A Tribute to Martha’s mother
This letter was written by Martha H. Garrett (1839-Aft1911), the daughter of Thomas C. Garrett (1805-1888) and Frances Biddle (1803-1873) of Germantown, a suburb in northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Martha’s siblings included, Elizabeth Biddle Garrett (1828-1908), Rebecca C. Garrett (1828-1908), Frances Garrett (1832-1910), Philip Cresol Garrett (1834-1905), John Biddle Garrett (1836-18xx), Sarah Biddle Garrett (1841-1849), and Hetty Biddle Garrett (1848-19xx). Martha’s father was a jeweler in Philadelphia.
Martha Garrett wrote the letter to her cousin, Anna E. Sheppard (1843-18xx), the daughter of John E. Sheppard (1802-1882) and Margaret Garrett (1809-1890) of Greenwich, Cumberland County, New Jersey.
In her 1859 letter, Martha describes a steamboat journey on Delaware Bay enrollee from Greenwich, New Jersey to her home near Philadelphia.
Martha’s 1863 letter includes a description of a walking excursion she took with her friends into the Wissahickon Valley — a rugged gorge through which a small stream flows before entering the Schuylkill River southwest of Germantown.
In her 1863 letter, Martha also speaks of her cousin, Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) — the son of Alfred and Hanna Cope (Edward’s mother died when he was three years old and he was raised by his step-mother, Rebecca Biddle). Edward became a celebrated paleontologist. In 1861 and 1862, Edward attended the University of Pennsylvania but in 1863 and for the remainder of the Civil War Edward traveled through Europe. Some biographers have charged that Edward, a Quaker, left the country to avoid the draft during the war but he later denied this.
Addressed to John E. Sheppard, Greenwich, Cumberland County, New Jersey
For A. E. S.
26 October 1859
Before Dinner. Prepare thyself, my dear cousin, for a long infliction from my pen — for I feel full of talk, and hardly know where to begin. And nobody need read my letter unless interested in me personally for I expect a part of it will be rather egotistical.
In the first place, as the most important information, the family here were reported “all well” to me when I came, though I believe Fanny has a cold. I do very much wish I could hear a similar report from you (all well). Mother too wished her love given to you particularly, and wants you to write & tell here you are , very soon. To tell the truth, cousin Anne, I didn’t quite like to leave you so poorly as you were; and so, as I came, I looked carefully for all indications that it was the right time for me to come, and I’ve concluded that it was, exactly! (very satisfactory)
Now for my adventures since yesterday morning when I last had the pleasure of seeing you all. How strange it seems that it is so short a time since I left Greenwich!
After my last look at my kind escort from Greenwich to Salem, I soon went up on the upper deck of the steamboat and took a solitary promenade, admiring the surrounding scene as we slowly swept round from the creek [Cohansey River] into the [Delaware] Bay. Contrary to the signs of the times, when I was taking my ride with Cousin Phil, the sun came out in all its glory, making the air delightful, and the prospect beautiful as it shone reflected from the white sails & sparkled on the dancing, beautiful water — as John B. Gough exclaimed, with the pleasantest & softest emphasis on the beautiful — which emphasis, as I have not learnt what mean, octaves, cadences, harmonies, &c. I cannot convey to you in a description.
Well, I descended soon from my lofty position, & meeting thy Uncle Charles outside of the saloon, had a pleasant talk with him about the scenery & objects around us. He, like me, enjoys the water. Then I went into the saloon, bought some ginger-cakes & ate them, and by half past nine, was quietly working my zephyr-work; and I worked till about eleven, & accomplished considerable. And from eleven to twelve, at about which time we arrived! I enjoyed the water view & the conversation of thy Uncle Charles again. He was very polite and agreeable, and when we came off the boat, he engaged a porter to carry my carpetbag to the passenger car, and escorted me there himself.
