1836: Mary Jane (Mason) Abercrombie to Dr. Charles Steadman Abercrombie

This letter was written by Mary Jane (Mason) Abercrombie (1787-1875), the second wife of Rev. James Abercrombie (1758-1841), the rector of St. Peter’s and Christ Protestant Episcopal Churches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She wrote the letter to Dr. Charles Steadman Abercrombie (1804-1886), her step-son, who resided on a plantation named Edgeland near Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi. He was married first to Mary Caroline Bowmar (1806-1842) in August 1833, and after her death, married second Annie Murphey (1835-1861).

Rev. James Abercrombie

Rev. Abercrombie achieved some notoriety for rebuking (from the pulpit) George and Martha Washington for setting a bad example to others when leaving his church before communion in 1793. From 1810 to 1819 he was the Pincipal of the Philadelphia Academy and he retired from the ministry in 1833.

Mary (Mason) Abercrombie was from a distinguished family on the island of Barbados. She died in January 1875 in Jersey City, New Jersey, at the home of her son, Rev. Richard Mason Abercrombie.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Dr. Charles S. Abercrombie, Edgeland mear Natchez, Mississippi

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
January 7, [1836]

Circumstances beyond my control, my dear Charles, have prevented my fulfilling the long anticipated pleasure of writing to you. In now addressing you, I know not whether I am not intrude more upon your time & patience than the occasion warrants. If so, you must pardon me.

Your kindness to your beloved Father on many occasions has been deeply felt by both of us, & indeed, I consider the present excellent state of his health as arising in a great degree from the affectionate attention of his children & feel that on that account a debt of gratitude is owing to them, which I cannot expect ever to repay. But their own hearts will be their reward and a parent’s blessing, which is most precious.

You know that in consequence of the embarrassed state of our affairs, & decrease of salary, I undertook to educate several young ladies. Providence crowned my exertions with success beyond my expectations, beyond my deserts, & instead of owing five thousand dollars as we did at that time, we now [owe] only about two. Still this is a large sum & it was my determination if I ever became possessed of property in any way, to liquidate the whole & trust to Divine help for support.

My beloved mother must have heard me express this sentiment, for although she has left me but thirty seven hundred dollars, & [my daughters] Martha & Mary five hundred apiece, she has left it so in trust to my brothers, that even if they would, they could not allow me to touch a farthing, & as it only produces five percent, I have not reallt as much income as I formerly possessed — Mother always having allowed me 250 dollars per year for her board.

Do not for a moment, my dear Charles, suppose this is written with a view to induce you to do anything. So far from it. I say, without hesitation, you do most nobly & more than can be expected from you. I should despise myself for such meanness. Besides, it is the duty of every Christian to live within his or her income & if they can not do that, to use such talents as God has given them for its increase. My present statement is made, first to prevent your believing at any time an exaggerated account of my beloved mothers bequest, & last, tho’ not least, to beg you to exert yourself to obtain some scholars for me in the spring, as I am determined to resume my labors then on a larger scale, as by that time, I doubt not, my health which has for some time past been very delicate will be fully reestablished & I prefer southern girls to any other.

Mary Railey is quite well & writing to her mother at the present time. She has I think very much improved in appearance. You may judge for yourself in other things. Her attainments are certainly above those of her age generally. Maria is quite well & appears pleased with her present situation. She spent the Christmas holidays with me. Before you receive this, you may perhaps say, with the feeling which parents alone can understand, my children; may they indeed prove blessings to you & their dear mother, to whom offer my sincere & affectionate wishes.

Tell Susan it seems to me she promised to write first. I shall be glad to receive her letter. Mary will write to her in a few days. Give her my best love & to her sweet children whom I think among the loveliest I have ever seen. To the General also, present me affectionately. I do indeed regret that Mrs. Wood does not intend sending her little girls as it would have afforded me much gratification to have had the charge of her education, but her mother knows best & is in every respect highly qualified to train her to excellence.

Pardon this long tiresome letter, dear Charles, but I was not willing you should believe me less disinterested than I professed to be. With sentiments of sincere affection for yourself & family, I remain, Charles, your affectionate friend, — M. Abercrombie


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