1840: Thomas Brown to Alexander Johnson

This letter was written to Alexander Johnson (1812-1896), son of James Johnson (1780-1850) and Elizabeth Hayes (1769-1828). Alexander was a farmer and was married to Willamena Hines.

This letter was written by a New Jersey farmer who signed his name Thomas Brown, but I have not been able to determine which of several Thomas Brown’s residing in Burlington County he was. We know from the letter that he was a relative of Alexander Johnson, a Quaker, and though page 3 of the letter is not signed, it seems probable that it was written by Thomas’s wife.

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Addressed to Alexander Johnson, Esq., Mispillion Hundred, Kent County near Milford, Delaware

Burlington County, New Jersey near Medford
10th Month, 18th Day 1840 [18 October 1840]

Dear relatives,

I have taken this opportunity of writing to you to inform you I am yet on the land and blessed with health and endeavoring to get my house in order against the great accounting day, which it is evident we must all do in time or suffer the loss to all eternity. I have experienced several years and been in divers situation in prosperity and in adversity, in sickness, and health, in danger — seen and unseen, and have amidst them all found that we are nothing within and of ourselves [and are] altogether dependent on an independent God for every blessing of life. I have viewed nature in all her movements and see that everything proves the bible to be the word of truth, and if so, what will be the end of those that obey not the gospel?

Thomas Paine, in all his writings against the bible, admitted the book of Daniel — which at once destroyed all he had said, for if we admit any to be true, we must admit the whole. For we have much proof of one as the other. And I am persuaded that there is no person that will give conscience fair play that has ever deliberated on his latter end, but has been convinced that there must be a reformation in man before he can enter in to that rest that remains for the people of God.

We are all of the opinion that universal salvation is for every man and so it is. But not in the way that many think or want to think. Salvation is free for every man but he must make use of the means that is for him or he will certainly be deceived in the end. I have never joined any church myself, but I am striving to pursue the straight path. Their is but one Church with God — many are called but few chosen.

As to political affairs, all the noise I hear is [William Henry] Harrison which is of no account to me as I neither ask office or favor from any of them. All I want is good crops, good health, and a good currency, and peace with all nations provided they do not impose on us. But if they do, to defend our rights, which is a duty belonging to every man, let his religion be what it may.

I should like to hear whether you have heard from William Willsey since I seen you. I wrote one letter to William Tharp last spring but he never answered it. I wrote one to Mary Ann Johnson. She never answered it. I have now written this to you. I hope you will not neglect writing to me. If you do, it will be the last I shall write to you.

You will direct your letter to Medford, Burlington County, New Jersey. Care of William S. Kaighn. You tell Mary Ann that I should be pleased to receive a letter from her in answer to one I wrote her last Spring, if she received it. And if not, I should thank her to write me a few lines and let me know whether she has been in Philadelphia the summer past and when she will be up again. Give my respects to all enquiring friends.

Let me know what become of the negro stealers last spring, and how William Tharp progresses with his saw mill. Farewell for the present, and I still remain your friend and relative until death, — Thomas Brown

My Dear relations,

I have often thought of you since I see you and thought I would come down again soon and see you. But owing to my business, I have not been able to come. I shall not be able to come and see you this winter I have entered into an engagement that I can not leave before Spring and I therefore should be very happy to hear from you all. How you are getting along, who is married, and who is living.

My little ones are in good health. I wish you to give my love to all my relations and friends. I have you all in my mind every day I live. Give my love too my aged Aunt as she is all that I have on this side the grave. I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing her again but if we never more see each other on this side of eternity, I hope we shall rest where Jesus is. My dear friends, the time is coming when we must give an account of ourselves. Let us be on the watch tower least death may come when we least expect it. For this I fear will be the situation of many. They will still be saying peace when trouble will come on them, for the Apostle says, “Behold, now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of Salvation” and if we ket this golden moment pass, it may be our last. I now recommend you to the mercy of God who is ever watching over you.

I have not seen or heard from Brother John since last Spring. I wrote to him some time back but have not received any answer from him yet. I am looking for a letter everyday. Write me how William T. Manlove is coming on. George & Elizabeth, William Tharp and wife, John Johnson, and family. Give my respect to his girls and tell them that I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing them happily situated of I should ever be down again.

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