Maud Maxson Writes Home

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(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Winter 2021-2022

Welcome to our page for young readers. In this issue we’re hearing from people who lived long ago.

In the summer of 1876, Maud Maxson, age 6, began a letter to her mother. She was on a ship near the southern tip of South America. Her parents were far away, at home in Mystic, Connecticut. Maud had been at sea for months. It was probably a year before she returned home.
Maud’s uncle, Charles A. Wheeler of Mystic, was the ship’s captain. The ship carried goods between New York and San Francisco, California. Only the captain was allowed to bring family along. Maud may have been on the voyage as a companion to her Aunt Sarah. Her aunt and uncle did not have children. Maud had two brothers back home: Bertie, age 4, and Jimmy, age 2.  

Words to know:   berth: a bed on a ship   Bonito: a type of fish  commence: to begin
patchwork: pieces of cloth sewn together, often to make a quilt

June 25th. Dear Mama, We are nearly around Cape Horn. I was only sea sick one day and Uncle Charlie laughed at me.

July 2nd. I have had two of my teeth pulled. I have sewed five strips of patchwork.

July 16th. I have commenced to learn the multiplication table. The weather is nice now.

July 30th. We caught three Bonitos to day. I have only one more strip to sew of my patchwork.

July 31st. I have a large tub brought in and filled with water and I have a nice time bathing. I cut my finger and could not finish my [patchwork]block. We caught two fish today.

August 13th. I helped Aunt Sarah clean her room last week and so I did not learn any lesson. Uncle Charlie has had my room painted and it looks nice. Aunt Sarah is going to get carpet for my room and some curtains for the berth.

August 17th … Last night I dreamed that I was home and saw Auntie Davie and Carrie. Uncle Charlie let me have a pot of paint and brush and I painted the hoops to the water cask and I slopped all on the deck.

August 17th [repeated date]… Aunt Sarah had hard work to teach me to use my napkin after she sent me away from the table two or three times and once I had to eat my breakfast alone. Then I remembered better.

August 18th … Uncle Charlie is having the ship painted now. The cook has been painting the galley and Thomas Cat got his coat all blue paint.

August 19th. Aunt Sarah is just finishing me a calico dress. I often think of Bertie and Jimmy. … I would like to see Papa and you and Grandma Ryley, Grandpa Ryley, and Aunt Lizzie.

Aug. 25th. We came to anchor yesterday. We came ashore … and went to the hotel. Aunt Sarah has been out this morning to get me a hat and dress. The cheapest dress she could get was twenty dollars so she did not buy it. Aunt Sarah has got me some peaches and grapes and pears, candy and a book. … I have seen ever so many Chinese men … . Our hats have just come in. I do not like mine very well. … Uncle Charlie is going to answer his letters tomorrow and he will answer Papa’s letter. I will try to write again if I have time before we come home … .

Your loving daughter, Maud

The ship left San Francisco on September 22 for its return to New York. Maud likely spent her 7th birthday, January 29, 1877, at sea.

Thanks to Mystic Seaport Museum and Sally Russell Cox for the additional research about Maud Maxson and this letter. Spelling and punctuation have been standardized.

Explore!

Read Maud Maxson’s full letter at educators.mysticseaport.org/documents/.
Read more stories for kids at ctexplored.org/kids-page/.

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