This letter was written by Rev. Nathaniel Thomas Fay (1813-1908), a native of Camden, Maine. Nathaniel was married to Roxana Dickenson Woodbury (1827-1872) in 1844 in Plain, Wood County, Ohio. Roxana was the daughter of Rev. Benjamin Woodbury (1792-1845) and Mehitable Pettengill (1796-1850) of Plain, Wood County, Ohio.
The letter is primarily a tribute to Rev. Benjamin Woodbury by his son-in-law, Rev. Nathaniel Thomas Fay. Rev. Woodbury came to Plain Township in Northwestern Ohio in 1833 where he bought a farm and “built a log cabin on a sand ridge that interspersed a romantic prairie, which resembled a lake after the rainfall in the early spring time and late in the fall. At that time this was a wild waste — no bridges, no roads, and but few inhabitants, who suffered extremely from fever and ague induced by the miasma which infected the fens and bogs and bayous after the water had dried up.” For a biography of the pioneer missionary, see “The Life of Rev. Benjamin Woodbury.”
Addressed to Rev. Charles Hall, 150 Nassau Street, New York City, New York
Postmarked Maumee City, Ohio
Plain, Wood Co., Ohio
January 2nd 1846
Rev. Mr. Hall
Your very kind and sympathizing letter with the accompanying draft was received last evening. But it did not reach our dear Brother. Rev. Benjamin Woodbury is no more! He died on the 29th of December and was buried on the 1st of January. Our hearts have been deeply wounded. His family to whom he is most tenderly endeared is by this mournful event laid low in the dust. They mourn and shed many bitter tears. But I trust they will submissively meet their loss. God had need of our departed friend and took him away. It is not on his account we mourn. He died in peace, and we feel he has gone to Heaven. A few dark clouds brooded over his mind as consumption preyed upon his vitals and wasted away his strength. He would sometimes break forth in expressions of regret that nothing more had been done for Christ; and it was hard for him to leave his family involved in debt. But these dark clouds were but momentary. Buoyed up with hope he would say, “I am not afraid to leave these little daughters — God will take care of them.” And when he thought he could not speak, he prayed in a clean audible tone for the church. He commended it to the great shepherd; he believed God would not suffer his people o be scattered — they had been the subject of too many prayers — of too much anxious labor. We deeply feel our loss.
We do not claim for our dear brother for higher attainments than those that fall to the lot of the other missionaries. But if faith under the most forbidding appearances, if incessant labor, if deep, tender solicitude — if entire devotion to missionary effort, crowned with the blessing of heaven, be anything, then our lamented friend was highly gifted. He encountered many physical and moral difficulties. The Maumee Valley ten years ago was scarcely marked with roads — scarcely possessed one servant of the Gospel. Let the stranger view it now and although he sees that the missionary work is scarcely begun, yet a moral renovation appears. It there has been a bad road, if there were changes of weather, if there have been sickly swails, swollen rivers and miasmas inducing fevers and agues, which rendered the very name of the Maumee a terror to the early settlers — all these have been cheerfully encountered. And whenever there were immortal beings to be enlightened by the Gospel, thither did his benevolent spirit urge his footsteps. Go to the log cabins scattered through these woods and prairies — along these rivers and swamps, and Mr. Woodbury’s name is familiar. Someone of all of the family have heard him preach, he gave them a tract, or left a bible, and talked about eternal things. Enter the small but growing churches scattered along from the little St. Joseph to Maumee City & Toledo, from Lower Sandusky to Perrysburg & Gilead, inquire into their origin and you hear Mr. Woodbury came along and gave us strength in our weakness or formed our church. There is but little connected with religion in the Maumee Valley which has not received an impress from his benevolent spirit.
And when it was known that disease was hastening him to the grave, all seemed to feel that he had spent his strength for God. We often hear the expression, “He exposed himself too much — nothing would stop him — he labored too hard — he ought not to have preached so long.” But he saw a great work to be done and did not realize how frequently he over-tasked his powers.
But his toils & labors are over. His work is done and he is gone to his reward. Oh! may others come to labor in this destitute field, to feed the sheep & lambs & gather them into the fold of Jesus.
Mrs. Woodbury & family were cheered & affected by your interest in her dear husband & our good father’s behalf. The box of clothing to which you allude will be gratefully received. As to the kind — the family consists of the mother & five daughters — one aged 17, one 15, one 13, one 10, one 8. Those things necessary for such a family would [be] desirable. More regard for comfort — perhaps dresses, shoes &c. Those of a fine, durable texture & perhaps of a dark color in their present bereavement would be preferred.
In behalf of the family, most affectionately yours, — [Rev.] Nathaniel T. Fay