Archive for the ‘Philadelphia’ Category

Ona Judge “Never Caught . . . . “

I am looking forward to reading the first full-length nonfiction account of the escape of Ona Judge known as Oney, a dower slave belonging to Martha Washington, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (New York: Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, 2017). Ona was the daughter of Betty, a seamstress, and Andrew Judge, a white indentured tailor at Mount Vernon. See previous posts here, here, and here. Oney became a skilled seamstress and was taken by Martha to Philadelphia, the capital of the United States during Washington’s presidency, to be her personal maid. Oney escaped, fled to New Hampshire, and married a seaman Jack Staines. Washington went to great lengths to try to recover her. Without success.

Eric Foner, a historian whom I admire, has called the book “a fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom in the flawed republic he helped to found.”

Historic sites in recent years have introduced exhibitions and tours on the theme of slavery; Mount Vernon’s “Lives Bound Together” runs through September 2018.

posted February 20th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Philadelphia,Slaves/slavery,Staines, Ona "Oney" Judge,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“The India counterpanes make very pretty curtains . . . “

The last two posts have focused on Dr. Richard Hill and his family. When Hill and his wife left the country for Madeira to escape his creditors his large family was broken up. Seven of his nine children remained in America under the care of his daughter Hannah and her husband, Dr. Samuel Preston Moore. Two—Mary and Harriet—accompanied their parents to Madeira. Daughter Deborah later joined them there. These three daughters married and lived abroad. Daughter Milcah Martha was born in Madeira and eventually returned to the United States.

Son Henry Hill, who was raised by his sister in America, and his English brother-in-laws joined his father in the wine business that Hill had established in Madeira. With a lodge in Madeira and offices in London and Philadelphia it became a thriving venture supplying much of the wine to the American colonies and then the United States in the second half of the eighteenth century. Henry inherited a large share in the firm when his father died in 1762 making him a man of considerable wealth.

When Philadelphia became the capital of the United States in 1790, President George Washington and the officers of the new government moved there establishing what became known as the “Republican Court.” They rented and refurbished large houses and the wealthy residents of the city built or redecorated their own mansions and delighted in being part of the lively social scene. The latest fashions in furniture and decor from London and Paris were much sought after. Henry Hill and his wife Ann Meredith built a house on Fourth Street between Union Street and Cypress Alley. Hill sought the advice of his sister MARY HILL LAMAR, who lived in London, on what furniture would be suitable and solicited her help in making appropriate purchases for him. Here is a letter containing Mary’s advice.

London [without a date]

Captain Willet being to sail to-morrow, you may depend on the above going by the first opportunity after all are ready. As to the chimney-piece and slab, a handsome white marble which is the fashion for the best room and looks beautifully, cannot be got under £40 or £50. By what you say of Mr. White’s, it cannot be such as I mean, which is entirely marble without any wood. His I imagine is only a plain slip of wood in front; such, here, are only put in bed and back rooms; the best dining parlors of late have also entire marble pieces. If the foregoing articles cannot be got ready to go very soon, I think to send as soon as possible the paper; the most fashionable is such as will suit any colored furniture. Yellow is a color quite the fashion at present, and from experience I know it wears and cleans the best of any.

You say nothing of chairs. I shall strive to make the upholsterer give some plans, when, if you want any you can choose. I think the best for America are cane seats with hair cushions covered with silk, which may be taken off in summer; the sofas made in the same manner.

A best room furnished in the present style and plainest taste is nothing more than two sofas, twelve or more chairs, a marble half circular table under the glass or glasses, glass lustres on the slabs to hold four lights, the lowest price of which will be twelve or fourteen guineas the pair, or in place of them, silver or plated branches for three candles; or in place of the marble slabs, inlaid wood, which are very pretty and come cheaper.

Neither tea or card tables stand in the best room, but are brought in when wanted; in the back room or common sitting room, one or two sofas according to the size of the room; chairs the same as in the best; a small breakfast table, one or two card tables, a double half oval under the glass, or in lieu, the tea or card tables. The India counterpanes make very pretty curtains for a back room or best bedroom; as one counterpane of the largest size makes a window curtain, they come much cheaper than a good English cotton; some time ago they were to be got for three guineas apiece, but are not to be met with now; they make beautiful beds lined with white, and white clothes [bed linens] and testers [curtains for four-poster beds].
I have written you a long scrawl.
[The remainder of the letter is missing.]

