“A Rare Chance for the Girls”

I have been doing a great deal of research into the earliest settlers in Wellington of late, which by necessity leads me back to Massachusetts in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I happened to run across the following letter to the editor, which was purportedly first directed to the Newburyport [MA] Herald in 1836. It then “went viral” and was republished in multiple other newspapers, including the Barre [MA] Gazette and the Newark [NJ] Daily Advertiser.

Letter from Luther W. Day of Wellington, Ohio published in the "Barre [MA] Gazette," 2-12-1836, pg. 4.

Letter allegedly from Luther W. Day of Wellington, Ohio published in the “Barre [MA] Gazette,” 2-12-1836, pg. 4.

Was Luther Day a real person? An (admittedly cursory) examination did not turn up any evidence of him in the 1830 or 1840 Wellington censuses. In 1830, Day would supposedly have been just sixteen years old. The census that year listed only the name of the male head of household; no one named Day is included, but it is theoretically possible that the teenager could have been living in another man’s home. By 1840, four years had passed since the letter was published. Day could have relocated, or died. He does not appear in the extant burial records of Wellington’s Pioneer Cemetery, nor those of Greenwood Cemetery.

Assuming for a moment that he was not the creation of an imaginative eastern newspaper editor, I love the idea that Day was living in rural Ohio, reading a Kentucky newspaper, and apparently saw a reprinted article from a Massachusetts periodical that inspired him to begin a quest for a mail-order bride. Also fascinating is his assertion that “there are no girls in this place.” Did Luther have any inkling of how widely published his earnest entreaty became? Did it lead to his finding “a good girl, not over 25 years of age” to marry? It seems unlikely, but I hope for his sake that it did.

UPDATE: I have been unable to locate anyone called Day in the Wellington corporation tax records for the years 1834, 1835 or 1836. I went so far as to spot check the surrounding communities. John Day of Pittsfield paid taxes on three head of cattle in 1836, but apparently owned no land. Someone who seems to be called Lucy Day owned more than 1,800 acres in Penfield. I found no Luther W., from Huntington to Camden to Brighton to Rochester. I think Farmer Day may be an amusing hoax.

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