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Stephen & Carol Huber:  Dealers in antique needlework samplers, silk embroidery, cross stitch, tapestries.

The following letter was written in West Point, NY by John DeWitt (1794-1851) on January 1, 1833, eight days after the death of his wife. It was addressed to his four young children.

Below is a typed copy of the 1888 hand written copy of the 1833 letter by Jphn DeWitt. It describes in great detail Harriet (Clark) Dewitt who in her late teens worked the accompanying silk embroidered picture of a picnic scene.
The forgoing copy of a description of my fathers courtship, married life and death of my mother was found among my sister Sarah's letters & papers after her death at Ross Valley Nov. 2nd 1888

In the evening of the first of January 1814 I was first introduced to my dear departed Harriet. I had seen her at Mr. Johnson's church at New Bugh, and sat in the same pew with her / Gedneys pew / sometime before this, when I was first struck with her appearance. On the evening above mentioned, she had a small party at her father's house and I rode down from NewBurgh, where I then resided to join it by invitation through Mr. Isaac Schultz who accompanied me. I was then still more struck with her surpassing beauty, simple and gay heart, her features individually were perfect, her face, with a slight tinge of the rose in her cheek, as a whole, the most the most perfectly beautiful I ever beheld - her teeth beautifully perfect, and of the most dazzling, rich pearly whiteness, her mouth of the most perfect size & form, her lips were of the richest color that nature can bestow, and had the most perfect dewy appearance - even the thought of a kiss from them would give a thrill through ones soul, her breath was fragrance itself, and never altered in after life, her nose, rather inclined to aquiline, but hardly observable was perfect in form with the addition of a small smooth mole, the color of her skin, down on the left side near the nostril, which gave additional interest to its appearance - her eyes were hazel - full - prominent - clear & of that brilliant liquid appearance which gave such effect, that none could look on them with indifference, and when expressing her love, would assume that soft and melting appearance that spoke her whole soul, her forehead was smooth & beautiful - her eyebrows small & slightly arched, her hair was the most perfectly beautiful, soft, rich auburn brown or dark chestnut, that I ever beheld, she had a profusion of it, and with that tact & taste, which in all things she so eminently displayed - she would in an instant as it were thrown it in the most beautiful & tasteful form - her complexion was perfectly dazzling clean brilliant & snow white skin with the slightest tinge of red - her blood could almost be seen passing through her veins - her arms small and round - her hand small and perfect. / The only imperfection she had on her person was the first joint on the first finger of her right hand, which was slightly injured by a felon and from which she suffered much pain in the spring of 1818 when Sarah was an infant / her neck was beautiful & of snowy whiteness - her foot beautifully formed & of the smallest size / and at this time was rather small for a shoe / her bust was of demure & perfect form which any alterations could but injure, her fine sloping shoulders and a perfectly erect person of just medium height / her weight at the time was 105 lbs./ altogether she was the most perfect & exquisite model of beauty I ever beheld, her walk was elastic & graceful , in truth there appeared to be music in her step, her positions wether standing or sitting was always natural & elegant - joined with all this, she possessed simple and unaffected manners and a warm heart the feeling of which always shone out in her countenance. Such was the girl just 16 years & 9 months old when I first became acquainted with her - a perfect child of nature - never having been much accustomed to society, she was of course altogether unacquainted with the little petty artifices and constraints which intercourse with society frequently at that age produces. The evening passed rapidly away, In fact I was handly fit to join in the little amusements that were introduced - I could not listen to or understand anything that was passing around, so much was my mind absorbed in admiration. Harriet the dear and blessed being observed it and rallied me several times, as her attention was kept away by her company but she was struck by my partiality for her and was not long in returning it / Indeed she has often told me since, that it required very little to make her love as her feelings were first awakened towards me at the same time mine were for her when we sat together in the pew at Mr. Johnson's Church. I was not aware however at the time that there was anything more felt for me than the naturally kind feelings which she showed to all her company.

