Main content

Shee family papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

John and Cecelia Parke were the children of Thomas and Ann Parke of Kent County, Delaware. John Parke was born in 1754, attended the Newark Academy (now the University of Delaware) and the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), studied law under Delaware lawyer and politican Thomas McKean, and, in the mid 1770s, joined the 2nd Battalion of the Philadelphia Militia. During his service, which included a promotion to lieutenant colonel of John Patton's Continental Regiment, he befriended generals Caeser Rodney and George Washington and fought in the battles of Long Island, Trenton, and Brandywine. He resigned from the military in 1778 and went to work as an author and poet. Among his published works are translations of Horace and a tribute to George Washington. John Parke died in 1789 in Dover, Delaware.

In 1769, Cecelia Parke married Bertles Shee (1742-1787) and the couple had one son, Parke McGannon Shee (1776-1862), and a daughter Cecelia. Bertles also served during the Revolutionary War as paymaster in John Patton's Continental regiment and lieutenant colonel of artillery. Cecelia resided in both Dover, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and died in the late 1770s.

This collection of papers from the Shee family is housed in one box (five folders) and spans the years 1775 to 1785. In Folder 2 are sixteen letters sent from Cecelia Parke Shee to John Parke between the years 1775 and 1777, though a few letters are not dated. Aside from the letters, there is a 2009 copy of transcriptions and notes from the donor (Folder 1), a few miscellaneous family papers, including a copy of Bertles Shee's will (Folder 3), miscellaneous clippings and genealogical notes on the Shee family from an unknown writer (Folder 4), and the original enclosure in which the papers were housed (Folder 5). Researchers are asked to please consult the transcriptions provided in Folder 1 before handling the original fragile documents in Folders 2, 3, and 4.

Though few in number, Cecelia's letters are detailed and touch upon numerous personal events, including visits with friends, such as Nancy Stocker, a woman apparently after John's affections, one Miss Sally Robinson, Thomas McKean, and Caesar Rodney. "Caesar Rodney has waited on me," she mentioned on 3 December 1775, "I am endeavoring to get him to settle our old account - he tries to shift it off." She also briefly mentions acquaintanceships with members of the Bradford, Wharton, and Willing families of Philadelphia. She also wrote about her husband, son, and family. "[I] have increased my family by two negroes a boy and a girl which Bertles took for bad debts" she wrote on 16 August 1775. In her letter of 20 July 1776, she praises her son, Parke Shee, "a very rakish name," she noted. "[A]nd the rogue has such sparkling eyes . . . every body says he is the finest [Philadelphian] they have ever seen." Another topic she mentioned frequently but in lesser detail was her health. In October 1776, both she and her husband were sick: "Mr. Shee continues in a very bad way - slow fevers – as for myself I am not much better than he – but I am used to the sickness - and my poor child I am obliged to wean for want of a nurse." In total, these letters offer incredible insights into the life of a well-to-do family from a woman who, though sometimes left alone (since Bertles also fought during the war), kept remarkable company and a clear mind despite her health problems.

Other notable items in the collection include a copy of Bertles Shee's will, dated 1778, in which he mentions his son Parke, a daughter Cecelia, and his “late wife;” an undated letter from John Chew concerning Bertles Shee's debts; and a 1789 letter from Richard Dolin to John Shee concerning property in Ireland. There is also a small collection of handwritten genealogical notes on the Shee and Parke families from an unknown writer, as well as two clippings that were found among the papers, one with the headline “Great Funeral of Washington Held Here;” the other is a copy of a poem or song with the title “The Delaware County Sketch of the late hubbub in Uncle Sam’s Mealtub.”

Kasier, Leo M. "The First American Translations of the 'Odes' and 'Epodes' of Horace," The Classical Journal 60, no. 5 (Feburary 1965), p. 220-330. Thomas K. Yardley transcriptions and notes, 2009, Shee family papers (Collection 3154), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Gift of Thomas K. Yardley, 2009.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
Finding Aid Date
, 2010
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Lori Cohen.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Due to the fragile nature of the original documents in the collection, researchers are asked to first consult the transcriptions provided in Folder 1 before handling the original documents.

Collection Inventory

Transcriptions of Cecelia Parke Shee letters and additional notes by Thomas K. Yardley, (2009). 1 item.
Box 1 Folder 1
Physical Description

1 item

Cecelia Parke Shee letters to John Parke, (1775-1777, undated). 16 items.
Box 1 Folder 2
Physical Description

16 items

Miscellaneous family papers, (1776, 1778, 1785, undated). 4 items.
Box 1 Folder 3
Physical Description

4 items

Genealogical notes and miscellaneous clippings, (undated). 3 items.
Box 1 Folder 4
Physical Description

3 items

Original collection enclosures, (undated). 1 item.
Box 1 Folder 5
Physical Description

1 item

Print, Suggest