'Write Often, Write When You Think Best'
The family also shared misfortunes and tragedies, grieving together, in the only way available to them. In a letter that July, Pliny Sr. delivered shocking news:
Beloved Son … On Sunday last, 5th instant, there were two deaths by lightening in Sutton and one in Oxford … The one killed in Oxford, painful to relate, was your sister Beulah. She went upstairs to shut the windows, as was supposed, and a flash of lightening struck the chimney and threw the top mostly off … They found her little daughter about three months old in the cradle in the kitchen and her little son about twenty months old on a bed in the bedroom, both covered with soot and dust and screaming. And in searching for Beulah they found her [in the] up chamber dead on the floor, lying on her face and her clothes on fire … It seems the lightening passed from the top of the chimney to the bottom of the cellar.
And again, four years later, in March 1839, equally sad news would travel from Sturbridge to Ohio in this letter from a bereft Pliny Sr.:
Bereaved Children … [Your mother] continued to fail very fast until Tuesday the 19th, when at half past five PM death retrieved her from her pains which were severe … I am about to be left alone. The old lady [Mary Pease, who lived in to help nurse Delia during her last illness] which I wrote you will stay about one week longer and who I can get to keep house I know not … I wish Augusta would come home and live with me if she thinks she can be contented to live a lonely life [and] if Dwight is not likely to find business there I should like him to work with me on the farm … I hardly know what I have written, but will close by subscribing myself “Your father in affliction”
Augusta and Dwight dutifully moved back home, but in February Pliny received a teasing note from the same “old lady,” who was then living in East Boston:
I have often thought of you these long winter evenings, that you must be lonesome. But leap year is here and widowers and bachelors are choosing their mates and I think if you should make up your mind the time would pass more agreeably away [with] one who would share in your domestic concerns … I should be happy to have you call over to East Boston. I have not purchased any spectacles at present for there is rumour that the world is coming to an end in 1843 and I did not think it was worth a while to spend my money useless.
In May Mary Pease wrote again, and we learn of a happy development:
You have given me an invitation to your castle for a home and [I] am happy for the invitation as I know you are a man of honour. I shall throw myself upon your care and protection and according to your invitation I will meet you at Brookfield the fifth day of June.
Reader, she married him … Pliny and Mary Pease Freeman would live together at the Sturbridge farm for the next 10 years. When Mary passed away in 1850, Pliny Sr., now 70, was a widower once again. A year later, he sold his farm and moved in with his daughter Delia and her husband in nearby Webster. He passed away in 1855, at the age of 75. Ninety-five years later, the Freeman home was rescued and moved from its original location south of town to the OSV property. In 1956, the museum 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 on is still a working farm–a fitting resting place for this venerable house that had seen so much of the community’s early history. –E.T.
For more on the Freeman family and additional excerpts from their correspondence, visit: YankeeMagazine.com/more. Quotations by permission of Old Sturbridge Village; research by former OSV historian Holly Izard and interpreter Connie Small. For full transcriptions of the Freeman family correspondence, go to: osv.org/explore_learn/document_list.php