The largest collection by far held at the Drew Archival Library is that of the Bradford Family. It spans 200 years, has hundreds of letters, photographs, shipping papers, journals, etc, etc. It is the go-to collection here when I need to know anything about Duxbury history – each generation of the family was heavily involved in social movements, town politics and, dare I say it, gossip. So, when I thought it might be fun to scan something from 200 years ago today, I immediately went to see what a Bradford had to say. The following is a brief love letter Captain Gershom Bradford (1774-1844) penned to his wife, Sarah Hickling Bradford (1772-1861), before heading to Boston aboard the brig Patriot. The Captain was away quite a bit as a master mariner during their early marriage. At the time of this letter Sarah would have been pregnant with their fourth daughter, Charlotte (the Civil War nurse).
You will notice the “B-” written atop the scanned image. Much of the Bradford correspondence was graded by descendent, also named Gershom Bradford. The B- might seem a poor grade for such a lovely little note but, given the length and topics of other letters, it was probably a fair assessment in his eyes.
November 14th, 1812
I arrived here yesterday and was at great mind this morning to have set out and come to Duxbury and spend Saturday night with you and back again tomorrow but thinking there might be a fair wind before I got back and if so Mr. [Samuel] Frazar might look cross at your handsome face for entreeing [sic] me away from my duty so on the whole concluded best to remain onboard and make my self as merry as posable [sic] but at best that is very dull when absent from you tell the little girls that father is coming with a proper good smaking [sic] kiss for them and one for mother [page torn] goodnight may pleasant dreams attend my love and be realized
Yours, Gershom Bradford