1835: Dr. Elijah Griffiths to Joseph Dawson Murray

Portrait of Dr. Elijah Griffiths by Sully

This letter was written by Dr. Elijah Griffiths (1769-1847), a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and the son of Abel Griffiths (1723-1804) and Margaret Bramer (17xx-1774). Elijah was a surgeon in the First Pennsylvania Regular Cavalry that served with General Anthony Wayne in the western campaign against the Indians.

In 1815, Elijah was married to Anna Isabella Sharp (1784-18xx), the daughter of Thomas Sharp (1763-1808) and Rebecca Foster (1767-1822). He retired from medicine in 1834. It should be noted that Griffiths was a close personal friend of Thomas Jefferson and corresponded with him.

Elijah wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Joseph Dawson Murray (1788-1850), the son of William Murray (1763-1850) and Rosamond Dawson (1765-1850). Joseph Murray’s wife, Margaret M. Sharp (1793-1885) and Anna Isabella Sharp were sisters.

Stampless Cover


Addressed to Joseph D. Murray, New Hope, Pennsylvania

Woodstown, New Jersey
January 25, 1835

Dear Friend,

Page 1

I write you last thursday week on the subject of the disposition of the late Mr. Thomas Sharp’s property, but as my letter is unanswered, none from Mr. Murray has come to hand, not franked, we suppose you have been from home, or my letter has miscarried. If that letter has come to hand, I have little to add to its contents — only that Moses Richman called on Mr. Long next day & told him the head of water he had raised in our pond had not injured him & he would not disturb him. Long is now clearing clover there & likely to do some business if not disturbed, although his right only covers this township. As the season is advancing, it will be necessary we should decide soon on the course to be pursued. I would be glad to own the property here, but it never could be made to give as certain an income as the property I would have to dispose of to pay for it, nor would it ever rise in value as that will, so that I have been deterred from proposing any arrangement with you on the subject of buying your half, or exchanging property for it, & this is an unfavorable time to push property into the market. Still if you think any arrangement that would suit in the way of bartering city property for good lumber lands on the Lehigh, or any other property that would turn to good account, it would enable me to purchase your part of the property. My property in the city is safe & active. It is becoming very central & the value increasing everyday. Lumber lands, however valuable they might be to people in your line, are a mere dead wright on Philadelphia owners & they would seize with avidity the opportunity of exchanging them for property that could be available at discretion. Please to excuse this ramble of thoughts & let me know soon what you think we had best to do.

Page 2

I have rented Mr. Davis’s farm where I now live of about 60 acres for $200 for one year. A Mr. David Frees is to work it to the shares for me. I have taken it for one year. I had not heard of the contemplated dam in the Delaware at New Haven before your last letter. We are very much shut out from intelligence here. I suppose the additional railroad question will be decided in the N. J. Legislature soon. If it goes on, I suppose you & Mr. [Lewis Slate] Coryell ¹ will have a hand in the contracts & also in the Delaware Dam. I find we will have to use great economy to live in this place.

Mr. Joseph Clement, Merchant of Salem failed a week or 10 days ago & last friday afternoon his sister — Miss Ruth Clement ² — committed suicide by cutting her throat. Her mind had been disorders by that failure. There was some money transaction between them. They are in deep affliction. We are in health & hope you are all well. Give our love to all the family. Truly yours, — Elijah Griffiths


¹ Lewis Slate Coryell (1788-1865) was co-owner, with Joseph D. Murray, of the Union Mills — a grist and saw mill — on the Delaware River. He and Murray were contractors who worked on the Easton-Bristol canal (begun in 1828).

² We learn from this letter that Ruth Clement (1779-1835) committed suicide in Salem, New Jersey. Her death date is given as 23 January 1835. The 31 January edition of the National Gazette attributed the “rash act” of suicide to “domestic affliction.” The 7 February 1835 issue of the Albany Argus also reported the suicide of the “highly respected” Miss Clement saying that she was “very much esteemed in the neighborhood where she resided, and particularly beloved by the poor, to whom she was a kind friend and liberal benefactress.”


One response to “1835: Dr. Elijah Griffiths to Joseph Dawson Murray

  • gail daubenspeck

    I stumbled upon your interesting site while researching some family history. I am descended from Dr. Jesse W. Griffiths. I believe Dr. Elijah Griffiths would have been his Uncle. From your research I discovered that Elijah was a friend of Thomas Jefferson which I had not known before. Thank you for preserving these letters! Fascinating!!


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