When Charity Bryant died in 1851, Sylvia Drake moved in with her brother, Asaph, in his big brick house next to what is now the Morgan Horse Farm. When she died, in 1868, they opened Charity’s grave in the cemetery at Weybridge Hill and the two were reunited for eternity.
Weybridge is a small, rural town in Vermont, population 833 as of the 2010 census. Located in Addison County, Weybridge is home to the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm and Monument Farms Dairy. Otter Creek weaves through the town on its way to Lake Champlain. Chartered in 1761 by a hardy crew from Connecticut, Weybridge continues its traditions of farming, water power and close community.
Sylvia Drake (1784–1868) and Charity Bryant (1777–1851) met in 1806 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts and quickly formed a passionate friendship. Charity was open about her feelings, imploring Sylvia, “Do not disappoint my hopes and blast my expectations, for…I long to see you, and enjoy your company and conversation.” Within the year, they decided to move to Weybridge, Vermont, where they could live near Miss Drake’s older brother, Asaph. They built a house, now gone, on the corner of Rte. 23 and Drake Road, where they set themselves up in a successful tailoring business.
Sylvia Drake, celebrated the thirty-first anniversary of her life partnership with Charity Bryant in her diary: “Tuesday- 3 (July)—31 years since I left my mother’s house and commenced serving in company with Dear Miss B. Sin mars all earthly bliss, and no common sinner have I been, but God has spared my life, given me every thing I would enjoy and now I have a space, if I improve it, to exercise true penitence. —Sylvia Drake’s Diary, 1838”
Charity’s nephew, William Cullen Bryant, one of 19th Century America’s best-known writers and editors, came to Weybridge to stay with the pair in the July 1843 and described their relationship: “If I were permitted to draw the veil of private life, I would briefly give you the singular, and to me interesting, story of two maiden ladies who dwell in this valley. I would tell you how, in their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life, and how this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted, in uninterrupted harmony, for more than forty years… they have shared each other’s occupations and pleasures and works of charity while in health, and watched over each other in sickness… I could tell you how they slept on the same pillow and had a common purse, and adopted each other’s relations… one of them, more enterprising and spirited than the other, might be said to represent the male head of the family, and took upon herself their transactions with the world without, until at length her health failed, and she was tended by her gentle companion, as a fond wife tends her invalid husband… I would speak of the friendly relations which their neighbors, people of kind hearts and simple manners, seem to take pleasure in bestowing upon them; but I have already said more than I fear they will forgive me for if this should ever meet their eyes, and I must leave the subject.”
Their relationship was no barrier to their full participation in their church. They were Christians and very religious in their attendance at Weybridge Congregational. They were both devout, often attending four religious meetings each week. Sylvia frequently wrote of the comfort she took from sermons like that of April 24, 1836, on “Romans 10,17, For whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Friends often came over after church for religious discussions.
Both women tended to be sickly, though it is not clear whether their ailments were cured or caused by the great array of ‘remedies’ they kept trying. One week’s medicines included catnip, harrow, castor oil and opium bought over the counter. Charity’s health finally broke down completely. The Sheldon Museum now has a large cradle they had made, big enough to hold an adult, in which Sylvia would rock Charity to sleep when she was unwell.
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