This letter was written jointly by Blakey Sharpless (1787-1853) and Mary (Offley) Sharpless (1793-1865) to their 13 year-old son Edward Sharpless (1831-1899) while Edward attended the West Town Boarding School in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Blakey Sharpless was an Orthodox Quaker and a printer in Philadelphia.
Three of Edward’s sisters — Anna N. Sharpless (b. 1825), Martha Powell Sharpless (b. 1827) and Mary Sharpless (b. 1837) — are mentioned in this letter. They were all three married at Haddonfield Friends Meeting in Haddonfield, New Jersey.
The letter provides an excellent description of the status of the property acquired by Blakey Sharpless on 13 December 1843 which he and Mary called the “Spring Hill Farm.” The property appears on the 1850 “Plan of the Townships of Union and Newton, County of Camden from original surveys of J. O. Sidney,” published by Richard Clark. It was located approximately six miles from Philadelphia on a hill with a western view of the Delaware River valley.
Addressed to Edward Sharpless, West Town Boarding School
Haddonfield [New Jersey]
11th Mo., 29th, 1846
My Dear Son Edward,
The rain and sleet prevented my going to town today or I should have sent these lines by stage tomorrow (7th day). They cannot go before 3d day. Although it is cloudy this evening and seems as though tomorrow may be cloudy and wet too, perhaps, my situation is to go to the city as business requires I should go. Thy dear mother is seated by me at my desk knitting while I write. The 3 girls are in as Judge Clement’s on a visit this evening and thy little sister Mary has just gone to bed ¼ past 8.
We notice in thy last letter a request for some “liquorice and lozenges,” as thou expects to have a cold. Now I should advise thee not to take disease and suffering upon interest and while in health it would be very improper to indulge in the use of these “goodies.” I intend, however, to send thee some liquorice along with this letter if I can get time to go to Turnpenny’s for it.
We are still in Haddonfield and likely to remain here some 3 weeks yet, I fear. The finishing of the house and the sheds and porches, privy &c. goes on slowly — too slowly I am sorry to say. The weather for two weeks past has been such as almost to prevent outdoor work and therefore the stable also progresses very slowly.
Thy sister Mary goes to school still to Mary Snowden but will leave when we move to the farm. Thy sister Anna still continues her intention of keeping school when we move to Spring Hill. She will have Mary, Eliza, Joshua, 2 of John Marshall’s children, and one of Richard Pierce’s will make up her school to be kept in the Library over the kitchen. Our hogs fatten nicely. we intend to kill them in 2 weeks. Horses, cow & chickens in good order. Carriages pretty muddy this very muddy weather. They do not truly get washed very often. Joshua & Bruno — I have not much to say of them except that Bruno has become very fond of me and when I come home, tries all he can to go along and if any of the family keep him at home, he sets up such a piteous howl that it is distressing to hear him. About two weeks ago, I went to the city. He broke away from Joshua and over took me and guarded the dearborn [wagon] and horses under the shed at the ferry 3 hours and trotted off home with me again.
Now of thyself. So far as we hear from thee thy health continues good. About thy studies, I feel solicitous. Do tell me exactly what thy studies are and how thou progresses with them. Art thou studying Latin? And if so, does it seem easier than formerly? Tell who thy intimate or more intimate friends are, &c. &c. I have such a pain in my right arm, I must lay down the penand offer this sheet to thy dear mother who writes so good a letter.
[different hand writing]
Well, my dear Edward. How is thee getting along? Charles Tatum is studying Latin. What a blessed thing it is to have the mind eager in the pursuit of knowledge. It ennobles the man and supplies such rational enjoyments for mature age.
Thee seems to be anticipating colds. Perhaps it would be better to guard against them by being warmly clothed and if thee has not on thy flannels, the had perhaps better put them on.
As for moving, we have very little idea when it will take place. When it does, we will give thee a minute description of all our doings.
Endeavor, my dear son, to cultivate kindly dispositions and be more anxious for the esteem and good will of thy companions than for any other attainment. Remember thee has a temper to combat with and control and a proud heart that wants teaching humility. When thee reflects that the Almighty made one blood all the nations of the earth and that we are all alike equally the objects of his superintending providence, it does not become a poor worm of the dust to treat ill or despise a fellow creature because his skin in not colored like our own or because from his ignorance he has not equalled our attainments. Think of these things. Another thing I have to remind thee in all cases and every circumstance, in jest or earnest, steadily adhere to the truth. Never suffer thyself to deviate from itin the slightest instance. Read thy Bible attentively and frequently. And in the proverbs thee will find a great deal of wide instruction. And in every pass[age something to instruct or encourage thee.
My paper warns me to close. We shall soon be sending thee a bundle. Love from all. Thy affectionate – Mother