Letter from John Welsh to His Daughter Alice, 1879

The family papers include a lot of material about John Welsh, 1805-1886, who was Minister to England and a prominent Philadelphian. He was married to Mary Lowber Welsh. Here is the text of a letter that he wrote in 1879 from London to his daughter Alice, who lived from 1848 to 1925 and married Dr. George Strawbridge in 1873. Here is the letter:

Legation of the United States
London February 7, 1879

My dear Alice,

I am much in debt to the Doctor and you, and I am sorry to say to many others. I would that I could repay you all, but my correspondence is so large that I am always in debt, and must continue so. No doubt, all are reasonable and bear with me kindly.

The death of your Cousin Sally Lapsley must have thrown a gloom over the family. Anna’s last letter told of a visit to Aunt Lapsley on her 83rd birth day, a little more than a week before the sad event, when all was cheerfulness, and your Aunt was so bright and well. It is but a little while since I had a letter from Sally in which she spoke of the severity of the weather, and used the ominous expression “We are just beginning to shake off the effects of the Polar wave which passed over us last week, breathing upon some of us the icy breath of the grave.” It was on the 7th January she wrote thus to me, and now on the 7th February I am applying the passage to her as she but little expected it be applied then.

I await with painful interest to know how it will affect my dear Sister. She is so cool in her temperament, and is so sensible a woman, that I hope her submission will be as it has been hither to in affliction. This is the first child she has lost. It comes upon us when we are free from engagements. My sickness has caused all invitations to be declined. Our evenings are spent at home, and now Lilly is at one side of the table and Ellen on the other, so that we form a nice little circle. I am beginning to get out in the day time, having been two or three times to the office, but the weather continues most unfavorable. The sun has scarcely been seen for six weeks, and therefore my chances of exercise on foot in the open air are small.

To-morrow we expect a visit from Dean Howson [?] who with his wife and daughter staid some days with us. He is Dean of Chester [?] Cathedral.

It has given me great pleasure to hear that your children are so well and that your strength is fully fully restored. As I hear nothing to the contrary I presume that the D’or is as robust as ever and I hope as full of work. In these hard times and danger of resumption his charges of course have been reduced & five hundred & a thousand dollar fees are things of the past. When bye & bye he tells his children of them, how they will open their eyes & wonder if such things ever could have been.

Willy Welsh Jr. spent last week with us & will return next week for a short visit on his way to the Continent. He thinks he will get as far as Naples where he hopes to see your brother. Cary [?] & child will stay with her sister.

I had a letter from our Willy two days ago when he was very well and said the weather was charming. Molly & Mother are at Geneva. Mary Erskine has been to Ireland. Her father was ill & she went to him. He is better and she is back again very well.

Sydney & I are great friends. He is a very good boy and is getting rid of his shyness. What do you think of it? I cut his hair yesterday. It is an operation he abhors but he submitted quietly.

It grieves me to know how miserable Aunt Horner has been. I hope our next accounts from her will be more favorable. And now my dear daughter with an abundance of love to you the Dr and children as well as to all the family and especially to my afflicted sister

I am affec’y

Jno. Welsh

8th all well

I believe that Aunt Lapsley was Anna Welsh Lapsley, the sister of John Welsh. I believe she was born in 1796, making her 83 at the time of this letter, as noted in the letter. She must have had a daughter Sally who died shortly before this letter was written. Anna Welsh Lapsley married David Lapsley in 1827, so Sally would have been born in the late 1820s or 1830s, and would have been in her forties or early fifties when she died in 1879.

Mary Erskine, mentioned near the end of the letter, was a long-time servant in the Welsh household. She came to the United States from Ireland in 1837 at the age of eighteen, and spent the next seventy-five years working for John Welsh and his family. She died in 1912 at the age of 93. There is more information about her elsewhere on this site. Here is a photograph of her, location and date unknown:

Mary Erskine

Mary Erskine

I believe the Sidney mentioned in the letter may be Sidney Young, whose picture appears in another photograph on this site. His full name was William Sidney Young, born 1874, and five years old at the time of the letter, which fits with his distaste for haircuts. Sidney was the son of Elizabeth Twells Welsh Young, a daughter of John Welsh. She lived from 1840 to 1930. A photograph of her appears elsewhere on this site. She was known as “Aunt Lilly” to the generations below her, including my mother. Apparently she was staying with her father in London at the time of this letter, along with her sister Ellen, born in 1850, who married Thomas Stokes.

The Doctor mentioned several times in the letter must be Dr. George Strawbridge, the husband of John Welsh’s daughter Alice Welsh Strawbridge, who was the recipient of the letter.