return to documents page
Two Letters Of Margaret Morris Sent from Philadelphia During the 1793 Epidemic
9th Mo 25th 4th day Even
My beloved Sister -
I have just now recd. thy 2 acceptable letters by D[ear] W Savory who brought them from Germantown, & have the heart felt satisfaction of informing thee our dear Bn. W[ell]s is thought to be out of danger & patty Mash quite recovered, & none other of the family yet Sick. E Hix went there on 5th day last to assist in taking care of patty & kept well till the day before yesterday, when she was taken with the cramp in her Stomach, & has had a bad spell of it - but is now finally recovered & I expect will be here again in a day or 2 - She went several times with our Tommy to yr. house, opened & aird it, & brought the Silver things here - thy flanel coat she was desirous of sending to thee but did not bring it. I have therefore put up a homespun one I made for Dear SD last Winter, which I never wore - tho she did - I beg thee to wear it till thy own can be sent - Malcom was well last 5th day - Cos JM has kindly sent to see how we fared, several times - & cos SM was at meeting today. My Debbie [her daughter Mrs. Benjamin Smith] is still here, & went to meeting today, her little boy has been very ill with a vomiting & purging, but is now finely recovered by the use of a medicine thee sent me when I was sick in the summer made with Cinamon & c a little of which I found in my closet when I went to look for something to give him - tell my dear Bn the bank notes he sent were not wanted, but that lessens not my obligation to him - I shall desire RHM [her son Richard H. Morris] to replace them - My two good Maids have been favd to keep about hitherto, Sallys & Aunt Wigdon with one of their Daughters & a Young Man in the house, all are dead. - My good son BS [son-in-law Benjamin Smith] has been more than a Son to me - Will it fatigue thee my Patty to read a Narrative of what I've past thro since we parted? I think thee answer no - Well then I'll begin my tale of woe from the 5th of this Mo[nth] - when I returned that eve from my Debby, who was not well enough to be about the house, was told my Dear JM [her son Dr. John Morris] was ill & wishd to see me - I went there immediately & found him very ill with a raging fever. Dr. Park & Griffitts both attending - I faithfully followed their orders - the blister drew finely - the powder had all the effect could be wished - alas - in the morning his skin was yellow as gold - a convulsion fitt & delirium deprived me of hope - yet the repetition of the powders, which operated well, revived me again, & I was willing to flatter myself - he might recover- As AM's [Abby, Mrs. John Morris] Maid was called away on 4th day to attend her mother who was ill, they had only a little girl to tend the child & I told AM to write a note & beg her F[ather] to let P[atty]. & Molly stay there, that the house might be quiet, they soon returned saying that their G[rand] F[ather] was sick & they could not be there This alrmed my poor A - & she begged to go see her F & stayed an hour or more - when she returned & went up stairs, undrest & went to bed, saying she had got the disorder & she'd die. She did not come into JM's room afterwards - I then had 2 to nurse & 2 little ones down stairs to provide for - at last I sent thy namesake and Wm again to the GF. Patty, they kept, & on going in the kitchen, found Wm hid in the cellar, he said they would not let him stay, they were afraid he wd bring the disorder to them. I sent M to my house. On 7th day BS came there & kindly went about town to procure assistance for me, & after night sent a black man and woman to me - who were but just done nursing at another place. Dr. Rush came that day & tho he could not flatter me, assured me the fever was lower at night - I watched by him till about one oclock & having been up the 2 preceding night was quite spent & as he slept quite easy, I lay down by him - the Negro woman sitting neart the bed - about 5 I awoke - & feeling his pulse, thought the fever was near gone off, & went to give the medicine but he could not take it - he spoke to me in a manner that poured balm into my wounded heart, lament the errors of his past life & had hopes of mercy - this was all I had presumed to ask for & my chastend spirit said thy will be done - a convulsion fitt followed & after that a sweet composure took possession of is features & he departed without sigh, groan or struggle - All this time I was alone, the woman I had was with Abby - the Man I sent to B Smith who took care to provide the coffin & after sitting by him awhile - Oh then the hands of the pitiful Mother prepared her Child's body for the grave & well it had been if I had contented myself with doing all that was required of me - but alas I got off my guard & thought that I who had been thus supported was equal to every thing & insisted on seeing laid beside the dear Companion of my youth - & there my fortitude forsook me - for that was not required of me - what followed I know not - till I found myself 2 days after in my own front parlor in the bed I had provided for others - oh that I may be a warning to others, for I do believe if I had kept my place, I should have been abled to do more for my dear AM - all that my good sister W[ells] & her sweet girls did for her. L Dorsey [Abby's father] sent a black woman of his own & they had 2 others there for some days - Len'd & Jno D acted like ---- relations - none other of hers came there, her F was sick & her sister, tho well at the time, is now ill also D's storekeeper -- The fever still continues to be mortal in many families, - but the number of burials is less than a Week ago - we have seen only nine go by today- & some days past there was 9 or 10 went by before breakfast - thro the mercy of heaven my whole family are yet well, excepting maid S, who got cold by leaving off a flanel jacket & I have got the Rhumatick pain in my back - our dear Sist, is quite as well as usual - H is at Roxbury - I've wrote more than I expected when I began, let the occasion plead my excuse for this intruding on thee - if it is the will of heaven to grant us a meeting on Earth - what a mournful joyful time it will be - Dear love to all, from my beloved Br & Sist, yr tenderly affect. sis MM
Please to dry the flanel coat before thee wears it - it is soaked in Vinegar.
