AMERICA THE GREAT MELTING POT
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Notes on Abigail Lydia Mott Moore
By Chase and Susan Brooke
We we first started researching Abby, we totally fell in love with her. She was intelligent, articulate, witty, loving, involved with her community and the Quaker way of life, and a devoted wife and mother. Her love for her children comes through with every letter we have found.
The newlyweds remained in Rahway till November of 1815 when they moved to New York Lindley took charge of the Boys Department at the Monthly Meeting Friends school there on Pearl Street and they made their home with her parents on Lombardy Street. It was a full house. Her sister Sarah married in Dec of 1815, Abby was married to Lindley and had a son, Edward, and her brother Richard was eleven years old and a pupil in the school. They all lived together until 1816. In that year Sarah and her husband, Silas Cornell went to Flushing. Abby and Lindley rented a house on 61 Crystie Street. Lindley was earning a generous salary of $1,200 a year. (4)
By this time Gilbert had been born and they had two sons. Lindley was saving some of his salary and invested in a small house on Market Street which he rented out, continuing to live on Chrystie. (5) Then prices and salaries began to fall and his salary was reduced first to one thousand dollars and then to eight hundred. Lindley decided to give up the school and move to Flushing, near Abby's sister, Sarah Mott Cornell. Lindley opened a boarding and day school for boys in 1821 in Flushing and they remained there until the spring of 1828. (6) He then moved his school to Westchester, New York, but after a couple of years he was ready to retire from teaching and see if they could have a more tranquil life on a farm. They purchased 170 acres in Rochester, New York and moved there in the summer of 1830 (7)
Nothing was ever more important than family to Abby. Their oldest son, Edward Mott Moore, was away at boarding school. He eventually became a well respected surgeon in Rochester. Abby missed him terribly. She and Lindley were also very proud of him and willing to sacrifice monetary comforts to help him succeed. Abby's letters to Edward are written much like a journal. She would start one day, then maybe add a few paragraphs in another day, and then even other members of the family would add something until her "foolscap" was filled up. And then Abby would write in the margins, or between the lines, or upside down in the heading space. As she herself said on many occasions, she did not know how to stop. (12) After her days chores were done, she wrote letters to her family. These letters are articulate, very descriptive, amusing, and full of love.
In 1830 her mother, Anne Mott, even commented on how descriptive she was in her letter writing, (13) An example is Abby's description of a circus that came to Rochester in 1834. After reading her letter, Edward must have felt that he too had been at the circus. (14) In the nineteenth century many women could not read or write, and yet Abby, educated in the Quaker tradition, wrote very well and using an extensive vocabulary. In speaking of one of Edward's friends, Alexander Metcalf, she said he was, "tinctured with Jacksonism." (15) and when relaying information about the health of Thomas Cornell, she wrote that the doctor, "spoke with disapprobation of Thomas going to Ohio." (16)
Abby almost always put some humor within her letters too. Even when she was writing about all the sickness that came to their family, she somehow managed to find something amusing to add at the end of each letter. In 1842 when she and her daughter-in-law. Anna Maria Comstock, married to Abby's son Gilbert, were both sick with consumption and she was very worried about her daughter Mary who was also sick with consumption, Abby wrote to Mary at boarding school ending with a very funny account of how her son Edward had almost scalded her daughter Ann. (17) Abby also teased and cajoled. When Edward didn't answer her letters quickly enough she would write some pointed commands. Our favorite was to Edward in December of 1838. "I hardly know how long it is since I wrote to thee before, but believe it is quite time to begin another sheet, but why and wherefore do we not hear from thee? Art thou so constantly engaged with thy patients, anxious for their restoration of both mind & body to health? Or dost thou almost forget that there still lives in Rochester a family who feel deeply interested in thy movements? Let the cause of thy silence be what it may, do try to remove it." (18)
In another letter to Edward, she wrote, "by the by I forgot to ask thee when thou was at home whether thy patience held out to read all my letters, as some of thy friends here think thy must be a great exerciser of patience. J Hicks says if every one should send him such letters as T Cornell wrote to his mother he should find himself insulted." (19)
