“Mr. Strong from Matthew 7, 21. Mr. Hopkins absent. Monday Mrs. Crouch made us a visit. Tuesday Morning I went to quilt on a quilt for my aunt Porter—we finished the quilt before 11. On Wednesday in the after-noon a Number of us went out to Belchertown a strawberrying. Charles Phelps carried Esq. Porters wife in a chaise Lawyer Porter carried his wife, Pen and Patty, Nabby and Polly and me. Thursday my Mother spent the day at the Docters. Fryday Oliver Warners wife sent up for me to help her quilt returned at Satterday near night.” – Elizabeth Porter Phelps, Diary Entry, June 26 1768
Elizabeth wrote in her diary religiously every Sunday, always making note of the sermons she would hear in church. On this particular week, the beloved Reverend Hopkins was absent. In his wake, Mr. Strong had spoken about Matthew 7:21 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Mrs. Crouch, who paid Elizabeth Porter and her mother Elizabeth Pitkin a visit on that Monday, was the widow of the family’s doctor who cared for the elder Elizabeth who had numerous health complications. Later in the week Elizabeth Pitkin Porter spent the day at her new doctor’s -- it is possible that complications could have arisen in her condition, or that she was fairing poorly. Elizabeth, suffering from severe depression, was prescribed laudanum, a liquid tincture of opium. The side effects of laudanum included “muscular weakness, impaired memory, apathy, and melancholia” (Carlisle 20). Thus, Elizabeth’s mother’s health became a constant obstacle in running the household.
“Aunt Porter,” as Elizabeth calls her, was Susannah Porter, née Edwards, daughter of famed Northampton preacher Jonathan Edwards. His son Jonathan Edwards Jr, was also married to Elizabeth’s friend and cousin Polly, who joined her “a strawberrying” in Belchertown. The close ties with the Edwards family reflects the Porters’ deep Calvinist faith.
Though the strawberry picking adventure seems a success in Elizabeth’s eyes, rides in chaises could result in fatal accidents. Five years later, Polly, who rode with Elizabeth in Lawyer Porter’s chaise, died in a carriage accident. While her horse was drinking from a river, she was pulled into the water and drowned. Elizabeth mourns the loss of her friend in her diary: “Oh Lord God Almighty: Holy and Righteous—thou hast taken away my dear friend, the companion of my Childhood and Youth…may this perfect a good work in me if any is begun and if I am still in the Gall of Bitterness.” (1783)
The Wednesday afternoon outing Elizabeth describes is of particular interest because it is one of the first mentions of Charles Phelps within her diary. Charles Phelps was hired by the Porters as a farm manager, and went on to marry Elizabeth two years later in 1770. The marriage was a love match: Elizabeth, hailing from a “River God” society, was expected to marry into another prominent Connecticut River Valley family, and Charles was the son of a bricklayer who had a tricky reputation in the town of Hadley and had run into issues with Elizabeth’s father. Though the chaise Charles drove in the June 1768 was not his own, he went on to buy himself one in Boston a few years later, becoming the first man in Hadley to own a one-horse carriage. Perhaps this outing to go strawberrying could be the start of their courtship.
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.