Arts and Leisure

June 12, 1843: Lydia Patterson Meets ‘Very Familiar’ Girls at the High School for Misses

S.E. View of Portland in 1832, Taken from Fort Preble, on Purpooduck Point

S.E. View of Portland in 1832, Taken from Fort Preble, on Purpooduck Point

Lydia Patterson didn’t want to seem too nosy during her first hour at boarding school in Portland, Maine, on June 12, 1843.

She had just arrived at Mrs. L.K. Wells’ High School for Misses from Kennebunk, Maine, when she sat down to write to her younger sister Mary. She was 20 years old, born on April 26, 1823, the daughter of Lydia (Hutchins) and Capt. Actor Patten Patterson, a master mariner. She spent about three months at Mrs. Wells’ school, studying academic subjects and drawing.

Lydia Patterson would marry widower Daniel Walker Lord in 1853. He was a merchant, a shipowner, an elected state official and a trustee at Bowdoin College. They would have two children, Daniel and Mary. Lydia Patterson Lord died June 5, 1885 in Malden, Mass. 

Portland June 12 — 1843

Dear Mary
I arrived here safely this afternoon about one o-clock. I had a very pleasant ride, but like the old woman saw nothing but a few rocks and trees flying past. Tell father I saw no more of the gentleman who was to attend to my trunk and box, but I had no trouble, a man took me directly to Mrs Wells in time for dinner. I paid ninepence. The school-room is in the same building, but Mrs. Wells excused me this afternoon before I thought of making the request. The school hours are from nine to 12 and half-past two, to 5 There are five boarding with Mrs Wells myself excepted, and about 20 scholars in all. There are two beds in the room I am to occupy: a Miss Green from Topsham (who has enquired about the Bourne,s and Perkin,s and says her great Grandmother resided in Kennebunk and was related to them,) occupies one bed from Belfast. with a Miss Whittier. And a Miss Cushman from Augusta (who has been here since last December) and myself the other. I have a very good place and plenty of room for my clothes & trunk. The room is quite large and pleasant, has a — carpet on the floor, 2 wash-stands 2 tables 2 looking-glasses 4 chairs each with 4 legs I expect. I have not yet counted them. I believe we are to take turns in making bed and sweeping the room.

The washing is done out of the house, there are ten pieces allowed weekly. There is a boy in the house who does the errands. The letters are directed to the care of Mrs Wells and sent in a package to the house, I am told. The girls are very familiar but I do not like to make to many enquires the first hour. I shall know more about the school and studies the next time I write

I have the room to myself this afternoon the school is out and one of my roommates has gone out to ride, and another called me to see a steamboat come in, and then took her bonnet and went out. I had forgotten to say my room is in the third story of a large brick building or block of buildings I scarcely know how it looks outside yet. There is a very prettily furnished room on the first floor which I went into first, and suppose it is to be the common parlor as i was there introduced to Mrs and Miss Kellogg and all the young ladies.

I have contrived to fill a letter with almost nothing according to directions. I shall be very glad to receive a letter from you this week and let me know how mothers plaster draws. and all the little news both in doors and out I feel very well contented so far and think when you come I shall feel a great deal better. I think of nothing more to say at present expecting ink is purchased of Mrs. Wells. I borrow this afternoon.

Yours affectionally
Lydia Patterson

With thanks to the Maine Historical Society via Maine Memory.  ‘S.E. View of Portland’  Courtesy Osher Map Library, Smith Center for Cartographic Education.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Donna A. Bailey

    June 12, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Should it be “wrote to her sister Mary back home in Kennebunk”?

  2. Matthew Barnes

    June 12, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I love these little views of lives long past. What a fine, brave face she has put on for her sister in her letter. Very sweet.

  3. New England Historical Society

    June 12, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    ^Donna A. Bailey, Yes, you are correct. Thank you for outpointing. We’ll fix.

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