Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Diaries & Letters of Tri-Counties
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
1837 - 1840 Albert M. Potter  of Elmira NY
Diary of Albert M. Potter
Elmira, Chemung County NY
Year: 1837-1840
Transcribed by Diane Bender
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Aug 2d 1840 Sabbath. This is a cold world indeed. Cold as northern clime to the heart pining for the warming influence of love & sympathy.

No one speaks a cheering word or gives a moments thought for him that is alone & lonely. Oh for the days to return that are forever flown. For one word of comfort from those lips never again to bless me with their sweet smiles, charm me with their affectionate kiss, or give me joy by their loving tenderness, their words of consolation. Long — Long has been their silence yet I can never know this silence broken. Oh tear me from the world let me no more stay where cold hearts abide & where Julia is no more. My heart aches to be gone — to go to some more genial clime.

Aug 3d [1840] Monday. O what a contrast between this evening one year gone by! How rapid & how great the change. How dream–like yet how awfully real seem its events.

I commenced a letter last evening and continued it this PM to Mother Sage. After completing it I thought best not to send it further & folded it & put it among other papers of the kind. In that letter I told my feelings as they are frequently & are each day becoming still more so. I often feel inclined to renounce society entirely & bury myself in the seclusion of my own heart. I feel incapable of adding to the happiness of any one & would add nothing to their cares or anxieties for me. At another time I prize my correspondents & would cherish them as the only remaining ties that bind me to friends far away. Each day makes me more fearful of giving pain to those I would make glad & I am ready to let go my hold, & let everything take its own course. I refer to business affairs. All is full of gloom & despondency & I can see no ray of hope to cheer me on. In fact I am discouraged, dispirited, depressed, and without any object to live or labor I find but little inducement to urge me forward to duty if indeed duty bids me onward. Prospects are lonely enough and I look forward & backward but can see no hope, no encouragement, no object like the one now lost. Gladly would I do my duty wherever it points but I know not where to look now for duty.

Aug 4th [1840] Tuesday. Wrote to Mother Sage this PM but in quite a different tone of feeling & different subject. I could not think it right to send the letter written yesterday & threw it into my trunk.

I think it strange that I hear not a word from any one of the family and half inclined to think some one is sick.

Aug 6th [1840] Thursday. Last evening I was favored with a letter from Lucy & Mother S— after a long silence. This afternoon received a letter from W.S.F. & a very interesting one too, full of good matter & soothing thoughts. His letters become more & more interesting to me & tho’ I am sometimes almost on the point of dropping all correspondents yet I hope he may remain firm to the friendship of long standing & made strong by sympathy & implicit confidence. Years have flown away since we first knew each other & we have passed thro’ a varied scene in a few short years.

Aug 9th [1840] Sabbath. Nothing peculiarly interesting has occurred during the day. Attended Epis ch this morn Pres ch this PM & Eve. Partly wrote a letter to friend Franklin & have felt that Providence is bestowing upon rich & continual blessings. I sometimes feel astonished at my own condition at the present time. It seems almost a direct provision of Providence that I am allowed to remain where I am. That I was permitted to return to my room, the only spot where I could have chosen, and that I still retain its possession. I seem to have a charmed life, for wherever I am & under whatever circumstances there is always something interesting & pleasant. What more interesting or pleasing spot could I have chosen to spend my time than the one where once I was happy with my dear Julia. Oh God teach me wisdom & learn me to be humble & of a grateful heart. Thy mercies are numerous & endureth forever.

Aug 10th [1840] Monday. If gay society & lively — yes rude society can be of any use I have had enough this evening. Happening to fall in company with Miss G— & Miss M. T— I soon found myself where I might naturally have expected rude wild & as unlike what I am usually as well might be. — This excitement and momentary flight of animation may & will last but a moment & then the mind returns to own state. So with myself, for a time I forgot everything — forgot myself — but now I regret & shall that I was so easily carried away. —— Society I need or at least I often think I need it, to keep me from sinking into the state of the misanthrope but I must have other than that of this evening or that very much changed. May Heaven forgive the great & inexcusable sin of levity & oh may I learn to overcome that by which I am so easily led away. Naturally trifling I soon lose my self-control when in company with those like myself.

Aug 12th [1840] Wednesday. This has been a day full of variety & unimportant yet interesting events. This morning attempted to write a letter to ECS & left it for business. Morning passed away & this PM I was severely frightened at a flash of lightning, more so than ever I was before. It came wholly unexpected although I had heard the distant thunder yet little thought it so near as it was. No harm was done however & nature seem revived with the shower, it being about the only regular thunder storm of this year.

