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Collection of Bringhurst Family Correspondence

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Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 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

The Bringhursts of Philadelphia, Pa., were a prominent Quaker family, active in the civic life of the City and in the Society of Friends. Several were involved in the establishment of Pennsylvania Hospital and the American Philosophical Society.

Circa 1701, Rosina Bringhurst, widow of Quaker John Bringhurst of London, and her four children emigrated to Philadelphia. Her son, John Bringhurst (1691-1750) was apprenticed as a cooper and worked as a seaman and merchant. In 1718 he married Mary Claypoole, who died in 1761.

John and Mary Claypoole had eight children, five of whom survived to maturity. Mary (1720/21-1798) married Judah Foulke (1722-1776) of Gwynedd, Pa., in 1743/44 under the care of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. John (1722-1789) and Elizabeth (1723/24-1790) did not marry. The fourth child, James (1730-1810) married first Anne Pole; secondly, Hannah Peters; and third, Ruth Barker. He was a wealthy merchant in Philadelphia, active in the American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Carpenter's Hall. He owned a country estate at Gray's Ferry, now part of Philadelphia, which his first wife, Anne Pole (1705-1755) inherited from her father, also a Philadelphia merchant. In 1779, he married Hannah Peters, who died in 1782 at the age of 31. In the last two years of his life, he moved to Tiverton, Rhode Island, which was the home his third wife, Ruth, and where they often spent summers. James and Anne (Pole) Bringhurst had seven children, five of whom survived to maturity. One of his sons, Joseph Bringhurst (1767-1834) , was a prominent Philadelphia and Delaware physician and close friend of John Dickinson. In 1799, he married Deborah Ferris (1733-1844), sister of Benjamin Ferris of Wilmington, Delaware.

James Bringhurst corresponded regularly with John Murray (1758-1819), a prominent New York Quaker, with whom he shared common interests. Murray was the son of Robert Murray and Mary Lindley Murray and married Catherine Bowne. They had three children, including Lindley Murray born in 1790. John's brother was Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the Quaker author and grammarian. John Murray retired from a successful business life and served as governor of New York Hospital. In 1785 he was a founder of the "Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and for protecting such of them as have been or may be liberated." He was also involved with prison reform, improving public education and the condition of Indians, founding the New-York Historical Society and the Society for the prevention of Pauperism, as well as being active in New York Monthly Meeting.

Joseph (1732/3-1811), the youngest surviving child of John and Mary (Claypoole) Bringhurst, did not marry. Like his father, he was trained as a cooper and then became a successful merchant. A contributor to Pennsylvania Hospital and a member of the American Philosophical Society, he took an interest in his extended family, and in particular, the children of his widowed older sister, Mary (Bringhurst) Foulke. In 1810, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware, which was the home of his nephew, Dr. Joseph Bringhurst.

Mary (Bringhurst) Foulke had five children and was widowed in 1776. Her daughter, Elizabeth Foulke (1758-1820) traveled in the ministry, and the family was active in the affairs of the City of Philadelphia and the Society of Friends.

Contains the collected correspondence of the Bringhurst family. The greater part was preserved by C. Marshall Taylor and contains correspondence, 1780-1806, of Philadelphia Quaker businessman, James Bringhurst. These include letters received by James Bringhurst (1730-1810) from John Murray (1758-1819) of New York City which reveal their concern for education, prison reform, preventing poverty, and improving the condition of Indians. The letter books of James Bringhurst are generally religious in tone. He corresponded with family as well as prominent friends including John Dickinson, Job Scott, Nathan Hunt, James Pemberton, Jesse Kersey, Lindley Murray and Moses Brown. Of particular interest are his descriptions of life in Philadelphia and the conditions of free blacks, as well as Quaker religious and social concerns and visits from traveling ministers. The Taylor gift includes typed transcripts and indexes created by the collector.

