In the previous post, we learned about Dr. Ben Cory, who traversed the plains over the summer of 1847. Here is a letter from the good doctor as a young man in his early twenties, dreaming about courtship and marriage, before he had even made up his mind to make such an adventure. To refresh the memory, his son Lewis Lincoln Cory born in San Jose California in 1861, married Carrie Martin of New Jersey; her parents, then elder sister Emma (no children), were in possession of the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Samuel Meeker.
The letter begins with Ben describing to his cousin Fanny the death of his mother (my ggg-grandmother Elizabeth (Stayge) Cory). I do not know the cause of her death, but whatever it was, it was extremely painful.
Nov 30, 1846
You have ample cause to cross me from your list of relatives and friends. I have shamefully abused your generous friendship in not having written to you for so long a time. Many things have absorbed my attention during the last few months so exclusively that I have neglected many an absent friend. But by neglecting to write to you, I only have been the loser—it is my own loss and not yours. Be assured that it was from no want of respect for you that I have passed you by so long. I ask your pardon, I have the present consciousness that you grant it. You have by this time received the notice of my mother’s death. She departed from her sufferrings on the 18th of last month. Although I could not refrain from the shedding of bitter tears, I still feel an abiding grief. Yet was I glad when she ceased to live. Her pain was so excessive that I would have been her greatest enemy had I wished her to stay. I have seen all kinds of diseases-have witnessed all manner of surgical operations performed—have walked through the gloomy wards of several Hospitals—young as I am. I have seen men, women, and children writhing under the sting of pain, hundreds of times, and yet never in all my life have I seen a poor mortal afflicted with such mountain agonies as was my mother. And she was resigned to her unhappy lot no person could be more so. She was a Christian—no person could possibly be a better. I have heard her scream with agony and shout with joy almost in the same breath. While her coutnenace was all distored with pain, she would say ‘The lord’s will be done’-‘not my will but thine’.-‘when wilt thou take me to thyself’ ‘Lord Jesus I wait thine own time’ ‘come quickly if consistent with thy will’ ‘oh how can I bear this pain. I am falling to peaces, I am a nuisance to myself, but Jesus thou will not forsake me.’ She had her senses so long as she could speak. She became speechless Sunday morning about 7 o’clock and died at seven at night—her eyes were fixed all day, I did not notice anything. The last word she said was, ‘Thank the Lord thank Jesus’- I heard her speak—as she spoke she rubbed her almost palsied hands togther and looked upward with an anxious, peculiar look. My mother, your Aunt Eliza is gone—gone to Heaven—where she hovers around the throne of God—the purest among the angelic host—
I am quite lonesome. Jackson is in Brown Co with Adeline—nobody here but Father, Manning + an old illiterate housekeeper. If it was not that I am mostly busy in my profession, I could not content myself here any longer. There are seven doctors here, but I am confident that I do more practice than any of them, not excepting my Father—the ‘foolish’ people seem to have confidence in me. We will book about 3000 dollars this year but on account of the poor pay, changeable nature of the climate, small fees and a few other things, it is my intention to remove to Mississippi or Louisiana next spring. Father’s health is rather poor every winter, and it would be well for him to reside in the South during the winter—which is an additional motive for me to remove, so that I can have a home for him. Nothing could give me greater pleasure than to visit Lima before I leave this part of the country—but I fear it is among the impossibilities. I fear I shall never be permitted to see you again. I may die in the South the first year—at all events is any intention of locating permanently and you know that a man in my business must be fettered to one spot. Alas! The future is mostly portentious to me: I frequently look into its misty vista with forboding. Occasionally however hope cheers me and I straitway build airy castles!
You will call me a gloomy old batchelor, I expect, on account of the last few lines of last evening. Just as you please—you must have your own way. But I slept well last night and awoke in a more jolly mood. Here I am in the office, seated in the big admin chair, a good fire in the stove, an excellent segar in the ‘sinister’ angle of my mouth, gorgeous clouds of sweet scented smoke curling above my head—the personification of contentment himself. I am not an old bachelor now am I? You must permit me to talk to you through the smoke, for you know it makes me biting mad to take my slippers from me. Who is that doctor to whom you have given your sympathies? What kind of a bargain did you make with him? Did you make an equal exchange of hearts? If you did, you got cheated I bet. Or did you give only half of your heart for all of his? In that case it may be an equitable trade. Or did you only get half of his for all of yours? In this instance I would put him down as a rascally cheat, and he ought to live in the penitentiary. Come now, tell me all about it. If it was possible for the two hearts to be knotted together this winter. I would be there to help tie if at all hazzards. Oh! you might as well quit that unnecessary blushing and pouting and stammering for I believe all the fair lady told me in the paper you sent me—and you need not deny you said she is a lady that never falsifies. I would have believed that however in the present case even if you had told me that she was a ****? of falsehoods. Blushing yet? Why Fanny the blood mounting as it did to your cheeks, is a telltale. The doctor to whom the paper referred is a fortunate chap—just gone after his diploma and expects to get married as soon as he comes back (next April, is it?) I am one of the minority class of doctors (unfortunately) two years a doctor not even engaged yet. I wish some fine lady would look upon me with compassion—I am getting old too—24 last month—two dozen years old! a quarter of a century old! I [am] really afraid that nobody but a wizzard will have me, if I get much older before entering into our agreement! Cousin James is not married I suppose. I wish he would visit to me and give me his history in the matter of courtships so that I may adopt a different plan of attack. Come James, trim up your whiskers, shake your hairy locks and enter the lists with renewed vigor and it is possible you may succeed in getting a charming wife after all, and end your days in joyous felicity.
Last spring I enjoyed myself very much. Grandfather looks and is quite feeble. Grandmother is quite robust. I read a letter a week ago from Uncle Joseph. They are all in usual health. Grandmother wove 20yds of cloth, which proves that she is still robust. Aunt Abby looks very much like Fanny Cory of Lima, especially when she laughs. Father expects to visit Jersey next spring—I think he will go. We are all of us well. Father’s health is better than it usually is this season of the year—he however coughs some. He says that some of you must write to him immediately. Manning received your letter short time since says he will answer it soon. I thank you for the paper you sent me and the remarks in it—do so again. I also feel grateful for the lines which the anonymous lady penned me, and will take the liberty of acknowledging them in a separate note. But you & herself also are “right mean” in withholding her name! I never rec’d that pretty thing which you said you had sent me, looked for it anxiously—some pilfering bull has stolen it I suppose—what was it about? don’t be frightened at this sheet. It has rained hard all day. Really. I had almost forgotten to tell (an important item) you that I have in process of cultivation a huge, enormous pair of-of-of-of-of -of whiskers—oh! its a fact! It might require a telescope of 1000 magnifying powers to notice the distance from one shoot to another but what of that—Tell uncle Samuel to send on some of the whisker salve he used to use if he has not used it all up! Give my love to all my relatives and reserve a few for yourself—
your cousin Ben Cory