This summer past I spent a week examining and digitizing papers belonging to my husband's great-grandmother Maria Lee Palmer Smith. Maria Lee was a dedicated family historian and archivist and her papers include many letters from other researchers and family members. This letter, from a cousin reestablishing connections, is one of my favorites.
“Two - mile House”
April 2 . 1928
My dear cousin : -
After hearing from Mrs. West the other day, I had made up my mind to write to you as she enclosed you letter saying you would be “glad to know who Mrs. Beyea is”, & I thought I would explain us – both.
Yes, we are “Jimmie” Meredith's children, & I remember seeing your mother at my grandmother's in Balto. When I was a very little girl. She looked tall to me, and a little severe & I think her hair was parted in the middle; and she wore a long gold chain around her neck & there was a watch on it that slipped into her belt, & it seems to me her hair was not white but very dark, streaked with gray & I was rather in awe of “Aunt Palmer” as she was called in the family – after all these years. I wonder if these recollections are correct, or if I may have confused her with someone else in the family. I used to hear my father speak of “Mollie Palmer” & it is from a letter of his written in 1912 that I got your name and address to send Mrs. West
My father died in 1916 and if he had lived would have been eighty one I think. My Aunt, Kate Meredith – died several years ago. We only have one Meredith descendants to carry on the name – Richard Screven Meredith (now at Yale) a son of my brother Philip T. Meredith.
My other brother Harry P. Meredith died a year and a half ago - & left three girls & my third brother, Howell Janvier Meredith died when he was 24 years old, unmarried.
Mrs. Beyea (Elizabeth Janvier after my grandmother ) is a widow with two boys & two girls. “Jim” is like my father, but the Meredith name is gone. I also have a son & daughter & one grandson about 4 years old; but this does not carry on the name!
I married, the first time, John Mather Wallis of Baltimore, nephew of general Teackle Wallis – whom may have known as he was a well known lawyer of Baltimore – so my children are Wallises – Mr. Moore and I have no children.
And now that I have told you all my family history, I want to thank you so very much for your letter, and for taking the trouble to write out my “tree” for me.
I never knew which one of my great-grandfathers wives I was descended from until I got your letter, nor did I know that my great-great grandfather was William. Thank you so very much. Before this I have always had to confess that I didn't know who my great-grandmother Meredith was - and so have to thank you for Mary Dillard.
I don't think my father knew either as he speaks in this letter of his “grandfather John Meredith and his various wives” being buried I Lancaster Co. etc.
My father used to speak of “Uncle Tommy”. He must have been Aunt Palmer's brother. Then there was “Father Meredith”, he must have been the son of John Meredith and Anne Brent & a half-brother of Aunt Palmer's of my grandfather's. I have only heard of these various names – as a child, and never saw them on paper before & was therefore always a little hazy as to the relationship.
I also, have always heard we were Welsh, & I there is a Meredith coat-of-arms, which my brother Harry had become much interested in tracing, but after he became ill he was unable to continue it. Some friend of his in Detroit Mich. Had shown it to him & it was used by the original Meredith who came to this country in, I think, 1669. His name was I believe Jonathan. I can hunt this up if you are interested as I made some notes at the time my brother sent the coat-of-arm on for me to see. You know so much more than I do, that I am afraid I can never be of any help.
Do you ever take any motor trips? If so, won't you get my “cousin William” to bring you up here this summer? We live just outside of Carlisle, on the Chambersburg Highway, on an old stone house that was a tavern - “that's why” the Two-mile House, the original name. I should so much like to know my two cousins, whom I am so glad to have found.
I hope I have not bored you with too much detail & family.
It was so nice of you to write. I shall send your letter to my sister as she will be as much interested as I am.
With much love, I am your cousin
Alice Meredith Moore.
I am wondering if I maybe doubly connected, as I am on my mother's side a direct descendent of La__gra_ Thomas Smith – of S. Carolina however their name is legion, so that is just a chance.
My sister's address is
Mrs. Henry D Beyea
323 Midland Ave
I forgot to mention that my daughter is grown and has been married for several years, so I am not really so young after all!
Alice Moore and Maria Lee Smith were technically half first cousins once removed. The half is a distinction never seen in any of Maria Lee's papers. Her mother, one of four known Meredith children born to John Meredith by three different wives, did not distinguished her half-brothers from her full brother in any of the letters I've read.
This is the first description of Smith's mother Margaret Meredith Palmer that I've read. Knowing the Palmer and Smith families I find it hard to believe that she was tall. I've towered over most every family member I've ever met. Perhaps to a child.
The letter contains information that I believe to be incorrect. A Mary Dillard did marry a John Meredith (1782, Lancaster, VA) but I believe it was not Margaret's father John Meredith she married, but her great-uncle John Meredith. Uncle John died in 1795 leaving a will naming his wife Mary and three young daughters. Maria Lee Smith knew little of her Meredith or Palmer background. Other correspondence in the collection involves her hiring researchers in Lancaster County to search for marriage records. At this point I do not know the name of John Meredith's first wife, the mother of Thomas James Meredith (Alice Moore's grandfather).
Finally, I wish I knew the source for "the original" Meredith! Not to mention who he was...
Source: Moore, Alice Meredith. (Carlisle, PA) to Maria Lee Palmer Smith. Letter. 2 April 1828. Privately held by Smith's granddaughter. Frederick, MD. Published with permission.