During the decade of the 1820's, John Fanning Watson, the intrepid antiquarian of early Philadelphia history, interviewed 'Billy' Brown, a free & aged Black man in his 93rd year, residing within the Frankford section of the city, whom he describes as being "quite intelligent," as well as being "possessed of an observing mind & good memory."
The term 'hermit,' generally conjures up in one's mind, a recluse, a person whose self-induced isolation has occurred primarily as the result of mental instability or enhanced eccentricity. Yet individuals have become 'hermits' for a variety of reasons throughout the ages. Those in America's past often became such out of tragedy, in an attempt to flee from those sites and individuals which reminded them of their loss, pain, or crime.
I began processing Mary Johnson Brown Chew's materials yesterday. As I was working on a rough sorting, I was leafing through the various journals and diaries that she kept. The first one I opened was begun on Christmas Eve 1886, when her husband Samuel seemed to be moving closer toward death.
Many individuals like myself, have various souvenirs or mementos, which have been found or passed down through the family, relative to the American Civil War. These may come in the form of oral traditions, letters, diaries, journals; or they are artifactual in nature, items such as saddle-bag 'rosettes,' swords, minie-balls or other heirlooms.
However, there were many Civil War soldiers, who carried with them, for many years after the conflict, unintentional 'memorials' of the service rendered to their country or cause.
Anne Sophia Penn Chew's correspondence represents the first major group of letters between women in the Chew Family Papers. Within this series, there are many discussions about marriage and childbirth; even though Anne herself never married and had children, she served as a confidant for many of her relatives. They wrote to her about their fears and apprehensions prior to their marriages, and they shared their joys and their difficulties after the births (and, often, the deaths) of their children.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of travelers would visit the United States from the Near or Middle East, such as "Sheick Shedid Allhazar," (usually referred to simply as 'Sheick Sidi'), said to have been an 'Emir' or Prince of Syria, who visited New York & Pennsylvania, and was said to have received from the Society of Friends, "one hundred pistoles," during his Philadelphia visit in 1739.
In the past few months, there have been an extraordinary number of turkey references in the Chew collection. In celebration of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Leah and I decided to share some of them here.
The first document is selected from a larger group of surveys, agreements, and correspondence regarding a tract of land the Chews owned called "Turkey Nest."
Captivity narratives abound in early Colonial and post-Colonial American history. Numerous European women were captured by Native-American tribesmen for centuries, some adapting or assimilating within Indian culture, others successfully escaping bondage and thus returning to family & friends, while a few, after long abscences, were ill-received by husband, father or kin, since they had become 'with child,' by their former captors.