By the mails I heard from Ithaca & from ECS but only a word from each. Threw aside my letter to ECS & wrote another in which I barely spoke of my own feelings purposely avoiding myself for her good as all I could say would be useless to her & worse than useless in calling out her sympathy when she has no power to give releif. This evening have had a really very pleasant call from two young men (Sweet & Conkling) & after a time conversation commencing on music ran on thro’ poetry literary works in general & by some means I know not now, fell into a discussion on episcopacy & the Episcopal church in general. I have by it received many very interesting ideas in relation to that subject — falling from that we ran into our several beliefs with regard to departed spirits a theme I could have dwelt on for hours. In fact the conversation was really full of interest wholly devoid of that trifling nonsensical talk so much indulged in by myself in almost all cases.

Aug 14th [1840] Friday. Was fortunate enough to get a letter from Mother Sage this PM & a very good letter it is too. I fear for her health from the low state of feeling manifest in her letter.

It is has been quite lively to day with but little profit. Plenty of company & little business.

Aug 16th [1840] Sabbath. The day has passed away without any peculiarly interesting circumstances. I have felt somewhat elated in hearing from Franklin that he anticipated visiting me. I shall look forward with great pleasure to his arrival.

Yesterday bro’t me two letters making it a favored day. One from Jackson & one from Franklin. Two friends, dear friends & both on their way for the ministry. O how gladly would I help Jackson from the great need, he suffers from want of money. Franklin too if in my power tho’ Jackson is the most needy of the two. If there is anything that attaches me to life, it is the desire to help them who want & are in distress & had I the power my heart would rejoice in making glad the hearts that are weighed down in adversity & distress. But I should not feel that I can do nothing now. I may do much. — I had often with Julia anticipated a life of usefulness & consequently happiness. But Julia is gone & I must follow my way without her aid. May God be my helper & heaven my home.

Aug 17th [1840] Monday. Have written to Franklin this PM and shall expect him here next week providence permitting. I shall anticipate a very interesting and pleasant visit from him & only regret that the time intervening must be so long.

Politics are commanding considerable attention & will probably increase in excitement from the present thro’ the season. The Whigs are full of enthusiasm & have the strongest hopes of success. This answers to keep the mind occupied but after all I feel myself every day more the victim of despondency tho’ I use every means to shake off my low spirits. Business too is in a most deplorable condition & whatever way I turn there I find just cause for depression & loneliness. My heart is full of bitterness & I am unhappy. Could I not look for a better portion in the future my condition would be deplorable indeed. Yet oh how poorly am I prepared for that awful change! May God renew & sanctify & make clean my heart.

Aug 18th [1840] Tuesday. This has been really a summer’s day. The earth is quite dry & rain greatly needed.

An unhappy affair occurred in town to-day that has created considerable excitement. The private marriage & elopement of Miss H. Maxwell & S Haight. Miss M— left secretly her home & was married by a justice of the Peace, at Haights tavern & left immediately for Corning. It seems a just judgment on the family pride of the Maxwells & will doubtless bring to both unhappiness & repentance.

But to return to one year from this date & how differently were my prospects & how little accustomed to affliction & adversity. A year may be a short period when passed smoothly away, but Oh how long & how much does the past contain. What a lesson! "Boast not thyself of to-morrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" is most strictly proved as a healthy admonition to all. To those in prosperity it brings warning full of import.

Aug 20th [1840] Thursday. Here comes one more lesson that Experience teaches in his own peculiar way & severity. Life is made up of trials & lessons & if all have their desired effect happy is the pupil.

Since my return to Elmira I have occasionally called on R M Gregg because I felt the need of some diversion & wanted the society of a kindred spirit & thought myself fortunate in finding it. True I called much oftener than discretion would permit had I known the peculiar character of the place for raising reports at a shadow. I was always cordially & warmly received & felt convinced that my motives were perfectly understood. I felt that I could find that sympathy I so much needed & frequently tresspassed upon known goodness.

Night before last I called & spent an hour in company with others. This evening I went for the purpose of getting her company to the court-house but for good reasons failed & then on speaking about my going to call on a family she said she would go there — in a moment she retracted the promise. Without thought and inadvertently she spoke of remarks that had & would be circulated if she went any where with a young gentleman. I asked if there were any reports about myself & found there had been to my great surprise, not having dreamed that I could have excited remark. I told her it would be the end of my calling and that I thanked her for telling me. I felt hurt deeply hurt — not at her remark but at the thought that I could not enjoy the society of a friend without the public notice.

