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JOHN C. HULL
1825 – 1845
Manuscript Collection Number 98 Folder 149
Accessioned: Gift of Marion Bjornson Reed, 1976
Extent: .05 linear ft. (24 items)
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: March 2005 by Colleen E. Lemke
Table of Contents
- Biographical Note
- Scope and Contents Note
- Contents List
The John Thomson Family of Delaware and
were of Scotch Irish origin. John Thomson of Pennsylvania , the recipient of these letters, married Hannah Evans (likely sister of George Gillespie Evans). They had eight children, including Jane (Thomson) Hull, the writer of three of the letters in this collection. The majority of the letters were written by John C. Hull, Jane’s husband. From the letters it is clear that Hannah Evans died when some of the Thomson children were still young; the letters reference Jane as a caregiver to her brother Samuel. The letters also make clear that John Thomson later remarried, and that his domestic situation in the 1830s was relatively unhappy. In the letters, Jane and John Hull mention several of Jane’s other family members, including her brother Samuel Thomson, and sisters Mary, Elizabeth, and Grace. Newark, Delaware
Early letters in the collection reflect on Mary Thomson’s determination to marry Washington Russell, against her father’s wishes. Mary Thomson and Dr. Washington Russell were married on 1 November 1828. Jane’s other sisters, Elizabeth and Grace, married two brothers, sons of Joseph and Martha (Palmer) Chamberlain: Elizabeth Thomson married Dr. Joseph Chamberlain, and Grace Thomson married Dr. Palmer Chamberlain.
Little genealogical information is known about John C. Hull, though many biographical facts can be drawn from these letters. John and Jane (Thomson)
had at least seven children together, including Charles Hull, Alexander Hull, Joseph Hull, John Evans Hull, Sarah Jane Hull, J. Richardson Hull, and Elizabeth Hull. They lived in Hull , (West) Pennsylvania , Virginia , and Ohio . Delaware
Scope and Content Note
This group of twenty-four lengthy autograph letters, 1825-1845, from John C. Hull at various locations in
, (West) Maryland , Virginia , and Pennsylvania , are addressed to his father-in-law John Thomson in Ohio , and are full of business and family news. (Three letters from Jane Thomson Hull to her father are also included in this small collection.) Documenting varied business ventures and the westward migration of his family, John Thomson’s letters contain a wealth of information on a variety of nineteenth-century topics. Originally acquired by Dr. Henry Clay Reed from a Swann auction (Sale no.107, lot 65, 1945), they comprised a portion of the gift of papers given to the Newark, Delaware by Mrs. Reed in 1976. Universityof Delaware Library
With a tendency for descriptive detail, John C. Hull wrote about the variety of fields in which he was employed between 1825 and 1845. From 1828 to 1831, John Hull managed the property at Octoraro Forge, located on Octorara Creek in
. The forge was originally built in the late-eighteenth century by a Quaker minister, John Jones, and had changed hands several times. By 1828, the business included an iron forge, a merchant mill, a saw mill, and 800 acres of land, with houses for twelve families. In several letters, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania wrote about the iron works. Hull included information about his relationship to Mr. Orrick, one of the owners of the property, and compared the grounds of Octoraro Forge to the Castle Fin Forge in Hull . York County, Pennsylvania
Hull was also deeply involved in the stage coach business. He was employed by Stockton and Stokes, a stage coach company with lines that ran from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, and then out to Wheeling, (West) Virginia, before crossing into Ohio. This line ran along the old “
National Road,” and the Stockton and Stokes coaches were sometimes called the National Road Stage Company. Stockton and Stokes was also the line which had the most extensive mail carrying contracts with the United States Postal Service. By 1835, these contracts had gotten the company embroiled in a payment dispute with Post Master General Amos Kendall, which resulted in three Supreme Court cases in the 1830s, including United States vs. Kendall and Kendall vs. Stokes. John Hull’s letters discussed the stage coach business, stocks, and the mail payments. mentioned other partners and proprietors including Henry Moore, Daniel Moore, George Moore, and Lucius Stockton. He also described formation of competing stage lines in 1833, and later discussed land prices in relation to the coming railroad lines. Hull
In 1832, an intense cholera epidemic struck in
, (West) Wheeling , and mortality in the area was estimated at 50 – 60%. Writing in June 1832, Virginia reflected on his fears about the disease and described local conditions in detail. Other letters relayed health threats of the period; in 1831 Jane was dangerously ill following childbirth; and Jane later wrote about one of the children surviving scrofula (extra pulmonary tuberculosis). Hull
By 1833, John and Jane Hull were investing in farm land in Ohio. They purchased a large farm on a creek and began to make improvements, while residing and farming at various rental properties in Wheeling. Many of Hull’s letters from the 1830s contain information on land speculations and farm prices in Wheeling and Ohio. He raised sheep, pigs, and vegetables. Letters describe business conditions and reflect his happiness in this employment.
In the 1840s the Hulls moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and John opened a stable. Unfortunately, the business was destroyed by the Great Fire of Pittsburgh in April 1845. Jane Hull wrote in May 1845, reflecting on the experience of seeing the blaze, the destruction, and the aftermath of the great fire. A number of other events of interest are mentioned in the letters: a major bank robbery in
, reflections about life on the frontier, Wheeling ’s hopes for his children’s social position in the “new” towns of Hull , and the separation of John Thomson from his second wife, back in Ohio . The letters also recount coach travel across the mountains, the conditions of travel in the time period, and a bridge collapse in Newark . A final point of interest in the letters is the manner in which John Hull wrote to his father-in-law. He frequently expressed very tender feelings for his wife Jane; the surviving examples of Jane’s letters are far less sentimental about her husband. Pittsburgh
Cranmer, Gibson Lamb. History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia, and Representative Citizens. Chicago: Biographical Publishing Company, 1902.
Jepson, S. L. “Epidemics,” History of the Upper Ohio Valley, Vol. 1, Madison: Brant & Fuller, 1890.
“Letters of William T. Berry,” William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 1. (Jul., 1905), pp. 19-23.
Old Bible Records with Charts and Genealogical Sketches, Volume II, pp 240 – 242, and Volume X, p. 82. Compiled by Cooch’s Bridge Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, Newark, Delaware. University of Delaware Library, Special Collections.
MSS 271 The George Gillespie Evans Family Papers and Supplement contains papers of John Thomson and other family members related to Jane (Thomson) Hull.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission also hold some business records for Octoraro Forge in the 1830s.
Folder -- Contents
F149 Twenty-four autograph letters from John C.
Hull, writing from various locations, addressed to John Thomson in
1825 Feb 26
1826 Apr 21
1828 Mar 04 Frederick, MD
Dec 04 Octoraro Forge, PA
1831 May 15 Baltimore, MD
1832 Jan 23
1837 May 16
1845 May 25
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