distance will step in, and chat with you a little while-can imagine you sitting in that common sitting room where in my childhood I used to visit, and sleep between Aunt Rainy and Phebe and hear the Phebe birds in the morning get up to breakfast. There would be a nice pie on the hearth warming. Grandfather and Grandmother [Deacon Mather and Sarah Scott Mather] would sit at one end of the table and eat out of one bright pewter basin. Those were days of childhood. I will not dwell too long on them. They are almost excised by oblivion’s wave. The days of youth will glance slightly over the latter days of our Aunties. We can mingle with some cheer and more pain but they have passed away and we have the cheerful hope that Grandfather and Mother with their eleven children are sitting with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Mansions prepared for the blest. As you alone occupy the house where some years ago the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren met to celebrate a centennial, I think of you as a lone one but not solitary for you are blest with a cheerful spirit, and I hope you are happy. It does not always require companions to make us happy. We can be happy in our thoughts and books ah—and in our songs.

I wonder sometimes when I am singing if you are singing too. I do not wonder if the celestial choir joins me for I know they do although in silence. When singing the tunes that I used to sing with my parents, brothers, and sisters, I feel that they are present. How often I have seen my father walk the floor with folded hands listening to the music of my brothers and sisters in the other room. Now they are all together in one celestial choir. None but Louisa and myself are left in this dark world. How suddenly Isaac [Isaac Selleck Nov 1816-Dec 1896] left us. When I met you at his golden wedding I did not realize that our next meeting would be at his funeral. I saw you and another elderly gentleman walk around to see his peaceful remains. It is wisely kept from us when our summons will come, but may we[ be] found watching and waiting.

Time and paper says close. Please excuse the liberty I have taken in writing and I will excuse the answer whether by pen or seeing you face to face.

Cousin Emily W.


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