History | Freeman Family Letters from 1829--1852
How quick, how quick a year has passed since I left you. The year has not only gone but it has carried us with it. How rapidly you and I are going down the stream of life. You and I once thought that when a person had arrived to the age of seventy years he was almost to old to expect to live much longer. We have arrived at that age and know we cannot remain here much longer … I am not without hopes that you may visit us should our lives and health be continued another year.
In May 1849, Samuel’s son Lyndon wrote Pliny Sr. to tell him of his father’s death:
It seemed to me that old age was making unusual progress. He himself marked this and used to speak of it. He seemed to be watching with his lamps trimmed and burning. He often spoke of his departure near. Some of us had noticed that for some time before he was taken sick, his memory was impaired. This he noticed and often spoke of it. For some weeks previous to his being confined to his house he had complained of a pain in his head … He first gave up doing his chores and took [to] the house on Sunday the 25th of December, just four weeks previous to his death … The first indications of paralysis was a slight lameness in his right side … His mind seemed to be affected simultaneously with his body … He complained that he could not think of words to express his thoughts. In a few days he was unable to walk across the floor without aid … During the first nine days of his sickness he sat up during the day in an armed chair. He was cheerful and enjoyed the sports of the children. Was much pleased to see his friends that called to see him. On the tenth day he took [to] his bed from which he never arose … He failed from day to day … Mr. Brewster and wife (Lucetta) came to see him. He knew them and was affected unto tears. A few days before his death his left side became paralyzed. For two-and-a-half days previous to his departure he lay in a stupor from which he never awoke.
Mary Pease Freeman passed away in 1850, and Pliny Sr., age 70, was a widower once again. A year later, he sold his farm and moved in with his daughter Delia and her husband, who were living nearby in Webster. By December 1854, Dwight had journeyed to Geneseo, Illinois, to purchase a farm; Augusta and her husband would eventually join him there. On his return trip, Dwight contracted typhoid fever and stayed in Cleveland with Pliny Jr. while recovering. Pliny Jr. had suffered another setback himself:
Pliny, [one] week ago last Monday went off to the medical college and took some chloroform and had his tumor on his side operated upon. They cut a gash about three inches long and another about two inches, pawed into it to their heart’s content and then dressed it and let him wake up, and that is about all we know about it. He is very comfortable with it, being about the house up and down as he wishes and even out-of-doors. He thinks it won’t keep him from work more than two weeks longer.
The following month, Pliny Sr. passed the news on to Silas in West Millbury, Massachusetts, where he was working as the overseer of the town poor farm:
Dutiful Son …?I write a few lines to inform you of Dwight’s return. He came the 5th instant. His health is now good. Looked rather sharp-faced when he arrived, caused by his sickness of six or eight weeks at Cleveland. He left Pliny in a critical situation … He had an abscess opened in his side some time in December and it doesn’t work as favourably as expected. His appetite gone and he is very low spirited … Dwight has purchased a lot of 40 acres with a good house thereon—price $1400—in the town of Geneseo, County of Henry, Illinois. He expects to leave here about the middle of March for his new home … Hollowell and Augusta have come to a final conclusion (as I now think) of trying their fortune at the west. Leave here in March … John [May, Delia’s husband] thinks he shall leave [Webster] in the spring … I shall be obliged to quit my little snug room where I have taken so much ease and comfort with good attention paid to me the past four years. Where I shall next live (if I do live) I can’t even guess.
Two months later, in March 1855, Marcia Freeman wrote her father-in-law from Cleveland with the good news that Pliny Jr. was on the mend at last—and looking for letters from home:
I am happy to tell you that Pliny’s health is improving a little. Since I wrote last, the doctors have made a new incision near the center of his chest … We hope it will heal up in a few weeks. The doctors visit him only every other day now, and think he will soon be so comfortable that he will get along without their care. His appetite is quite good … Saturday the third of this month he sat up for a few minutes for the first time in several weeks, and is going to practice sitting up a little while every day … Pliny thinks if he has got any friends in Massachusetts, it is time some of them wrote to him.
John and Delia remained in Webster and cared for Pliny Sr. until the end. In October, Bradford Baylies, daughter Florella’s husband, wrote from Southbridge to Pliny Jr. and Marcia in Ohio:
It has fallen to my lot to communicate to you the sad intelligence that Father is no more. He died this morning at three o’clock. He spent the second week in September with us, and was in good health, and went to Sturbridge to make his usual visits. He was taken sick the last week in September … Had the doctor and October third was much better. Said he hoped he should be able to go to Webster the last of the week, but Saturday was taken worse—pain in his bones and a trembling, and at times his mind was confused and wandering. Was very anxious to go home to Webster, but it rained … We tried to prevail on him to stop with us, but no. He said he must get home. He stood the ride better than we expected. But he failed very fast and the next day was almost helpless. The doctor said it was the typhus fever. The funeral will be on Friday the twelfth at nine oclock at Webster and one at Sturbridge.
He was 75. Ninety-five years later, the Freeman home was rescued and moved from its original location south of town to the Old Sturbridge Village property. In 1956, OSV settled it on its current site, a pasture that once long ago was part of the David Wight homestead—a patch of fertile ground that 150 years later is still a working farm—a fitting resting place for this venerable house that saw so much of the community’s early history.
Quotations by permisson of Old Sturbridge Village; research by former OSV historian Holly Izard and interpreter Connie Small. For transcripts of the Freeman family correspondence, go to: osv.org/explore_learn/document_list.php