Department of History
University of California, Irvine
Instructor: Dr. Barbara J. Becker
To My Beloved Sister (1793)
by Margaret Morris (1737-1816)
9th Mo 25th 4th day [Wednesday] Even[ing]
My beloved Sister--
...Will it fatigue thee my Patty to read a Narrative of what I've past thro since we parted? I think thee answer no -- Well then I'll begin my tale of woe from the 5th of this Mo[nth]--
when I returned that eve from my Debby, who was not well enough to be about the house, was told my Dear JM [her son, Dr. John Morris, member of the College of Physicians] was ill & wishd to see me--
I went there immediately & found him very ill with a raging fever. Dr. Park & Griffitts both attending -- I faithfully followed their orders -- the blister drew finely -- the powder had all the effect could be wished--
alas -- in the morning his skin was yellow as gold -- a convulsion fitt & delirium deprived me of hope -- yet the repetition of the powders, which operated well, revived me again, & I was willing to flatter myself -- he might recover--
As AM's [Abby Morris, John's wife] Maid was called away on 4th day [Wednesday] to attend her mother who was ill, they had only a little girl to tend the child & I told AM to write a note & beg her F[ather, grocer Benedict Dorsey] to let P[atty]. & Molly stay there, that the house might be quiet, they soon returned saying that their G[rand] F[ather] was sick & they could not be there
This alrmed my poor A -- & she begged to go see her F & stayed an hour or more -- when she returned & went up stairs, undrest & went to bed, saying she had got the disorder & she'd die.
She did not come into JM's room afterwards -- I then had 2 to nurse & 2 little ones down stairs to provide for -- at last I sent thy namesake and Wm again to the GF. Patty, they kept, & on going in the kitchen, found Wm hid in the cellar, he said they would not let him stay, they were afraid he wd bring the disorder to them. I sent M[olly] to my house.
On 7th day BS came there & kindly went about town to procure assistance for me, & after night sent a black man and woman to me -- who were but just done nursing at another place.
Dr. Rush came that day & tho he could not flatter me, assured me the fever was lower at night -- I watched by him till about one oclock & having been up the 2 preceding night was quite spent & as he slept quite easy, I lay down by him -- the Negro woman sitting neart the bed--
about 5 I awoke -- & feeling his pulse, thought the fever was near gone off, & went to give the medicine but he could not take it -- he spoke to me in a manner that poured balm into my wounded heart, lament the errors of his past life & had hopes of mercy -- this was all I had presumed to ask for & my chastend spirit said thy will be done--
a convulsion fitt followed & after that a sweet composure took possession of his features & he departed without sigh, groan or struggle--
All this time I was alone, the woman I had was with Abby -- the Man I sent to B Smith who took care to provide the coffin & after sitting by him awhile--
Oh then the hands of the pitiful Mother prepared her Child's body for the grave & well it had been if I had contented myself with doing all that was required of me -- but alas I got off my guard & thought that I who had been thus supported was equal to every thing & insisted on seeing laid beside the dear Companion of my youth -- & there my fortitude forsook me -- for that was not required of me -- what followed I know not -- till I found myself 2 days after in my own front parlor in the bed I had provided for others--
oh that I may be a warning to others, for I do believe if I had kept my place, I should have been abled to do more for my dear AM....
The fever still continues to be mortal in many families,--but the number of burials is less than a Week ago -- we have seen only nine go by today -- & some days past there was 9 or 10 went by before breakfast -- thro the mercy of heaven my whole family are yet well, excepting maid S, who got cold by leaving off a flanel jacket & I have got the Rhumatick pain in my back -- our dear Sist, is quite as well as usual....
I've wrote more than I expected when I began, let the occasion plead my excuse for this intruding on thee -- if it is the will of heaven to grant us a meeting on Earth -- what a mournful joyful time it will be--
Dear love to all, from my beloved Br & Sist, yr tenderly affect. sis M[argaret] M[orris]
Please to dry the flanel coat before thee wears it -- it is soaked in Vinegar.