1821: David Offley to Mary (Offley) Sharpless

This letter was written by David Offley (1779-1838) from Smyrna, Turkey in February 1821. Offley was born in Philadelphia. He served as 1st Lieutenant in the 10th U.S. Infantry, at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., 1798-1800; established the first American commercial firm in Turkey, at Smyrna in 1811, and was the chief U.S. merchant in Turkey; U.S. Commercial Agent to Turkey; Negotiated the first U.S.-Turkey commercial treaty in 1830, and in 1832, was appointed by President Andrew Jackson, 1st U.S. Consul at Smyrna.

Offley writes of his three sons — Richard Jones Offley (1800-1842), John Holmes Offley (1802-1845), & David Washington Offley (1805-1846) —  who live with him in Turkey, and especially of his concerns and plans for the 20 year-old Richard, his oldest, who has been in Constantinople for a while. We learn from this letter that Offley’s daughter, Anne Powell Offley (1811-1839), was residing in Philadelphia with his sister, Mary (Offley) Sharpless, the recently married wife of Blakey Sharpless, to whom he wrote this letter. Offley’s first wife, and the mother of all these children, was Mary Ann Greer. After her death, Offley married a woman from Dalmatia named Elena (“Helen”) Curtovitch and had at least eight more children.

Offley writes his sister that he has heard of a shoemaker in Philadelphia who cobbles shoes together with iron and brass, rather than sewing them, and sends his sister his measurements, asking her to have this shoe maker make him a dozen pairs, expecting that they will last him the rest of his life.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mary Offey Sharpless, No. 178 South Front Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Smyrna [Turkey]
18 February 1821

My dear sister,

Page 1

The letter from our Cousin, Martha Reeve, 19th Oct., announced to me formally the marriage of my dear sister. I know of no language capable of expressing my pleasure and wishes on this event. I leave to your heart to understand the sentiments of mine. I beg you to repeat to my new Brother the welcome into our family, and my sincere wishes towards the accomplishment of all his desires. I further entreat his kind friendship to my little daughter, who I am much persuaded will profit by his addition to our family. My dear Helen [his second wife, a Greek Turk who he married in 1819] joins me sincerely in all my wishes on the occasion of your marriage. She is in good health, and expects every day to lay in.

Richard has been absent these three months past at Constantinople. I expect his return every day. I have been much flattered by all I have heard of him during his stay in that place. It is probable he will proceed to America by the first good conveyance. I feel much anxiety on his account. He will, this year, come to his 21st year, and I think it now time he should begin to walk alone. On the other hand, trade is so miserably bad that I cannot but reasonably fear that any capital I might be disposed to advance him will be quickly lost. I have many plans for him – an establishment at Constantinople – that he should go to the U. States, purchase a small vessel, & trade between this & Philad. – that he should pay a visit to the U. States without engaging in business, make friends & acquaintances, and thus pass two years. This would cost at least 2000 Dollars, and perhaps it will be less, then should he enter into business; and lastly and perhaps the best, that he should remain quiet where he is, until something might turn up.

Page 2

As to Master Holmes [another son, who joined him in Turkey], you need not give yourself any uneasiness. He is in a good counting house, where I have good accounts of him. He is a great hand among the young ladies, and if I would only allow him as much money as he wants, would no doubt be better contented. This I believe is his only chagrin.

Master David is very domestic, grows finely, and when he shall be corrected of his insufferable pride, will make, I hope, a clever fellow.

You have never told me whether you rec’d from a Mr. Cabot of Boston, I believe 2, certainly one, cask of wine. A Capt. Chandler of Baltimore was to remit some money to Mother on Richard’s account. He has also in the hands of a house in N.York, 800 Dollars, which I shall advise him to deposit with the same Banker. These moneys are to be held to his order. The opportunity by which I now write, is expected to return here immediately; perhaps may not remain in N.York more than 20 days. Mr. Turnbull has promised me to let you know in time. I understand a Mr. Bedford, shoemaker in Philadelphia, is famous for making shoes nailed with Iron & Brass, instead of sewing. I enclose a measure, and directions for 1 doz. pair shoes, which I expect will last me the rest of my life, and which please order to be made. Pay for the same, and have them forwarded to N.York, care of Mr. Turnbull.

Page 3

I have just heard of the arrival of Richard in the neighbourhood, where he is detained by a gale of contrary wind. I almost doubt whether he will arrive in time to write you. Remember me affectionately to Rachel and her husband…

Our poor brother John, I am anxious to hear how he comes on. He has gone so far, he must now go to the bottom of the hill, and if he cannot settle with his creditors any other way, he must go to prison, and then they perhaps will be more tolerable. Let him give up every thing he has, and then if his creditors will not give him a discharge, I hope his friends will do all in their power to assist him to get over by Law….

To my dear daughter, many kisses. Tell her to love her father, who never lets one day pass without thinking of her. When her eyes shall be well, then she will be more attentive to school and will be soon able to write her a letter. But should her eyes be so tender that such use of them would be injurious, it is much better she should entirely abandon school than injure her eyes; besides, for the best part of education, the eyes are no way necessary, or at least not absolutely so…

I remain most affectionately my ever dear little sister Mary, your affectionate brother, — David


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