This unusual letter was written on birch bark by 31 year-old Cynthia A. (Pond) Parker (1834-1878), the wife of Edward Frederick Parker (1825-1886). In 1850, Cynthia was residing with her older sister, Rhoda (Pond) Hertzell, the wife of Levi Hertzell, in St. Croix, Washington County, Minnesota, where she met and married Edward in July 1852 in Minnesota. In 1860 the couple lived in Hastings, Dakota county, Minnesota. By 1865 the couple had relocated to Duluth, taking up residence on Minnesota Point. Edward was an attorney and by 1870 he served as County Attorney.
Cynthia was the daughter of Marvin Bilious Pond (1807-1869) and Temperance Northup (1807-1836) of Mason county, Illinois. Cynthia had a younger brother named Billious Pond (1836-1907) who served as a private in Co. F, 8th Minnesota Infantry during the Civil War.
[Note: The banner image is the lithograph upon which Cynthia marked the location of her home on Minnesota Point (beyond lighthouse at right). Superior, Wisconsin at left.]
August 31st 1865
My Dear Friend,
I hope you will pardon the texture of this missive. The truth is that sometimes we run out of paper and when we go to Superior forget to get it and so have none to write upon.
We are quite well and happy in our new home which is much more convenient than our last, having six good rooms and a nice summer kitchen. It is a good two-story in excellent repair and we have it rent free for keeping so and occupying.
I will send you the design of our place, or at least a glimpse of it at a distance and will put a mark where we live, with is on Minnesota Point, a quarter of a mile from the mainland or Duluth proper, though we have as many houses down here as there. Where we live, the “point” is about 300 yards wide so that the water on either side of us. The scenery is very romantic. We have plenty of shrubbery (wild) and evergreens and sights of berries, and the loveliest lichens and mosses one ever saw. It seems as though Nature is in amends for the coldness of the winter (which some persist in calling delightful) clothes the Earth in loveliness and beauty. South of us lies the bay (Superior), the sandy beach hung with bushes, sloping out so gradually that one need but dip their toes, or walk out a hundred yards to get up to her middle, and very clear. We generally row over to Superior City, seven miles off over the bay, or if the wind is southerly on the Lake, having then to round the end of the Point opposite Superior. It is a splendid sail. How much Nettie or Charlies would enjoy it. There are lovely floating islands in the bay covered with trees and beautiful foliage. Such I fancy as Hinder must have sighed for, “A paradise so pure and lovely.”
I like my house here exceedingly, being so much better than I had reason to expect. We have a good school of some 30 scholars and a pleasant Sabbath School. Also preaching once in two weeks by a Presbyterian. It is true that a man who bows before the same God that I do, what matters his belief? Our Lord will gather us home together in His own good time.
The society here is very good indeed. I have often remarked how unusual it is to meet with so many persons combining so much intelligence and refinement. Their houses are large and handsomely furnished precisely the same as at home so that I wold have missed it indeed if I had sold my furniture and not have brought it with me.
My parlor is 18 feet long and 12 wide with 3 windows and furnished so much handsomer than the one I had last. In one window I have a cone hanging basket like Mrs. F___worth’s with such lovely trailing delicate vines hanging from and festooned about it and on either side are pots of ferns and Lillies and mosses (which have a scarlet bloom here) and between them cool looking shells and agates and other rare specimens of rocks and petrifactions. Outside it looks sweet like a aquarium and right here I must tell you I finished that long drawn out moss basket that I commenced knitting for at home last night. It pays for the labor I put on it.
I have never lived in a house that was so comfortable as this in all in arrangements since I have been married—neither in a place so well suited to my tastes. I like the sweet sylvan retirement of my home and enjoy the pleasant society that I can have in a few moments walk.
So kind friend, rejoice with me that the Lord hath not dealt with me after my deserving, but hath [smudged]. His face upon us. My earnest prayer shall be that we shall yet stand together in the sweet fields of Eden. Now I must close. Accept my love for yourself and family and remember me to all who inquire.
Yours, — Cynthia A Paker
This was written on my knee.