Canandaigua, New York: 1849. Unbound. This four-page folded letter measures 15” x 9.5” and has a red Canandaigua postmark dated January 10. It is franked with a nicely centered, very fine black 10-cent Washington stamp (Scott #2) tied with a red grid cancel. Complete but fragile as some folds have developed splits. There is an old tape stain and remnants of stamp hinges on the reverse. In January, Abigail Wells departed Deerfield, New Hampshire accompanied by her older brother, David, on her way to attend the Ontario Female Seminary in Canandaigua, New York. After no more six hours on the road, a massive storm struck the area, snowing them in for six days. On the seventh, their stage reached Albany, where David returned home and Abby continued on one of the country’s earliest railroads to Canandaigua. “I left Milford in the stage 10 o’clock Friday morning and arrived at Brattleborough at half past ten in the evening . . . and before we arrived the snow had fallen to a considerable depth. . . . the driver stopped and told the gentlemen that the horses were in the snow and they must get out and assist him. . . . Brother D. took the [reins] while the driver and another man trod a path for them. We rode a half a mile and came to a public house, and stopped [as] the storm continued with unabated violence. Monday and Tuesday the roads were so blocked up with snow as to be rendered impassable. Wednesday we . . . rode about 15 miles. Thursday we started early and arrived at Albany at eight. . . . The next morning I started alone . . . from Albany to Schenectady . . . in cars without any fire. . . . At Syracuse we changed cars again. . . . We stopped in Geneva to breakfast. I felt so tired that I thought I would not eat anything. . . . I arrived at Canandaigua at 9 o’clock Saturday just 24 hours [after departing] Albany. . . . I should not be afraid to return alone if necessary. I did not suffer scarcely any with the cold excepting my feet. . . . I have great cause for gratitude to my Heavenly Father for his protection during my long and in some respects dangerous journey.”. Very good. Item #008906
The Ontario Female Seminary, one of the country's first women’s schools, enrolled about 100 boarders. Its course of instruction included basic subjects as well as advanced instruction in grammar, botany, chemistry, algebra, and astronomy. In a postscript to her letter, Abby noted that “The studies I shall attend to this term are Geometry, Algebra, Paley’s Theology and Grammar.” Upon graduation, Abby returned to Deerfield and taught school until she retired around the age of sixty. She never married but remained single and lived in her family’s home along with several siblings until she died at the age of 68 in 1887. This is a superb example of one of the first and most important U. S. stamps on cover made all the more desirable by an independent woman’s narrative recounting her harrowing 8-day journey by stage and early train in the middle of a tremendous winter storm in order to attend advanced schooling.