Papers of Sarah (Ogden) Codman (1799-1844)

Collection Type

  • Manuscripts


1770-1841, undated



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The large quantity of correspondence in this series mirrors the age and manner in which upper-class Victorian women lived. Sarah Ogden's letters shed light on her daily activities and those of her contemporaries and include topics such as society gossip, child rearing, and health. While Sarah was single and living in New York, her father wrote home from Washington while he served in Congress. His primary concern was to have Sarah encourage her mother to write to him, as he repeatedly admonished: "I know she dislikes writing, but I do think she might answer some of my letters." The degree to which they concerned themselves with society's conventions is demonstrated in a letter to Sarah from one of her New York cousins. Dated 9 April 1821, the writer states: "We have had but few parties and they have been rather stupid... it is awkward... to see a novice [at society] turn her nose or hang her head when you pay her a compliment as if she thought you wanted her to believe it, or look coy when a pretty thing is said to her, as if she thought you were in earnest." Other Ogden family correspondents include Letitia Hannah Ogden, Catherine Hammond Ogden ("Aunt Kate"), Mary E. Newbold, and Anna Waddington Van Rensselaer. There are numerous letters of congratulations and support on her engagement and the birth of her first child. The only items in this collection which are not correspondence include a genealogy chart and a birth, marriage, and death record of the Ogden family.


Collection Code


Collection Name

Codman family papers

Reference Code


Record Details

Description Level


Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

Sarah Ogden, eldest daughter and second out of eleven children of Judge David A. Ogden and Rebecca Cornell Edwards, was born in New York City on 10 December 1800. Her father became deeply involved with the development of New York State bordering on the St. Lawrence River. Around 1811, he moved his family to the area near Hamilton, later Waddington, and Ogdensburg (which takes its name from him). In 1815, he purchased the 1,000-acre Isle au Rapide du Plat (later renamed Ogden's Island) from Daniel McCormick, the original patentee. Soon afterwards, he constructed a large mansion on it. His brother, Gouveneur Ogden, built another mansion, "Ellerslie," nearby on the banks of the river. Between 1817 and 1821, Judge Ogden served in the United States House of Representatives. Although Sarah lived in the St. Lawrence mansion for most of the year, she visited her New York cousins often enough to become the belle of that city's fashionable society and traveled to Saratoga Springs, Ballston Springs, Rockaway, Westchester, and Boston. Sarah Ogden was considered one of the most marriageable young ladies of the time, though she did not marry until she was thirty-seven. In 1835-1836, she spent the winter with her Boston cousins, Daniel and Caroline Webster. There she met the prominent Boston widower, Charles Russell Codman, whom she married on 19 May 1836. She became mistress of his household at 29 Chestnut Street and mother to his two sons by his previous wife, Anne Macmaster. Sarah gave birth to four more children, Frances Anne, born 14 December 1837; Ogden, born 7 September 1839; Richard, born 21 January 1842; and Alfred, born 13 March 1844 and died 7 April 1844. She died of consumption 22 May 1844 at forty-three years of age. In his Notes and Reminiscences (Massachusetts Historical Society, p. 36) Charles Russell Codman II described his stepmother as "a woman of a great deal of dignity of manner and presence, accompanied by a certain severity - most devotedly attached to her children."



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