Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"We Consider Her Very Dangerous"

On August 5th, I received two letters written by my 3rd great-grandfather, Elias Mellen Carter. One was written to his brother, Timothy Jarvis Carter in 1832 and the other was written to Timothy's widow, Arabella (Rawson) Carter, daughter of Samuel & Polla (Freeland) Rawson in 1844. Timothy Jarvis Carter died in 1838 while serving in the House of Representatives. He had gone out of his mind when his close friend was killed in a duel just eighteen days before. You can read the news accounts of his decline and death in this post that I published in November 2012. This second letter sent me scrambling to figure out the identity of several people mentioned and added some detail to my family story. I have transcribed it as written - with the abbreviations, grammatical errors and misspellings preserved. Elias was known for his beautiful penmanship and hopefully you can see some of that in the photos of the letters.
Folded letter showing address
Text of letter
Close up of signature and handwriting
Outside of letter unfolded
Outside of folded paper
Ea Bethel Me
Nov 28

Mrs. Timo J. Carter
Paris Me

Inside of folded paper
East Bethel Nov 27 1844
Dear Sister Arabella,
I take a few moments this eve to inform you of the health of the friends in this neighborhood. As to Mother she is no better but is still runing down, and it is very doubtfull whither she ever gets well, the rest of Father's family are as well as usual, Sister Harriet and Octavia are still at my house, Harriet's helth is very good, you proverbly learnt something of Octavia's sickness from Mr Brown. We did not think her much sick until Sunday, and then she sat up some 2 or 3 hours but on her going to bed again she grew worse, and now we consider her very dangerous, so much so that I should not be surprised if she did not live till morning, the Docts think there is but a little chance of her recovery, and it is very uncertain whither Mother ever gets up again, but still she may. My family are in as good health as usual - in haste.
Your Brother
E.M. Carter

The first thing I had to explain was the reference to "Mother" because the mother of Timothy & Elias, Frances (Freeland) Carter, died in 1815, when Timothy was ten and Elias was just five years old. However, their father, Dr. Timothy Carter, remarried in 1818 and had five additional children. Both Dr. Timothy and his second wife, Lydia (Russell) Carter were still living in 1844. As seen in the letter, Lydia's health was failing and she passed away on December 5, 1844. Dr. Timothy would also pass away that winter on February 5, 1845.

Next , who were "Sister Harriet and Octavia"? I started tracing the siblings of Elias and Timothy Jarvis to find the answer. The answer was found in the family of their older brother, James Freeland Carter. James married Harriet Rawson, daughter of Ebenezer & Elizabeth (Taylor) Rawson. I haven't traced the Rawson family enough to find the connection between Arabella, wife of Timothy J. Carter and Harriet, wife of James F. Carter but I assume they are related in some way. James and Harriet had a daughter, Harriet Octavia Carter. She was called Octavia to distinguish her from her mother. James Freeland Carter died October 30, 1840 and his widow and daughter appear to be living with or on an extended visit to Elias Mellen's family.

Findagrave provided the rest of the story. I found a picture of the gravestone of James F. Carter and it included the information for his wife and daughter. A quick email to the photographer and I gained permission to share the photo here. As seen on the gravestone, Octavia did die the day after the letter was written, probably during the night based on the concern expressed in the letter. Her condition was correctly assessed as "very dangerous" and within a week, Lydia (Russell) Carter was also dead.
Photo taken by Ken Oliver and posted on Findagrave
Puzzles unsolved - the causes of death of Octavia, Lydia, and Dr. Timothy. I'd love to find a death certificate for Timothy Jarvis Carter. He was only 38 when he died and having delusions that someone had challenged him to a duel (according on one newspaper account). I wonder if he took his own life, had a heart attack, or stroke brought on by the extreme stress after his friend was killed in the duel.

No comments:

Post a Comment