Abby and Lindley seemed to have had a tender and close relationship. In a Quaker marriage ceremony, the couple stood before the meeting and promised to be “loving and faithful.” There was no minister and there was no vow of obedience Lucretia Mott, Abby's famous sister-in-law, wrote, in marriage there is no “assumed authority or admitted inferiority; no promise of obedience.” Their independence is equal, she continued, “their dependence mutual, and their obligations reciprocal.” (20) When Abby wrote these long scrambled letters, Lindley would tease her, as noted above. In 1834 when she was so anxious to hear from Edward, Lindley came into the house one day, holding a letter, asking her, who she would rather have a letter from, of all her friends. She of course replied, "Edward." (15) And when Lindley was going through some financial hard times, Abby was supportive. In 1839 she wrote to Edward, "How dost thou feel about father’s engaging another year in the High School, devoting his whole time and talents for a salary of $600 or at most $700 a year, and what is most trying to me is his being prevented from attending meetings of any description except on first days, of course, he of no use in society matters, and where that is the case we soon loose our interest in these things. This view of the subject is a source of no small anxiety to me; I had much rather see him a plain simple farmer than a gentleman teaching under such circumstances. He has two months more to keep before his year is up, and what he is to do for an assistant during that time he knows not." Later in the letter she is writing about the legal battles. " ---- at present it is a heavy draw upon thy father with all this other difficulties and I assume but from that it will prove a heavy loss to us. With regard to ourselves, I think I should prefer going on the little farm to any other movement which we can make at present, but this does not suit thy father " (21) Abby did not need material things to make her happy.
"Quakers believed that every human being had the ability to know God, a doctrine known as “the inner light.” Rather than relying on the Bible, (George) Fox believed that individuals, through prayer, meditation, and quietness (Quaker meetings were silent until someone was moved to speak), had access to divine revelation." (20) While at the Nine Partners Boarding School, as a member of the committee, Abby wrote, “attend still more to that divine principle in your own hearts —it is by submitting to the teachings of this inward monitor, that we both learn, and are enabled to fulfill, our duty to God and to one another." (20) At the Quaker monthly, quarterly and annual meetings, those attending would discuss subject like temperance, abolition and poverty. Quakers gave back to the community. In Rochester, Abby became heavily involved with the Rochester Orphan's Asylum which was begun in 1837. It began when some people found a small boy of about 3 1/2 , an orphan, wandering the streets of Rochester. (22) Several ladies within the community got together and founded an orphanage where poor children could be cared for. Abby was one of the ladies on the board of managers. Abby and Mrs Reid (their family doctor was Dr. Reid) were the first ladies to take children to the new home. (23) Abby was also involved in the Female Anti-Slavery Society. Both of these organizations were dominated by evangelical Presbyterians and included ladies of many denominations. (24) Abby was an Orthodox Quaker but when it came to community improvement she thought all religious denominations should be involved.
In 1842 Abby wrote to her daughter at boarding school in Westown, " One of the little girls at the Asylum died last week - her mother has laid with the consumption several months, and this child only 5 years old, she has been her constant companion and nurse with the assistance of an older brother 7 years, and the family who lived in the same house with them, the father a miserable creature of course, in jail - the charitable society provided her with necessaries through the winter, and when she became so ill as to require a constant nurse they provided one for her, and sent the children to the Asylum; the little girl which of uncommon beauty seemed rather delicate and grieved much at being separated from her mother, she told some of the girls that if her mother died she did not wish to live, she however went on Day (by day) and was gaining nicely when her mother died. She wept bitterly while there, and as was returning to Asylum was almost comfortless - the next morning she seemed unwell and was taken ---- Two weeks from that time she was buried, Dr Reid said he did not know what ailed her, but thought her constitution had become much injured by being so constantly shut up in her mothers sick room, and that intense grief was the immediate cause of her death - is it any wonder that my feelings should become warmly interested in an institution where on such and similar faiths are transpiring? And if I can in any degree be instrumental in relieving the ways of the fatherless, I am amply paid for all the time and labor it may cost me, neither can I see how, by giving food to the hungry and clothes to the maker, we are impugning in the least iota upon the principles of true Quakerism - and if my Presbyterian neighbors wishes also to dispense her mite to the needy, and by our uniting our efforts and means we can do the greatest amount of good, I think we are bound to do so." (17)
