1850: Unidentified “Gertrude” to Solomon Shoman

This 1850 letter was written by an unidentified young woman known only as “Gertrude” while residing with her sister Mary in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She wrote the letter to a gentleman friend named Solomon Shoman. Solomon was the son of Daniel Shuman (1797-1865) and Catharine Kellar of Blain, Perry county, Pennsylvania. [Note: the name may have actually been Shuman as it was among other papers originating with that family.]


Addressed to Mr. Solomon Shoman, Tamagua, Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania
Postmarked Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]
January 17, 1850

My dear friend,

Truly after a long silence I again resume my pen to try and find if my friend is yet living. Perhaps you are and enjoying life in all its varied forms as I sincerely trust you are.

Very often in my imagination I can not help picturing. I see a young gentleman prepossessing in appearance. Yes, possessing all the qualities requisite in a fascinating gentleman, but he is not alone. Near — very near — is another being, not a gentleman by any means. No! it is a lady [or] what the world might call an angelic being. Each is using every art to please the other and are they stirring in vain? No, each appearedly are happy. They appear perfectly devoted in each others society, so much so, indeed, that they heed not the world or all around them.

Happiness appears to exist only in each other’s society. Flowers bloom at their feet, birds carol to add to their harmony, all smile who meet them. But who is this happy couple? Ah, I look. I look again. I think I know them. I think in looking through the dim vista of months — oh they seem like years. I recognize one I used [to] be familiar with. The lady is no doubt one of his selection and almost perfection, but the gentleman — who is he? Well, fearing I might be mistaken, I will drop the subject of imagination, Perhaps there is more reality than fiction in these imaginations, but if you are happy in the society of another, may she also be happy. Yea, happy as others have been in your society.

But kind friend, believe me, no selfish motive has prompted me to express my feelings so, No, time brings many changes and perhaps time has brought a change in you. But may every change bring joy to thee. If I am wrong, forgive me. But I have not yet made an apology for delaying in answering your letter as I could not retire to some secluded spot where I could gather my scattered thoughts together. In all this lapse of time, do not think you were forgotten dear friend. You see by this I still think of you when all alone. Have you ever thought how sweet it is to be alone when your heart is sad. And the laugh of the gay and thoughtless around seemed to be a mere mockery to you?

Do you not love to wander to some quiet, retired spot where no rude steps can come and as you look back through long glass to the past and dream of a happy future. Have you not felt in an hour like this how sweet it is to be alone? All alone! oh, how still! The busy day is hushed in sleep and the bright shades are gathering round me while the quiet stars look on me from their far off homes. Alone in this sacred hour, with nothing to disturb the thoughts that are filling my mind with sweet memories of thee — but I fear I am digressing. I have already occupied too much time and space. I must be brief. But ‘ere I close, I suppose you would like to know where I have been all tis time. I, at present, reside in Harrisburg with sister Mary. She has been at the millinering for some time. I have been here since vacation. It really seems I have not been here any time but on looking around winter is here without me being conscious of it. “Time is fleeting, pinions roll” expresses my sentiments.

But really, Harrisburg and its inmates are pleasant & agreeable yet I do not appreciate them as I should. This incessant continuation of balls, parties, walking, visiting, and gossiping, I am truly wearied of, but I am sadly forgetting myself. I must close sincerely hoping to hear from you very soon. Answer this immediately and I will respond.

Your true unchanged [and] unchanging — Gertrude

Direct care of Dr. Curvin, Harrisburg, Pa.




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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