“I suppose your mother has told you of our tip over going to the society.”

Sarah Thomas to Lavinia Goodell, February 9, 1866

Researching mid-nineteenth century history gives one an appreciation for the many modern conveniences we all take for granted. Reliable transportation for one. It is unlikely that Lavinia Goodell’s parents ever owned a horse. They walked to nearby destinations and took the train or a stagecoach when travelling farther afield.

From 1865 until 1870, Lavinia’s parents lived with Mrs. Goodell’s sister’s family in Lebanon, Connecticut. Lavinia’s uncle P.G. (Peleg George) Thomas was a farmer, and he had horses, a carriage, and a sleigh.

P.G. Thomas, Lavinia Goodell’s uncle

One day in early February 1866, Uncle George Thomas set out  in his sleigh with his wife, Mary, daughter Sarah Thomas, and Lavinia’s mother Clarissa, intending to convey the ladies to a sewing society meeting. Unfortunately their plans went awry.

Lavinia’s mother provided this account:

Wednesday I made myself ready to go to the sewing society with sister and Sarah in a sleigh. Mr. Thomas to drive. The seat in front where Sarah and her father sat broke down. Mr. T. went back and got another. By the time we got well seated the horse started up onto the bank and hit a rock. Threw Mr. T. out of the sleigh all but his feet, and I fell onto him, my feet still in the sleigh. Sister and Sarah tumbling over us. They were soon on their feet. Mr. Thomas says, “get Mrs. Goodell up.” He could not stir until I was up. My feet being in the sleigh and my having on so many clothes Sarah and her mother had to pull with all the strength they could muster to get me up. My heart beat, and I trembled, so I told them to go on and I would return home. I have about got over it now. My thumb is lame and somewhat swollen.

Sarah Thomas found a bit more humor in the situation than did Mrs. Goodell:

I suppose your mother has told you of our trip over going to the Society. Just fancy. What a picture we made. Horse standing stick still, looking innocently unconscious of any participation in the affair. Sleigh wrong side up. Your aff cousin rolling carefully over into the middle of the road. Your energetic aunt standing bolt upright. Your uncle flat on his back. Your maternal relative, seemingly lost to all sense of propriety, reclining on his bosom with her feet elevated to a considerable distance higher than her head. It was a ludicrous affair, and we should have been very merry over it if your mother hadn’t been so frightened, besides hurting her thumb some.

Sarah Thomas’s letter to Lavinia Goodell, February 9, 1866

Lavinia’s mother did not mention the accident in subsequent letters, so presumably she suffered more shock and indignity from the incident than physical injury.

Sources consulted: Clarissa Goodell’s letter to Lavinia Goodell (February 9, 1866); Sarah Thomas’s letter to Lavinia Goodell (February 9, 1866); Image of P.G. Thomas from History of New London County, Connecticut (1882) (generously furnished by Rick Kane, President of the Lebanon, Connecticut Historical Society).


Would make a great scene in a movie. I can visualize it now.

mary ann pratt

I love historical info…Anyone’s

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