In 1791, Sarah and her husband Samuel returned to Chelsea, Massachusetts, from Grenada after a stay of almost ten years supervising a sugar plantation. While in the West Indies Sarah had borne, in addition to Samuel, Jr., ten more children, two of whom died in infancy. When the family took up residence in Chelsea, Samuel made substantial improvements to the house and property. And Sarah had four more children! During an insurrection on Grenada in 1795, the Cary plantation burned to the ground, a severe loss which caused financial difficulties for the family in the following years.
One feature of the last two decades of Sarah Cary’s life—she died in 1825—was her relationship with Mercy Otis Warren. Warren was several years her senior yet resumed a correspondence with her, after a period of twenty years, when Sarah returned to Massachusetts. (They were connected by family ties—Sarah’s cousin married Mercy Otis Warren’s brother.) She begins her letter of June 24, 1793, with these words. “No my dear Mrs Cary I have not forgotten you. I am not one of those who ever forget their friends.” She continues in a letter of June 8, 1799:
I again resume the pen to speak to my dear friend once more on this side the grave. I have stood on its marge: indeed at my time of life every one stands there, yet how hard to realize this truth.
. . . [F]ew things in this world would give me equal pleasure as an interview with my dear Mrs Cary. If this ever takes place it must be at my own house for I have no Idea that I shall ever again go many miles from home. Come on my dear Sally. Leave the cares of Domestic education for a short time: and spend a few days with perhaps as affectionate a friend as any one you have on this side of eternity out of your own little family circle.
Warren wrote again to Cary from Plymouth on August 18th, 1799. Shaking off her melancholy mood, the result of the death of one of her sons, and ruminations on (to her mind) the sorry state of political affairs, she returns to the main purpose of her letter: to reply to Cary’s inquiry after the state of her health.
Yesterday my dear friend I received yours dated July 13th. This like all I receive from Mrs Cary is replete with that tender interest that marks the mind of true friendship.
I will tell you in a few words some days I feel as if I could ride half way to Chelsey. Others weak and debilitated but not so but that I can think converse with my friends present and long to see the absent. If we meet again in this world I believe it must be in my residence at Plimouth.
I see by the public papers that your house has been struck by a flash of lightening by which a person therin received the summons of Death. Tis to most people would be an alarming shock, but I doubt not your calm mind was as usual unruffled. I have been repeatedly asked if your house was pointed.* I am not able to say. . . .
* Warren is asking whether Cary’s house had a lightning rod.
More about the correspondence between the two women in the next post.