A Letter from Ario Pardee to His Two Young Sons at Boarding School, March 1851

A Letter of Guidance

Ario-Pardee-and-son-Calvin-1850When Ario Pardee married his second wife, Anna Maria Robison in 1848, his domestic life became painfully stressful. His two sons from his first wife, Ario Jr. and Calvin, resented their new stepmother and began to misbehave so badly that Ario decided to send them to boarding school. Aged only 9 and 7 years old, they were both unhappy away from home, and Calvin frequently threatened to run away. On one occasion he escaped the school and found his way home, but his father unsympathetically marched him straight back. In the Blithewold Archives are many of the letters exchanged between Ario and his sons over the ensuing years. This letter, written in March 1851, is typical of the guiding messages Ario sent to his children in order to convey his strong standards of discipline and Godliness. His advice was eventually well taken and both boys went on to graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Ario Jr. became a Brigadier General in the Civil War, and Calvin became an extremely successful businessman, father of nine, and the next patriarch of the Pardee family.


“My Dear Boys,

I suppose you begin by this time to count the days pretty anxiously that must pass before school will be out, and you can come home to have a holiday, and we hope that when the holiday comes you can enjoy it as boys only can do who have worked hard to learn while at school. The time you are now spending, and that which you must spend before you grow up to be men, in getting an education, and laying the foundation of the character you must bear through life, is the most important part of your lives. We can not raise with safety a strong and beautiful building on a poor foundation. If you were walking through a wood and should see a crooked bush covered with warts, and knobs, and knots, you would not expect it to grow up a straight and handsome tree, and just so it is with boys and men. It is only those who in youth lay the foundation of their character right, by diligence in their studies, by obedience to their parents and teachers, by strict observance of Truth, and by avoiding all evil companions and evil conduct, that we can expect to grow up into men who will fill with credit to their friends and themselves the placed they be called on to occupy. We feel great anxiety Dear Boys that you should lay your foundation right. You have many things to be thankful for. God has given you health and strength. He has given you minds capable of easily learning and comprehending your studies. He has given you parents who have the means and the wish to enable you to acquire a good education and who earnestly desire that you should do so, and fairly earn and bear the name of good boys. And He has said that where much is given much will be required.”