The second group primarily contains affectionate letters from Joseph Bringhurst, a brother of James, to his niece, Elizabeth Foulke while she was traveling in the ministry. The letters deal with family concerns and Philadelphia life and customs. Mention is made of many prominent Quakers, outbreaks of yellow fever, and concern for the stresses of his niece's life in the ministry. This group also includes letters from Elizabeth Foulke to her friend, Ruth Rutter, and from James Bringhurst to his niece.

Organized in three series:

  1. Ser.1 James Bringhurst letter books
  2. Ser.2 John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst
  3. Ser.3 Bringhurst-Foulke correspondence

History of the Bringhurst family : with notes on the Clarkson, De Peyster, and Boude families / By Josiah Granville Leach. Philadelphia : Printed for private circulation by J.B. Lippincott company, 1901 Memoir of the late John Murray, jun., read before governors of the New-York hospital, ninth month, fourteenth, 1819 / by Thomas Eddy. Published by order of the governors . New York : Printed by E. Conrad, no. 4, Frankfort-street, 1819

Transcripts of the correspondence of James Bringhurst are included in the collection and also available at Haverford College Special Collections.

Donor: C. Marshall Taylor, 1942, 1946

Taylor was a graduate of Swarthmore College and served as an Honorary Curator of Friends Historical Library.

In 1942, C. Marshall Taylor (1884-1957), a Quaker businessman and book collector, of Montclair, New Jersey, donated the John Murray correspondence and his transcription to Friends Historical Library. In 1946, he presented the James Bringhurst letter books and transcriptions. These gifts were combined with other Bringhurst correspondence already deposited in the Library, sources unknown. A Joseph Bringhurst letter purchased by the Library was added to the collection in 1971.

Purchase: 1976

The letter books and correspondence of James Bringhurst collected by C. Marshall Taylor and bound into six volumes were given to Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College in 1942 and 1946 along with Taylor's typed transcripts and indexes. Theses letters were combined with loose correspondence from an unknown source into a manuscript collection. In 1971, a purchased letter from Joseph Bringhurst to E[lizabeth] Foulke was added to the collection. In 2004, a finding aid was created and the loose letters were refoldered. The inventory was revised in 2012, with additional details supplied. The John Murray letters were removed from an acidic 19th century cover and places in folders for better preservation and description.

Publisher
Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Finding Aid Author
FHL staff
Finding Aid Date
2012
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Some of the items in this collection may be protected by copyright. The user is solely responsible for making a final determination of copyright status. If copyright protection applies, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns to reuse, publish, or reproduce relevant items beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to the law. See http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/UND/1.0/.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents

Contains letter books of James Bringhurst (1730-1820), a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, active in the American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Carpenter's Hall. The bound letters, mostly Bringhurst's drafts of his correspondence sent, together with some original letters, are arranged basically in chronological order. There are pencil annotations (by the donor) who created typed transcripts which are stored with the originals.

[Bringhurst, James] to H. Peters, ca. 1777.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Page 1 of the 1780-1798 letter book is an account of an attack at the Battery, Kensington, between frigates and galleys on the Delaware River. Bringhurst married Hannah Peters in 1779 under the care of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting - Northern District.

Physical Description

1 folder

James Bringhurst letter book, 1780-1798.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Bringhurst's copy letters in a crumbling binding. Letters express religious sentiments and mention visiting Friends. In 9 mo 1782 letters to M. Morris he describes the final illness of his young wife, Hannah, and visits of Quakers to minister to her. In 1786 he enclosed a treatise on slavery in letter to William Bradford, Rhode Island. 1789, reports on many Friends and that his sister, Elizabeth, is dying of cancer. Also in 1789, letters to Job and Eunice Scott with news of family and friends - including note that his son James married a woman without fortune (better to have a virtuous wife). 3 mo 1790 he notes in a letter to Job Scott that Elizabeth Drinker intends a religious visit to New England. 3 mo 1790 reports visit of Friends to Congress with petition against slave trade and the abuse Warner Mifflin took on its behalf. Interesting letters of 1791 when Congress was meeting in Philadelphia and he and his wife visited the homes of free blacks in the area. He comments on persons who fall asleep during meeting.

