Archive for the ‘Livingston, Catharine “Kitty”’ Category

“a Lad . . . engaged in the sea service”

CATHARINE LIVINGSTON undertook the responsibility of contacting Benjamin Franklin, at the time Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States to France, concerning the fate of her brother John Lawrence. Catharine was the daughter of William Livingston, the governor of New Jersey, and the elder sister of Sarah Livingston Jay. The Livingston family was exceedingly concerned as they had not heard from their son/brother who was a midshipman on the Saratoga in nearly a year.

Phila. Octr 19 [17]81Not long since I had the pleasure of forwarding a letter from my Father to your Excellency, but as the casualties attending the receipt of letters in War time are many, it may not reach you Sir before this, if at all— And being furnished with a very favorable opportunity by the gentleman* who will honor me with the care of this, I hope you will excuse the liberty of my troubling you Sir, with a few lines; to which I am encouraged by the attention the American Minister has shewn to his unfortunate Countrymen, & my great anxiety for a Captive Brother; now a Prisoner in some part of England; late a Midshipman on board the Saratoga—Third & youngest Son of William Livingston’s—a Lad of about 19 years of age, inspired by the example of his fellow countrymen, engaged in the sea service, with a view to assist in humbling Americas proud Foes, & restoring peace & liberty to their Republic—

The purport of my father’s letter, was Sir, to request your interest in releiving & effecting as far as in your power his Sons exchange. It is near a twelve month since my Brother left America, & no particulars has reached his family respecting his fate, but the capture of the Ship in which he sailed; for many months we suffered much on his account, those less interested than his relatives, gave up all Idea of ever hearing of the saratoga— our hope was a remote one, & would admit only of the cruel alternative of capture— my brothers situation is particularly unfortunate to him, as he has not for a few years past enjoy’d his health except at Sea, tho naturally sound & strong constitution’d—but impaired in being often exposed in the frequent incursions of the Enemy in New Jersey the State of his residence—nor can he flatter himself that he will find friends in a country to which his father is so notoriously an Enemy to—

Any releif that he experiences in consequence of your Excellency’s exertions in his favor, will be gratefully acknowledged by his Family & Friends, & particularly so by his affectionate Sister, & your very obliged Friend & Admirer

Catharine W Livingston

P.S. My Brothers name is John Lawrence Livingston

* Matthew Ridley, whom Catharine later married.

It was later learned that John Livingston was not a prisoner of war but was lost at sea with all his shipmates when the Saratoga was sunk. Such a long time to discover the truth, for a family to hope, and then to mourn. Not at all uncommon at that time.

“To Benjamin Franklin from Catharine W. Livingston, 19 October 1781,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-35-02-0464. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 35, May 1 through October 31, 1781, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999, pp. 611–612.]

posted January 9th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Franklin, Benjamin,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty"

“The transition was great indeed!”

John Cleves Symmes’ land in Ohio called the Symmes Purchase was poorly surveyed and badly managed; portions were sold to settlers before Symmes and his associates had finalized the contract for them. Meanwhile Symmes went about building a home in North Bend, Ohio, during which time Susan Livingston Symmes and Symmes’ daughter Anna went to stay with her older sister Maria Short in Lexington, Kentucky. There Anna Tuthill Symmes met William Henry Harrison and fell in love. The couple married in 1795. Harrison went on to become President of the United States.

SUSAN LIVINGSTON SYMMES became disappointed in her marriage rather quickly. Her husband did not consult her on their place of residence nor did he honor his promise to allow her to visit Morristown frequently. He also sought control of the money she brought to the marriage and decided that she could not “receive the interest or transfer the Stock” at her own discretion; she had wanted to use her money to repay her sister Kitty Livingston Ridley for debts incurred before her marriage. Susan contacted an attorney for assistance but it turned out that the lawyer was a friend of her husband’s who violated client confidentiality by passing along information to her spouse. Here is the letter she wrote to Judge Robert Morris at New Brunswick.