And after a pleasant journey, I was at home by a little after half past twelve, much sooner than I had expected. Mother & Aunty & Sister had not yet returned from meeting but Lizzie Rhoads called here soon after I came & I suppose we should have missed her visit entirely if I had not been here. As it was, different ones came dropping in soon so that she saw quite a number of us. She was very bright and pleasant, and says she likes teaching and likes the study of elocution so that she can enjoy to some degree her Westonian prospect; but she says she expects a reaction after she gets in her new berth & finds herself deprived of home comforts. She likes ver much her lessons under Samuel Gummere, ¹ but says she don’t feel half the confidence in herself that she did formerly & that…. (here I stopped to dine) …when she was asked to read a piece in the newspaper, she was so busy thinking of the cons and ofs and falling cadences, that she could hardly see any sense in the article. Perhaps that is the way with Cousin Phil when he reads the Epistles of St. Paul. Mayhap I may be learning elocution too sometime this winter for Mother thinks it might strengthen and deepen my voice, and then we hear Samuel Gummere wants to teach classes to make a living and so it might be a favor to him to get some for him. I think if I learn to read by note, the chief use I shall make of it will be to repeat some pieces of poetry “in a singing manner.” I like to read by the sense.
Johnny was telling us at the dinner table about an elementary lesson in elocution that he gave this morning. A little boy — perhaps 6 or 7 years old — came to the chore and asked for 5 small table cards, and when asked what they were for, said for the stool he was in. Johnny asked if he could not say, “school”; “stool”, “say k” — “tay!” However, after a number of trials, he said “k”; then “say cool”; “too!” but after awhile he said “coo”; then “say coo”; but the boy had advanced as far as knew how to teach his tongue, & when asked that, he came back to “stool.” But I’ve been digressing from my egotism.
I haven’t told how I was greeted at home. Fanny, as I expected, the darling, gave me a sisterly squeeze, and some such speech as, “well, it is nice in thee to come.” Hetty’s merry round face was spread over with a grin. Mother did look surprised at my coming so soon yesterday but appeared to have expected me, as I said I intended coming about that time, so they did not write to me on 2nd day. Johnny differed from you in thinking it was the right time for me to come home, & when I told Uncle Rich and you didn’t think it was, he said, “Of course they didn’t” but he seems glad to have me here to pet. He brought me some beautiful, smooth, wooden knitting needles of his own manufacture & of three different sizes. I shall certainly want to knot something now, and if Aunt Margaret don’t particularly want to knit Madgy’s bonnet, and if she can send me that brown zephyr, I’d like right well to do that.
Dear little Maggot! I’d like to have her by me here. I’ve no prospect of running out of employment. Sister Bess said the work got on rather slowly without me & she wants me to fix her bonnet, and Aunty wants me to measure a dress, and some of Hetty’s frocks want altering. She’s grown so thin. And as for me, I expect my winter clothes will need a thorough over-hauling and revision before I have many to wear.
We are to have one day of mantua-making this week and that not for Hetty. She has already had a dress made — a dark chintz. I lay down rather more than an hour yesterday afternoon thinking it might be allowable to make up for the early morning time, but I don’t know that I went to sleep. I looked over a box of my old letters & found among them another one from Anna Hodgron on the subject of French.
After dressing, I intended to start out to call on some of my city friends — a duty I am very apt to neglect but before I got off, Mary Anna Jenkins called to see me about some business. She and I, with Cary Williams, were appointed to prepare the report of last year’s operations at the “House of Industry” ² and she brought me a report that she had written to revise. I went out with her when she left and bought some trimmings that were wanted, & then I came back and spent some time before tea, & a good while in the evening, in the revision of the report.
Just after tea, I sat on Johnny’s lap awhile in the corner of the dining room and we sang “Isle of Beaty” — “I would I were a boy again” — “Shells of Ocean” — and “I would not live alway.” And then I sang “Brightest and best” and after 10 o’clock, when I was sitting in the family circle in the library, crocheting, both boys pulled up their chairs against mine and we sang “Off in the Stilly Night.” I heard the clock strike eleven last night before I got to sleep.
This morning was ironing morning for sister and me; and our old folks (Uncle Richard & Aunt Sarah and Mother) have gone to spend the day at Fairfield. Now, my darling cousin, I want thee clearly to understand that I’ve been doing as I’d be done by in writing such a superlative description of my doings. I want thee to tell me too all about what you have done — who ironed and who didn’t, what frocks have been made, how you all feel &c. I don’t intend often to bother thee with such letters but I felt in the notion.
Brother Jonathan & Sister Becky were here a little while last fifth day; they and their little ones are well, I believe. Little Joe is wearing pantaloons in the afternoons! Uncle William and Aunt Elizabeth are pretty well as far as we know, and are expecting to come in very soon with Cousin William’s, to their new home — the last house on Arch Street, this side of the Schulkill [River], except a few little shanties.
About Aunt Sarah McCollin, mother told me to say that Uncle Thomas was so tried with Dr. Kite’s inattention that he called in Dr. Levich one day to see Cousin Margaret and put Aunt Sarah under his care; since which, she has been quite improved in health, and Uncle Thomas and Mother think it is owing to the change of treatment. Cousin Margaret is to be married next 3rd day. Cousin James Cresol was here another evening while I was away, and Uncle Alfred dined here one day, and Aunt Rebecca another day. They ere pretty well.
Mother is expecting to have quite a company here on 6th day to meet Cousin Elizabeth Paxson, so you may imagine us that night playing entertainers.
Please tell Cousin Phil that I did not blow across the promenade deck on my way home, and also that I wish he’d write to me & tell me about his interest, and if he chooses, give me some problems to solve. Perhaps we could help each other a little intellectually.
I’d like to take a peek at you, but I can’t. I want to see some of you here soon. I sincerely hope this will find thee better than I left thee.
Hetty’s love to friends in general & she’s much obliged to Madgie for the pop corn. Fanny’s love too & mine to you all. I can’t tell you much about Samuel Mason, Jr.
So at last I conclude, remaining thy attached cousin, — Matty
P. S. An interesting letter from Hattie arrived yesterday.
¹ Samuel Gemmere and his brother John resided at 222 Wood Street in Philadelphia. They were prominent members of the Society of Friends and considered distinguished scholars. They joined with Dr. John Grissom of Burlington to establish Pennsylvania’s Haverford College in 1833.
² The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor was established in 1795 by Anne Parrish, a young Quaker woman who wished to address the issues of poverty which had become aggravated following the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. She founded the society with the help of twenty-three other Quaker women. The women began traveling around the city seeking those in need, especially the widows and children of Yellow Fever victims. At first, help was given in the form of food, clothing, or money for fuel. Soon, the Female Society decided that more permanent help was necessary, and it would be more productive to give the needy a way to earn their own money than to simply hand out the essentials. The Female Society established a House of Industry, which employed women to spin flax and wool. In 1799, to accommodate those workers with young children, a daycare center was opened at the House of Industry, possibly the first of its kind in the country. The Female Society was incorporated in 1815, and established a constitution and by-laws. The House of Industry reached its peak around 1854, when it employed 154 women and had 73 children in the nursery. In 1916, the Female Society joined the Philadelphia Society for the Instruction and Employment of the Poor to establish the Catherine Street House of Industry. [Elizabeth Peters, 2013]
Addressed to John E. Sheppard, Greenwich, Cumberland County, New Jersey
For A. E. S.
3 June 1863
My Dear Cousin Annie,
I had the pleasure yesterday of reading a letter from thy Mother to Uncle William and have concluded to write to thee now without waiting longer for a letter. I have been hoping to see from Aunt Margaret to come of our household since she signified on the margin of Madgie’s last letter her intention of writing. I hope, if it is not yet carried out, it will be soon. Today, I understand, thee attends a wedding. Perhaps this letter will find thee so full of bright recollections of that occasion that thee will care little for other news, but perhaps too, the’ll feel ready to pass on to me some of the accumulated novelties of experience, & I may have my letter answered soon.
I was much interested in Aunt Margaret’s letter to Uncle William, and it was pleasant to gather from it that you were pretty well. I can only give a moderate account of the health here. Such variations, my cousin, of shadow and sunshine, within and without, in this world of ours! Thee and I, perhaps, have not gone deep into the shadows ourselves, as we have journeyed along, but we have seen them lying around us. I fancy thee wondering what has set Cousin Mattie to moralizing so! N’est Le pas, ma chere? Well, I am living curiously in sunshine & amid shadows now. The outer world is oh! so beautiful, the air so balmy, the grass so green, the flowers so bright, that it seems as though anyone might drink in happiness from nature’s loveliness. I have been enjoying it greatly. Went on 2 lovely excursions 7th & 2nd day evenings, and then yesterday. Mother felt so poorly and so disheartened with her care about Sister, & with Aunty’s dolefulness, that it seemed as though I scarcely ought to be light-hearted. Aunt Sarah has been suffering very much lately with gatherings in her ear & a sore boil on her knee, has been a good deal kept awake, & yesterday was in the depths. Today she appears wonderfully more comfortable. Mother exerted herself rather much house cleaning time & has had a great deal of nervous headache — but that’s better now. And sister don’t seem so doleful or dependent as she did some time since, but is still not well, and mother is sometimes very much worried about her. Samuel Pettle paid mother a visit yesterday afternoon, just when she seemed to be most needing comfort.
Now we have some prospect of Aunty & Sister going to stay at Marple for awhile — which change might do them good and at the same time their absence would give mother a little opportunity to recruit her spirits & energy (which, however, mostly bear up to outward appearing). Then Fanny wants mother to go down with her & spend a few days with you & I would be glad for them to do so. From Aunt Margaret’s letter, I inferred that she was expecting to come up wit hUncle John a couple of weeks hence & go to Whiteland if suitable. Mother sends love and a message that we’d like to have a visit from her, & if they go down, they’ll not go at such a time as to interfere; probably they would go before that. tell Aunt Margaret I consider that she quite owes us a visit, having checked us out of it at Yearly Meeting time. Fanny says, ask Aunt Margaret if she’s forgotten there are any people in this part of the world!
Tommy & I was at Uncle William’s & Stoke’s yesterday afternoon. Aunt Elizabeth has been spending the day in town & reported Cousin Mary and her little one are doing well. She said too that Cousin Margaret was rather better again, so perhaps it would do for thy father and mother to go there. Either way, I hope they’ll pay us a visit. We found Uncle Samuel and Aunt Jane & their little ones at Stoke’s. Joseph was at home, and looked very much changed. He had some prospects of going again to Minnesota, having Hetty to accompany him but now that is given up. And there seems no doubt now that his health and strength are decidedly failing. He spoke in whispers. There is something to me peculiarly sad in seeing hearty young men thus waste away. I thought of going to town on errands this afternoon, but having a little headache, have deferred the errands.
Remember Holma’s idea of labeling certain doleful effusions of his written when dyspeptic, “Pie-crust” & throwing them away? If this letters shows symptoms of mal-de-tete, thee might treat it similarly.
Brother Philip and I have lately taken to horse-back riding for health and pleasure. I think it is just the thing to do me good, quite nicely supplying the place of last winter’s skating — and my health is pretty fair now. I’ve taken 3 rides on 3 different horses; the last & crowning one was last 7th day evening when by previous agreement Brother & I started after an early tea & called for our Fairfield cousins, & with them rode about 2 hours from 7 to 9 in the lovely evening. We didn’t ride very far, for we walked our horses & chatted a good deal of the way. I was on the horse about 3 hours.
2nd day we took a delightful excursion to the Wissahickon as I want that we should again when thee comes to see us. The party consisted of Henry & Sarah Albertson, Mary Ann Mitchell, Lizzie Stokes, Emily Lewis, Sarah Dil__s, Mary Brown (Sidney’s sister), Mary Anna Brown, Maggie Haines, Cousin Lillie, Hettie & myself, & last not least, Wm. Taylor & Robert & Richard Brown — 3 youths that the Friends Albertson had a concern should mingle in suitable “Friends” society & so invited a few damsels of about 14 or 15 to take a summer stroll with them — not West-ham style, is it? We elders kept Henry & Sally company. Our Hetty was so antique as to stay with us most of the time & Sallie, who is sc____ against singing was so considerate as to let those school girls & the 3 youths with them on ahead much of the time & indulge in vocal delight. We were together a good deal tho! Cousin Philip know Wm. Taylor. I walked home with him & found him quite agreeable; he was pretty merry. Robert Brown is Lizzie’s brother & Richard lives at James Jones’ & is in his chose & has handed me a bill before dinner 2nd day.
