John Strawbridge Autobiography, Short Version

The John Strawbridge in question here lived from 1780 – 1858. Most of the following information is derived from a document titled “Autobiography of John Strawbridge,” dated April 1843. The paraphrasing is that of Alexander Strawbridge White, a great-great-great grandson of this John Strawbridge. [Note: After this abbreviated version was posted, I transcribed the complete version, which now is available on this site elsewhere. I left this shorter version here as well, to avoid confusion that might arise from its disappearance.]

John Strawbridge was born near Elkton, Maryland, April 25, 1780. His grandfather, also named John Strawbridge, emigrated from the north of Ireland about 1752 and settled near Back Creek on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. “Considerably before the Revolution,” the family left Back Creek and moved to a farm three or four miles from the Pennsylvania line. The grandfather’s son, John, the father of the John born in 1780, “must have been greatly esteemed as during the war, he was sheriff of the county and I have heard a major of the militia. It may be here noted that at this period, excepting Continental money, there was no currency but tobacco . . . .”

“It was at this time (August 1777) . . . that the British fleet, which had sailed from New York several weeks previous and was supposed to be destined for Philadelphia, after various demonstrations off the Capes of the Delaware came into the Chesapeake, and landed a large force at Court House Point, under Gen. Sir William Howe. General Washington with the Marquis de Lafayette was in the neighborhood of Newport watching and expecting his arrival in the Delaware. My father was the first to communicate the news at camp. After being subjected to a searching examination, he was desired to accompany Washington and Lafayette, who, attended by the staff and escort, proceeded to Iron Hill to test the truth of his intelligence. My father rode between the two Generals. It was a very hot day, and he noticed that Lafayette wore long boots, but no stockings. When they attained the top of Iron Hill, a commanding eminence near Elkton, by the aid of glasses they could discern the British fleet and encampment. The Americans were brought up, several sharp skirmishes ensued, and on the 11th of Sept., the severe and unfortunate battle of Brandywine took place and the result was the loss of Philadelphia. Washington was highly pleased with my father and before they separated urged him to accept a captain’s commission in the continental army. This compliment he was compelled under all circumstances respectfully to decline.”

About 1778, John Strawbridge (father) married Hannah Evans. In 1783 they moved to Philadelphia, at Third Street below Market. The father had a store on Walnut Street wharf. In 1793, the father caught yellow fever. He had an attack on the 9th of September, “and died prepared and resigned on the 16th of September 1793 taking leave of my mother and uncle with entire composure, of his children he could not bear to take leave.”

After his father died (when John was 13), John’s family came upon hard times because his uncle, James, made a bad investment with most of the family’s money. John was not too much affected, because, starting in 1794, “I never lived at home, but was a common visitor there.” He had as his “friends and patrons some of the best men in Phila., such as Robert Ralston, Samuel Archer, Alexander Henry, etc.” He graduated from Princeton in 1797. Under Mr. Ralston’s patronage, John evidently embarked on a successful career as a merchant; he traveled to India in 1802, and got married for the first time in 1804, to Elizabeth Stockton; they had two children, Stockton and John Ralston. Elizabeth died in 1807, and John married Frances Taylor in 1810. They had eight children. George, my (Alexander White’s) great-great-grandfather, lived from 1814-1862. That George had another George, who lived from 1844-1914; he was Dr. George Strawbridge, the ophthalmologist and real estate investor who was the father of Mary Lowber Strawbridge, later Mary Lowber Sailer.