1823: Blakey Sharpless to Mary (Offley) Sharpless

What Blakey Sharpless might have looked like

This letter was written by Blakey Sharpless (1787-1854) to his wife Mary Offley Sharpless (1793-1865). No year appears in the dateline, but the letter discusses the 12 September 1822 death of his 41 year-old brother, Isaac Sharpless (1793-1822), and also the upcoming marriage of Jesse Meredith and Phebe Downing — an event that occurred in December 1823, which would date this letter to August 1823.

Written in the Quaker style while on a visit to his family, without his wife and kids. He tells of the stage ride from Philadelphia. There is a poignant description of the effect on himself and his father that his brother Isaac’s recent death has had, and writes of visiting the spot where he fell and struck his head on a stake, which killed him, and how someone had engraved on the stake “Exit I.S. Sep. 12 1822.”

Stampless Letter


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

[Downington, Pennsylvania
[August 28th 1823]
4th Day evening at Fathers

Page 1

I have retired to my chamber, and feel as if I must write a little before lying down. I got to the stage office in time, and had only two companions —  a social old gentleman, & his son, a lad. We had a great deal of talk, and made many interjections at the varied scenes as we passed along. Often did I wish for thee to partake of the fineness of the morning, and beauty of the country, for it is at this time particularly beautiful. I found myself on the steps at father’s door 1/2 past 12 o’clock, found all well, and received a hearty welcome and many kind inquiries for thee and our sweet boys, and why thou dids’t not come along, all of which were answered according to their tenor.

My infirm and aged father met me weeping; he told me I brought fresh to his mind his dear departed son, and we mingled our tears. Indeed my love, my feelings are continually almost effected by the recollection of my dear brother. I have been so little here since his death, that I can hardly realize the event, but the sad reality is forced upon me when some object presents which I formerly knew in connection with him, and I am directly hurried on to the true state of the case, which makes me serious and sigh.

The day of my arrival, I walked over to Joshua’s and passed the awful spot on which he fell. Some unknown hand has engraven on the fatal stake against which his head fell, “Exit I. S., Sep. 12 1822”! The recollection was awful; father was with me and pointed it out. Poor old man, he feels his privations too poignantly! & allows sometimes a little murmuring to possess his mind, but he knows a little of the comfort derived from resigning all to our heavenly, and that it is best to try to be able to assent to the exclamation “not my will, but thine be done Oh Lord.”

I shall finish in the morning in time for the stage. Please my dear, kiss our dear little boys and partake thyself.

Fifth day morning. My Dear, after a hearty breakfast, I continue my scribble. After dinner on 2d day, I walked with father to Joshua’s, and was introduced to the said Nathan C! Shall I attempt to describe him? Well then, in the first place, the Doctor Jacob who attended, says he is a boy, and I saw for myself he was a large one, and fat, with a mouth like his sister’s, and the upper part of his face resembling Hannah Davis — his aunt; chin with a dimple, as his father’s, a pretty good boy. We took tea with them and returned to father’s. 3d day, I remained at home till about sunset, and walked over to Joshua’s to lodge; back 4th day morning for meeting. The hour of meeting changed from 11 to 10 o’clock. After meeting, which was silent, Joshua Hoope’s wife and Jesse Kersey not attending, I spoke to several of my friends, who enquired for thee and our boys. It really seems only like half enjoying a visit not to have thee along, and father and mother, who I do think are disappointed in not having thee, told me at breakfast it seemed lop sided not to have my Mary and our little boys with me.

After dinner 4th day, Sister M. and I rode to Coatesville to see cousin F. Maule, and back in the evening. Tomorrow, 6th day, mother and I intend visiting sister Anne, back in the evening, and then I will hasten, my love, to thee and our sons; dear little fellows, how I want to kiss them and observe their joy at meeting me.

But about our wine. Father’s folks had not tapped it, so thee may be sure I did not delay long before I had a small decanter filled, and with wine glass and waiter, I treated the family with wine “made by my wife and self.” Oh how _____ but I will let thee taste it when I return, as I intend taking a bottle of it with me. I can then enjoy thy disappointment or laugh at thy significant manner of expressing lusciousness.

Page 3

I have collected a little news. Jesse Meredith and Phebe Downing are to be married, and cousin Jane Milhous and Greenberry Plumer of Ohio, are also engaged to be united in like manner!! What thinks thou, my dear, of all this? If I am much more minute of myself, I shall not leave room for inquiries of thy daily progress nor have anything left to tell thee when I return.

How have you got along? Does Rachel bother thee? Does Sarah behave well and has she commenced school? Has R returned? Has mother returned? Does Ann behave kindly and is Offley troublesome with his “ge whoe”  H.H. [Hobby Horse]. But of the most consequence, how has thee done at night? I hope pretty well!

Answers to all the above I hope to receive in an hour or two, or wait till I return.

Stage time is at hand, and I do not want to disappoint thee. I hope this letter will be left with thee this evening I shall request T. K. to send it.

Please kiss our boys fifty times, & tell them their Baba loves them, and be assured my dear, I shall return soon, and with delight, salute thee as the dearest friend of my heart. Love to Ann and remembrance to the rest of the family.

Thy husband affectionately, – Blakey Sharpless


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