“Lewis has come, but no horse.”

Maria Frost, July 12, 1854

Life in the mid eighteenth century was often both hard and unpredictable.

In the summer of 1853, fourteen-year-old Lavinia Goodell and her parents had recently moved to Brooklyn. Lavinia’s older sister and brother-in-law, Maria and Lewis Frost, lived in Bristol, New York, a town thirty miles southeast of Rochester. Lewis Frost was a Congregational preacher who, at that time, did not have his own church but rather filled in as needed at churches in the surrounding area.

In June 1853, Maria had written to Lavinia and her parents saying that she felt discouraged and worn out, but begged her family “not be anxious about me as I shall let you know if I am worse so you may consider all right, unless you hear to the contrary.”

The following month Maria reported more bad news: their horse had run away.

She wrote:

Wednesday night after we had retired some one came to tell us that Lewis’ horse was in the road loose. He ran two miles or more after it, unsuccessfully, his sprained ankle being very lame, the night dark, he gave up the search until next morning at four, was again unsuccessful. We then concluded as his engagement at LeRoy [a distance of 30 miles from Bristol] must be met Sunday, he had better start Friday in his carriage with a hired horse to look for the missing one, and fulfill his appointment at the same time hoping the horse had gone to Riga…. [T]he truant was not our faithful “Doll,” but a colt of Lewis’s father’s, which he brought home for a temporary exchange.

Maria continued the letter the next morning, reporting, “Lewis has come, but no horse. We have advertisements printed and pasted up…. Lewis thinks he shall ride away again tomorrow somewhere to look for the horse.”

We have no letters indicating whether the errant horse ever returned, but runaway horses were apparently a common occurrence since Brooklyn newspapers frequently contained advertisements offering rewards for the missing animals’ return.

January 22, 1853 Brooklyn Eagle

In March of 1854, the Frosts moved to LeRoy, and Maria reported that the horse they had at the time had to be sold to pay for their LeRoy home. “Our horse has lately been sold for a hundred dollars & by present management I think we shall be able to make the payments on our house.” Maria and Lewis moved frequently and Maria saw her sister and parents very infrequently through the 1850s and 1860s. Her letters often expressed loneliness, but she said, “It is I suppose a part of the discipline of life and as such must be met.”

Sources consulted: Maria Frost’s letters to Lavinia Goodell (June 13, 1853; July 11 & 12, 1853; March 9, 1854); Brooklyn Eagle (January 22, 1853).

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