Herbert Moxley Pease correspondence
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Herbert Moxley Pease, a native of Jackson, Pennsylvania, was born to George Hannibal and Ester (Powers) Pease in 1868. He became a Baptist minister serving several congregations including churches in Gibson, Jackson, and Eaton. His longest tenure, however, was spent at the First Baptist Church in Sayre, Pennsylvania.
Pease was educated at the Keystone Academy and then Bucknell University, where he graduated in 1895 with a degree in ministry. In that same year, he was ordained to preach at the Eaton Church and married Ida Blanch Shelly. They had several children: George (b. 1896), Lloyd H. (b. 1898), Edward I. (b. 1903), Catherine (b. 1906), and Wilbur F. (b. 1909). Ida died of pneumonia in 1914. Her death brought Herbert and Ida’s friend, Nell Elizabeth Perkins, closer through their mutual morning and consoling.
Herbert’s and Nell’s relationship developed through a series of letters, across five years or more. As evidenced in the letters, Herbert initially ministered to her as he was her pastor. At the time of Ida’s death, Nell (originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania) was in her second year of training to become a nurse, living in New York City. Slowly, Pease revealed his loneliness to Nell which, overtime, softened her to the idea of marrying him. On April 17, 1915, Pease wrote, “[I’m] so lonely, when I have time to stop and think.” Then, requesting to see her during her summer break, if time permitted, he instructed, “So you have a duty to your lonely pastor, to keep him posted on these lines.” And, to convince her of what could become of their union, he wrote in November 1915, “And I do believe that, if you can love me, you will be as happy as my wife, [even] happier than you have been before.” Further, he praised her growing fondness of him saying, “I am so glad you do not resent having a ‘pastor lover,’ and that your thoughts travel this way . . .” and finally he suggests, “And some way I feel that you are coming to love me just a little.” They were married in 1919. Although in her forties, Nell delivered two children: Helen Elizabeth in 1919, and Mary P. in 1924.
Herbert and Nell eventually moved to Madison, New York. Herbert died in New Milford, Pennsylvania on March 3, 1940, and Nell died at the age of 96 on June 11, 1972 in Keeseville, New York.
This collection primarily consists of correspondence between Herbert Moxley Pease and his wife Nell Elizabeth Pease. The letters document the quotidian aspects of a couple living apart from one another and trying to establish and maintain a love affair. Generally, the letters concern religion and religious events, the effect of distance on their emotional lives, the hardships of their occupations, and family-related issues. Most evident though is Herbert’s desperate insistence and, perhaps, demand that Nell become his wife. That insistence led Nell to some confusion about how and what she felt for Herbert, for he had to explain to her what he thought a marriage should be composed of at an emotional level. In a letter sent to Nell, dated November 16, 1915, Herbert pleads, “No, as much as I long for you, I would not dare have you become my wife unless you love me. While you might be faithful to the tasks, I know there would be only because of love. Marriage for money, or convenience, or to satisfy passion, to my mind is not much different from prostitution.” Or it could be his lack of self-confidence in his appearance: “And now, how I wish I were handsome, and talented, and fascinating, etc, instead of a plain old preacher!” Yet there are moments of sincerity where he displays a kind of sensual luring which doesn’t appear to be overly imposing. For instance, in the letter dated November 28, 1915 he wrote: “And yet, would it not be beautiful to have our first kiss, the seal of our souls union, the pledge of pure, mutual love?”
Other letters in the collection are written from relatives to either Herbert or Nell. Herbert’s mother and friend Betty wrote about the status of the children while on a visit to New York. Nell’s brothers, Will and Nelse, wrote about their troubles with health, money, and experience living in Chicago. Overall, the letters provide a good sense of their emotional character and the kind of lives they lived together and apart.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly
- Finding Aid Date
- March 2012
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.