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1825 – 1845



Manuscript Collection Number 98 Folder 149


Accessioned:  Gift of Marion Bjornson Reed, 1976


Extent:  .05 linear ft. (24 items)


Content:  Letters


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

    Biographical Note

                The John Thomson Family of Delaware and Pennsylvania were of Scotch Irish origin. John Thomson of Newark, Delaware, 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.

                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) Hull 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 Pennsylvania, (West) Virginia, Ohio, and Delaware.

    Scope and Content Note

                This group of twenty-four lengthy autograph letters, 1825-1845, from John C. Hull at various locations in Maryland, (West) Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, are addressed to his father-in-law John Thomson in Newark, Delaware, 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 University of Delaware Library by Mrs. Reed in 1976.

                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 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. 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, Hull 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 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. Hull 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.

                In 1832, an intense cholera epidemic struck in Wheeling, (West) Virginia, and mortality in the area was estimated at 50 – 60%. Writing in June 1832, Hull 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).

                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 Wheeling, reflections about life on the frontier, Hull’s hopes for his children’s social position in the “new” towns of Ohio, and the separation of John Thomson from his second wife, back in Newark. The letters also recount coach travel across the mountains, the conditions of travel in the time period, and a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh. 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.




    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.




    Related 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.


Contents List

Folder -- Contents

F149    Twenty-four autograph letters from John C. Hull, writing from various locations, addressed to John Thomson in Newark, Delaware, 1825 – 1845.  All letters are from John Hull, excepting the three from his wife, Jane (Thomson) Hull, as noted below.


            1825    Feb  26            Lancaster, PA

                        Jul   09             Lancaster, PA


            1826    Apr  21            Lancaster, PA


            1828    Mar  04            Frederick, MD

                        Apr  17            Frederick, MD

                        Dec  04            Octoraro Forge, PA


            1831    May 15            Baltimore, MD

                        Oct   22           Baltimore, MD

                        Oct   24           Baltimore, MD

                        Nov  27           Baltimore, MD


            1832    Jan   23            Wheeling, VA

                        Jun   04            Wheeling, VA


            1833    Feb  11            Wheeling, VA

                        Apr  26            Wheeling, VA               From Jane (Thomson) Hull

                        May 04            Wheeling, VA

                        Jun   07            Wheeling, VA

                        Sep  08            Wheeling, VA


            1835    Nov  24           Wheeling, VA


            1836    Feb  18            Wheeling, VA

                        Aug  09            Wheeling, VA

                        Sep  06            Wheeling, VA               From Jane (Thomson) Hull

                        Oct  15                        Wheeling, VA


            1837    May 16            Wheeling, VA


            1845    May 25            Cumberland, OH          From Jane (Thomson) Hull

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