North Bend March 4, 1796Sir
I feel myself greatly embarrassed, & distressed at addressing a Gentleman so much a Stranger to me, & upon so delicate a subject, & nothing but my confidence in the benevolence of your disposition; & the apparent necessity for vindicating my own & Sisters character should have induced me to trouble you upon this occasion—Happening to cast my eye this morning over a paper that the Judges’s [Symmes] nephew was reading, & observing my own name, it excited a curiosity to join in the perusal, when to my surprise I found it to be a letter from the Judge in answer to one of yours respecting Mrs. R. [Ridley’s] business; in which I find he labours under several mistakes—It will doubtless appear singular to you, that I should not rather endeavour to convince him than you—& I think myself obliged to assign the reasons, one is, that the Judge has not been pleased to communicate your letter or his answer; tho’ the most important is, least the ungrateful subject should bring altercation, & interrupt that harmony which I wish ever to maintain–

He asserts that I transferred the 2400 dol. [to Mrs. Ridley] at Phil[adelphia], when on my way thro’ to N.Y. with him, (which was some time in June or July)—The fact is they were transferred the preceeding Spring at Baltimore, the certificates being on the books at Annapolis, could not I believe have been transfered at Phil—This transaction I acquainted Mr. S. with, no person being privy to it, tho I had no objection to its being public, & at the same time shewed him my accounts which was within a very few days after our marriage—& told him that the certificates (on the books of Pennsylvania) which I then shewed him, were Mrs. R[‘s], that I must make them over to her before I left the Country. His displeasure was great, he insisting upon it that it was all a gift of mine [from Kitty]—There was no more occasion to inform Mr. S. before our union that I pd. Mrs. R. than that I had pd. my other Sisters & Brothers. . . .

Mr. S. saw the account with the list of the other property I had & yet says I gave Mrs. R. three forths of my property—It was my intention to settle with her whenever stock rose that I could sell to advantage, & either divide the profits (if any accrued) with her or pay her the sums I had received on her account with interest from the time of receiving them. The Spring I made over the 2400 dollars, certificates were selling at 16s & Mrs. R. took them at par, so that she should complain if any one—I never made a mystery of any thing, I always told the Judge that my fortune was inconsiderable, but that Mrs. R. & myself by living together could be comfortable & independent—when conversing about property so shortly after our marriage he told me he had been informed I had six thousand pounds, & was greatly disappointed to find that I had not the half—that was no fault of mine—Certain it is that I have never spent a shilling either of his money or what was mine, but I have been a prudent, industrious, obedient wife, accommodating myself entirely to his manners & way of life, which are very different from what I have been accustomed to before our marriage—The transition was great indeed! & unspeakable is my mortification to find Mrs. R[‘s]. opinion of the Judge better founded than mine—Mrs. R. is a woman of the strictest veracity; & most rigid honor, & would not lay claim to property which was not her right. . . .

What I have said on this subject to you Sir, I have never hinted to any one of my own family—Your own delicacy will suggest to you the propriety of keeping the contents of this letter a most sacred secret—
I am Sir
With the greatest Respect
Yours—
Susan Symmes

It seems strange that Susan had not settled the matter of her money with her husband before their marriage or arranged for a prenuptial agreement; without one, according to the practice of the time, all property—real estate, stocks, money—belonging to the wife would be controlled by the husband. It is interesting that Kitty Livingston did not have a high opinion of Symmes.
Next time, the letter Susan had written earlier to John Cleves Symmes on this subject.

American Women Writers to 1800. Contributors: Sharon M. Harris – editor, (New York: Oxford University Press,1996), 92-94.

posted November 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Marriage,Money,Ohio,Philadelphia,Symmes, John Cleves,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“Mountains—They call them Nobs here”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON SYMMES wrote again to her sister Sarah Jay in New York City describing continuing difficulties in reaching Pittsburgh where the party was to lay over for the winter, proceeding to North Bend, Ohio in the spring.