Henry Hill’s wife died in 1785. He died from the yellow fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia in 1798.

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881
(Philadelphia: 1854), 197-98. The illustration is of Henry Hill from the aforementioned book. Additional information on the wine trade can be found on this site: “The Role of the Madeira Shipper in Relation to American Connoisseurs: The Case of Henry Hill.”

posted February 13th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Furnishings,Hill, Dr. Richard,Hill, Henry,Lamar, Mary Hill,London,Philadelphia

“I told them Nothing but force shou’d get me out of My house”

ELIZABETH DRINKER noted on 20 July 1778: “Grace Galloway turn’d out of her House this forenoon, and Spanish officers put in. . . . ”

After the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778, GRACE GALLOWAY had stayed behind—her Loyalist husband Joseph had fled with their daughter Betsy—in the hope of preventing their house “Trevose,” or the Manor of Bensalem (pictured in the previous post,) from being confiscated. A vain hope as it turned out. Charles Willson Peale, the Commissioner of Forfeited Estates, was determined to seize the property of accused traitors, the sale of which would yield him a five percent commission. Here is Grace Growden Galloway’s account of what happened as noted in her diary.

Wednesday . . . [June 17, 1778] this evening parted with my dear Husband & child. . . .

This day Thursday the 18th the American Troops came into Town.

Friday the 19th was warn’d by peal [sic] that he must take possession of my house for the state. . . .

[July] Tusday the 21st . . . about 2 o’clock they came—one smith a hatter & Col Will & one Shriner & a Dutch Man I know not his Name—they took an inventory of everything even to broken China & empty bottles. . . . they told Me they must advertise the house I told them they must do as they pleased but till it was decided by a Court I wou’d not go out Unless by the force of a bayonet but when I knew who had a right to it I should know how to act. . . .
Accordingly I did so & a little after 10 oclock they Knocked Violently at the door three times; the Third time I sent Nurse & call’d out myself to tell them I was in possession of my own House & wou’d keep so & they shou’d gain No admittance. Hereupon which they went round in the yard & Try’d every door but cou’d None Open, then they went to the Kitchen door & with a scrubbing brush which they broke to pieces, they forced that open—we Women standing in the Entry in the Dark they made repeated strokes at the door & I think was 8 or 10 Minuets before they got it open. When they came in, I had the windows open’d; they look’d very Mad. Their was peel, smith, the Hatter & a Col Will a pewterer in second street. I spoke first & told them I was Used ill: & show’d them the Opinion of the Lawyers. Peel read it: but they all despised it & peel said he had studied the Law & knew they did right. I told them Nothing but force shou’d get me out of My house. Smith said they knew how to Manage that & that they wou’d throw my cloaths in the street. . . .

Wenesday the 22 . . . Sent for Mr. [John] Dickison last Night & he told Me he wou’d look over the law to see if I cou’d recover My own estate & this evening he came & told Me I cou’d Not recover dower & he fear’d my income in My estate was forfeited likewise & that no tryal wou’d be of service: but advised Me to draw up a peti’on to the Chief Justice Mccean [Thomas McKean] for the recovery of my estate & refused a fee in the Politest Manner, but begg’d I wou’d look on him as My sincere friend . . . so I find I am a beggar indeed. I expect every hour to be turn’d out of doors & where to go I know not no one will take me in & all the Men keeps from Me. . . .

[August] Saturday the 8th . . . Peal & Will came to let Me know that I must go out a Monday Morn: for they wou’d give the spaniard [Don Juan de Miralles] Possession. . . .

