The following letter is the earliest chronologically in a group of seven letters sent to me in August 2016 by Lydia Wiley, a Philadelphian who had possession of a group of Welsh family letters and very thoughtfully forwarded them to me for the family archives. These letters were written by Alice Welsh (1848-1925), who later married Dr. George Strawbridge. They were the parents of my grandmother, Mary Lowber Strawbridge Sailer. These letters are interesting because Alice wrote them in the midst of an extensive European tour by several members of the Welsh family. From the text of the letters, it appears that the group included Alice, her younger sister Ellen, their father, John Welsh (1805-1886), and some other persons whose identities I’m not sure of. The tour began around June of 1870 and the group did not return to Philadelphia until about June of 1871. From what I gathered from the letters, they visited England, Scotland, Italy, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and several other countries along the Danube River, then Germany. I’m not sure if they ever made it to France, a destination that was in doubt because the Franco-Prussian War was in progress.
The letters contain several references to Somers, who was J. Somers Smith, Jr. (1866-1956), the son of Anna Maria Welsh (1830-1914) and her husband, J. Somers Smith (1828-1894). I have a photograph of the younger Somers elsewhere on this site. In the description I entered with that photograph, there is a reference to Rome, 1870, and that photograph evidently is the one mentioned in a couple of the later letters, showing Somers in a long, white coat.
Although the letters are in reasonably good condition, they have some damage, and there were a few words I could not make out, either because letters were missing or the context was not clear. I have indicated uncertainty with question marks. I have made minor changes to punctuation and paragraphing in the interest of clarity.
Here is the text of the first letter:
Royal Hotel Bristol
June 4th 1870
My dear Sister
We yesterday left Cardiff, that city, or town, that was for a number of years the abode of the beloved instructor of your youthful days Mr. Cleveland. We spent a day and two nights very pleasantly there (or rather I did, for the others spent the day at the iron works) leaving at nine yesterday morning and arriving here at twelve, where, much to our surprise, we found Willie, waiting in the dépôt for us. He had come over to the Derby, and learning from the bankers that we were likely to be here, came down to spend the day with us. He went back to London by the seven train, and will be in Paris tonight.
This is the first place we have had any fruit, excepting oranges. Yesterday they gave us pineapple and the finest purple hothouse grapes that I ever tasted, and today they promise us strawberries, the idea of which makes me feel quite happy.
Next to Liverpool, Bristol is the largest place we have been to. It is, also, a very pretty city, but quite hilly. Does not that description give you a very definite idea of what the place is like? I should think it would almost make you feel as if you had been here.
Ellen and Father have gone down to Bath, for a couple of hours. After they return we are going to see an establishment where two thousand orphan children are supported on the Faith [?] principle. At six o’clock we leave for Exeter, where we intend spending Sunday, and where we hope to find letters, for, owing to a mistake, they were not sent here, and we have had none, excepting at Bangor.
We have all wished, very much, that we could transplant some of the splendid ivy that grows wild everywhere, to cover that wall that surrounds what I call the Baptistry. Also those beautiful bulwarks that support the steps, but not seeing, very clearly, how we can do it. I think the next best thing would be for Harmon to plant some there, or rather to plant a great deal. Father thinks it would grow very well.
The weather yesterday and today has been much warmer than we have had it previously, but your dear Pa still continues to wear all his winter clothing. His health, to all appearances, is excellent. I suppose you are now out at Spring Bank, and I hope you are all having a good time together. I should like to have a peep, for a few minutes, and see how you all are fixed, and how the old place looks. I hope the country air has made Maria feel stronger. I suppose Big Margaret moved out when you did. How does she get along? I could ask you any number of questions, but as I shall probably find answers to some, if not all, in the letters at Exeter, I will abstain from so doing.
Give my love to Mr. Smith, and tell him, we still like Englishmen just as much as ever. With a great deal of love to all the family, kisses to the children, and remembrances to the servants.
I am your very affectionate sister,
Mary’s love to the girls, family, &c.
I hope Master Somers will answer my letter.