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Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)

Irrmann, Robert H.
A Harvard graduate goes west: Robert Adams Coker and the Highland School in the 1830's,   pp. 91-107 ff. PDF (6.5 MB)

Page 94

 94 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 44 
forms but a part of our labours; & we wish to secure your aid in the
performance of other duties, in which, as a resident of our family, you can
participate, with, probably, little inconveniexice to yourself, and much
advantage to us... 
 In the latter part of June, Robert Coker was getting ready to go westward
to the Hudson, to take up his duties at the Highland School. In Boston to
shop, he bought Grind's Problems and the Economical Atlass. For the journey
he also bought a black leather-covered trunk with a "plait (sic) on containing
my name &c for $5.50."12 He was being prepared in another way, should
he care to heed the advice, through a letter from his good friend Austin,
possibly mirroring advice which Austin found useful in his post that past
year in Brookline: 
"We were talking about things to be observed on first appearance in N.Y.
But we did not conclude upon anything in particular. I found, however, at
Brookline the following very serviceable viz. Eyes open, ears open, mouth
shut the first two or three weeks and wonder at nothing the first two or
three months. This for the meridian of Brookline—may suit other parts
of N. England. Don't know about N.Y. And so I am, hoping you success ."~
 The adventure was about to begin! On or about the Fourth of July, Robert
Coker took the Haverhill stage and started for Philipstown, New York. Intending
originally to go by way of New York, news of the great cholera epidemic there
altered his plans, and sent him via Albany.14 It was undoubtedly for the
best, for Coker must have lacked the élan that seems to have characterized
his classmate Simmons's attitude toward that scourge of New York city, at
least as Simmons described his reaction in 1833: 
"The Cholera entered New York early in July 1832. For several weeks it probably
took off two hundred daily. Every death, that came to my knowledge, was clearly
attributable to one or more of three occasions—pre-disposition, from
ill health or fright,—intemperate exposure of some kind,—or delay
in ye (sic) application of remedies. A hundred thousand people ran away in
a weeke (sic) ; and ye half emptied streets, & shut or silent shops,
presented a mere skeleton on ye late flushed & heaving metropolis. Under
this reign of terror, I lived quite recklessly ' about town',—~, following
 ' 1John Lee Watson to Robert Adams Coker, Highland School, Philipstown (New
York), May 30, 1832. Mss. letter in the possession of the author. 
 12 Diary, II, 101. entry for the week of June 24, 1832. 
 ' 2William Austin Jr. to Robert A. Coker, Brookline, Mass., June 29, 1832.
Mss. letter in the possession of the author. 
 14 Diary, II, 102, entry for the week of July 8, 1832. 

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