1818: Samuel Williams to Sarah Browne

Samuel Williams

This letter was transcribed directly from the internet where it was offered for sale on e-bay in July 2011. It was written by Samuel Williams (1786-1859), an early pioneer in the Buckeye State and the founder of the Methodist Historical Society in Ohio. Samuel was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania — the son of William Williams (1754-1815) and Margaret Widney (1758-1813) who came to America from County Monaghan, Ireland in September 1784. Samuel came with his parents to Chillicothe, Ross County, Ohio in 1807 and relocated to Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio in 1829, taking the position of chief clerk in the Surveyor General’s Office. Being a devout Methodist and a “gentleman of literary tendencies,” he organized the Western Methodist Historical Society in 1839 and was credited for initiating the Methodist-sponsored “Ladies’ Repository” in which he contributed many articles under the name of “Plebius.”

Samuel Williams was married twice. At the time this letter was written in 1818, he was married to his first wife, Elizabeth Armstrong (1785-1820) and with whom he had four children: Mary Armstrong (1810-1865), Edward Tiffin (1815-1886), Margaret Widney (1817-?), and Elizabeth Jane (1820-1874). His second wife, Margaret Troutner (1787-1879), bore him four more children: William George (1822-1902), Helen Marion (1824-1824), Samuel Wesley (1827-1880), and John Fletcher (1834-1895). These last two sons would graduate from Ohio Wesleyan where Samuel served on the Board of Trustees from the time the college opened in 1842 until his death in 1859.

The letter is addressed to Mrs. Sarah Browne who was, at the time, apparently working in a hatter’s shop in Belfast, Ireland, engaged in the trimming of ladies hats. Whether she eventually came to the United States, I have not yet been able to determine. Though she does not appear to be a close relative of Samuel’s, she seems to be acquainted with his Irish cousins.

The letter suggests that Samuel’s younger brother, George Young Williams (1788-1823) was engaged in the wholesale and retail hat business in Chillicothe in 1818 where he employed several workers, including his wife, the former Mary Thompson (1790-1875). His business was probably located on Water Street, the main market thoroughfare of the city that had served as the Capital of the State until it was relocated to Columbus the year before this letter was written.

Mention is made in the letter of Samuel’s uncle, Matthew Williams (1768-1835) who was born in Lappan Parish Tyhallan, County Monahan, Ireland, and with whom he wished to establish a correspondence and persuade others of his kin to emigrate to the United States. Ancestry records for the Williams family show that Matthew and his wife, Margaret Bell, died in Piqua, Ohio.

The letter is significant in noting that Hezekiah Niles, the popular Baltimore publicist, was as an honorary member of the Western Emigration Society — an organization that attempted to persuade Irish emigrants to take up land in the interior of the United States rather than remain on the eastern seaboard. Unfortunately, many of the Irish emigrants lacked resources to travel inland or to procure property. Some were aided by the aforementioned society. Others, some 3000 of them in 1818, were employed as construction laborers on the Erie Canal. How Samuel Williams came to be an “intimate and highly esteemed friend” of Hezekiah Niles is uncertain though it does appear that Samuel served as an agent in Chillicothe, Ohio, for ordering subscriptions to Niles’ publication of the Weekly Register.

Another letter written by Samuel Williams in 1833 was offered for sale on e-bay in September 2011. For a transcription of that letter, click here.

TRANSCRIPTION

Stampless letter addressed to Mrs. Sarah Browne, Care of W. Bailie, hatter, Bridge Street, Belfast, Ireland

Chillicothe [Ohio]
March 9th 1818

It was with unusual pleasure that I received by the last mail your esteemed favor of the 10th December last and pray you to accept my cordial thanks for the friendship which you express, and for your endeavour to procure a correspondence with uncle Matthews’s family for me, but above all for the hope which it encourages of a personal acquaintance with you. You will readily believe that I applaud very highly your resolution of coming out to the United States, for the reasons given in my former letters, and the pleasure which this affords me is greatly increased by the information you give me, that many of your acquaintances have been encouraged, also, by my letters to come out, but more especially that your brother and your daughter and her husband are about to come also. Indeed, I am convinced, and I believe I have expressed the same to you before, that if the people of Ireland had a correct knowledge of this country, many thousands more would annually emigrate to it.