10 mo 10 1793
I rec'd my beloved sisters letter today & in the midst of the trying scenes in which I am exercised it affords me much comfort to hear my dear good Bro is beginning to feel the benefits of a change of air & I sincerely hope the blessing of health may be restored to him & his valued life continued for a comfort & blessing to all his connexions - I've forget when I last wrote thee, but then it was a little after my maid S, was taken sick - we did not think her bad, as she had a fever only one night however she was treated as Dr. Rush directs & all went on well till the next 7th day, when she began to vomit blackish stuff & the discharge downward was the same & about noon that day, a vomiting of blood succeeded; I sent for Dr. Park who had attended her at the first, he said it was a hopeless case & came no more, till sent, however while there was life, there might be hope and I began to make experiments. I made her ---- lick fine salt and a little allum - this made her thirsty & I gave her Elixir Vitriol, Vinegar & Water - & it stopt for 24 hours- & then the bleeding returned, it came out like a tea pot, & we had 2 large tubs full of sheets & c, that were quite stiff - Dr. Rush was sick & Dr G the same, however I went myself to Rush, told him all about it, he gave me a Medc for her- & sent one of his pupils to see her - to make short of my story, the bleeding continued several days and nights, her mouth & tongue & lips as black as ink - then I gave the bark - when Dr. Rush saw her he said the bleeding had saved her life & thro mercy is now quite well - while she was at the worst, William was taken ill & very violently seized. I gave him the Medicine & next morning sent for the Doctor - he was bled 16 ounces & the same again at night. I got a black man to attend him - Sally and myself being in the front - & I sent 2 of the children to B Smith's & 2 to the G F as Sally's disorder now became infectious - I got a woman to attend her & returned to my own room upstairs - this was yesterday week & that morning our dear sister had another stroke of the palsy as I apprehend, for she had not a fitt, she was suddenly seized as I thought with death - her chin fallen, eyes fixt, - speechless & insensible for many hours - fitts of hiccuping & no motion in her limbs. I sent for good Dr. Rush & tho he was hardly able to walk he came - & found in the opinion of her having had another stroke advised a blister on the head - which as usual restored her to sensibility - she had a high fever & when it went off, a black vomiting - & the same kind of purging for 2 days - this reduced her very low & I ventured to give musk julep - which provd very salutary & she was restored to nearly her former state - but when we came to take her up, found her more helpless than ever - so that 2 could not do it - Today she has had a violent fitt & lays sleeping as usual. I have not yet finished my tale of woe - for last first day morning BS came to tell me his 3 servants & both his children were ill - he a got a Dr. & I went there to bring my S & Molly home - but they desired me to let S stay as she could help Debby while he went out to look for Women to attend the sick - so I brot Molly with me - & when I came home found E Hix a bed & very ill with a fever - practice had made me bold & I gave a powder - but the fever rising I got a Dr to feel her pulse -& she was bled - she has had the disorder light & is able to set up a little - tho still weak & low - The same night my little Molly was taken with the fever & a violent purging & sick stomach & on 2d day morning my Sally was brought home very ill. I really thought she wd not live till night. Dr. Rush again applyed to - he sent me word it was impossible to attend he was so poorly & his pupils so fully employed they could not come, but directed the medicine for the child & thro mercy Sally is got about again & as well as ever, but my little Molly still drooping - Debby being fatigued with her servants and children has been obligd to submit to keep her room - has been bled & physickd & I hope will have it light - she has 2 hired women there & her servants are out of danger but her little Peggy is very poorly - Yesterday the woman I had hired took sick & left me & today the black man was also seized with the same & is gone - so there is now only DH & myself to wait on the invalid - I've been out & engaged a Woman to come tomorrow, & hope DH will hold up - I've scoured her well, had her bled, & spared her as much as possible - Dr G[riffitts] has been at Deaths door; he had been bled 7 times since this day week & livd on toast & water, - dear Bn W gains a little ground. S Marsh had the fever very light - but has now relapsed & is going thro the same regimen again - H &RW pretty weak. H has been bled 4 times - Sis W had a little complaint in her Stomach yesterday - but is better today, Cos HG has been very ill, but I hope will get up again - Danl Offley is very ill - probably this night will terminate his life on Earth. - I'm much obliged for thy offer of Vinegar, if we want, shall do as thee desires - Most of the apothecarys are shut up, but I'll try to get the drops for thee as soon as I can. There are 52 orphan children taken care of by the committee - whose parents have died in the present calamity & 16 infants put out to wet nurses - I think the Loganion Library is converted into an orphan house - the inclosed memo of persons deceased I made as I'd recollect the names & had some knowledge of most of them - but it is a small part compared to what could be collected - the Committee recd L100 today from the Jerseys for the use of the Sick at Bush Hill & the suffering in the City - My very dear love to all - Oh my Sally if we meet again on Earth, what joy it will be to fold thee thee to the offered (?) bosom of the own MM