The Rochester Orphan Asylum was seeking homes for these children. Some were bound out but some were adopted into decent homes. Abby made the report on these children for the years 1837-1839. (25) In 1839 they had an exhibition attempting to garner more attention to the orphans with hopes of finding good homes for them. Abby wrote to her daughter, Ann, about this exhibition saying how they could not afford new clothes for all the children but were making do with new aprons. At the same time Abby apparently had only one dress decent enough to wear to the Asylum meetings. In that same letter she was thrilled to report to Ann that her brother, (Richard Mott) had just arrived with a trunk of new clothes from her mother. She now had as second dress! As she was writing this letter, Abby was sick with consumption, yet never made any mention of it in her letter. And, she gave birth to her last child, Alice Marie, in that same week. (26)
When Alice Marie was born in June of 1839 they all thought she was a healthy baby, but she weakened and died six weeks later. At the same time Abby was having chills and fever. She was taken to a doctor in New York and it was assumed she had consumption. (See page for daughter, Alice Marie) However, she would not take to bed and did not want to be an invalid. Her daughter Ann wrote to Edward shortly after the death of Alice Marie, "Last 6th day was monthly meeting here and mother was determined to go and we were determined she should not. Dr. Allman was here a few days before and I told him of it. He said “well Mrs. Moore if I was one of your children or belonged to the family so that I dare, I would stand at the door with either a stick or a pail of water and keep the company away. I told him when to come and he came, he tried to persuade mother to stay at home but it was of no use - go she would, and took her station as clerk, and what had folks to think the acting clerk was sick. So we had 9 to dinner. I believe mother is not materially injured but was very tired, all was said and done that could be except father positively refusing to take her." (27)
Her children Mary and Murray may have been sick with consumption even before 1839. (See their pages.) Alice Marie died in June of 1839. Her daughter-in-law, Anna Maria Comstock, wife of Gilbert, died in May of 1843. Her daughter Mary died in December of 1844. Abby died in September of 1846 and her son Murray died in December of that same year. All died of consumption. Yet Abby never wrote of her own condition and she never lost her positive attitude nor her humor. In 1838 she wrote to Edward mentioning Ann and Murray being unwell. Then she mentioned their friend, J. Bell. "J Bell went with father to S Creek, he thought perhaps the ride would do him good, he has coughed much for some days, yesterday D Rolph examined his chest. I have not heard what he thought of him, his father told me today at meeting that he was “but poorly.” I suppose you Doctor’s know how to gage the amount of diseases by such expressions." (19)
From a letter written by Lucretia Mott, we know that Abby was coughing up blood by 1841. (28) We think she probably knew she had a limited time to live, but her religious beliefs made her strong. And she was living each day to the fullest. In 1842 she wrote to her daughter Mary, "We have recently heard of the death of Phebe Bradbury, but have not heard any particulars - within nine short months a mother and two daughters have been consigned to the silent grave - a loud and exciting call for us who are still left. 'To be also ready.' " (17)
In the meantime she was living life to its fullness, enjoying her children
and grandchildren. In that same letter of 1842 she wrote, "Yesterday
afternoon brother Murray and myself went over to G’s (Gilbert's) in order to
take Walter a riding, as I was going out on several errands. - As we drove up to
the door, the little fellow came around the corner with basket of shavings which
he had been to get for his mother, when he saw the carriage, ( for we were in
Dr. Henrys carriage), he ran as fast as little duck legs would let him, and
putting the basket inside of the gate was up in the carriage in a minute - after
riding awhile we took him home but he objected to getting out wishing to come
home with us - I told him I could not take him this time for his mother would
wish to change his clothes (being 7th day afternoon). He lets up his apron
saying, “why - I don’t think my apron is very dirty, and thee can turn it, and
then it will look very well.” - He however got out - with a promise from Murray
that he would come over for him in a few days." (17)
(1) Adam and Anne Mott, by Thomas Cornell, 1890 pp. 77
(2) Letter from Anne Mott to Abby and Mary at Nine Partners, 28th of 12th Mo., 1806. Excerpt in Adam and Anne Mott by Thomas Cornell, 1890 pp. 69
(3) Letter from Lindley Murray Moore to Abigail Mott, 7th Mo. 31, 1812. Letter on file with Moore-Haines Papers at Swarthmore College
(4) Adam and Anne Mott by Thomas Cornell, 1890. pp 99. Sixty years later Richard reported that Lindley was earning $1,200 a year
(5) Adam and Anne Mott by Thomas Cornell, 1890, pp 112
(6) Adam and Anne Mott by Thomas Cornell, 1890 pp 118-119
A couple of years later prices were falling, and the Monthly Meeting
reduced the salary to one thousand dollars. But prices continued to fall, the
times were hard, and in the summer of 1819 Lindley M Moore had visited Upper
Canada, where some of his own relatives were living, and uneasiness had been
felt among his wife’s relatives, lest he should remove his family to Canada. But
he concluded to remain a little longer in New York, and hired a house in Suffolk
Street for his dwelling, and continued his work in the Monthly Meeting School.