Physical Description

1 folder

Typed transcripts of letters from James Bringhurst, 1780-1792, 1941.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

C. Marshall Taylor's transcripts of the letters in James Bringhurst letter book, 1780-1792,

Physical Description

1 folder

James Bringhurst letter book, 1796-1798.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Note inside cover (Bringhurst?) explains that "In this Book many of the Letters are misplaced and one or more putt wrong edge inwards." Includes a ms index loose at the front of the volume in Bringhurst's hand. Also notes in pencil [by donor?] on topics of interest. Copies of letters to Job Scott, Benjamin Gilbert, Elizabeth Coggeshill, John Murray, Samuel Emlen, Abraham Barker, Peter Yarnall, Anna and Thomas Pole, and others with religious expressions and some news of family and Friends. Interesting letter to David Sands from Rhode Island, 10 mo 1797, describes Friends' meeting in Hartford, CT; yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc.; death of dear friend Job Scott. Words of advice to his sons. Letter of 1 mo 1798 to Samuel Emlen from Rhode Island mentions Friends imprisoned for not paying military fines. Letter to Job Scott 12 month 1793 describes ministry of Peter Yarnall speaking to African-Americans and prisoners and proposal from Philadelphia Friends for a bill to present to Assembly to prohibit stage plays. In 2 month 1794, he writes Scott about William Savery's visit to George Washington to report on the Indians. Death of his youngest son, Edward, in 10 month 1794. Letter 6 month 1795 to Ann Pole in London. Letters to his niece Elizabeth Foulke and his brother Joseph concerning death of sister, Mary Foulke, 1798. To Elizabeth Coggeshill, 3 mo 1798, as she departs for ministry in Europe. Death of Joseph Anthony in 9 mo. 1798; much illness - Bringhurst is residing at his "plantation" at Bristol, near Gray's Ferry.

Physical Description

1 folder

Typed transcripts of letters from James Bringhurst, transcribed and indexed by C. Marshall Taylor, 1796-1792, 1941.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Transcript of the letters in James Bringhurst letter book, 1796-1798

Physical Description

1 folder

James Bringhurst letter book, 1798-1800.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Notes in pencil [by donor?] on topics of interest, first page. Loose index of contents in Bringhurst's handwriting. Letter to Anthony Buckley, 1791, as he sets off to East Indies. Long letter to Obadiah and Dorcas Brown 2mo 1799 with religious thoughts, visit of William Savery, and death of many eminent Friends from yellow fever. Letter to John Dickinson 7mo 1799, urges him to take up the cause of abolition of slavery and describes life at Tiverton, Rhode Island. To Thomas Pole 7mo 1799 with news of visiting Friends, comments on slavery, free blacks, and yellow fever; informs that his son Jonathan was assigned to apprenticeship with a non-member because no positions among Friends were available; marriage of son Joseph to Deborah Ferris. In 1799 he met John Dickinson who in retirement had assumed plain speech to all persons and regular attendance to meeting, inspired by his daughter, hence his letter to him (bound earlier n volume). Letters to Charles Gilbert, Joseph and Deborah Bringhurst, Elizabeth Coggeshill in Europe in which he copies John Dickinson's reply to his letter about slavery, "I know by experience the horrid Infatuation." Letter to Thomas Pole (brother-in-law) with news about Friends and family, admiration for George Washington for discouraging war. Letters Hannah Barnard and Elizabeth Coggeshill traveling together in 1800 and to Peter Barnard. Letters to Presbyterians Mary Durfey and S. Norton. Death of son, John, 6 mo 1800.

