1850: Maria (Smith) Thomas to David P. Thomas

This letter was transcribed directly from the internet where I found it listed for sale on e-bay in October 2011. Unfortunately, the images of the letters did not include the bottom inch or two of each side of the 2-page letter, resulting in an incomplete transcription.

The letter was written by Maria (Smith) Thomas (b. @ 1786) of West Nantmeal, Chester County, Pennsylvania — a village about seven miles west of Philadelphia. Maria lived with her husband William Thomas (b. @ 1781) and their 37 year-old son, William Thomas, Jr., a painter who happened to be stone deaf, as you will read about in the letter.

No family genealogical record for the family could be found on-line, but I have found at least three other children, besides William, Jr. — these were: David P. Thomas, Ann C. Thomas, and Hayward Thomas.

In 1850, the recipient of the letter — David P. Thomas (1825-1908) — was married to Harriet (1828-1896) and residing in East Pikeland, Chester Co., PA. where David labored as a shoemaker. Ann C. Thomas (1821-1906) was married to a man named Cotern. I think they lived in the Chester County area but I’m not certain. And the oldest child, Hayward Thomas (1814-1893) was on his way to hell in 1850, if the sentiments of the rest of the family could be believed.

The Nauvoo Temple

Less than a decade earlier, Joseph Smith had come to the local schoolhouse in West Nantmeal and introduced Mormonism to the community. Most of the residents rejected his teachings but there were a significant number, like young Hayward Thomas, who were enraptured and converted. Despite being persecuted, there were enough converts to establish a church resulting in the area being derisively called “Mormon Hollow” by outsiders. Many, like Hayward, left the area in 1844 to become residents in the Mormon town of Nauvoo, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River.

In Illinois, Hayward joined others of his faith in constructing the Nauvoo Temple and was a witness to the murder of their leader, Joseph Smith. In 1846, he accompanied the first wave of Mormons to Utah as a member of the Mormon Battalion where they arrived in the summer of 1847. He returned East to visit his family in 1848 and again in 1850 — just a few months before this letter was written. It isn’t clear whether Hayward gave up the faith or not as he is found residing in Chester County, Pennsylvania in both the 1860 and 1880 Censuses. What is clear, however, is that his younger brother William, and perhaps his parents, felt that Hayward was misguided in his decision to join the Mormon faith.

Stampless Cover


[Addressed to Mr. David P. Thomas, Kimberton P.O., Chester County, Pa.]

West Nantmeal
December 8th 1850

Dear Children,

Ackland's Mill in West Nantmeal

We received the interesting Almanac you sent us, and thank you kindly for it, but you really do not deserve it better, for you promised to write, but every Mail Day brought a disappointment with it. If we cannot have the pleasure of seeing our children often, it gives us great satisfaction to receive their letters. Your Father’s heel is not well yet, and is painful at nights. Yet he sawed 7 days at Ackland’s Saw Mill while he went to Carli[s]le to buy Wheat. He engaged three thousand bushels at 90 cents per bushel.

I have been a good deal poorly for two or three weeks, with pain in my head, debility and severe spells of coughing in the mornings. Priscilla and family are all pretty well at present, and tomorrow the whole town here is going to butcher their hogs, but we shall not get ours before next week.

1850 Ad for Dr. Christie's Galvanic Belts

William is in good health and for the past few weeks has been finishing off some jobs in the neighborhood. The 18th of last month, he went to West Chester and got Doctor Christies’s galvanic waistband, bracelets, and necklace to be worn for deafness. He also got those bottles of Magnetic fluid, the whole costing 10 dollars, but he says he has not yet found any difference – only an itchy skin.

Marcia Thomas came up here yesterday week, and was weather bound till to day. Your Father walked home with her. She told us James had sold his lot, and that Mary Stauffer has a young son or daughter.

We received a letter from Betsy informing us that her husband was very ill with a liver complaint and she thought he would not recover. He has bought 80 acres adjoining Rus Thomas and this summer built a frame house and barn on it and moved there. I think he must be a discontented man, for Betsy says within the past two years he has bought and sold, and built on two farms besides where they live. She has nothing but hard work and don’t mention keeping a girl, and he won’t let any of her children live with them. She can’t be very happy.

We also got a letter from Ann Meredith informing us of the death of your cousin, Susanna Thomas, the 11th of October, and departed very happy. The rest were well. They had a fine season and fine crops and loads of apples.

And by last mail we got a letter from Hayward, poor fellow. He has had ….[bottom of page missing]

Your father returned last evening very stiff and tired, and brought in the sad intelligence of Mrs. Frock’s miserable death. How distressing it must be to her connections always to think upon.

The rain last week has made me very busy these two days, drying and ironing my last week’s wash. I feel much better since the weather has got colder. I send you the old book verses, and write soon, for I wish to hear how your sister is, and how the pretty Cherry tree fared with its long ride. Wishing you health and peace of mind, I remain your ever affectionate Mother – Maria Thomas

Dear brother & sister,

Mother says she does not know what more to wright, so I told her to let me write some. I’ll soon fill it up. So here it comes.

Schoolhouse in West Nantmeal where Joseph Smith preached

I have bought a pretty gass lamp with 2 lights in it, and I have just lit it and it is first rate to write by. You two must come up new year’s day in time for something good for dinner if the weather is favourable. If Hayward had made a convert to Mormonism of you, and took you to where he is, you would have been nicely seated now. I believe God’s withering curse is on him and will follow him untill he is convinced of the fatal delusion. One of the Apostle’s said whosoever bringeth in any other Doctrine than which we have preached, let him be accursed. Hayward said he had not sold any of his knives, and they were getting all rusty by getting wet going there. He sent 2 newspapers with his letter and a piece is printed in one about a deceitful set of Indians, 500 or more, out there who crossed the river, and some came into town and pretended to buy things while others set fire to the prairie and burnt fences, hay and wheat in stacks all to ashes. That is God’s curse by human means. That is the way the tribes of Israel, as Hayward thinks…[bottom of page missing]   [– Your brother, William Thomas, Jr.]

  • Records at The Pioneer Heritage (Mormon) Library indicate that Hayward Thomas was baptized into the Mormon faith on 18 July 1840. Apparently the LDS Church Archives in Salt Lake has a journal kept by Hayward during the period of the Mormon migration.
  • “Christie’s Magnetic Fluid was another early product to capitalize on the magnetic bandwagon. According to Blasi, Abel H. Christie was listed as a Physician dealing in galvanic and magnetic curatives in New York City in 1846-47. The Galvanic Rings, show in the 1844 newspaper ad, were to be used in conjunction with the Magnetic Fluid to effect a positive cure for rheumatism, gout, toothache, bronchitis, palsy, epilepsy, cramps, fits, palpitations of the heart, apoplexy, spinal complaints and general debility. The relatively scarce Magnetic Fluid was apparently not as good a seller as Christie’s Ague Balsam, a more common bottle. Christie died in 1852 or 1853 and the business was carried on by J. and J.F. Trippe & Co. as sole agents.”

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