1831: David Offley to Mary (Offley) Sharpless

This letter was written by David Offley (1779-1838), the son of Daniel Offley (1756-1793) and Judith Scull (1761-Aft1831) who were Quakers and such pacifists that Daniel, an anchorsmith by trade, was imprisoned in 1789 when he refused to pay a militia tax. He died of Yellow Fever during the 1793 epidemic in Philadelphia.

David wrote the letter from his residence in Bournabat, Turkey. 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. 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 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.

Stampless Letter

TRANSCRIPTION

Addressed to Mrs. Mary Offley Sharpless, Pine Street, Philadelphia

Bournabat [Turkey]
May 27, 1831

My Dear Sister,

I have had the great satisfaction to receive your letter 23 February and to learn that you were in the enjoyment of good health. Before the receipt of this I trust you will have seen [my son] Richard and I hope his councils to his sister may have a good effect. I disapproved very much of the parties [my daughter] Ann appears to make not infrequently into the country. Of course I do not allude to those to our relations or when accompanied by them. Before the departure of Richard, we frequently spoke together on this subject. He will communicate my wishes to her and which I repeat in the enclosed letter. Ann has had every advantage of good example and if she has not profited by it, I must suppose her hereditary disposition are more strong. I think it is unfortunate both for the young man in question and Ann that he should have made the voyage to Calcutta. She has not said a word to me on the subject nor have I myself to her letter.

I have always feared the climate of Woodbury was not good. As I find my recollections are correct, have abandoned the idea of ever sending them there. If it had been otherwise and agreeable to our sister and her husband, I should have sent them this fall. Although young, I have that confidence in the character of Edward that I would not only trust him in a great measure to take care of himself but also of his brother who is to accompany him. My ideas on the subject of education has undergone a great change since last we were together and perhaps some day I may have a fair opportunity of judging by comparison if the change has been for the better. Having said this much, I must, however, in justice to my sons Richard & David add that I know not two more respectable and respected young men. their conduct on all occasions has been moral & correct. Of Holmes, I cannot in truth say so much. The difficulties he has had will be a lesson to himself and wife (for never was sister & brother more alike) which will be of future service to them.

David is in a Counting house at Constantinople. I hear frequently from him and trust he is in a fair way to get rid of some of his excessive pride and high ideas. As to my little ones, I feel undecided when or where I shall send them. Some of my Navy friends advise me to send them to Virginia and offer to take them. I cannot, however, decide so to do. I would rather have them boarded with some happy and good family in Country and to attend some Country school where they would be happy than to send them to any boarding school where as much pains are taken to excite their emulation, envy, or ambition — call it what you will — and which must tend to make them bad and unhappy.

Please present my best regards and thanks to your kind husband for his letter. The vessel by which the box was sent went first to Constantinople. The Captain says David took it out of the vessel as I had another box Garden sent & newspapers from New York. Perhaps he thought one was enough for me. I have wrote to him enquiring if it was so and have not yet received an answer. I shall by next opportunity write to my old friend S. Hagan to thank him for his kind attention. I trust to you my dear sister to make my thanks acceptable to your husband for his present of the Annals of Philadelphia. I have had a copy sent me some time past and I see the mention of our father although his name is not spelled right. I am anxious to see the account of J.S. Lewis. I think there will be something remaining in his hands to add to the sum. I am preparing for the education of my children in the U.S. I see a great deal said in the newspapers relative to a compensation to be made by our Gov. I much doubt having as little confidence as their generosity as justice within anything worthwhile will be offered for my acceptance.

Give my love to our dear Mother, Brothers & Sisters. My little family or rather family of little ones are in the enjoyment of high health & happiness. My dear Helen requests to join me in love to you all.

With sincere affection my dear sister, — your brother David

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