1813: Rev. Eli Field Cooley to Rev. William Schenck

This letter was written by Rev. Eli Field Cooley (1781-1860), D. D., son of Rinnah and his wife, Lucy Field, of Sunderland, Massachusetts. Eli graduated from Princeton in 1806 and was licensed by the Presbytery in 1809. He was serving the First Presbyterian Church in Cherry Valey, Otsego, New York when this letter was written in 1813. Eli’s first wife was Hannah Scudder (1787-1817) who is mentioned in this letter.

Eli F. Cooley “was a man of great and varied industry; was one of the founders of the American Bible Society, in 1816; induced the New Jersey Legislature to provide for the support of the blind, and of deaf mutes; was one of the building committee of the State Lunatic Asymlum at Trenton, and an active member of the committee which buile east and West Colleges at Princeton.” [Source: Fifty Years….by William Nelson, page 58]

Eli wrote the letter to his friend, Rev. William Schenck (1740-1823), a native of Monmouth county, New Jersey, an 1767 graduate of Princeton College, and a Presbyterian minister. At the time this letter was written in 1813, Rev. Schenck was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Huntington on Long Island. The letter was addressed to him at Princeton, however.


Addressed to Rev’d. William Schenck, Princeton, New Jersey

Cherry Valley [New York]
March 1st 1813

Dear Schenck,

A long time has relapsed since I have written or received a letter that apologies are perhaps unnecessary. Many circumstances of an important nature have occurred among us & I presume with you since we have interchanged tokens of friendship. Sickness and death are subjects with which we have been familiar in this part of our country. Never, perhaps, since the first settlement of this country, so solemn & alarming period as the present. Many of our young men are swept away in the field of battle. number of them whom the [       ] shares fall — a prey to the pestilence which walketh in darkness. You can have no adequate concept of the extent of human misery which the last Autumn of winter here spread among us. Disease has spread from the Camp through all our towns and villages and vast numbers have fallen victims. In some towns the measles epidemic has been more alarming & mortal than in others. But in all it has been a distressing time. The whole land appears to be covered with [    ]th. In our village, some in almost every house have been or now are sick. But few deaths have as yet occurred and we pray God to remain [     ] for us. In Cooperstown & its vicinity, it has been more mortal. During the course of the two or three past weeks, several have died. Among the number are William  Dowse, Esq. ¹, Lewis Goodsell (carpenter) ², the wife of Peter Goodsell (Merchant) ³, Emma [Elvira] Clark [1798-1813], daughter of Cyrenus Clark. But we have reason to hope that this sickness is abating.

Our little children have both been sick but have recovered. I have never enjoyed such a state of health since I had the fever last summer as I used to enjoy. But we have abundant reason to hope for His goodness to us. At present we all enjoy comfortable health. Hannah has been constantly indisposed through the winter. I have seen in Trenton Federalist that a mortal disease has reigned in Monmouth. Please to inform me in your next whether any of our friends have died there.

James Carnahan (1775-1859) was the President of Princeton University from 1823-1854

Mr. [Henry] Dwight, I suppose, you have heard is settled at Utica. Was ordained February 4th, his salary $700. Mr. John Frost is to be ordained at Whitesborough [Utica, New York] on the third Wednesday [17th March] of this month. The people in those two places as well as the Presbytery greatly deplore the loss of Mr. [James] Carnahan. Perhaps he may do more good should he again preach in some other part of the vineyard. Mr. Carnahan is no ordinary man. We feel his loss.

The state of religion since the commencement of the war — except in a few places — has been at a stand or on the decline. It has been a remarkably cold time with us as to religion for sometime past, but I hope the [    ] is changing. Within two or three weeks past, two or 3 young ladies have become seriously concerned for themselves. I hope the [         ] may spread [      ]. How can it be possible that upstarts are perishing around, [and] that one who is set to watch for them & instruct them can be so stupid as I am. O for zeal proportion to the magnitude of the work.

It is reported here that Gen. [William Henry] Harrison has retaken Detroit and taken Malden. Ogdensburg is taken by the British. It is said about thirty of our men were killed. The British have taken all our public stores at that place and have recrossed the [St. Lawrence] river. Disgrace & Destruction appear to be our lot. The present season will probably present to us the [      ] gloomy prospects. The Lord reigns. Therefore we hope. And has He not a right to use the nations of the Earth readily to chastise one on other for their sins against Him?

Write us by next mail. Give us account of important news if you please. Is Isaac married? How is Mr. Carnahan? R[      ] & family well? &c. Mrs. [       ] gone to Eust[     ]?

Give our love to Isaac, [    ] & Sally, your [       ] and receive the same from, — Eli F. Cooley

Our love to C[    ] & [       ].

¹ William Dowse (1770-1813) died on 18 February 1813 in Cooperstown, Oswego, New York. He was elected as a Federalist to the US House of Representatives and died while in office.

² Lewis Goodsell (1770-1813) started a carpentry business about 1809 in Cooperstown but died in 1813 at the age of 43. He is listed among the Pioneer Cabinetmakers of Cooperstown, 1794-1850.

³ The wife of Peter Goodsell (1771-1851) of Cooperstown was Elizabeth Ruth Morehouse (1776-1813).



Griff View All →

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

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