The following are letters written by Ellen D. Witherbee Atwell in 1899 and 1900 to her nephew Tyler Reed Woodbridge of Victor, Colo. She was age 64 at that time. She tells of her family life, traditions, and some facts of history relating to the Witherbee family, handed down by her parents and grandparents, written at Port Henry. The nephew typed these up in 1900 and inserted some comments.
These letters were sent to me from Bill Knowlton of Liverpool in 2002. Ellen Atwell was his great aunt.
"Father and Mother were not members of any Church but were reared in Puritan days and were somewhat strict in many ways. I remember one thing - Father would not let us play on the accordion on Sundays. It has just occurred to me, however, that he thought he was entitled to a rest from that one day in seven, as there were four of us learning to play on it without a teacher. It may not have been piety after all. People were more strict in the observance of Sunday in play as well as work.
Churches were called Meeting Houses and were used for other than Church purposes. The reason for this was that there were no other large buildings for public meetings. Protocol and lectures were held in them. Dancing parties, card parties and theaters were not allowed in church, members kissing games were proper.
The great event was the annual Donation party, each minister having one in the winter. The ministers were not well paid and the Donation party was to eke out their salaries. Each one was expected to carry something - wood, butter and provisions of all kinds, vegetables, clothing and sometimes a little money was given. They also carried food for the entertainment of the evening and what was left was given to the ministers' families. Doughnuts was one of the staples and they often furnished the minister's table for weeks. After a time they rebelled and donations were abandoned.