1860: Robert Peck to Josephine Porter

How Robert might have looked

This letter was written by 34 year-old Robert Peck (1826-1888), the son of Nathan Peck (1802-1882) and Mary Ann Townsend (1805-1835), of New Haven, Connecticut. Robert’s obituary states that he “was born and resided for most of his life in [New Haven] where he was well and favorably known. He was a son of the late Nathan Peck who died six years ago from the effects of an accident, having been knocked down in the street by a team and seriously injured. Mr. Peck senior was for many hears president of the Merchant’s Bank.

“….[Robert] Peck graduated at Yale in the class with Judge Sanford along in the forties [1847]. He was naturally disqualified for active business, owing to near sightedness and extreme deafness. But for these bodily weaknesses he would probably have been more identified with the business activities of New Haven. His father was a member of the big West Indian firm of peck Brothers whose headquarters were on Long wharf. For many years they carried on an extensive business and owned quite a fleet of square rigged vessels….

“After Robert’s graduation he went out to the West Indies, remaining several years as the representative of the firm. Soon after his return the firm was dissolved. Subsequently Robert Peck did very little business, living a retired and quiet life at the old homestead at 91 George Street. He was a find student of literature and owned a fine library. He traveled extensively and was very fond of new scenes. Mr. Peck was unmarried….”

Robert wrote the letter to Josephine Porter (1836-1896), the 24 year-old daughter of Young Joseph Porter (1796-1840) and Ellen Porter (1815-1889) of Nashville, Tennessee. Young was an attorney from Columbia, Tennessee and was reported to have served as U.S. Consul to the Republic of Texas in Houston. Young died in 1840 and Ellen remarried in 1847, becoming the third wife of General Robert Desha (1791-1849) of Sumner county, Tennessee. Robert had served as both a Captain and Brevet Major in the War of 1812, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee during the years 1827-1831, and was a brother of Joseph Desha, Governor of Kentucky. Ellen and Robert had one daughter, Emma Dellett Desha.


New Haven [Connecticut]
Monday eve, September 24, 1860

Miss Porter,

With many kind regards I take much real pleasure in sending the accompanying box of flowers to my valued friend Miss Porter. I am sorry that the variety is so meagre, the bouquet so unattractive, but owing to one or two frosts, our garden does not present the fine display of floral beauties I was hoping to find in it. I have been compelled to look elsewhere for the roses. I hope, however, that you will have the kindness to “take the will for the deed” & appreciate my attempt accordingly; that is, if the flowers which go by express, do not utterly wilt & lose all their sweetness from the long delay before reaching you. When I go to New York on Thursday morning, I shall endeavor to take with me another assortment of flowers that I may present to you in proper person & that from its greater freshness will prove more acceptable to you.

You of course will not object to my addressing you in this way in the first person. I detest talking in the formal third to a person that I like.

With kind regards for yourself & your mother, I am truly your friend, — Robert Peck


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.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Fun to find! As a distant relative of Josephine’s I know quite a bit about her and she was, indeed, a colorful personality. She ended up marrying Caleb F. Cope, Sr, a very wealthy Philadelphia merchant who was 40 years older than she. They had two sons.


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