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.
“Miss Jones Letter” was another clue that led me to believe we might take an inexpensive chance on this document. Following Sarah Pierce’s retirement and John Pierce Brace’s departure to teach at Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Seminary, Julia Henrietta Jones was named its new principal. A few years later, she was advertising her own school on South Street.
The gamble paid off. The letter was, in fact, from Julia Henrietta Jones, and written to former Litchfield Female Academy student Laura Amaryllis Boardman Lane. The daughter of Homer and Amaryllis Boardman of New Milford, Laura married Aaron Derick Lane, a minister. At the time of the letter, the couple resided in Waterloo, New York where Lane served as the first resident pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.
The letter starts off in a typical fashion, with apologies for taking so long to reply to a previous letter and noting all of the things that had prevented Miss Jones from writing sooner. She also wrote about a doctor’s success in treating Mary Deming, also a former Female Academy student, who would die the following month.
After providing news of other local friends, Jones offered what was possibly the most exciting news of the letter. A quotation from a letter written by her brother, William Edwin Jones, who had also attended the Litchfield Female Academy.
The quote begins, “Caroline [his wife] did intende to write you about this time but the transactions of to day will prevent_ She took it into her head this morning to present me with twins a boy & a girl the boy weighing 6 ½ lbs the girl 5 ½ total 12 and of course I must communicate such important intelligence at once” Jones inserted her own commentary in the center of the quote, saying that Caroline’s sister, “…who detests babies as much as I do tells me to say that they are the prettiest she ever saw.”
Prior to acquiring this letter, William’s page in The Ledger listed his wife as “Miss Ogden” and offered no other details about her. Reading more about him here, and finding her first name, prompted us to do some additional research. Caroline’s brother William Butler Ogden was the first mayor of Chicago, and later an alderman. William and Caroline relocated there, and William worked with him on various land projects prior to his death in 1851.
If just one letter can lead to this much additional knowledge about three different students and their lives, imagine if we had all of Miss Jones’s correspondence. If you would like to donate to our collections care and acquisitions fund, please visit our donations page. If you have documents or artifacts that you are interested in contributing, please see our Donate to the Collections page.