Shortly after that I made several visits there on all which occasions she generally sent for her cousins the Misses Ring who lived near by: One evening of the same winter and not very long after our acquaintance commenced, I was spending the evening there with several young ladies and a sleigh ride was proposed, the sleigh was before the door, we were soon all prepared and jumped in, road as far as Canterbury & returned, as we returned to the door all the young ladies except Harriet jumped out very quick & ran into the house - she & myself were the last into the hall. we were alone an opportunity offered. I took her hand said two or three words of love and our engagement was sealed with a Kiss - a kiss that thrilled through my heart and made it leap - a mutual kiss that 19 years of constant & ardent love has not erased from my memory the vivid recollection of which will last 'til existance with me ends. Oh Heavens! That such a sweet & beautiful creature should be taken from me, in the very prime of womanhood, with all her delightful faculties improved with a lovely family of children around her, who adored her with everything which could make life sweet - beloved of all who knew her a playmate & companion for the youngest child she had it is!, it is! too much for human nature to bear up against, but my children! my dear children! sweet pledges of affection which your dear mother has left behind. my time, my all, shall be devoted to you, the dear image of your mother shall never leave my heart, and everything I can think of which would have been pleasing to her had she lived shall be bestowed on you. If God spares my life and I am favored with success for the remainder of it, your education shall be accomplished - all indeed, but that most that most essential part which only the sweet example of such a mother could bestow - that cheerful sunshine of countenance - that happy manner of doing everything you will never see in any other - that- I may be blessed with health for the few fleeting years I have to stay here on earth to accomplish this and then to join her is my sincere prayer.

Three years and about three months after this engagement was made, we were married viz on the 1st of May 1817. Shortly after our marriage a deep gloom came over our prospects, --- in consequence of the failure of my brother I was reduced to poverty and thrown out of business - but our love continued to grow brighter & brighter as adversity thickened around us - we had such friends as few can boast of, kind and attentive, and when proper occasion should offer ready to give us due assistance. The following winter I spent in New York separated from my dear Harriet who remained under the kind care and paternal roof of her father & mother.
My time was principally occupied in attending to my brother Peter who was for a long time dangerously ill. In March I came to Cornwall, Harriet was confined on the 12th 1818 and our dear daughter Sarah was born. I returned to New York to seek for employment but nothing offered that was thought advisable to accept - and I returned to New Burgh - spent the summer with my kind friend and brother John H. Walch who gave me such employment as he could. I than visited my dear wife every Saturday and spent the Sabbath with her. The following winter Mr. Walsh was for a long time dangerously ill. the fear of his death oppressed me very much. as independent of the immense loss to his family I should lose one of my very best and ablest friends. towards spring after all my difficulties resulting from my late business was settled, I made arrangements through Doctor Walsh a most kind and important friend to put up a store at West Point, by permission of the superintendent, with the kind assistance of my brother-in-law Mr. Jno. H. Walsh and his brother Dr. Walsh who came forward and lent me ample means in money without any other security than the chance of my success, I commenced a small business which proved successful beyond my most sanguine expectations. I went on and have continued up to this day moderately successful in it. During the whole period of my residence here / thirteen years & a half/ I have been almost constantly at my business, my house being so conveniently connected with my store. many, very many, and in deed all of my leisure moments during business hours when at home were spent by the side of the dear object my heart always adored. I could almost always when my leisure moments offered, go into the house and find her with her dear children around her engaged in her domestic duties. She has in fact been my only companion during the whole period of our resided at West Point, except for the time in which Capt. MacKey, my friend, residence here after the death of his first wife - thus it was that our time flowed rapidly, & we frequently exclaimed - after reflecting on the number of years we had been at West Point, is it possible we have been here so long. In all our intercourse with the society at this place we were always treated very kindly, and I have good reason to believe that she was sincerely loved & admired by all. Her maners always without affectation of any sort, kind and conciliating in her deportment. She received a great share of the kind attentions of all, and whether in a small friendly circle or in large assemblies, she joined in the amusements with the sincerity and spirit which added to the beauty & grace of her person, called forth the attention of all present without creating the least unpleasant feeling or unkind remark from her sex. On no occasion of my life whether among young or old, married or unmarried did I ever see her surpassed in beauty or grace of person. In all her intercourse with my own family friends she has never had the slightest difference, on the contrary there was a mutual & sincere esteem and affection between them. Soon after our marriage when our prospects were of the most gloomy sort, the kind attention received by her from my sister won her heart. The families of Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Chambers, & Mrs. Walsh to whose lot it fell to have the most intercourse with her, she was most particularly and affectionately attached - at Doct'r Smiths house she spent more time on her occasional visits to the city, (NY) than perhaps at all the others - the Dr. & Mrs. Smith she regarded with the most sincere affection and their daughters she could not have loved more if they had been her own sisters - Julia Ann and Helen had spent more time with her than any other of my nieces and to them she was particularly attached, always taking a deep interest in everything that concerned them.