Physical Description

1 folder

Typed transcripts of letters from James Bringhurst, 1798-1800, 1941.
Box 1
Scope and Contents

Transcript of the letters in James Bringhurst letter book, transcribed and indexed by C. Marshall Taylor, 1798-1800

Physical Description

1 folder

James Bringhurst letter book, 1799-1805.
Box 2
Scope and Contents

A letter written 8 mo 1800 to John Dickinson mentions the yellow fever in Newport, R.I., where inhabitants had thought they were safe from the disease. 11 mo 1800 describes the Hannah Barnard controversy in London. Bringhurst thought she had become too dependent on her own human wisdom, and he compares the troubles in the Society of Friends to the days of the George Keith controversy. Hannah Rotch Fisher becoming adept in the ministry. Thomas Scattergood inspired a meeting of a group at the Lazaretto in Tinicum. Silas Downing developing meetings in Connecticut. Letters to

Physical Description

1 folder

Typed transcripts of letters from James Bringhurst, 1799-1805, 1941.
Box 2
Scope and Contents

Transcript of the letters in James Bringhurst letter book, transcribed and indexed by C. Marshall Taylor, 1799-1805

Physical Description

1 folder

James Bringhurst letter book, 1803-1806.
Box 2
Scope and Contents

Includes two loose letters to Bringhurst from Martha Routh. Also letters dated before 1803 (1797 about yellow fever.) and letter to Hannah Barnard and Elizabeth Coggeshill 1 mo 1800. Letters to Moses Brown, Emmor Kimber, John Dickinson, Charles Gilbert, David Sands, and others. 1804 mentions that Nathan Hunt traveling in the ministry on Martha's Vineyard where he visited the Indians. Sorrow that William Crotch was "laid so low," in 12 mo 1806 letter to Stephen Gould, but glad that a new generation of ministers is growing.

Physical Description

1 folder

Typed transcripts of letters from James Bringhurst, 1803-1806, 1941.
Box 2
Scope and Contents

Typed transcripts of letters from James Bringhurst, transcribed and indexed by C. Marshall Taylor, 1803-1806

Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

: John Murray (1758-1819) was a prominent New York Quaker and friend of James Bringhurst. He corresponded regularly with James Bringhurst with whom he shared common interests. The Series contains 77 original letters removed from a binding and foldered in smaller units.

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1787.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

John Bringhurst, son of James, considering move to NYC to establish a hardware business. Very interested in movement in London to abolish slave trade and wants to collect suitable tracts on the subject. (New York Manumission Society founded in 1785). Wants to establish a school for African Americans using Philadelphia's school as a model. African Free School opened 11 month 1.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1788-1789.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

1 month 1788, concerning New York Manumission Society in communication with committee in London. Measles epidemic. Attends monthly meeting in Flushing. In 1789, involved with founding a Society to promote employment for the poor.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1790.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Mention of the Quaker friends including Job Scott and Samuel Emlen. The Yearly Meeting's petition to Congress concerning slavery. Elias Hicks speaking a meetings of non members. Has his sons inoculated for smallpox and investigating if local maple syrup can replace cane sugar, helping anti-slavery efforts.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1791-1793.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Would like a boycott of rum and sugar, produced by slaves. Supportive of colony of free blacks in Sierra Leone. Interest in welfare of Indians and Bringhurst family.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1794.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Many Friends on visits in ministry, including John Pemberton to Europe. Hears that many Philadelphians are planning to evacuate the city during the summer to avoid yellow fever. Report that Job Scott died of smallpox in Ireland while in ministry. Sympathy on the death of Edward, Bringhurst's son.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1795.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Mention of many Friends in the ministry, and seeking a teacher for the school in NYC. On a committee that visits the Indians on the frontier. Returns in November to epidemic in the city. Sends a letter of introduction for Stephen Grellet.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1796-1798.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

On Committee for Nine Partners School and working on the journal of the visit to the Indians. Interested in prison reform. Visit of Deborah Darby ton England. Bringhurst staying at Tiverton, Rhode Island, as fever again in Philadelphia. In 1798, a particularly harsh winter that was hard on the poor and fever epidemic.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1800-1801.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Mentions that a number of Philadelphia area children are educated at Nine Partners. In 1801, Elias Hicks and Elisha Thornton plan to attend Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and he mentions H.B. [Hannah Barnard] and the controversy about her religious views

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1802.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Hudson Monthly Meeting revoked ministry of Hannah Barnard. More fever in New York and Philadelphia

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1803-1804.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Visiting ministers, and in particular, Dorothy Ripley who visited African American meetings and William Crotch from England. He especially admires the work of women ministers.

