Archive for the ‘Maryland’ Category

“great severities from the Frigidness”

John Jay, having been named minister plenipotentiary to Spain, sailed for Europe on October 20, 1779, accompanied by his wife Sarah. Their ship Confederacy met with severe weather and barely made it to Martinique where there was a considerable layover until another vessel could be secured. Catharine (Kitty) Livingston wrote, on 13 February 1780, to her sister from Philadelphia, expressing her concern.

How my dear sweet Sister was you supported in the hours of trial and danger; the appearance of death in so terrible a manner must have awaken[ed] every fear. You have indeed seen the wonders of the deep, and experienced in a remarkable manner the goodness and mercy of an indulgent providence. Your Friends have all reason to bless and thank God for his interposition in your favor, and it ought to console and encourage us to trust in the Author of your Salvation—For he spoke and it was done. he commanded and it stood fast.

Kitty continued, recounting details of the severe winter the country was enduring, envying (when she had thought Sarah was safely in Spain) “the temperance of your climate, whilst we were exposed to great severities from the Frigidness of ours.”

Our Winter set in earlier and with more Severity than is remembered by the Oldest liver among us. The year thirty five, and forty is agreed from circumstances not [to] be compared to this; in neither of those severe Seasons was the Chesapeake at & twenty Miles below Anopolis a firm bridge as is and has been a long time the case. In Virginia it has impeded all Trade, several of there Vessels have been cut to peices and sunk by the ice. The Merchants here think many of there Vessels that they expected in have perished on our coast, the last that got in was the Jay*; and that was in November, and she was much injured by the Ice and it was expected for several days that she and her cargo would be lost.

To the Eastward the Snow impeded all traveling to the State of New York—it cut of[f] Communication from Neighbour to Neighbour. The last accounts from Fish Kill it was four feet deep on a level. Numbers of Families in this City have suffered from its severity altho many among them made great exertions for their releif. In New York the want of fuel was never known like it, they cut down every stick of timber on Mr. Byard’s place** and would not permit [him] to keep any tho he offered to buy it. Several gentlemen went upon long Island and felled the trees, and after bringing it to town with their own horses it was seized for the Kings Troops [New York was occupied by the British], its reported of two families that the want of wood obliged them to lay a bed a week . . . .

You shall hear from me by every opportunity; at least I will write by every one. This letter is going to New London. I shall write to morrow by a Vessel that is to sail from Boston—till then I bid you adieu

* The ship, the Jay, was a Pennsylvania vessel of eighteen guns. There were three other vessels in the Continental service named Jay. One was Lady Jay. They saw action in the Revolution.
** William Bayard was a New York merchant who, initially sympathetic to the Patriot cause, ultimately became a firm Loyalist.

And we complain of the frigid weather and snow we have had recently (and, no doubt, more to come) when most of us are comfortable in our heated houses and can stay warm under our electric blankets!!

Kitty Livingston was not exaggerating in her description of the winter of 1779-80. George Washington, from his winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey, wrote to Lafayette in March 1780, “The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before.” There were twenty-six snow storms in New Jersey, six of which were blizzards. The illustration shows the type of hut soldiers encamped at Jockey Hill near Morristown occupied.

According to historian Ray Raphael, writing in the American History Magazine 2/4/2010:

In January 1780 . . . Mother Nature transformed America into a frigid hell. For the only time in recorded history, all of the saltwater inlets, harbors and sounds of the Atlantic coastal plain, from North Carolina northeastward, froze over and remained closed to navigation for a period of a month or more. Sleighs, not boats, carried cords of firewood across New York Harbor from New Jersey to Manhattan. The upper Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the York and James rivers in Virginia turned to ice. In Philadelphia, the daily high temperature topped the freezing mark only once during the month of January, prompting Timothy Matlack, the patriot who had inscribed the official copy of the Declaration of Independence, to complain that “the ink now freezes in my pen within five feet of the fire in my parlour, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”

Kitty’s letter is in The John Jay Papers in the Columbia Digital Library Collections and can be seen HERE.

posted February 12th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Maryland,Morristown, New Jersey,New York,Philadelphia,Virginia,Washington, George,Weather,Winter of 1780

“The tremendous majesty of her tete . . . “

Molly Tilghman of Maryland wrote to her cousin Polly Pearce in January of 1789 describing the hat of one of woman and the hair of another at a ball she attended. Other tidbits of gossip too. Wicked and amusing.

