Monday, August 9, 2010

Amanuensis Monday- A letter to John Owen Dominis, 1849

Amanuensis Monday- A letter to John Owen Dominis, 1849

On Leah Allen’s blog, “The Internet Genealogist”, she has been transcribing Essie Mott’s memoirs of her days in boarding school and the subsequent trip to Honolulu and Mazatlan, Mexico during 1848 and 1849. On my blog on 11 April and 16 April 2010 we collaborated with posts here on my blog “Nutfield Genealogy” and “The Internet Genealogist” when Essie’s journal entries coincided with her stay at Washington Place, the Dominis family home in Honolulu.

Two weeks ago, during my research trip to Honolulu, I found, read and copied many letters found amongst John Owen Dominis’s papers. In this correspondence were several letters that mentioned his relationship with the teenaged Essie Mott. I’ll be transcribing them and posting them here, along with simultaneous blog posts by Leah on her blog with further transcriptions of Essie’s memoirs.

This first letter is transcribed below. It was dated 15 March 1849 to John from Essie’s father, Isaac Thomas Mott. He was writing from Mexico, where he served in a diplomatic role. John was in San Francisco, probably performing business related to his belated father’s pursuits in shipping.

According to Essie’s memoirs, there was a little romance between the two young people. According to this letter, the little romance had progressed to the point where John was writing letters to Essie and her sister, much to Mr. Mott’s chagrin. The letter is politely worded, but in no uncertain terms does he approve! I sent this letter to Leah and her aunt first before publishing this post, and they both thought that the young people involved must have been mortified at such a reprimand. How times have changed! Now with Facebook, email , cell phones and texting, young people can be up to all sorts of mischief behind their parents’ backs!

Certainly, after this letter, the romance ended. Perhaps it was over anyways due to distance, and by 1862 John had married Lili’uokalani. According to Leah's blog post today Essie was later married to Eugene Lies.


Mazatlan, March 15, 1849
Mr. J. O. Dominis
San Francisco

Dear Sir,

Two letters with your name attached have
come under my notice, addressed to one of my
daughters- I return these to you herewith.
I disapprove of familiar correspondence
between young persons of opposite sexes, unless
very nearly related- As you have no claim of this
nature on any member of my family, I must
request, and you will in the future, excuse yourself the
time and trouble of writing to my daughters, as
I shall consider it my duty to return your letters unopened (unread?).
I had formed a rather favorable opinion
of your conduct and character from reports of
others, and was therefore much surprised
and to find your letters filled with improprieties
and with one instance, at least, an impertinence
which no modest young lady could read
without the blush of indignation washing
her cheek, and which her parents must
consider disrespectful to themselves
and an insult to their daughters.

I am
Your most ob. Servant
I. T. Mott

Source: Hawaii State Archives, Queen Liliuokalani Collection, M-93 Box 11, Folder No. 105, Letter from I. T. Mott to John Owen Dominis, 15 March 1849


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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