Physical Description

1 folder

John Murray, Jun., of New York, to James Bringhurst, 1805-1806.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Writes that while not chosen for the ministry, prosperous citizens like Murray and Bringhurst are able to pursue philanthropic concerns for the good of the Society and society at large.

Physical Description

1 folder

Typed transcripts of John Murray letters with index, by C. Marshall Taylor, 1941.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Typed transcripts of John Murray letters with index, by C. Marshall Taylor

Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Joseph (1732/3-1811), the younger brother of James Bringhurst, was a successful Philadelphia merchant. He was a contributor to Pennsylvania Hospital and a member of the American Philosophical Society. James Bringhurst did not marry, and he took an interest in his extended family, and in particular, the children of his widowed older sister, Mary (Bringhurst) Foulke. In 1810, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware, which was the home of his nephew, Dr. Joseph Bringhurst. Mary (Bringhurst) Foulke had five children and was widowed in 1776. Her daughter, Elizabeth Foulke (1758-1820) traveled in the ministry. The family was active in the affairs of the City of Philadelphia and the Society of Friends.

Foulke, Elizabeth (Philadelphia) to Rutter, Ruth A. (Pottstown, PA), 1794-1797.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

4 ALsS with news of visiting Friends, the yearly meeting in 1797. Ruth Rutter (1768-1810) was a Quaker minister under New Garden Monthly Meeting. She married Jacob Lindley in 1800.

Physical Description

1 folder

Waln, Nicholas to Foulke, Elizabeth, 1798, 11 mo 2.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

ALS. Mentions her meeting with blacks and attending Baltimore yearly meeting

Physical Description

1 folder

Bringhurst, Joseph (Philadelphia) to Foulke, Elizabeth (London Grove), 1798, 11 mo, 15.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

ALS, purchased 1971. Mentions yellow fever, glad to be home and know she will be glad when her travels are completed

Physical Description

1 folder

Bringhurst, Joseph (Philadelphia) to Foulke, Elizabeth, 1798, 1802, 1803.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

11 ALsS to "Beloved Niece," during her travels in the ministry to Virginia and elsewhere. Undated letter [1798] mentions David Sands visit to Ireland in the midst of the Rebellion. Letters with family news and visiting Friends.

Physical Description

1 folder

Bringhurst, James (Philadelphia) to Foulke, Elizabeth (Richmond, VA), 1803, 6mo, 3.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

ALS with words of encouragement

Physical Description

1 folder

Bringhurst, Joseph (Philadelphia) to Crew, Micajah (Hanover Co., VA), 1803, 7mo,1.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

ALS concerning ministry of his niece, Elizabeth Foulke. Expresses concern for her return and his deep affection.

Physical Description

1 folder

Bringhurst, Joseph (Wilmington) to Foulke, Elizabeth, 1804-1811.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

8 ALsS to "Beloved Niece." Letter of 9 mo 1805 very anxious about yellow fever in Philadelphia, especially Southwark. Mentions frequent socializing with John Dickinson, William Canby. 1807 worries about war with Great Britain. 1809 letter speaks of his moving permanently to Wilmington to be near his nephew, Joseph, but his regret in being far from Elizabeth; talk of uniting northern and middle districts of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. Joseph writes very affectionate letters with news of family and friends.

Physical Description

1 folder

[Bringhurst, James] (Philadelphia) to "Dear Son Joseph", 1807, 1mo, 24.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

AL (unfinished) expressing late-life resignation. Mentions that James Pemberton was having a glass house constructed on lots that he owned.

Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous, 1785, ca. 1794.
Box 3
Scope and Contents

Draft of advise against pomp in funerals (c. 1794) and anonymous letter

Physical Description

1 folder

Print, Suggest