Monday 24 Novr 1794Mr dr Sister
We are thus far on our way, have come over dreadful roads & for our comfort what remains is still worse—The House where we now are & expect to remain to-day as the Horses want shoeing & is filled with Officers, they behave to us with the greatest politeness, & are in excessive spirits to be on their return, they have endured amazing hardships this campaign owing to the inclemency of the weather, & the faults in the Quarter masters Department. Gen. Frelinghuysen is to take charge of this as far as he goes & then to deposit it in the Post-Office—He says this Country looks as if the Deity had thrown all the Rocks & Stones in the whole World here & employed all the Devils to raise them into Mountains—They call them Nobs here, but to be sure the Nobs are such mountains as you never have & I hope never will see—A Gentleman who lately travelled to Pitts. said he had heard that it was hill & dale all the way, but he thought it was hill &hill & no dale. If nature had made a Gap for roads as well as for Rivers it would have been an accomodating circumstance—5 or 6 miles in advance of this we expect to strike into a different road from that which the Army is travelling, it would never do for us to encounter 500 waggons & 17000 troops, it is an important object to avoid the Army—At Morris [town, New Jersey] we took a ride of only 4 miles & broke the Axle tree of our Carriage & in all this length of way & bad-ness of roads no accident has as yet befallen us. I shall be extremely glad to write you the same from Pittsburgh—Mr. Symmes drives with great judgment, & where he thinks it most dangerous we get out of the Carriage—
I am anxious to hear from you, the accounts from mr. Jay must now be very interesting, I mean to the Public, they are always so to his friends.
God bless you all—
Our dr Susey is in perfect health, I am infinitely more uneasy on her account than my own, if it was not for her, I should travel on horseback, I can’t trust her in the Carnage without myself—This is the 4th scrawl I have forwarded to you since our journey commenced—
Nancy begs to be remembred, she is a very amiable girl, & a great comfort to me—My best love to Sister Ridley [Kitty Livingston Ridley] & our dr Nancy [Sarah’s Jay’s daughter Ann] & beleive me with the truest Affection yours—
Susan Symmes

We have a very strict Negro fellow in our retinue that shall carry Susey over the worst places—

The letter is part of the Jay Papers, Columbia Rare Books & Manuscripts Order no. 402136C.

posted November 10th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Ohio,Pennsylvania,Symmes, Susan Livingston,Travel

“The roads surpass all description”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON married John Cleves Symmes in 1794. Susan was his third wife, the first two having died. Symmes had been a member of the Continental Congress, active in the military during the Revolution, an associate judge of the New Jersey supreme court, and in 1785 he was named judge for the newly designated Northwest Territory. In 1788, lured by the prospect of money to be made in land speculation there, Symmes and some associates contracted to buy a substantial amount of land in Ohio—known as the Symmes Purchase—to be paid for in part with notes issued by Congress to raise money to finance the Revolution. Symmes settled in North Bend, Ohio near Cincinnati and proceeded to subdivide and sell parcels of land.

In 1794 he persuaded his wife Susan to come to Ohio, promising that she could return frequently to visit her family in New Jersey. Traveling with Symmes was his wife; a daughter by a previous marriage, nineteen-year-old Anne Tuthill Symmes called Nancy; and the daughter of Susan’s sister Kitty Livingston also named Susan (Kitty had married Matthew Ridley in 1787). Susan Livingston Symmes described the early part of the trip in a letter to her sister Sarah Livingston Jay who was in New York City.