On Tuesday the 13th of November 1832 she left West Point accompanied by myself for New York, we remained in the city at Dr. Smiths until Sunday morning following when I left for home leaving her to stay until I returned. during her stay and indeed before I left town she visited the opera & theater and after I left town she visited the theater twice to see Miss Kimble it was a very rare circumstance with her, but she was induced to go at my solicitation and on account of Miss Kimbel's very high reputation, she however did not enjoy those places of amusement much, as she told me when I returned on the 28th that she had suffered a good deal while sitting there so long, with a pain across her stomach and the small of her back and which she imputed also in part to too much fatigue in walking - we returned home on Sunday the 2nd of December - She was very happy at meeting her family again after having been separated from her children nearly three weeks - her spirits were excellent and she was occupied as usual in her domestic duties when on Wednesday following her return from New York (the 5th) she was taken ill when walking across the floor of the nursey and there in the presence of my sister and cousin Miss. E. Bernier she met with a miscarriage after a pregnancy of about 2 ½ months. She was immediately laid in bed and information given me by my sister Ellen of what occurred - I asked if I should not at once send for Dr. Wheaton, but my dear Harriet thought it would not be necessary as she was doing very well - as soon as her room could be prepared I removed her to it, she passed a very comfortable night and in the course of a day or two was sitting in her easy chair with her family a great part of the time around her. she remained very comfortable and was supposed by all of us as well as herself in a fair way to be well in a very few days, she was however taken very suddenly and without apparent cause about the third day with flooding. I sent for Doctor Wheaton who after doing something for her advised her to keep perfectly still and remain in bed as much as she could, she did so & recovered from it, on the Monday evening following (9th) I went to Dr Wheaton at her request, to spend the evening where there was a large party and returned at 12 o'clock and found her doing very well, she again left her bed and spent a good part of the day in her easy chair. during the course of the week she had another attack which was in the first instance imputed by the Dr. to two great an eagerness to sit up. On the next Monday evening (1st) she was so well that I ventured to go to New Burgh, but I had probably not more than reached the Steam Boat, before she was again attacked, the Doctor was sent for and she again recovered in a very short time, the next evening (Tuesday) I returned from Newburgh at 8 o'clock and found my dear wife in her easy chair very comfortable & without the least apparent change. She related to me what had happened to her the evening before - As it had been arranged that I should leave home for New York that night in the 12 O'clock boat to make my last trip to New York for the season, it became more necessary for me to go on account of our sloop which was to make its last trip that week also. I felt very anxious about leaving home when my dear wife was suffering from such sudden attacks & resolved at one time not to go but remain until she recovered and run my chance for getting up some heavy goods which I wanted - upon further consultation however she thought it better that I should go as the Doctor had assured her that no further fear need be entertained of the return of the complaint. I left for New York that evening with the intention of returning on Friday if I could possibly get through my business, in all this time however not the most distant idea was entertained by me that there was the least danger or that it could possibly lead to danger - I did not return until Saturday night not having been able to finish my business before. My dear wife I found in bed having had another attack in my absence - The Dr. was in the house and although I did not express to him my alarm yet I began to think it very extraordinary and felt a fear come over me which I had not before felt, he however remarked that he thought now she had had her last bad turn and hoped it would soon be over - When I went up to her room I was struck with the change in her countenance and although now apparently much weaker, as her voice was strong, still I could see that she had been considerably reduced - I sat up and talked with her til near or quite 12 o'clock. she said to me in the course of conversation that it was quite pleasant sometimes to be a little sick as it induced her female friends to call in to see her often. she had that afternoon received the calls of nearly all the ladies at West Point in her bedroom. I fear this was the principal cause of the return of her complaint - I undressed myself about 12 o'clock and had just laid down, when she called to me to get up quick and give her some medicine which was prepared for her to take in case of another attack. I got up and was so shocked that I was siezed with a cold chill which shook my frame like an ague fit and rendered me inable of doing anything for some time until my dear Harriett by her kind and soothing words overcame the unpleasant feeling. I then began seriously to fear the consequences and after giving two doses of the medicine by her own request sent immediately for Dr. Wheaton and told him how I felt and requested him to call in medical aid, he desired me to wait until morning and if he then thought it necessary he would comply - we sat up with her all night and in the morning the Dr. requested me to send for another physician, I dispatched a boat to Newburgh and at 2 o'clock Doctor Brown arrived, in the meantime I had requested Dr Wheaton to write to my brother-in-law Dr. Smith (of NY) and describe her case, I added a postscript & begged Dr. Smith by all means to come if in his power, the letter was handed to Mr. Leslie who was going to the city with a request that he would see it delivered, but alas! He could not arrive by any human means before Monday night. Doctors Brown & Wheaton remained almost constantly in the room with my dear Harriett - I did not leave her side from the time of my arrival on Saturday / a few moments at a time except during the day on Sunday/ with the exception of an hour on Sunday night til she expired and not then until the Doctors had told me that they did not consider her care as an extraordinary one and that notwithstanding she was in a dangerous situation still persons in similar one rarely were taken off. Besides Doctor Brown seemed to think he had administered some medicine that he brought with him which would in a short time put a stop to all difficulty.