In the Suffolk Street house was born on the 14th of 7th month, 1820, his second
daughter whom, after her Aunt, they called Mary Hicks, but she died before she
was two years old.
7) Adam and Anne Mott, by Thomas Cornell, 1890 Pg 164
(8) Adam and Ann Mott, by Thomas Cornell, pp 165 -167
1830 5th 16th Lucretia Mott to Adam Mott refers to letter from Lindley
(9) www visitrochester http://www.visitrochester.com/includes/media/docs/Rochester_s_Marvel_The_Erie_Canal.pdf
"When the canal officially opened on October 26, 1825, at a cost of just over $7 million, it was acclaimed as the greatest engineering marvel in the world. Stretching 363 miles from the Niagara River on the west to the Hudson River on the east, the canal was 40 feet wide and four feet deep, with 18 aqueducts to carry its waters across rivers and 83 locks to raise and lower boats a total of 568 feet from one end to the other. ----The Erie Canal changed all that cutting travel time in half, reducing shipping costs by 94%, causing the first great westward movement of American settlers, making New York City the busiest port in the United States, and turning Rochester into the country’s first boomtown."
(10) Obituary on Edward Mott Moore, Rochester Herald Tuesday March 4 1902 See copy of Obituary
(11) Adam and Ann Mott, by Thomas Cornell, 1890 pp 165
(11a) Letter from Abigail Mott Moore to her daughter Ann, Rochester 6 Mo. 1st
1839 Letter on file with Edward Mott Moore papers at University of
(12) Letter of Abigail Mott Moore and Lindley Murray Moore, Jr to Edward Mott Moore, Rochester, 5th mo. 13, 1834. Letter on file with Edward Mott Moore papers at University of Rochester.
"When Murray took this piece of paper I did not think of its going any other way but by father, not did I think of writing as much, but when I get to writing my absent children I hardly know when to stop."
(13) Anne Mott to Abby and Sarah in Rochester. New York 9 mo 23,
1830 Letter on file with Moore-Haines Papers at Swarthmore College.
(14) Letter from Abigail to Edward Mott Moore, 5th mo 1st 1834. Letter on file in Edward Mott Moore Papers at the University of Rochester.
(15) Letter of Abigail Mott Moore to Edward Mott Moore, Rochester, 5th Mo, 5th, 1834. Letter on file with the Edward Mott Moore Papers at the University of Rochester
(16) Letter of Abigail Mott Moore to Edward Mott Moore, Rochester, 10th Mo., 21, 1838. Letter on file with the Edward Mott Moore Papers at the University of Rochester.
(17) Letter from Abigail Mott Moore to her daughter Mary Hicks Moore, 5 mo., 11 1842. Letter on file with Moore-Haines Family Papers at Swarthmore College.
"I told brother E today that I intended to tell thee of his attempt to scald sister A-. He said ”so do, and tell her when she comes home she will get served just so”-- well now for the scalding - a few evenings since just after tea brother E sat down by the stove and sister A came and sat in his lap, he began to tickle her to make her get up but she put her arms around his neck and said she would not = so he took her up and said he would put her in that kettle of water, (the kettle was full of water, and I thought had just been filled up, of course did not think of its being hot) she made no resistance and he just set her in the water, just enough to wet her dress, which I told him pleasantly was very wrong for the poor child had no other dress to wear if he spoilt that one - well said he, - if her clothes are not to be wet I can try some other way - so he stood her down on her feet and taken her up put the top and back part of her head in the water, in an instant she and A Maxwell screamed out, - and brother E turned ashy pale, for she thought that the water was hot, and he had scalded the hair from her head flashed into his mind, and as quick as lightening almost he caught hold of her hair and held it off from her head. It did not however prove serious, only smarted a little while not enough to blister. Ann Maxwell said her heart beat quicker for ½ an hour after, for which she thought the doctor must be crazy,- She knew the water was hot."
