The house on the right with a white fence is C.C.P. Eldred’s house. The bridge crossed over Halfway Brook, the brook which impressed Laurilla Smith. The Austin home (not shown) is less than a half mile east (right). On the left is the Congregational Church where Rev. Kyte preached. It did not have a steeple when Abby and Laurilla visited. In the middle is the Methodist Church which was not built until 1859, and did not have a steeple until 1900.
Abby’s Eight Letters, 1854–1869
After Abby and Laurilla Smith returned home to Glastenbury (now Glastonbury), Connecticut, Abby, (though she did not like to write letters) became the sister chosen to reply to Mary Ann.
Abby’s straight forward, pleasant correspondence is a window into life at their Kimberly Mansion and the care the sisters had for each other. Abby’s letters updated Mary Ann on the Hickoks living in Greenville and Pennsylvania, often asked about Justus Hickok, who lived in Barryville with his family, and mentioned C.C.P. Eldred, the postmaster.
We learn that Abby was very impressed with James Eldred. She found Hannah Hickok Eldred “perhaps most interesting.” Laurilla was “the most interested” in Mary Ann who seemed like their mother (Hannah Smith) with three young daughters so close in age.
Always interested in Mary Ann’s family, Abby encouraged Mary Ann to write often and hoped she would visit them in Glastenbury.
In Abby’s gracious letters, she expressed her strong opinions on health, politics, children, parents, and her belief that the Bible offers comfort and teaches of a better life.
Years with No Letters
During the years of no letters (1857–1865), there were births and deaths in Halfway Brook and Glastenbury, as well as the Civil war.
Laurilla Smith died in 1857, the same year that James Eldred died. A second sister Cyrinthia Smith died in 1864.
Four children were born to Henry and Mary Ann Eldred Austin during those years. Two were twins, one was my grandfather Mort, the other died at four months old.
Abby’s Letters 1866–1869
During the last three years of the 1860s Abby wrote Mary Ann six letters. Two of those were to Emma Austin who had asked about teaching opportunities.
Two letters had to do with directions to their Glastenbury home. Henry and Mary Ann had planned to visit the Smiths, but had to turn back because Mary Ann was not feeling well.
In Abby’s last letter (to Emma) Abby mentioned her appreciation of James Eldred, and that she was sorry to hear of the death of Hannah Hickok Eldred, Emma’s grandmother. “We had much to say respecting her and her father’s (Asa Hickok) family.”
During those years, Henry and Mary Ann welcomed two more sons to their family, giving them an active family of nine children.—Abby, Laurilla, and Mary Ann, Abby’s letters, pp. 175–199.