Monday, March 19, 2012

"I shall not enjoy the happiness" - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

Though I have yet to complete last week's notes for Joseph Conway's will, this is not the day. It is a day I can transcribe another letter from the papers belonging to Maria Lee Palmer Smith, my husband's great-grandmother. This letter was written to her mother, Margaret Meredith Palmer, in 1851.

Envelope addressed to
Mrs M M. Palmer
near Kilmarnock
Lancaster Co
     Your Kind invitation could not have been made at any time, more convenient, than the present. Hence I have a thousand obligations for your exquisite goodness. May our dear Lord grant me as many opportunities of proving my gratitude, as my heart desires.
     And yet, Madam, I shall not enjoy the happiness of seeing you, your dear little children, and my own good William, since I am condemned by my physician, to retire for some days to the north. Be sure, this is a penance to me. I like the good Virginians So much, that it would afford me the greatest consolations, it would perhaps restore my health, if I could do them so good. Let us cheerfully submit to the holy will of God.
     Please, Madam, receive my hearty thanks for your kindness and charity, together with the promise of praying for you and all those who are dear to your heart, as often as I think of you.
     With the sincerest esteem, in union with your holy prayers
most truly yours in  αst
Feast of St. Mary Magd.
Balte.  1851                                              J. Francis.
Mrs. M. Palmer
The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene is celebrated on July 22nd.

I find the letter of interest for two reasons. The first is the size (I added a penny to the photograph for scale) and flowery writing of the day. The second that the letter (and the fact that it was kept by both Palmer and her daughter) is one more indication of the strong Catholic ties maintained by Palmer while she lived in Virginia. William, her brother, was confirmed a Roman Catholic at some time in 1851. He would take his vows as a Redemptorist priest in 1853.

I have not been able to identify J. Francis. There is no obvious match in the 1850 census in Baltimore. He may be a Redemptorist, but I have not found him in any of the order's histories.

I am not certain about the symbol in the closing line but believe it is the Greek letter α (alpha) or icthys symbol. It seems to be used in lieu of writing Christ. 

Francis, (Baltimore, MD) to Margaret M. Palmer. Letter. 22 July 1851. Privately held. Frederick, MD. Published with permission.  


  1. WOW, I have letter envy for sure. What a delight.

  2. Wow! They certainly don't write letters like they used to! And here I was thinking you were leaving a tip to say, "Penny for your thoughts?"!

  3. Any letter, so old, so fascinating, bringing up more questions. Fabulous treasure!

  4. The language of the letter is amazing -- and so is the way you photographed the correspondence. Beautiful and inspiring.


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