(18) Abigail Mott Moore to Edward Mott Moore, Rochester 12 mo 12, 1838. Letter on file with the Edward Mott Moore Papers at the University of Rochester.
(19) Abigail Mott Moore to Edward Mott Moore, Rochester 9 mo 5 1838. Letter on file with the Edward Mott Moore Papers at the University of Rochester.
(20) Lucretia Mott’s Heresy by Carol Faulkner, 2011 pp 37 and pp 10 and pg 31
(21) Abigail Mott Moore to Edward Mott Moore, Rochester 2 mo 18, 1839. Letter on file with the Edward Mott Moore Papers at the University of Rochester.
(22) Sierra Zacharias Rochester Orphan Asylum December 9, 2004
"It was a sunny summer day in 1836 when a group of people saw a boy of about
three and a half years old wandering down Main Street and pausing by Reynolds
Arcade. The strangers asked the boy his name, his address, and the whereabouts
of his family, but he said nothing. Worried, they called the Rochester city
police department. When the police officer arrived, the only information he
could get out of this boy with his tattered clothing and “saucy” attitude was
his name, “Bill”. The city was at a loss with what to do with the child. They
had no orphanage or placement system for homeless youth, so the city placed him
in the alms house which had previously housed adults only (Rochester Daily Union
& Advertiser). Realizing the poorness of this solution and knowing that, as the
city grew, this problem would worsen, a group of benevolent women met in the
home of Elizabeth Atkinson on February 28, 1837 and began to plan for the
opening of Rochester’s first orphan asylum (Yunker, 1).
(23) Semi-centennial History of the City of Rochester: By William Farley Peck
The Rochester orphan asylum was organized by the benevolent ladies of Rochester, February 28th, I837, “for the purpose of protecting, relieving and educating orphan and destitute children in the city." A constitution was adopted and the following officers were elected: First directress, Mrs. David Scoville; second, Mrs. Thomas H. Rochester; third, Mrs. J. K. Livingston; fourth, Mrs. Wm. Atkinson; secretary, Mrs. Samuel D. Porter; treasurer, Mrs. Everard Peck; board of managers, Mrs. Lindlay Murray Moore, Mrs. Silas O. Smith, Mrs. Elon Galusha, Mrs. Ira West, Mrs. W. W. Reid, Mrs. E. F. Smith, Mrs. John F. Bush, Mrs. Selah Mathews, Mrs. Wm. Emerson, Mrs. Pharcellus Church, Mrs. Caleb Hammond. These officers were representative ladies from every religious denomination in the city. But two of the number are now living —Mrs. W. W. Reid of Rochester, and Mrs. Pharcellus Church, now of Tarrytown. A committee was appointed to solicit aid, a small house on Adams street was rented, Mrs. Tobey was engaged as matron, and in April the house was opened for the reception of children. The first inmates were nine little ones taken from the alms house by Mrs. WV. W. Reid and Mrs. L. M. Moore, with the stipulation that the same amount should be paid for their support in the asylum that was allowed the keepers of the county poor. During the first year forty-six children were the recipients of this charity.
(24) Quaker Crosscurrents: three Hundred Years of Friends in the New York Yearly by Hugh Barbour
Like female Friends in Michigan, many in western New York also pursued reform
both within the Society of Friends and within society at large during the
mid-1800s. Here temperance and abolition served as the entrees to a more
explicit advocacy of women’s right. The first Quakers in upstate New York
communities joined in the benevolent efforts initiated by non-Quaker Christian
women. After the Separation in 1828, Orthodox women in cities such as Rochester
continued to pursue charitable and reform activities in company with evangelical
Presbyterians and Baptists. Abigail Moore, for instance, was active
during the 1830's in the Rochester Orphan Asylum Association and the Female
Anti-Slavery Society, both of which were dominated by evangelical Presbyterians.
(25) Records from Rochester Orphan Asylum 1837-1839 http://mcnygenealogy.com/vr/orphans.htm
(28) Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott.