1848: Abby C. (Hardy) Dunlap to Rev. Joseph Alexander Murray

What Abby Dunlap and her young son John might have looked like in 1848

This letter was written by Abby C. (Hardy) Dunlap (1813-Aft1880), the widow of Rev. John A. Dunlap who died the previous year (1847) in Marion, Ohio. They were married on 20 September 1843. Rev. Dunlap was involved in publishing religious periodicals, one of which was called The Family Monitor. The Dunlaps had one son named John J. Dunlap, born in 1845. He served in Co. B., 136th Ohio Infantry during the Civil War.

This letter was written to Rev. Joseph Alexander Murray (1815-1889), the son of George Murray (1762-1855) and Mary Polly Denny (1778-1845). He married Ann Hays Blair (1819-1875) in 1843. The newborn daughter of Joseph and Ann Murray was Mary Elizabeth Murray, born 11 February 1848. Murray graduated from Western University of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh (1837), received his Doctor of Divinity from the Western Theological Seminary (1840), and served as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Marion, Ohio, between December 1840 and May 1841. In 1842, he was installed as pastor for the congregations in Monoghan (Dillsburg) and Petersburg, Pennsylvania where he served for 18 years.

Stampless Cover


Addresssed to Rev. Joseph A. Murray, Dillsburg, York County, Pennsylvania

Marion [Ohio]
May 8, 1848

Rev. and dear Sir,

Page 1

Your kind letter of February 15th was duly received, and I assure you that it afforded me not a little pleasure when I looked at the subscription and recognized your handwriting. But when I read its contents, and learned how “rich,” how “happy” — how “very happy” you were, I was exceedingly gratified. I suppose that you can now answer the question that you asked my dear husband a few years since, “whether he were happier with his little son upon his knee than he had been before in the society of his wife.” But he is not here to rejoice with you. You have my sincere congratulations upon the possession of so great a treasure. May her life be spared to you and yours to her. If your happiness is increased, your responsibilities are also increased. To train an immortal being for Eternity is an important work. I feel its importance and my incompetency more and more everyday. I am happy to learn that Mrs. Murray was so comfortable when you wrote [and] hope ere this she has regained her former strength. But how will you manage no to “go and come, without being annoyed, or annoying others wit squalling brats?” When you write again, please inform me what you call your little daughter. Kiss her again & again for me (if there is room for anymore).

Page 2

My little boy is well and growing very fast. Says he would “like to see Uncle Murray’s little baby.” I take him to Sunday School this summer. He knows his letters and can spell in two and three letters. I cannot say that he is “beauty itself beautified” but his father thought him handsome. If he is only as good as his father, I shall care very little about his looks. Dr. True has a little son about the age of yours (their first). I suppose there has been as much rejoicing there as at your house.

Out town was visited last winter by that loathsome disease small pox. It spread to some extent and in six instances proved fatal. One family of fourteen persons all had it. For several weeks all public meetings were suspended and any intercourse with families in any way exposed was prohibited. The girl that was living with us caught it by passing a house that was infected. I took upon myself the responsibility of nursing her. The doors were closed and all communication whatever cut off with the rest of the family. She was confined to her room for three weeks during which time no one saw her but the Physician and myself. Our friends were very anxious about us and thought I was running a good risk, but thanks to a kind Providence, she recovered and I escaped.

Page 3

There have been a number of deaths since I wrote last. Our kind friend Mrs. H. lived but a day or two after I wrote. I was with her until the last, and believe that she has made a happy exchange. I feel her loss very much indeed. She had been like a mother to my beloved husband and not less kind to myself and child. Mr. H. still keeps house and report says is looking for another wife, but as I have seen he has acted very prudently but I do not see him often.

Mrs. Bowen died in July and he has been married about three months to a young lady from Massachusetts who was here teaching school. There have been several very sudden deaths within the last year. Mr. Boyd went out one morning to purchase a stove and on his return commenced bleeding at the lungs. He reached his own door, fell senseless upon the threshold, and was carried in a corpse. Death has also entered our own family and deprived us of our only remaining parent. Father had been confined to his room for two years during which time we were under the necessity of watching him constantly day and night — the latter part of the time he suffered a great deal. He died on the 31st of March in his 81 year. Brother William was married last February to a young lady of your state — Miss Catharine Peterson of Alleghany City. They are boarding at Mr. Henderson’s for company. Brother Elisha, Mr. Durfee, and sister Mary are now in the city. They expect to return by way of Philadelphia and said they would call on you if they could.

Page 4

[Rev.] Mr. [Peter R.] Van Atta is now in Lafayette, Indiana, and Rev. Bloomfield Wall is preaching for us. The state of religion is low here at present. It has never been in as flourishing a condition since as it was when you left here. There has never been an interesting B. C. since then. The Sunday School is doing very well at present. Dr. True is superintendent. I wrote you about a year ago, but you did [not] mention having received it. I shall [want] to hear from you whenever it suits your convenience to write. When I read your letters, I feel that they come from one who (next his own family) stood first in my husband’s affections and should prize them very highly on that account had I never had a personal acquaintance. But now they are doubly dear and I consider it a favor that you write as lengthy as you do. May you ever be happy here and hereafter is the sincere wish of yours truly, — A. C. Dunlap

Dear Sister,

When I commenced this epistle, I expected to have devoted a larger portion of it to yourself but you will excuse this as you will doubtless feel that it is all addressed to yourself/ I can appreciate your present feelings and rejoice in your happiness. I was once as happy as you can be, but have been taught that the nearest and dearest earthly treasure may be taken away and we must not therefore set too high a value upon them. Your husband’s letter reminds me of the time when I was a subject of anxiety and solicitude, and of the thankfulness and joy that was felt when all had terminated favorably. You now have new pleasures, new cares, and new duties to perform. I hope, however, that they will not engross your time and attention so much but that you will find time to write to me whenever your husband does. If it is the will of Providence, I should be happy to see yourself and babe together with Mr. Murray. But should we never enjoy that pleasure, may we so live that it may be secured to us in Heaven is the earnest desire of your friend, — A. C. D.


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