Fain wou’d I dissect Miss [Anna] Garnett for your edification in the important point of fashion but a regular discription of so complicated a piece of work is more than I am equal to. Did you never of a rainy day, empty all your Drawers on the Bed, in order to set them to rights? If you can recollect the confus’d mixture of Ribbon, Gauze, flowers, Beads, Persian feathers and Lace, black and white, you will have the best idea I can give you of Miss Garnetts Hatt, such a Hoop and Handkerchief too was never seen on mortal Woman before. Upon my Life she was as complete a Carricature as any in our Hall. Mrs. Bordleys Head, without a Hat, was quite equal to the other. The tremendous majesty of her tete, will never leave my memory, which with the fabric which was erected on it made her almost as tall as myself. As her situation prevented her dancing I had a great deal of sweet converse with her. . . .
Can you imagine my dear Polly that I want to be reminded of my promis’d visit to Poplar Neck. Surely you know me better. If it depended on my inclination, soon wou’d you see me, but alas how few of our pursuits are directed by inclination. If I wanted an additional inducement to visit you, the alteration you tell me of wou’d be a great one. A succession of Beaux is pretty enough amusement in this dreary season and it wou’d be doubly agreeable to me from the powerful charm of novelty. If it were possible to exchange some of our Belles for some of your Beaux, the Circles of both wou’d be much improv’d by it. Could not your ingenuity contrive it ?
On new years day Miss Nevitt was married to Mr Steele after a three years Courtship. Her reign has been brilliant, and she has clos’d it in very good time, while her train was undiminish’d. It is a nice point for a Belle to know when to marry, and one in which they are very apt. She understood the matter.
Pray what kind of being is this Jones you mention ? Not much I fancy from your manner of passing him over. I dare say it is near morning, so I will creep up to bed as silently as possible. See what I suffer for your sake. Indeed you must write to me oftener. I will make the best returns in my power, both in quantity and quality. I am not sleepy, but exceedingly dim sighted. My best Love to all from
ever yours
M. T.

The letter can be found in the Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 21, No. 3, 234-35.

posted September 7th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Courtship,Entertainments,Fashion,Marriage,Maryland,Pearce, Polly,Tilghman, Molly

“What shall we do with such a tribe of Girls?”

Continuing the correspondence between the Maryland cousins: Molly Tilghman sent a newsy letter to Polly Pearce at the end of January 1789.

Tho’ I got your Letter, my dear Polly, at eleven o’Clock this morning, and have been earnestly wishing to answer it ever since, yet this midnight hour is the first I have had to myself; from which you may judge whether my silence has proceeded from idleness, or constant employment. . . . I should not mind being fully employ’d all day if I cou’d sit up late at night, but from that I am cut off by Sister Nancy’s unconquerable aversion to any body’s coming into her room after she is asleep. This very Letter will cost me a Lecture, but I will incur it for the sake of justifying myself, and I hope this vindication, will make future ones unnecessary.
Sister N. has been a good deal at farly [Fairlee], and so often complaining when at home, that she has not divided the care of the family with me. T’is true Harriet has been very well, but you must know that the most favorable lying in brings a good deal of trouble with it, particularly at this season. For the first three Weeks I was not once out of the House. Indeed I was of such amazing consequence in the nursery, that nothing cou’d be done without me. You need not laugh Miss Polly, and accuse me of vanity. I can bring honorable testimony of my goods works, aye and of the necessity for them too. All this you will say is very true, but very dull also. I grant it, but you drag’d me into the detail by your uncharitable constructions of my silence.
Our little Caroline is a sweet Child*, tho’ the veryest fairy you ever saw. I have really seen a Doll as large, but she grows finely, and is extremely healthy. She is the picture of her Mother, from which you may judge of her pretensions to beauty. Her name is a whim of her fathers, who is hardly yet reconcil’d to his second Daughter. He was in as terrible a friz on the occasion, as if a title and vast estate had depended on the birth of a son. Poor Harriet has been so unlucky within the last fortnight, as to have a sore Breast, which made us very uneasy. It gather’d and broke in three days, and was as light as a thing of the kind cou’d be but in my life I never saw a Creature so terrified as she was. The idea of Lancets, Probes, and crooked scissors haunted her continually but happily none of them were necessary, and her Breast is now almost entirely well.

I am writing on without saying a word of Henny [Henrietta], though I am able to give such satisfactory accounts of her. The 15th of this Month she produc’d a Daughter**, (yes, another Daughter) with as little trouble as might be. What shall we do with such a tribe of Girls? She is call’d after my Ladyship. Not Molly, nor Polly, but Mary, and I have the additional honor of being her God Mother.

* the second child of Philemon Tilghman and his wife Harriet Milbanke
** Mary Tilghman,” the third child of Lloyd and Henrietta Maria Tilghman

Note the emphasis on having a male child. After this recounting of new births, Molly goes on (in the next post) to describe the hat of one of the women at the ball she attended the previous night.

The letter can be found in the Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 21, No. 3, 231-233.

posted September 3rd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Illness,Maryland,Pearce, Polly,Tilghman, Molly

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