I returned to her bed side about one o'clock - she had fainted once and when I sat down by her I discovered by her countenance she was sinking altho there was yet no apparent change in her voice, in the course of an hour she began to feel faint, I found her pulse was failing and called Dr. Brown to her who was sitting in the easy chair he administered some very stimulating medicine and immediately called Dr. Wheaton who had laid down- It was now 3 o'clock in the morning - I called up my sister & the children my feelings were of the awful description the idea of losing my dear wife had never crossed my mind seriously until within a few hours, the excitement & confusion produced in my mind cannot be described - It was with the greatest difficulty & exertion that I could bring my mind to such a state as to be fit to discharge the duties which fell to my lot. I asked the physicians if I could not bring my children in the room as I feared she would pass away before she could take a last farewell of them, - they objected and said that although her situation was indeed a very desperate one, still so long as there was life there was hope and the least agitation now would be fatal. Dr. Brown told me - no doubt to raise my sinking hopes and calm my desperate feelings, that he had had a similar case which lay 20 hours without any perceptible pulse & yet recovered - I listened eagerly to what he said under the desperate state of excitement I was in and still hoped & prayed that God in mercy would spare my dear Harriet, but my hopes sank as I observed that notwithstanding all the powerful stimulants that were given, her pulse did not in the least rally but continued gradually to sink away, I then directed our children to be brought in which at once awakened her attention & she asked what it meant, I told her as kindly and tenderly as I could and with as much composure as I could possibly command, that we feared she was about to separate from us, and that her children were brought in the to take a last farewell of her - she looked up at me quite calmly but in a moment requested me to take them away for a little while as it would tear her heart from her - shortly after I brought in our weeping girls again, she kissed each and said a few words of kind & affectionate farewell to them, when just at that moment she heard the voice of her dear boy coming in the room - she immediately called out in a strong full voice " where is my dear son" this was done is such a tender & thrilling manner that it acted like a shock of electricity and went through the heart of every one present, it was indeed the most trying scene that could be witnessed - Oh! Could my heart have burst at that moment, what days of misery & loneliness should I have escaped - after having kissed & kissed him again and again her dear son was taken out and the other children remained around her bed all looking upon her until she closed her eyes in death - to me she addressed these few words about the time she took her last farewell of her dear children, "my dear John, I have loved the world. I have loved my children very much, but you I have always loved more than all". She would frequently turn her eyes tenderly on me and on her children, and several times exclaimed "my dear children" - For the last few hours of her life everything she received was from my own hand, I was allowed to give her anything she asked for, which was only water, as she suffered from thirst having lost so much blood, indeed having always been to her a most acceptable nurse whenever she was ill, I felt at this time as if I could not bear that any other hand should administer to her. She lingered gradually sinking until half past nine o'clock on the morning of the 24th of December when her sweet spirit departed from its tenement of clay without the least struggle or effort to remain and left behind her a miserable and widowed & lonely husband with fine children to mourn there untimely loss. She was beautiful in death her remains were kept until the following Thursday without showing the least perceptible change, when at 2 o'clock on that day they were consigned to the silent tomb in the grave yard at West Point.