I have got employment for you already, in case you should incline to it, which I thought it probable you might, as it is the same business you pursue in Ireland – that is, trimming hats. My brother George has lately greatly enlarged his business, and now carries on the hatting business extensively, employing a number of hands, and supplies many mercantile houses in this and the neighboring towns in the wholesale line, besides an extensive retail custom. He learns with great pleasure your intentions of coming out to this country, and promises to give you constant employment at trimming fine hats as you may choose. His wife will be also employed exclusively at the same business. Should you decline this employment, I have in view another which would perhaps be more suitable for you, and which from the opinion I have formed of your acquirements, I believe you would be fully adequate. I mean the conducting of a female academy. There is one such in town, besides several common female schools; but we want another female academy very much, and if you should bring to this business the talents for conducting one which I am persuaded you possess eminently, a sufficient number of pupils could be obtained with great ease. But of all these things I shall tell you more fully when I shall have the pleasure of doing so in person. I will only add now, on this subject, that if it should so happen that your daughter should not be here with you, you will find in my family, which consists only of my wife & self & three children, a quiet and a welcome home, in a retired and quiet part of the town.

It will be best for you, if it should be equally as convenient, to take passage for Baltimore in the State of Maryland. That city is the nearest seaport to us, and the journey over land would be performed quicker and cheaper than if you should land at Philadelphia or New York. Should you land at Baltimore, please to call upon my friend Mr. Hezekiah Niles, editor of “Niles Weekly Register,” and he will render you every assistance and advice, which you may need, on showing him this paragraph. Mr. Niles is my intimate and highly esteemed friend, and I am persuaded would take much pleasure in rendering you any service at my request. Besides, he is an honorary member of our “Western Emigrant Society,” established for the aid of emigrants. Wherever you land, you will have the convenience of a stage passage to this place.

I thank your brother for his kindness in attending to my request. I shall feel myself happy in having it in my power to render him any service I can here. It would be best, certainly, if he could contrive to bring his family with him; but if he cannot, he can soon save enough from his earnings here to send for them, as you suggest. Mr. Usher, the bearer of your letter, has not been here. Your letter was put by him, I suppose, in the Post Office, New York.

I would earnestly urge all emigrants from your country as soon as they land in this, to push out to the western states – particularly the states of Ohio, Indiana, & the western part of Pennsylvania, and to the territories of Michigan, Illinois, & Missouri. The seaports are generally crowded with emigrants from Europe, who are ignorant of the interior of the country and know not to what part of it to direct their attention; and failing to procure profitable employment in the city, they become dispirited. But if emigrants make no tarry in the seaboard side of our country, but make the best of their way across the Alegheny Mountain to this or the adjoining states on the Ohio River. Here we have an extensive rich and fertile country to receive them, which will one day vey with your own “Emerald Ile” in the density of its population. It is emphatically, the “Land of the free, and the home of the brave,” and feeling and enjoying without alloy the heaven-born blessings of liberty, we feel the strongest sympathy and compassion for our persecuted and oppressed brethren in Europe. Our arms are extended wide and our hearts expanded to receive them into the bosom of our country. But my subject begins to kindle my feelings. I must suppress them for the present. I refer you to my former letters for the account of this country and shall be happy [in knowing] how many of the oppressed inhabitants of the land of my fathers I could prevail on to adopt my country as their asylum from oppression & tyranny.

Please write me as soon as you receive this and I will thank you to give me Uncle Matthew Williams’ address, that I may open a correspondence with one of his sons. I trust you will also do me the favor to write to him on the subject, as you have kindly promised me. With my ardent wishes for your health and happiness, and a safe and pleasant voyage across the “watery deep,” to our happy shores, I remain, my dear madam, your constant friend and humble servant, — Samuel Williams

P.S. Mrs. Williams desires me to ask the favor of you, when you leave Ireland, to procure if you conveniently can, a few seeds of the “wild daisy,” the “primrose,” the best gooseberry (if they will grow from the seed) and such other rare or nice plant, or flowers as you may have opportunity of getting. We have none of the above here.

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