22d Novr 1794 2 oClockMy dr Sister
We have just crossed the Junietta, the return of the Army [from settling the Whisky Rebellion in western Pennsylvania] impedes our progress very much, we have been detained on the opposite side of the river since yesterday, owing to the number of Waggons to be ferryed over—we do not proceed above 10 miles a day, & to-day we shall not get about—The roads surpass all description, no one can have an idea of any thing half so bad, such a season as this has not been known these10 years, while the army was passing it rained a fort-night, the teams cut up the roads most dreadfully—it is one succession of mountains from Straasburgh to Pittsburgh,we have yet 2 very considerable ones to pass, the Allegeny & Lawrel—Col.Hamilton [Alexander, who was with the troops] breakfasted at the Inn this morning where we lodged—he looked a little weather-beaten as well as ourselves—We are so happy as to be preserved in Health—expect to winter at Pittsburgh. it will make the journey less heavy—we shall be sufficiently tired by the time we reach that—An officer that’s now here proposes to leave this in the Post-Office at Phila—Remember me affecly to my dr Kitty [her sister Kitty Livingston Ridley], & your little flock, Nancy [Symmes] also desires to be remembred—Susan [the daughter of Kitty] keeps in good heart, we are in tolerable spirits & should be in better were the roads better—Mr Symmes has been unwell for many days, indeed ever since we left Morris [town], he is just beginning to recover his spirits—I find Col. Hamilton has not much expectation of mr. Jays return before Spring—I long to hear what accounts you have of him [John Jay was in England negotiating a treaty with Britain of which Hamilton approved]—I received a letter from my dr Maria dated the 15th of Novr & was happy to find she was content with her situation [Maria Jay was at school in the Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania]—We are yet 114 miles from Pittsburgh—I will write again in a day or 2, this is the third letter—I would travel on Horseback, but I do not know what to do about Susy, I do not like to leave her in the carriage without me neither would she be contented—
I am my dr Sister unalterably Yours
S.L

The letter is part of the Jay Papers at the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library: Order no. 402136C.

posted November 8th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Hamilton, Alexander,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Ohio,Pennsylvania,Ridley, Matthew,Symmes, John Cleves,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“I am quite a country boy”

Following is a letter from Elizabethtown dated 18 July 1781, in the handwriting of SUSAN LIVINGSTON but signed by Peter Augustus Jay, to Sarah Jay in Madrid. Peter was only five so he couldn’t have written the letter no matter how precocious he may have been. It is charming.

I thank my Dear Mama for her kind letter, and good advice, and my dear Papa for his remembrance.

I hope when you return to our Country you will find your little son as you expect, and not be disappointed,

Aunt Susan teaches me to read; every hour the bell rings, and then I go in the office to say my lesson. Aunt Caty [Catharine Livingston] sends me books from Phila. I learn in a very pretty book of Tales, one page has a picture and the opposite one a tale to explain it, all the book through. I have finished with the Continental Primmer. . . .

As soon as I read well Aunt Susan will teach me to write, and then I can have the pleasure of writing to my absent friends. I have a pocket-book full of letters that Grand-Pa printed for me last winter. Every fortnight allmost I received a letter from him, and last month Grand-Mama and I went to meet Grand-Papa and spend a few days with him at Cousin David Clarksons, who lives three miles this side of Princeton. It was a long ride for such a little fellow as me.

Aunt Caty sent me a top, and Uncle Watkins [the husband of his aunt Judith Livingston] made me a Kite for pastime. I am quite a country boy clad in a striped linen waistcoat and trowsers, and sometimes I hoe in the garden and gather the gooseberries and currants, and I help to rake hay on the Lawn in the hay harvest.

We have plenty of fine fruit this summer, while we had cherries, the boys collected from all parts of the Country here, not less than fifty in a day, and soon stripped our trees.

Mama says I must write her what I wish her to bring me. I should like a hat, a pair of shoe and knee buckles, and a pair of sleeve buttons—if she pleases.

Hannah [PA Jay’s nurse] says I must not forget to mention her, but she won’t tell me what to say about her. She has not left me, and is very good to me, and gives her love to Mama. She has received the fine handkerchief and is much obliged to Papa for it. . . .

Please to give my love & duty to Papa & my love to Uncle Henry [Brockholst Livingston] & Cousin Peter [Munro, the son of John Jay’s sister Eve].

I am dear Mama, Your very Affecte. Son,

Peter Augustus Jay at age 21:

See the whole letter at the Columbia University Digital Library Collection of the John Jay Papers HERE. The portrait is by James Sharples and is in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

posted November 3rd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Letter-writing,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Symmes, Susan Livingston

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