Watch Your Assumptions - They're All Related
The letter by O. W. Mead described in the previous blog post yielded a surprising number of lessons for a note obviously written in some haste. It was addressed to Andrew Patch of Canaan, NH. The salutation, as shown above was:
O.W. Mead briefly mentioned his recent local travels and the weather and instructed Mr. Patch to pay "Foss" and to hire him for future work. (Money was evidently enclosed.) Then the letter related the sensational local news item of the day involving the discovery of “F. Taylor.” It read, to someone used to today’s ways of conversing, like a letter between business associates, telling a story of local, but not personal, interest.
That was the wrong assumption.
As described in the previous blog post, research showed that “F. Taylor” was Franklin Taylor (1808-1849), son of Oliver Jr. and Elizabeth Fairbank Stone. The Taylor family of Stow and Boxborough was quite large. One of them was O. W. Mead’s mother Lucy - It turns out that she was actually the sister of “F. Taylor.”
Further research showed that “Mr. Patch” of Canaan, New Hampshire was married to Marie Mead, daughter of Nathaniel and Lucy (Taylor) Mead. Marie was O. W.’s sister. O.W. Mead was reporting to his brother-in-law the discovery of his uncle’s remains.
The moral of the story is that it is important to approach documents written in a different era with an open mind and an understanding of how people addressed each other. Reading the letter with a twenty-first century mentality led to completely inaccurate conclusions!
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