1764: Samuel Powell Emlen to Sarah Morris

This letter was written by Samuel Powell Emlen (1730-1800) just before his departure to Bristol, England in 1764. Samuel Emlen was “one of the most noted ministers among early members of the Philadelphia “Society of Friends,” —  more commonly known as “Quakers.” Known as “The Quaker Seer,” Samuel was versed in Latin and Greek and many modern languages enabling him to converse with those he met when traveled throughout America, England and the Caribbean. In Philadelphia, people were said to have crossed the street when seeing Samuel Powel Emlen walking towards them. He was known to make contact with people, and with his insight, would make startling comments concerning their character and condition. His house on Arch Street above fifth Street with it large garden and trees would later be remembered lovingly by his grand daughter Susan Dillwyn Physick in her journals.

“Young Samuel Powel Emlen worked for awhile as an apprentice in the counting house of James Pemberton. But, with sufficient means to support him Samuel took off on his ministry speaking first at a meeting in Ireland in 1756. Returning to Philadelphia Samuel married Elizabeth Moode, daughter of William Moode at Philadelphia Meeting in 1761.

Samuel Emlen House in Philadelphia

“Their son Samuel Emlen Jr., 1766–1837, married Susannah Dillwyn, daughter of William and Sarah Logan Dillwyn in 1795. This Samuel Emlen and his wife Susannah residing at their estate “West Hill” in Burlington County, New Jersey. Beloved by Dr. Physick and his wife Elizabeth, they would name their daughter Susan Dillwyn Physick to honor her brother’s wife. Not having children and succeeding his wife Susannah, Samuel Emlen Jr. provided for the foundation of the Emlen Institute for the Benefit of Children of African and Indian Descent with $20,000 from his will. First organized in Ohio it would soon after move to Warminster Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This foundation was later vested in Cheyney State University, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, oldest of the historically Black Colleges and Universities in America. Founded as the Institute for Colored Youth and subsequently changed years later to Cheyney State University, its founding began with $10,000 by the will of silversmith Richard Humphries, apprentice to, and later the successor to Dr. Physick’s namesake, Philip Syng Jr.” [Source: Dr. Physick]

Accounts of Friends who went on religious visits from America to Europe:

1756 — Samuel Emlen.
1764 — Samuel Emplen, second time.
1772 — Sarah Morris, accompanied by her niece, Deborah Morris. Samuel Emlen, third time.
1784 — Samuel Emlen, fourth time.
1792 — Samuel Emlen, fifth time.
1796 — Samuel Emlen, sixth time. Samuel Emlen, his son, an elder and member of Burlington particular meeting in New Jersey.

The Friend, Vol 37 states that in the year 1764, Samuel Emlen “removed with his wife and family to Bristol, Old England, where he resided several years. About the close of the year 1765, he and his wife intended returning to America, and consulted together about crossing the ocean in a favorite Philadelphia vessel, the Snow Nancy, then taking in a cargo at Bristol.” Long story short, they decided not to sail in the ship and learned later that it wrecked off the Jersey shore and that Captain Carr and most of the hands were lost.

Samuel Emlen wrote the letter to Sarah Morris (1703-1775), daughter of Anthony Morris (1654-1721) — a Philadelphia brewer, wealthy merchant, and civic leader. Sarah became a minister in the Quaker society of Philadelphia at age 43 (1746). She never married. Sarah’s mother, Elizabeth (Watson) Morris (1673-1767), must have lived next door, or nearby, to the Emlen family; she was about 90 years old when this letter was written, having outlived her husband by 43 years.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Sarah Morris of Philadelphia, to the care of Henry Haydock, Merchant at New York

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
Third Day Morning 29th, 5th Month, 1764 [29 May 1764]

Dear Friend,

The pleasing receipt of thine from Stonybrook encourages an inclination I had before to send thee a few lines for thy information of the merciful continuance of usual health to my dear wife & self, your common friends, I believe in general. We have both been mindful to step in divers times to visit thy aged mother. She seems as well & cheerful as I remember these twenty years, & satisfied in thy present allotment, hoping infinite bounty & strength may vouchsafe to be yet kind to thee in thy preservation thro’ whatever outward difficulties or hidden conflicts may be permitted to attend.

My dear wife attempted to go in last evening to let her know our receipt of thyne above mentioned [letter] but the door being fast, we thought it unreasonable, supposing those within were gone to bed. It is now too early in the morning to expect she is up. However, many hours will hardly elapse before she is informed thereof.

We seem to have business enough for the short time allotted to prepare for the voyage to Bristol as it is expected the ship will leave town on seventh or first day next. No other passengers in the cabin are like to go except a Frenchman who cannot speak a sentence of English. He bears a good character from accounts sent by him by letters he brought from the West Indies, which with the few interviews we have had at my house increases our hope he will not be much disagreeable, tho’ on being told of the non-necessity of dealing much in compliments, he intimated an apprehension of difficulty in any attempt suddenly to renounce them. Perhaps their disuse on our part may lessen the frequency of his. In other respects, it is my desire we may be preserved in the inoffensiveness of innocency that may not justly displease.

Betty Carr lodges at your house. I just now sent her in to enquire of thy mother show she is tho’ it is not yet six o’clock. She is glad to know we have heard of thee, desires her love to thee, is already in the parlor below stairs & would have thee informed she is bravely much better than when you left her. Our kind love to you & thy other companions we are acquainted with. Her husband was at our house yesterday — well as usual.

We desire a testimony of thy remembrance by letters when we are outwardly further separated. A love that distance cannot destroy has been at times known to warm our breasts mutually & as we continue therein agreeable to Divine ever obligatory injunction formerly to the Disciples, a comforting union of spirit will be maintained. Whilst thou art abroad, it may not be wholly impertinent before I close this scarcely legible scrawl to hint Paul’s care about Archippus that he should take heed to the ministry he had received in the Lord to fulfill it. I hope necessary as thy company is at home the attractions this way may not hasten more speedily back than entire Christian Liberty allows considering ye are not your own said the apostle.

Excuse this abrupt scrawl [and] accept an affectionate salute from me & wife. Thy affectionate friend, — Samuel Emlen


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