This letter was written by Catherine (Bate) Wager (1772-1829), the widow of John Wager, Jr. (1772-1812) — who inherited significant property in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, from his father, John Wager, Sr. (1747-1803). As such, the Wager family monopolized commerce and controlled commercial and residential development in the riverfront village adjacent to the United States Armory for nearly thirty years.
John and Catherine Wager had four children: James Bate Wager (1801-1854), John William Stein Wager (whose death on 22 March 1824 is foretold in this letter), Gerard Bond Wager (1805-1848), and Sarah Ann (“Sally”) Wager (1808-1882). We learn from this letter that Sally was attending the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1824. Sally married (1832) to Noah Haynes Swayne (1804-1884) — the first Republican appointed as a justice to the United States Supreme Court by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. He is most famous for his majority opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Revenue Act of 1864 that first imposed a federal income tax.
Catherine Wager wrote the letter to Rev. Charles Frederick Seidel (1778-1861) who came to the United States from Dresden, Saxony. He studied theology, taught at Gnadenfeld, Silesia, and in 1860 received a call as assistant minister at Salem, N.C. In 1809 he married Sophia D. Reichel, and served as Principal of Nazareth Hall, as minister at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and for 14 years as Principal of the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies, until the Synod of 1836. Later he was elected a member of the Provincial Helpers’ Conference, and retired in 1856.
A note is added at the end of the letter pronouncing the death of John Wager. It was signed by Mor. Throckmorton [possibly Mordecai Throckmorton (b.@1800)] who represents himself as Sally Wager’s cousin.
Addressed to Rev’d Charles F. Seidel, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Harper’s Ferry [Virginia]
March 9, 1824
I have received your letter and account, but owing to the illness of my sons. one of whom has recovered, & have not had it in my power to attend to it. But it shall be attended to this month. I need not inform you of the affliction of our family as they are too numerous. my son John is now given over by all his attending physicians. Now, my dear Sir, may O ask it of you as a friend to prepare my dear daughter’s mind to receive the shock of her brother’s death which is expected daily. I wish you to communicate this to Sally as a father. You who can sympathize with a parent in distress for the loss of one of their dearest gifts in this life. A parent can feel a trial like this and can judge of what consolation is required to heal a distressed mind. Pray sir and friend, allow me to partake of your and Mrs. Seidel’s late afflictions. I truly sympathize with you. Our situations in distress require us to bear up against the troubles in our families, the separation from our dear children with Christian fortitude. The Lord gave, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be his name. Remember me affectionately to Mrs. Seidel and accept yourself my respect. — Catherine Wager
Please to tell Sally that her brothers all join in the warmest expression of love for her and that her brother Bond will write in a few days. That owing to his great attention to his afflicted brother, he has not had it in his power, and that she must receive the well wishes of all relatives & friends. — C. W.
I wish Sally to apply herself strictly to the higher branches of education.
[remainder of letter written in different hand]
Owing to the situation of this family, this letter has been neglected. Our lovely cousin’s happy spirit took its flight from this world of affliction to the blessed regions of peace on the 22. That better part now rests in that house not made with hands but which is eternal in the Heavens whose maker & builder is God. It was my privilege to close his dying eyes, to watch over him for some weeks.
My Aunt requests that Mr. Seidel will let my dear cousin [Sally] have whatever money she may want & charge her with the amount. The money sent he wishes to charge to his account $10. Mor. ____ Throckmorton