We walked long & talked the affair all over — she felt as deeply hurt & regretted that she had told me. I found her to be just what I had expected, a sympathetic warm hearted, sincere & plain friend. She had not even thought of my calling for any other reasons than because I wanted society & she endeavored to comfort & divert. We parted, I trust true & lasting friends though we may be denied the privilege of enjoying each others company by a cold-hearted world & cruel as cold. I told her directly & plainly not to consider me in any other light than as a friend & found she had anticipated that much. After many plain & satisfactory explanations we returned home & not knowing how or when we should again meet I left her I fear full of melancholy feeling. I was myself overcome at the sad thought that even if I wished it — society was shut out from my reach. I cannot knowingly cause remarks about any one & feel it duty to deny myself of company rather than make others suffer for my indiscretion. Oh how depressing the thought that no one can extend to me the hand of comfort without the mouth of every gossip must publish to all some groundless tale of love & marriage where alone exist good feeling & congenial spirits. Yet will I renounce all if need be, rather than do wrong to the memory of my dear Julia. I will relinquish society friends, kind hearts & kindred spirits rather than do injury to the love of my heart. Duty leads & where she leads there will I follow. Heaven bless that friend longknown but only now avowed. May she live to make happy the heart of some noble being worthy of her affections.

Aug 22 [1840] Sat. It is generally the case that when I become out of patience waiting the delays of correspondence that they generally bestow their favors liberally. Yesterday I was gratified with a letter from E.C.S. in Conn and was surprised to hear that mine did not reach her as it should. This PM I received a letter from C.B.S. giving me a birds eye view of the family.

Business dull beyond endurance. I am often disposed to relinquish all business here and go any where to obtain a support.

The ways of Providence are often misterious & when everything seems clouded in doubt & uncertainty, better days are at hand. It may be so now but the scene is surely one of no common character. Money seems plenty enough but everything is low and, affords a little or no profit. The lumber trade ruined here by competition of the worst kind & little promise of a change. I sometimes feel disheartened but still cling to the hope of better times.

August 23 [1840] Sunday Yesterday I commenced a controversial work on Episcopacy and I have read it some today. Bishop H. U. Onderdonk Episcopacy tested by scripture with Barnes review &c. The work is deep and probably a fair view of both sides on the subject. I wish to know the right of the case & if I find Episcopacy well founded & cannot be refuted my duty will call me to adopt it as right, until proved wrong. It is a new subject enquiry with me as I had taken it for granted that there had been controversies on both sides & that the non-episcopalians had founded their church on substantial grounds & that for me to investigate the point would be useless. I think however I have been wrong. I mean to look for myself & if it is indeed true as (Mr. Sweet remarked this PM) that most persons & he himself once occupied the same ground, taking it for granted that all was right, were deceived or by investigation would think differently then I shall become a churchman.

I wish to do right, think right & feel right, & anything that will effect any one of those points will by so much assist in the work of purification. — I may almost say I have heard no preaching to-day as I have felt very much oppressed by the excessively warm weather. Have enjoyed much & learned considerable in conversation with Mr Sweet this PM & Eve. Have learned more than I should from a half dozen ordinary sermons. So much for sensible conversation on moral & religious subjects.

Aug 24th [1840] Monday. This has seemed a lonely day for reasons I know not — however much I may try to rise above myself I find the effort is quite useless. The present state of business and everything seems to unite in rendering me low spirited. Had a letter from WSF this PM & shall expect him next week instead of the latter part of this as I had calculated. He writes that Harriet will not allow him to leave this week & I cannot really do otherwise than join her in detaining him for I love to think that others may have a promise of happiness even if I am deprived of the one on whom I had placed my dependence in life. May God bless them.

Aug 25th [1840] Tuesday. This has been a fine summer’s day and its effects on the spirits of almost every one has been perceptible. — I heard this PM that Miss A Castle was expected to be married to-day & may Heaven’s choicest blessings rest on her thro’ life. There are some associations however connected with this individual that has induced me to call her once again to mind. We were once school-companions or to explain. We were both attending the Academy at Homer together & she boarding at Dr Owen’s where AFP first found his wife & being then intimate there I was of course on good terms with the family and in some few cases with others rode out with Miss C— we felt ourselves on sociable & easy ground & enjoyed the winter much. Spring & summer gave me a few opportunities of seeing her & we were good friends in the common acceptation of the word. Some would have it that a love affair had sprung up between us but certainly I know of no such feelings, although I was & doubtless should have become strongly attached to her had not our affairs assumed a positive ground as they did. I went so far at any rate as to ask or attempt to ask for an explanation of feeling not wishing matters to remain as they were for her or my good. She took fright & the concern ended at once. — There was no love in that performance tho’ there may have been esteem & attachment. Thanks be to Heaven the affair was dropped in time & I shall ever feel grateful for it. She is a noble and good girl but was never the one for me.

When I saw Julia then found I the one & not before. She it was that won & holds forever the love of my heart. Yet to hear of Miss Castle’s marriage calls up associations & the bright days of my school attending & in the contrast & retrospect of the past I can learn many profitable lessons.

