1821: Jonathan D. Lewis to Eliza (Lewis) Vaughan

This letter was written by Jonathan D. Lewis (1774-1841) to his sister Eliza (Lewis) Vaughan, the widow of Dr. John Vaughan (1775-1807). Jonathan went to Russia while a young man and established the first American dry goods commission house in St. Petersburg, made a large fortune, took up his residence in England, and was the father of John Delaware Lewis, who became a member of the British Parliament. Jonathan was married to Eliza Clewlough, daughter of Capt. Clewlough of the British Navy.

Jonathan and Eliza were the children of Joel Lewis (1750-1820) and Amy Hughes (1754-1826). The inscription on Joel’s headstone says that he served as the “US Marshall of the Delaware District during both Presidential terms of Thomas Jefferson.”

Jonathan and Eliza had a brother named William David Lewis (1792-1881) who is mentioned in this letter. He was the private secretary to Henry Clay in 1814-’15 and accompanied him when he was United States peace commissioner to Great Britain. Subsequently he worked in Russia for his brother Jonathan from 1818 to 1824, devoting much study to the Russian language while residing there. On his return to Philadelphia, he became an importer and commission agent, and from 1849 to 1853, he was collector of the port; in 1854 was president of the Catawissa railroad, and treasurer of the Williamsport and Elmira railroad. For many years he was cashier of the Girard bank of Philadelphia. He was a trustee of various benevolent institutions, and at one time was president of the Pennsylvania academy of fine arts. He translated and published the “Bokesarian Fountain,” by Alexander Pushkin, and other poems by various Russian authors (Philadelphia, 1841), which was favorably commented on by the Russian press, and was an introduction to the subsequent demand for Russian literature in America.

Jonathan and Elizabeth also had a sister named Abigail (“Abbie”) Lewis (1776-1834) who married Benjamin Patterson. Their daughter, Susan Patterson, married Dr. David Kirkpatrick of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania — an event referred to in this letter.

Eliza’s husband, Dr. Vaughan was the son of Rev. Joshua Vaughan (1749-1808) and Jane Taggart (1754-1822). John Vaughan was educated in Chester, Pennsylvania, and in 1793 and 1794, while studying to be a doctor, attended lectures on medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Vaughan practiced medicine in Delaware, first in Christiana Bridge and later in Wilmington. He was a member of several professional organizations, including the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine, the Medical Society of Philadelphia, the American Medical Association, and the Delaware Medical and Philosophical societies. Vaughan was a prolific author, lending his pen to topics of medical and scientific importance. He kept his “Medical Diary No. 3″ before and during the serious yellow fever epidemic of 1802. Vaughan died in 1807 of typhoid fever.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mrs. E. L. Vaughan, Wilmington, State of Delaware
Susquehanna, Capt. [Charles J.] Dixey

St. Petersburg [Russia]
September 8th 1821

Dear Sister,

I received your favour giving a little history of the family for which please to accept my best thanks. John did right in marrying, I think. William will be about leaving you I suppose when this arrives. I am tired of business and want him back to assist me. Susan P’s marriage has been highly gratifying to me. I hope that your family and Mrs. P’s are on the best of terms together — anything else would be shameful to professors of Christianity. You shall both receive from me all the assistance that I can afford. I know you both to be good women. Make my love to all your family.

Yours affectionately, — J. D. L.


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