Sacrament day. Mr. Hop. preacht [illegible] Nicolas Bartlet a child Baptized Lucy – they taken into the Church. Some sense of my mercies but short of Duty the last I let in a great deal of heaviness but endeavored to submit myself to God and he has heard me now I am come and brought my offer – a first born son. Tis the Lords. After-noon Mr. Hubbard preacht from Hebrews 3 and 13. Tuesday Mr. Eppephoras Pitkin and wife, Mr. Richard Pitkin and wife here with some Hadley friends. Wednesday Mr. Timothy Cole and wife came here – a pleasant Day with our Hartford friends but a parting must come which will never know a change. O may we meet in Glory never to part more. Satt. Daddy came down.
While she did not often divulge her deeper feelings and personal affairs in her writing, Elizabeth increasingly used her diaries during her married life for religious reflection, confession, and prayer. Her reflective response to the Sunday happenings in this fall entry is somewhat enigmatic. What does the “heaviness” of heart she experienced refer to? We may assume she is considering what she sees as the wavering path of her own faith in recent weeks, during which she found some gratitude for God’s power and protection in her life (her “sense of mercies”), but fell short in acknowledgment of these, her Christian “Duty”. Whether brought on as she watched the Bartletts baptize their baby girl, or discouraged by the sometimes burdensome responsibilities she carried as a brand-new mother and mistress of a large working household, Elizabeth’s resultant “heaviness” privately led her to contrition and to a new vow that Sunday. She “endeavored to submit” both herself and her son to the Lord.
Elizabeth’s first child Moses Porter “Charles” Phelps was born just two months prior to this entry. On August 7th, “just six minutes before six in the morning I was delivered safely of a son-- a perfect child, Lord what a mercy, let me never forget…” The next month on September 13th she recorded, “Our son baptized Moses Porter.” Stillbirths and deaths in childbirth were regular occurrences in this time, corroborated by their frequent appearances in her diaries. As Earthbound and Heavenbent author Elizabeth Carlisle writes, Elizabeth Phelps’ “lack of reference to the upcoming event [her first birth] masks the anxiety that must have preceded the onset of labor” (Carlisle 71). With both mother and child in good health, Elizabeth’s gratitude is evident: “Gladness is put into my heart and a song of praise in my mouth; mercy and Loving kindness has been shewn me from the Lord”. Certainly, the event renewed her sense of the Lord’s mercies, and two months later, the Bartlett baptism was a convicting reminder.
Delighted by her new son, the verses preached that week also reminded Elizabeth to commit him to the Lord and to praise the Lord above all else. Reverend Hubbard’s lesson from Hebrews 3 spoke of the biblical Moses, who “verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant” of the heavenly creator, for “inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.” She might have swelled with pride at the thought of her own little Moses, while the scripture pointed her once again to one “more worthy of Glory,” praise, and thanks (KJV v.1-6). This entry marks the first of many mentions of her husband, Charles Phelps Jr., by the name her son would use; on “Satt. Daddy came down [emphasis added].” At a mere 11 weeks, the Phelps’ son was already developing a voice in the household as Elizabeth embraced her early motherhood.
The Bible, King James Version. Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+3&version=KJV.
Carlisle, Elizabeth. Earthbound and Heavenbent: Elizabeth Porter Phelps and Life at Forty Acres. New York: Scribner. 2004.
Diary of Elizabeth Porter Phelps, in Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family Papers [Box 8, folder 1]. On deposit at Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library.
Phelps, Elizabeth Porter. The Diary of Elizabeth (Porter) Phelps, edited by Thomas Eliot Andrews with an introduction by James Lincoln Huntington in The New England Historical Genealogical Register. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, Jan. 1964, p.6, in Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family Papers [Box 9]. On deposit at Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library.