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
Charles Townsend (1777–1859), a Philadelphia watch and clockmaker, and Priscilla Kirk (1785–1862) of York County, Pennsylvania, were married at Darby Meeting House in 1803. Charles was the son of John Townsend and Hannah Cox Townsend, and Priscilla was the daughter of Elisha Kirk and Ruth Miller Kirk. Priscilla gave birth to twelve children, only seven of whom lived to adulthood. These were Elisha (1804-1858), Edward (1806-1896), Charles (1807-1866), John Kirk (1809-1851), Hannah (1812-1851), Mary (1814-1851), and Elizabeth (1824-1869). Priscilla and Charles Townsend were prominent members of Green Street Monthly Meeting and in 1833 were among the founding members of Spruce Street Monthly Meeting. Priscilla was a recorded minister in the Society of Friends.
The children of Charles and Priscilla Townsend continued their parents' legacy of accomplishment and social concern. The eldest, Elisha Townsend (1804-1858) married Elizabeth Haydock in 1826 and was a prominent dentist. Edward Townsend (1806-1896) married Ann Albertson Townsend in 1833. He was a dentist but best known for his work in penal reform. His wife was an acknowledged Quaker minister, and they had five children. Charles Townsend (1807-1866), also a dentist, married Elizabeth Fawcett, and they had five children. The youngest son, John Kirk Townsend (1809-1851) was a prominent naturalist and ornithologist. He married Charlotte Holmes. Neither daughter Hannah (1812-1851) or Mary (1814-1851) married, and both dealt with fragile health. The sisters were writers and active in the abolitionist movement. The youngest daughter, Elizabeth "Lizzie" (1834-1869), married Mahlon Kirk in 1854, and they had three children.
Members of the Charles and Priscilla Townsend family were active in the Society of Friends in Philadelphia and in Quaker concerns, especially penal reform, abolition, and the natural sciences. The collection includes journals, correspondence, and writings in addition to transcripts and reference material on family members.
Series 1: Family papers.
Series 2: Reference and copies
The letters and writings were preserved by the descendants of Edward Townsend and Elizabeth Townsend Kirk.
Much of the material has been edited and published. See book catalog for copies.
Gift of Dana Dunbar King, FHL 2023.018
Sorted into two series, manuscripts and reference.
Mary Townsend's Life in the Insect World : or, Conversations Upon Insects Between an Aunt and Her Nieces (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1844); 2 copies of Hannah Townsend's History of England in Verse (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1852) one signed by Mahlon Kirk, 1882 and one signed by Priscilla Townsend 1832 and Mary T. Kirk; Poems of the late Elizabeth Fawcett Townsend (Philadelphia: C. Sherman & Son, 1862); John K. Townsend's Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River (Philadelphia: Henry Perkins, 1839)
- Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open for 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/.
Signed autograph letter to Ruth Kirk, mother of Priscilla. Condolences on death of her husband Elisha Kirk
Deathbed conversation sent to Priscilla by Emma Parke
2 signed autograph letters, with photocopies.
2 signed autograph letters; the 1833 letter sent from Poughkeepsie, New York
A signed autograph letter written onboard a boat traveling on the Canal, 1838. A signed autograph letter, 1849 sent from Fishing Creek.
Oversized signed autograph letter and written by members of the family to Cousin Mary, Brown Kirk, with individual notes and a poem by Elizabeth
Note of congratulations on his wedding anniversary
5 Signed autograph letters. Affectionate letters, one (1854) from her father, Charles Townsend. Family news and concerns
Written after the death of her husband with an account of deaths in her family and birth and deaths of her children.
Christmas wishes. Mary died in 1851
Signed autograph letter to his mother and father, 1852. 1858 letter is a handwritten copy of letter to his sister, describing his illness and hoping for some relief
2 signed autograph letters, health concerns and his current projects
Short notes of appreciation
To cousin Mary B. Kirk, and others. Signed autograph letter describing visit to Cape May, New Jersey, enjoying the ocean. Family news
Long letter with family news
Includes an account of visit of Frederica Bremer. Also photocopy of a typed copy of a letter from James Russell Lowell to Elizabeth Townsend
"Dear cousin," her future husband
A copy? The author of the letter defended slavery and argued for a gradual end rather than immediate. Also included, a printed petition from women of [blank] Pennsylvania for immediate end of slavery in D.C., etc. Mary and Elizabeth Townsend were strong supporters of abolition.
Journal of a steamship trip to New York City; she commented on raucous 4th of July celebration. The the trip continued to New Rochelle and up the Hudson, returning on the Delaware River. She mentioned visits from Elias and Willett Hicks, Isaac T. Hopper, Edward Hopper and other prominent Friends. Also a draft typed transcript
Bound volume contains a copies of her "letters' written in verse. Antislavery sentiments, "Diary" in verse of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 5 month 1840, including her reactions to queries and Committee reports. Letter to Grace Anna Lewis, 3 month 9, 1845. "Characters written for dolls sold at the Antislavery Fairs," including cook, housekeeper, fugitive slave.
Narrative poem by Hannah and Elizabeth Townsend
Botanical Emblems volume 1 1834 (dried flower inside)
Manuscript and photocopies
Very faded account in small notebook together with handwritten copy by her sister Elizabeth and a typed transcription. Romantic telling of her grandmother's courtship.
In verse by Elizabeth Townsend
Note inside cover: "To Mahlon Kirk, Jr. This album belonged to thy dear Mother....January 1882, MK"
Includes published portrait drawing. Elisha was trained as a watchmaker, tried his hand on stage, and in 1832 turned to dentistry. He was a founder of the American Society of Dental Surgeons AND THE Philadelphia College of Dental Surgeons, among other achievements.
Photocopies: Dictionary of American Biography, an excerpt from his brother Edward Townsend Memoirs; John Kirk Townsend by Witmer Stone, Cassinia: Proceedings of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club; extract from Audubon and Xanus (1992)
John Townsend family letters at the National Academy of Science, Philadelphia
Typed copy of obituary in The Progress (Darby, Pennsylvania)
Typed manuscript by granddaughter Elizabeth S. Hoadley
Annual Report of the Inspectors of the State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to the Senate and House of Representatives.
Journey by steamboat to New York to attend Yearly Meeting, with details of the meetings. He and Priscilla stayed with Hannah Corlies. Mention in particular of sermons of George Truman and approval of memoranda to Congress regarding abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Their journey continued Upstate, visiting Friends and Meeting. Priscilla spoke. Mention of Lydia and Lucretia Mott, the case of Harvey Fink, and efforts to avoid products of enslaved workers.
Journey with wife Priscilla Townsend through Pennsylvania Canal and west to Pittsburgh and Ohio. Attended Indiana Yearly Meeting. Daniel Quimby urged that Friends should not mingle with other denominations in the cause of abolition.
Photocopies and transcripts. Charles Townsend (1706-1776) was the grandfather of Charles Townsend (1773-1859) who married Priscilla Kirk. His Will was executed by Benjamin Chew.