Mattie Pillsbury

Charleton Seminary

Martha Susan Pillsbury (Mattie) was born in Boscawen on February 15, 1836, the daughter of Deacon Joseph Pillsbury, who had just moved to Mount Pleasant Farm (still standing on Goodhue Road).

Mattie Pillsbury was a student at Castleton, Vermont Seminary on February 15, 1852, her 16th birthday, the day she started her diary. Three years later she was living and teaching in pre-civil war 1855 Virginia, and living with her aunt. She gives insight into the south, and slavery of the time. She married Daniel Dana Webster, son of the doctor in Boscawen, on April 24, 1867; they had one daughter, Alice Emily, and lived in Middlebury, Vermont. This diary ends on December 27, 1859 and is currently being transcribed from tiny cursive penmanship in faded ink, to a digital presence we hope will appear in the next couple of months.

In the meantime, in between pages of her diary are individual aphorisms she had cut from a treatise of the time. We hope you will enjoy these thoughts she collected from nearly 160 years ago:

  • Mend your manners, and that will mend your fortune.
  • Modesty is not only an ornament, but a guard to virtue.
  • Consult not with a fool, for he can neither give nor keep counsel.
  • Comply with no vicious desire, however secret its performance.
  • No one pretends to hate an injury more than he who offers it.
  • Never do that by force which may be done by fair means.
  • Be cautious of believing ill, but more cautious of reporting it.
  • Begin nothing until you have considered how it is to be finished.
  • Be slow in choosing a friend, but slower in changing him.
  • Of all enemies of idleness, want is the most formidable.
  • Opinion is the great pillar that upholds the commonwealth.
  • Passion is a fever that leaves us weaker than it finds us.
  • By reading we enrich the mind, by conversation we polish it.
  • By entertaining good thoughts, you will keep bad ones out.
  • Mean fortunes and proud spirits are like fuel and fire.
  • Moderate your appetite, so that with little you may be content.