“My dear Cam”

CES to CS letter 1864As I have been making my way through my grandfather’s box of family papers, one letter – written by my great-great-grandmother Catharine Elizabeth (White) Steward[1] to her son, my great-grandfather[2] – has proved elusive. It was, I remembered, written in 1864, and provided the only reference I can recall to the period of my great-great-aunt Harriet Le Roy Steward’s engagement to her future husband.[3] The letter turned up, finally, in a collection of newspaper articles on the Steward family of Goshen, in the last bundle of the last few envelopes in John Steward’s iron box.

While the Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Tyng’s address at Mrs. Steward’s funeral[4] suggests a sudden (and perhaps unexpected) death, the 1864 letter indicates that three years before my great-great-grandmother died her family had concerns about her health. In a few short pages, Catharine notes the pleasantly contrary behavior of her future son-in-law during their sojourn in Saratoga; praises Cam for a recent letter; permits Johnny Steward[5] to go to the theatre with his future brother-in-law, James Henry Jones (1846–1919)[6]; is impressed by the preaching of the Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835–1893)[7]; and closes with a few choice maternal words for Cam’s benefit, alternately fond and admonitory.

The letter follows:

[Saratoga] March 21st 1864

Monday morning

My dear Cam:

You will be all quite surprised to hear that we remain here until Wednesday but not more than I am myself, and still more so to hear, it is at Mr. Stuyvesant’s request, after all his opposition to coming here. But I believe he would like to stay a month. I have given notice however that I must go home, on Wednesday. He and Hatty are poking about, in every creek and corner, and do not seem at all tired of each other’s company.

I received both your’s and Johnny[’s] letters yesterday morning and thought yours was remarkably well written. Tell Johnny I have no objection to his going with Jamie Jones to the theatre, as he has been waiting so long for that piece, but he must not ask to go again for some time, as he has been too often lately.

I went to hear the famous Mr. Brooks yesterday, and I think he deserves his reputation fully. Lilly and I went again in the afternoon, but were disappointed in hearing him, as he did not preach. We have had delightful weather since we have left home, and only hope it may last until we return. I assure you, I shall not be at all sorry to be at home again, and I hope you have missed us a little. I have no lazy boy to harry in the morning and no one to tell to keep his hands out of his face.

Tell your father, he might have written me a line since I have been here. I go to my course, in the elevators always, and never without thinking of the dear little man, who enjoyed it so much, last fall. The same man attends it. I thought of asking him if he remembered you but I know he would think I was a foolish woman to suppose you had made any impression upon him among all the boys he sees. I hope to hear you have been a very good boy. Love to all.

Your affectionate mother

Catharine E. Steward

Continued here.


[1] Catharine Elizabeth White (1818–1867) married John Steward in 1841.

[2] Campbell Steward (1852–1936).

[3] Harriet Le Roy Steward (1842–1872), who married Augustus Van Horne Stuyvesant in September 1864.

[4] A fuller account of Tyng’s address may be found here.

[5] John Steward (1847–1923), who married Cordelia Schermerhorn Jones in 1871.

[6] Cordelia Steward’s brother.

[7] The Rev. Phillips Brooks, then rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia, Bishop of Massachusetts 1891–93.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

3 thoughts on ““My dear Cam”

  1. You are so fortunate to have recourse to such treasure trove of family records; how I wish I had them as well….

  2. Fun to read. Sad to think we will not have any of these in the future.

    I am wondering how you will preserve these letters. Will you take them all out of their envelopes, flatten them and put them in a “sleeve” individually and then put them all in a box?

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