1834: Benjamin Rush Bradford to Thomas Bradford, Jr.

This letter was written by Benjamin Rush Bradford (1813-1884), son of Thomas Bradford, Jr. (1781-1851) and Elizabeth Lockerman (1779-1842). The following biographical material was compiled by John H. Wilson III in 2/2001:

“The paternal ancestors of Benjamin Rush Bradford were among the prominent citizens of Philadelphia for five generations. William Bradford, Benjamin Rush Bradford’s great, great grandfather, (born 1660 in Lancaster, England, died 1752) came to America with William Penn in 1658. William Bradford was the first printer in the middle provinces, and the first to start a paper mill in Pennsylvania. His son, Andrew, was patriot and a friend of Benjamin Franklin. Andrew’s son, Thomas Bradford, a printer also, (1745-1838), was married in 1768 to Mary, daughter of Samuel Fisher. Thomas Bradford’s son, Thomas, Jr. was born in 1781. In May of 1805, he married Elizabeth Lockerman, of Dover, Delaware. They had four sons and a daughter, and he died in 1851. Their second son, Benjamin Rush Bradford, was born in 1813, in Philadelphia, and later managed four tracts of land comprising more than 900 acres in Beaver County, Pennsylvania — 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh — that were purchased by his father in 1785 and 1786. Benjamin Rush Bradford came to the area in 1837, living in Mercer County until 1839 when he moved to a farm near New Brighton, PA. He married Margaret Campbell there in 1840. His children were Juliet, Thomas and Eleanor. An 1876 Economy Township map shows Benjamin Rush Bradford as owner of the four tracts. An 1872 map shows three houses marked BRB.”

The “Mr. Cowgill” whose mill dam failed in the spring of 1834 was likely Ezekiel Cowgill (1792-1881), a Miller, who resided near Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware.

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Addressed to Thomas Bradford, Jr., Esq., No. 5 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

Dover [Delaware]
July 12, 1834

My Dear Father,

Your letter dated the 8 inst. was received on the 10th and we were happy to hear that Mother’s heath is improving and sorry that you have met with such an injury in your legs which has confined you so long to the house. But I trust when I shall see you that you will be perfectly restored to your wanted activity of body and muscular strength. It always rejoiceth me to hear of the health of all relations and friends.

As in this life we have to meet with disappointments in our calculations that when they happen we should not murmur. In my last I mentioned that it was my calculation that I should bring up so much money and have my business settled up. But so it is I am disappointed. Mr. Cowgill had just finished his dam at his mill pond, which has been a job of nearly three months standing and which has cost him in the neighborhood of $800 dollars and he expected in this coming week to go in with his milling operations and to cut the polars and other timber which he has bought. But on Thursday last in the morning about 10 o’clock, his dam broke in the same place where he had repaired it and the water washed all the new made earth away — and that in five minutes time — so that instead of having the poplars cut now and receiving the money for them, I will have to wait till next October when Mr. Cowgill expects to have his dam repaired and ready for sawing. He intends to have his dam in such a way that the pressure of water will not carry it away.

In selling the bark timber by cutting it up into cord wood for a brick kiln which I have done, but the persons who intended to have one and been about it at this time have disappointed me. Therefore, I shall not be able to have my business settled up and the amount of money which I wanted to have carried up with me. I cannot say at this time how much I shall have to carry up as I am using every means that I am capable of doing to get as much as can be got without sacrificing the timberland and my health.

As I have to return here in the fall, I thought it best to engage as many cords of hickory wood and oak which will bring about $100 dollars and upwards in the clear which will take me to cut and deliver about five weeks and I will have my hands and team engaged before I leave here so I shall have no hindrance if my life and health is continued. I cannot be absent from Dover more than five weeks. You may therefore expect to see me the first week in August as I shall leave here if nothing happens to prevent.

We enjoy good health and unite in much love to all that are at home and abroad. I remain your affectionate son, — Benjamin Rush Bradford

P S. We have had the first of this week very warm weather. The thermometer has stood in the hall at 90 and 91 degrees which is as cool a place as it could stand almost to be in the shade. On Thursday evening last, the wind shifted to the East and has been ever since a little cool but pleasant.

P. S. When I return and see you, I will let you know the cost of carrying poplar plank to Philadelphia. If I was to let you know by letter, it would well fill nearly a sheet. I can only say the costs would be nearly as much as profits after it reaches Philadelphia. That is exceeding what I can get for the timber in its rough state from the woods. I must say it depends entirely upon what they will give for it in the city. — B. R. B.

P. S. I have been considering upon what you say in relations to my future prospects in life and if you should hear of any place in the country where I could in a short time be at store keeping, I should like it very much and rejoice to hear it for I am very anxious to be settled down.

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