Letter from an American passenger describing the arrival of immigration ship and informing a prominent, but despicable, Connecticut minister that his long-suffering wife (who would soon initiate one of the most notorious divorce cases of the 18th century) would shortly be returning from Europe. Sarah Gibbs to the Reverend Dr. Samuel F. Jarvis.
Letter from an American passenger describing the arrival of immigration ship and informing a prominent, but despicable, Connecticut minister that his long-suffering wife (who would soon initiate one of the most notorious divorce cases of the 18th century) would shortly be returning from Europe

Letter from an American passenger describing the arrival of immigration ship and informing a prominent, but despicable, Connecticut minister that his long-suffering wife (who would soon initiate one of the most notorious divorce cases of the 18th century) would shortly be returning from Europe

Ship Burgundy to Middletown, Connecticut: August 14, 1837. Envelope or Cover.

This two-page folded letter measures 16” x 10” unfolded. It bears a circular red New York “Ship” postmark dated August 16 and is in nice shape. Very good. Item #009320

The ship Burgundy regularly brought immigrants from Europe to the United States. On this voyage, which began at Le Havre in April, it transported 41 U.S. citizens and 79 immigrant farmers from Prussia and Bavaria to New York (see the Immigrant Ship Transcribers Guild On-Line) where Ms. Gibbs reports in her letter to Dr. Jarvis that it was quarantined for three days “tho’ there has been no sickness on board except measles – they are obliged to cleance the ship at Staten Island and then land strange passengers and our baggage cannot be taken out until the ship comes up, unless we consent to it being examined by an inferior officer.”

Ms. Gibbs also informs the Reverend Jarvis that “I saw Mrs J and daughter a few days before I left Paris, they were all well, very much occupied in preparation for their return to America, It was their intention to sail the 8th of this month.”

No doubt, Ms. Gibbs would have no idea that this information would be something that Jarvis simply did not want to hear as Sarah was returning to the United States to begin divorce proceedings. In 1810, Samuel Jarvis, then a young minister recently graduated from Yale, married Sarah McCurdy Hart, one of the “seven graces,” the most beautiful women in New England at the time. Although Jarvis became quite wealthy as one of the most prominent pastors in New England, and the couple had five children together, their marriage was miserable from the start. It eventually ended in one of the most notorious divorces of 18th century America and was chronicled in newspapers and pamphlets of the day.

Samuel was a serious, humorless, and stubborn man, while Sarah was high strung, tempestuous, and easily angered. Soon after the wedding they began to annoy, anger, and infuriate each other. Samuel was also physically abusive, not only to Sarah but to at least one of his daughters. During the divorce proceedings, which were initiated soon after Sarah returned from her mutually agreed upon exile in Europe, it came to light that Jarvis had repeatedly punched her in the head, seized and wrung her nose, dragged her across floors, held her captive in a small apartment, forced her to remain silent at all times, limited her food, and attempted to commit her to an insane asylum.

A remarkable and scarce first-hand account of the arrival of an immigrant ship in New York made even more compelling by its connection to the infamous Jarvis-Hart divorce.

As of 2019, no similar accounts of an immigrant ship’s arrival in New York are for sale in the trade. There are no records at the Rare Book Hub or OCLC of similar accounts being held by institutions or sold at auction. Collections of Jarvis papers are held by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut and the New York Public Library.

Price: $250.00