It was 19 years this day (January 1st 1833) since my acquaintance with the dear object of my first and only love commenced. fifteen years 8months & 23 days of that time we were married, during which time she had six children. Viz March 12th 1818, Sarah was born, July 25 1820, Catherine was born, and sometime in 1822/ I don't now recollect the exact time She was confined with a son - the very image of herself & the only child she had which in all its features resembled her- which only survived its birth about 15 or 20 minutes. October 5th 1824 Julia was born. July 18th 1826 Harriet was born and on the 16th of November 1830 her "dear son" Louis was born. Her last pregnancy in which she met with the miscarriage that caused her lamented death, was also a son. She often told me she had doubts whether she would ever survive the birth of another son. her suffering in the birth of the two above mentioned had been very great, and it would sometime cause a temporary depression of her spirits, she however possessed too much energy of character to suffer herself to brood over such feelings and never did. I know her when pregnant, to indulge in any foolish whims or fancies that some do when in that uncomfortable situation.
In relation to all domestic matters our feelings were the same in the discipline and management of our children our views corresponded most perfectly. we made it an unamiable rule not to be departed from in the most trifling cases to inform each other of the faults of our children and never to interfere with each other in the due correction of them. She possessed that rare faculty of enforcing good discipline and at the same time increasing the affection of her children toward her - Often have I seen them throw their arms around her neck and bestow upon her the endearing appellation of "my dear sweet mother", when she was engaged in correction them. In her attention to her children, their habits, manners, amusements, everything was done in the spirit and followed in the train of that natural loveliness of disposition, person & character which she so eminently possessed. Her own personal neatness could not be surpassed and was an example to all those around her - her chaste and delicate taste was indeed remarkable and notorious to all who knew her - she was indefatigable in the discharge of her domestic duties and most happy in her manner of performing them - her servants were attached to her and performed their duties cheerfully under her direction - My business required my frequent absents from home - my amusements, such as shooting also occasionally took me away, on all such occasions my return was greeted with that kindness & affection which made home so sweet, particularly if our meeting happened when we were alone, then her whole heart was thrown open to me - Never did woman possess more of those sweet & gentle qualities which sweetens life and make home so agreeable, indeed my home was my little world & she the only companion I was always anxious to be with, but alas how changed is that scene - I hear her elastic step no more, her sweet voice that was music to my ear is gone - I walk about the house, go to the room she occupied all silent & deserted - I listen and almost think I can hear her steps in the passage, but no, the sad reality comes to mind and in the words of the song she has often sung so sweetly for me.

"I feel like one, who treads alone some banquet hall deserted
Whose lights are fled, whose pleasures dead
And all but me departed."

It was indeed a banquet hall of love, when she was in it, all was cheerful & happy, but now a house of mourning, all gloomy & desolate

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