About Margaret Fitch
In 1737, Henry Gibbs met and began to court Margaret Fitch, daughter of Rev. Jabez Fitch of Portsmouth, a niece of his brother-in-law. The couple wed on January 31, 1739, but the marriage was not to last. Margaret died suddenly only three years later, leaving two daughters, one of whom shortly followed her mother in death.
- Among the more important materials in the Gibbs papers are Henry Gibbs' (1709-1759) copies of 21 of his 27 courtship letters to his first wife, Margaret Fitch, written between December 27th, 1737 and December 19th, 1738 (the first of the letters preserved is numbered "6", and they continue in unbroken succession until one month before the couple was married). These letters provide an intimate view of the initiation and pursuit of a relationship between members of two of Salem's elite families. From the beginning, the letters are familiar, affectionate, even flirtatious, becoming ever more so over the course of the year. "I ought to look upon myself as somewhat unreasonable in my desires," he wrote in letter no. 8 (the third preserved), "when ye more I am with you, ye more Covetous I am of being so, & yt it is with regrett yt I am even now at a distance from you: however, I can't but regard it as a sure presage yt (if ever it be my happy Lott to live with you) your Company will alwaies be a Source of ye most pleasing entertainment & Delight to me." Elsewhere (letter 10), he wrote "When I mention ye friendship I have for you, I am far from confining it to a cold, Stoical Approbation of ye good qualities I think you possessed of, but include in it all yt is meant by Love considered as an Affection of ye Soul. Tis this tender passion joined with that regard & esteem which reason and judgement approve of, yt is ye only foundation of ye pleasure yt is ever found in Friendship." In this correspondence, Henry eloquently describes weddings, a Quaker meeting he attended, the love lives of acquaintances, local gossip, and above all, often at considerable length, his ideas of love. At several crucial junctures in letter 16, Henry resorted to the use of a code to disguise passages dealing with an apparently embarrassing encounter with a newly married friend. The letters are a rich source for the study of views of love and marriage among the upper classes in colonial Massachusetts. (1)