Well, we started about ¼ of 5, went by a rambling, scrambling route over the country, & reached the creek quite high up where the road was over the other side of the stream & on our side was a most excellent place for romance, fun, & the tearing of dresses! Seriously, it was very beautiful & very wild — steep & rocky — shaded by glorious old forest trees, & abounding in luxuriant ferns & wild flowers. We sat & stood & scrambled & rambled. Lillie & Mary Ann Mitchell with a Botony book, tried to examine some of the flowers. I perched up above with a portfolio & tried to make a sketch.
Near 7 o’clock, sitting in a bunch on the sloping ground, we took our supper consisting of sandwiches & an indefinite variety of cakes; we were pretty ____ over it, as thee may infer from my receiving about a half mug of water mischievously thrown in my face by Henry Albertson after which impromptu ablution, he wiped our nose, mouth &c., so vigorously with his pocket handkerchief that I was feelingly reminded of the juvenile complaints when rather rough face-washings are experienced from _____ hands! Fact was, Henry suspected me to have been the ___ of a few drops that had descended on the top of his head some time before; Lillie had done it but at my instigation so I didn’t thin fit to grumble at the copious shower bath given to me. While we were still at the cakes, Brother Philip arrived, having walked over after tea — and before very long, we moved off down the stream, crossed the little white bridge, & lingered about, waiting for the moonlight, but it didn’t quite find its way into those depths of the Wissahickon valley before we left, tho’ that was about 9 o’clock. A merry party — dancers are supposed, had come to a platform erected on the hillside among the trees, & after listening a good while to the tuning of instruments, we wanted to hear them regularly strike up before we left — but they wouldn’t. WE walked home in the moonlight, Lillie came here to spend the night, sitting up pretty late to have a little visit; she went home soon after breakfast yesterday. Now, Nanny, when thee comes, I do hope we can go to the Wissahickon. Can thee scramble?
I wonder if you have been as busy as we? House-cleaning, I found, was quite an item; my special part, the turning out & sorting of effects, certainly consumed a good deal of time. But now, it’s done! the cellar, I believe ain’t cleaned yet, but that don’t concern me, & the closet corners through the house have been pretty well investigated. We’ve had a many-maker a good deal lately — that’s through now, only there is a quantity of sewing left to do, & I don’t see any prospect of an end to my plentiful employment in that line. I would like to have the long-talked-of visit from Sallie Garrett soon, if I can — & thee & Madge — I want to see you both — have a kind of chronic desire so to do.
Drawing lessons are over, for the present at least; I enjoyed them very much and intend practicing some still. I want to sketch and when I get a right pretty sketch made, maybe I’ll send it to thee to let thee see how I’ve improved since the time of the “spheres.” I wonder if I bore people showing them my drawing book, but I don’t think many have been thus bored unless they have expressed a desire to look, & there seems more interest in drawings from models than in copies of other drawings unless the pictures are really beautiful.
Botony is my study just now; face me this afternoon going over to Aunt Hannah’s to inquire of cousin Mary whether some certain Compositae really seem to belong to Liguliflorae or to the Tubuliflorae.
I have not written or received many letters lately, but had one very nice one from Becky Allen, in which she acknowledged the receipt of a cut cardboard shade I sent as a birthday present. Looking over my letters I found I have 9 letters from her in about as many months, so set her down as a pretty good correspondent. She & Dr. were looking towards going to the shore this summer but probably to Cape May.
Cousin Edward [Drinker] Cope writes very interesting letters from Europe where through his scientific interests he has made the acquaintance of a number & seen something of house-life. He was enjoying it much. I have heard great part of two long letters — one to Lillie written from Antwerp, & one to brother from Leyden.
Not long since, I came across Joseph Rhoads’ sentimental scrap “Not Let” in an old paper — the one I was so amazed at his giving me to read a year or two ago; I could not quite ____ and under what circumstances such a piece should be written but it has, in my opinion, real pathos & harmony in it & some time since I guess I’ll send it & see if thee agrees. It might give this over-weight. My letter is a medley. I gave you the shadows first, after wards the sunshine, for I had rather the latter ____ with you.
Love to all & believe me thy truly loving cousin, — M. H. G.