Category Archives: Uncategorized

Law School Letters

The Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library at the Litchfield Historical Society has recently purchased three new letters pertaining to the Litchfield Law School and its students. Two of the letters are likely relatable to many of today’s parents as they discuss the expense of educating children.

The first letter, written in 1815 by Putnam Catlin, father of Litchfield Law School student George Catlin (who later left the law to paint) was addressed to his friend Steuben Butler and detailed the financial difficulty in providing for his children’s education:

I am obliged to consider myself as a mere farmer, republican farmer, Beechwood farmer, without a hired man in this hurrying season of the year. How then am I to spare George and James? I admit that your reasoning is just in regard to George but I know not how to spare him at this time. I shall not be able to give him a public education. If he shall persist in the choice of law he will have to glean for himself an education in some law office, perhaps. I may indulge him a year at Litchfield, in the meantime, I will do better for him if it be in my power. Should my ‘ship arrive from England’ or should I make sale of some land I can spare he may be more favored.

Putnam Catlin to Steuben Butler, May 3, 1815
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Putnam Catlin by George Catlin, Smithsonian American Art Museum, between 1840-1849
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Miss Jones Letter

1847 Litchfield CT stampless folded letter red CDS and 5 rate [H.3508] - Picture 1 of 3

Letter, Julia Henrietta Jones to Laura Boardman Lane, March 31, 1847

As noted before, we have alerts set up for eBay and various auction sites to notify staff when Litchfield-related items and collections appear. A few weeks ago, I added this item to my watchlist on eBay. Individual letters are often bought and sold by stamp collectors who care little about the contents as was the case with this. Although I had requested an image of the contents, the seller did not comply. Instead, I received an offer to buy the letter for $8.49. Noting that it had a return option, I decided to take a chance- the name Laura Lane was familiar from my work on the Boardman papers, and the 1841 made me wonder whether the author was a former Litchfield Female Academy Student.

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Dr. James Russell Cumming

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The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the acquisition of a collection of original letters from Dr. James Russell Cumming, a surgeon with the 12th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers from 1862-1865. Born in North Adams, MA in 1830, Cumming studied at the Canajoharie Academy in Canajoharie, NY prior to teaching in Colebrook and Farmington, CT. He married Jane Elizabeth Cowles in 1853. The couple had one child, a daughter named Daisy, prior to his wife’s death in 1856.

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A Book Review by the Chief Justice

The Litchfield Historical Society is thrilled to announce the acquisition of a previously unpublished letter from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall to Judge James Gould, instructor at the Litchfield Law School, in which Marshall provides feedback on Gould’s book about pleadings.

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Engraving of James Gould
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Young Lawyers Head West

Contributed by Leith Johnson, Project Archivist

Among the women and men who settled the Connecticut Western Reserve in the early 1800s were students of the Litchfield Law School. To get an idea of the impact these individuals had on the development of the territory, I selected one student more or less at random and researched his life and the lives of his children. What I am going to sketch out here is by no means comprehensive, but it does offer an illustrative case study. Much of what I am writing is taken directly from The Firelands Pioneer, a journal first published in 1852 by the Firelands Historical Society, that is an indispensable resource for information about the settling and development of the area farthest west in Western Reserve known as the Firelands.

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