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Laurent Agrees with State Funding of Deaf Education

Last year was exciting for our discovery of the Wilton Papers and the new insights into the family and work life of Laurent Clerc.

You may not be aware that there was another exciting discovery happening in Old Deerfield, Massachusetts this last fall. Dr. Rebecca Edwards, historian and Laurent Clerc fan was working on research at the archives in Old Deerfield. While doing research on several Deaf families in Deerfield whose children attended the American School for the Deaf, she came across an unknown letter written by Laurent Clerc to a Mr. Aaron Fuller.

The Memorial Hall Museum is run by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and is located next to the Memorial Libraries.

Mr. Fuller had two Deaf sons that attended the school, Augustus (attended from 1824-1828, leaving for a time in 1827, returning until 1828 and Aaron Jr. (1818-1828, off and on leaving in 1820; returned 1824-28). Augustus would go on to become a well known painter whose paintings are part of the Old Deerfield collection.

Mr. Fuller paid for his sons tuitions at the American School for the Deaf. While a successful farmer in Deerfield, MA, at times found it difficult to cover the costs associated with attending the school after its founding.

Left: Aaron Fuller Sr. (Website: Find A Grave)

Our historian friend, Dr. Edwards is presently working on a book about the Fuller family. The other family with children attending the American School for the Deaf were the Stebbins.

We are looking forward to seeing their histories.

The content of the letter is as follows:

Hartford, February 13th, 1819

Sir -

I owe you an apology for not having written you sooner.  Your affectionate & welcome letter was handed me by  Mr. McCoskey(?) a few days ago, and I was delighted to find(?) you enjoyed good health notwithstanding the sorrow you suffered after the loss of your dear companion. I hope she left you for a better world.

Your little boy is, at this time, infected with something like the chicken pox(?), but is very well & very thankful respecting, with definite pleasure, the prospect of his improvement.  You (?) me, Sir, to impart to you my opinion of the best method that the Legislature of Massachusetts should propose for the benefit of the deaf & dumb.  Ah!

Sir, we have written so often & communicated so many reasons for having but one Institution in New England, that we fear we should become troublesome if we renew our solicitations.  We, therefore, think it best to let your Legislature do what they please; and should some provision be made for the Deaf & Dumb, we respectfully would suggest the expediency of granting at the same time some money to the Connecticut Asylum to enable us to lodge the Deaf & Dumb of your state.  The want of a larger house, large enough for all the deaf & dumb who wish to come, & of funds necessary to provide them with teachers is the only (--?--) finding & difficulty to admit everybody.

I am, with much esteem Sir, your humble servant.

Laurent Clerc

We love to see his beautiful script and to see Laurent advocating for his early efforts to promote the Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb.

-Laurent Clerc Holt-

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