Aug 26th [1840] Wed. Among the noise excitement & effects of all the oratory of a political meeting, especially when called under charitable circumstances & having a good cause to labor for, there may for the time be some diversion. It acts as an exciting & amusing piece of music — when the music ceases the spirits sink lower than before it commenced —— I have attended a meeting in Pennsylvania to-day the object being to help a miserable man that had the misfortune to loose both his arms in the premature discharge of a cannon at the log cabin raising in this place. He has been assisted beyond my expectations. — Yet all this parade and noise tho’ it take me from myself for a time soon leaves me more lonely than before.

Since I came home I have longed very much for the tender & substantial converse of a loved friend. Some kind heart. I have thought of other days & chide myself for thinking to derive comfort from so poor a source as that taken to-day. Still so long as I pretend to live for others I have a duty I owe to my country & to perform it must pursue the best course that offers.

Aug 28th [1840] Friday. I was unexpectedly gratified this PM in the reception of a letter from E.C.S. not thinking of her answering until she received my last. I am glad to hear that her health is on the gain & that everything seems to conduce to a restoration of strength & a firm constitution.

I wrote to C.B.S. this PM & Eve. For some reason which I know not — it is difficult for me to write letters to any one who cannot enter fully into my feelings & in whom I have perfect confidence. In Caroline I have the most entire confidence but it cannot be expected that she can enter into my state of mind & know how to look upon what I might say under other circumstances. — To Mother I do not wish to express my whole mind as she has enough already to break down the most robust constitution & I would say & do all in my power to soothe & calm her feelings. To Elizabeth I take the liberty of telling all my thoughts as I once did to her dear sister. She can sympathise & feel with me so far as she knows.

Aug 29th [1840] Saturday. This has seemed quite like a business day & in itself puts life into me once again.

Have attended the concert given by the Misses Shaws & certainly it exceeds every I ever heard before. The eldest has the most powerful & melodious voice I ever before heard touch a strain. The youngest the finest actress & a charming singer. On the whole it was a rare performance.

Had a letter from Br AFP this PM lecturing me for not writing him oftener. Did he know my feelings he would not wonder. Yet perhaps I am wrong in giving way to emotions difficult to restrain. Yet again, I cannot write as I once did! I have not that ever growing fund of subject — although I was always repeating — still I had something to say. Nor do I feel the same attachment to my friends, once felt. In the blow that struck away the tie binding me to life, was severed the tie that bound me to friends. I value them & highly but they have no more that peculiar charm, that peculiar interest once theirs. In the loss of my dear Julia I lost my relish for the pleasures of society unless it be of a kindred character. The more I see of life & the world, the more am I convinced that all is vanity & that my society must soon be narrowed down to a precious few & that few of a genial spirit.

Aug 30th [1840] Sunday. O how differently do I pass the sabbaths now, than when Julia was with me to add enjoyment & instruction to its hours. When its portals open I have no companion, no wife to welcome its light & while the time passes on a sense of loneliness & despondency steals over my heart which it is very difficult to overcome.

Aug 31st 1840 Monday. Have heard the Misses Shaw’s again this evening & have been delighted with their performance. — This has been quite a business day & makes me feel more like myself. — This day has given me some serious & melancholy thoughts, even tho’ I have scarcely seen a leisure moment.

The last day of summer — the last day of another season. — The departure of every season brings notice that time is passing, but the passing away of summer — the season most replete with real interest, is especially worthy of note. And then who can tell whether another summer sun shall shine to us again? Dark uncertainty broods over all, & renders the future an impenetrable chaos. Then how different may be my circumstances! how changed! How different now than in 1839 on this last day of Aug! Oh what a change! yet still a greater may take place before Aug 31/41 be where Aug 31/40 is now – clearly gone. May my trust be in God & my duty be performed, whatever may await me in another day.

What a contrast does this day present in connection with that of Aug 31st/39 — a day so full of pleasing anticipations — with scarce a cloud to obscure the sky of promise. Now where am I! Lonely – alone – without the bosom companion that gave me hopes of cheer thro’ many long years — hopes — yes tho’ false yet bright. Health seemed then to give freshness to her form & loveliness to her character — a year is gone & where now is Julia? Oh Grave! Silent — not a word breaks the stillness of this lone evening hour. — Hope no longer cheers nor smiles with the beaming countenance of promise. — Yet God has been merciful & why murmur at what my heart tells me is wisdom’s will. Health & the usual rich blessings of life with many peculiar bounties are mine to enjoy. Gratitude calls for a tribute of thanks while resignation calls for the submission of a willing mind, to the spacious Benefactor & Omniscient Being that doeth all things well.