McConnell Journal & Letters  - One couple's journey from Vermont to California and their legacy

The 1850s journal and letters of Thomas McConnell and Louisa Chaplin McConnell tell the story of a long-distance courtship, engagement, and finally, marriage.  Woven through their words are the hardships of the long journeys to and from California, the sadness of losing family and friends to the diseases that surrounded and threatened them, the perseverance of those that made their way to the Golden State and were prominent in forming its future, and finally, the commitment that these two made to their future and the future of their family.  A third document contains some available images that support and enhance their story. Be sure to read the included short 1905 biography from the California gennet site which talks about Thomas’ influence after the years covered by the journal and letters.

        Journal of Thomas and Louisa McConnell (Original format)

        Letters of Thomas and Louisa McConnell (1854-1856)

        Supporting material for Thomas and Louisa McConnell

M. Babbitt Letters from the West (1858-1865)

In contrast to the McConnell Letters and Diaries, these letters are very conversational and down to earth.  The less than perfect grammar and frequent misspellings of the letter writer do not detract from his stories, but along his candor and humor, does provide an authentic rendering of his life.  They tell the story of a man who left his Vermont (Castleton) family to make his way in the West.  He picks up any work that will yield a few dollars, but is often without any money and frequently sleeps in the open with or without a tent.  Initially, he expresses great anger at the start of the Civil War, but that turns to desperation and concern for the welfare of his family and friends in Vermont, for though he continues to write he has not received any letters from home for 4 years. He spends the first years in California, then goes on to Nevada, Oregon and Idaho.  He wants to come back to Vermont, but as of the last letter in 1865, he never has enough money to do so.

Based on our research at; however, Valoris M. Babbit did return to Rutland, married a Maria and they had their first child in 1868, followed by two in later years.  He died in 1915.

       Babbitt Letters

William Henry Flint Diary

This is a somewhat brief factual account of William Henry Flint who was working in Brandon at the start of the Civil War.  He initially served a 3-month tour then re-enlisted as a bugler for three years.  He spent time in Louisiana, was present at the Siege of Port Hudson and marched in upon surrender.  Interestingly, he tells of the confederate and union soldiers swimming together in the Mississippi River only a couple of days after the surrender.

        Flint Diary

"Dottie" Letters (1920)

1920 Letters from Dottie, an Assistant Librarian at the Rutland Free Library to her friend, Kitty, in Wilmette Illinois.

These present a lighter side of life.  Dottie is in Rutland temporarily until her father’s health has improved.  She talks about her job at the library and activities with her friends when she is not working.  She mentions books of two well-known Rutland women authors (Elizabeth Gilchrest and Edith Dunton) as well as an early library director, Lucy Cheney.

        Letters from Dottie

Letters to Mama from Lulu Alice Perry Fuller (1883-1903)

The letters chronicle the life of Lulu from 1883 through her early years of marriage to Frank B. Fuller and the birth of their four daughters (1896-1900), first living on a farm in East Clarendon, then in a house at 27 Jackson Ave. in Rutland. The letters end in 1903. Sadly, Lulu died in early 1905 of pneumonia, leaving her four young daughters without a mother. Further research shows that Frank then married Alma Hazelton and they had possibly four more children.

The 130 pages of letters go into great detail of day to day life around the turn of the century (19th to 20th).  It was frequently about who was sick, what clothes she was making for her daughters, stores where she would shop because of sales, fires of that period, some politics, and Frank’s work. Frank was a mailman for most of those years with unpredictable hours, but fairly steady pay. Contrary to what our opinion may be about men of that period, Frank was very helpful around the house, often cared for the children, scouted out sales of items they needed, and even wrote letters for Lulu to her mother when she was unable to do so. Lulu had frequent problems with her eyes (granulated eyelids) as well as not always being able to see properly. Finally, she went to a different doctor who determined that the right and left lenses in her glasses had been reversed. When he put them in their proper place, she was instantly able to see better!

        Letters to Mama

Memories of a Great Grandmother by Sylvia Tillotson

This is a 16-page memoir of the first six years of the life of Sylvia Olson Tillotson, living in company housing in Proctor.  It was well written by her at the age of 92, which should not be too surprising since she had an early career in journalism, but it is remarkable that she had such vivid memories of the early part of her life.  The family moved out of Proctor to Massachusetts when her father started his own marble company.  Sylvia Tillotson died in 2013 at the age of 104.

Tillotson Memoir

Five Civil War Letters from Henry F. Perkins to his Father, R. T. Perkins

Contrary to many letters home where the soldier tries to protect his family from knowing the horror and dangers of war, Henry gives a lively account of skirmishes and battles.  He did lose his leg and walked on crutches for the rest of his life, but went on to become a US Pension Attorney in Washington, D.C. and lived to the age of 91.

        Henry Perkins Letters

Diary of Edward D. Bennett 1865

This transcribed document contains twelve months of personal diary entries for the year 1865 of a telegrapher for the American Telegraph Company in Rutland. It was over a 100 years old when found in an old desk at a Vermont auction. Read the FORWARD section for a good description of the man and his diary entries.

        Edward Bennett Diary