The auction house said they would call before 11:00 am. It was 11:01 and I was in a panic, only to have the call come in at 11:02. We were bidding on an amazing collection of letters written by a young woman, Charlotte Cowles, of Farmington, Connecticut. We have plenty of other collections of letters, but these were different.
Charlotte, the daughter of Horace Cowles, grew up in an abolitionist home and her family actively assisted runaway slaves on their way to Canada. She attended abolition meetings; she commented on changing opinions in the community; she reported on anti-slavery meetings; and she read anti-slavery literature including the book Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses by Theodore Dwight Weld.
Her comments in these letters, written to her brother Samuel between 1833 and 1841, include the “new” custom of singing at funerals, local elections, the exhibition of an electrical machine, the explosion of the Steamboat Essex, and the arrival of the new minister, Noah Porter. It is these intelligent observations that make this collection truly valuable for local and social history.
The end of the story? We had the winning bid! My stomach did a final flip-flop and my hands were shaking from the adrenaline, but this wonderful collection is coming back to Connecticut, thanks to the CHS and the help of many friends of the Farmington Historical Society. Thank you!