Thursday the 20th [Her lawyer William] Lewise sent me word that I must shut my doors & windows & if they wou’d come to let them Make a forcible Entry. Peel & Will went over the House to see Nothing was Embassell’d [embezzled] & Locking Up the things at last Smith went away. . . . after every Mortifying treatment I was tiard [tired] & wanted to be turn’d out. Peel went upstairs & brought down My Work bag & 2 bonnets & put them on the side table; at last we went in the Entry to sit. . . . two of the Men went out & after staying some time return’d & said they had been with the council & that they had done right & must proceed. I did not hear this myself but the rest of the Women did. Mrs [Molly] Craig asked for My Bed but they wou’d let Me Have Nothing & as I told them acted entirely from Malice: after we had been in the Entry some time Smith & Will went away & Peel said the Chariot was ready but he would not hasten me. I told him I was at home & in My own House & nothing but force shou’d drive me out of it. He said it was not the first time he had taken a Lady by the Hand, an insolent wretch . . . as the Chariot drew up Peel fetched My Bonnets & gave one to me the other to Mrs Craig: then with greatest air said come Mrs Galloway give me your hand. I answer’d indeed I will not nor will I go out of my house but by force. He then took hold of my arm & I rose & he took me to the door. I then Took hold on one side & Looked round & said pray take Notice I do not leave my house of My own accord or with my own inclination but by force & Nothing but force shou’d have Made Me give up possession. Peel said with a sneer very well Madam & when he led me down the step I said now Mr Peel let go My Arm I want not your Assistance. He said he cou’d help me to the Carriage. I told him I cou’d go without & you Mr Peel are the last Man on earth I wou’d wish to be Obliged to. Mrs Craig then step’d into the Carriage & we drove to her house where we din’d.

By the law of coverture when a woman married any property she brought to the union belonged to her husband unless a prenuptial agreement had been drawn up. Even though the house Grace Galloway lived in had been inherited from her family, according to the law her Loyalist husband was the owner, and it was therefore subject to confiscation.

In the Words of Women Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) 124-125. Original source: Raymond C. Werner, “Diary of Grace Growden Galloway,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 55, no. 1 (January 1931) 36. 40-41, 51-72.

posted January 23rd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Drinker, Elizabeth Sandwith,Galloway, Grace Growden,Galloway, Joseph,Loyalists,Philadelphia

“that heavy lifeless lump a wife”

GRACE GROWDEN came from a Philadelphia family of wealth and social standing. She had a mind of her own; on a trip to England in 1747 to visit her sister she fell in love with a Mr. Milner who was a customs collector at Poole. Her father forbid the union ordered his daughter home. She complied. In 1753 Grace married Joseph Galloway who inherited his father’s land holdings and mercantile business. Galloway became a lawyer with a prosperous practice in Philadelphia whose marriage to Grace enhanced his social and financial standing. Upon her father’s death Grace inherited the family mansion in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, but as women were not allowed to own property at this time her husband became its owner. The Galloways had three children, one of whom, Betsy, survived past childhood. The marriage was stressful and Grace was not happy. In 1759 she wrote “[I] find myself neglected, loathed, despised.” In her poetry she complained about the tyranny of men and the suffocating constraints of marriage. In one:

…I am Dead
Dead to each pleasing thought each Joy of Life
Turn’d to that heavy lifeless lump a wife.

In another:

never get Tyed to a Man
for when once you are yoked
‘Tis all a Mere Joke
of seeing your freedom again.”

Life became complicated as the Revolution approached. Joseph Galloway opposed independence and as a member of the First Continental Congress proposed a conciliatory plan toward Britain. It was rejected. After the Declaration of Independence was approved Galloway, fearing for his safety, fled to a British camp and then to New York City where he joined the British forces. By now a staunch Loyalist, Galloway followed General William Howe when he occupied Philadelphia and became that city’s Superintendent of Police and of the Port. In 1778 Pennsylvania passed a law by which property of Loyalists was confiscated. A substantial amount of Galloway’s holdings included property inherited by Grace, and when the British evacuated the city she determined to stay on —alone, since her husband had left with her beloved daughter—to try to save it. More from the diary Grace Galloway kept during this period in the next post.

Sources include Texts on The Origins of Liberty Rhetoric, 1770s-1820s and History of American Women, which can be viewed HERE.

posted January 19th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Galloway, Grace Growden,Galloway, Joseph,Loyalists,Pennsylvania,Philadelphia,Poetry

“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

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