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1814 Stampless Letter, Lexington Ky Voyage On The Ohio River, Stephen Simpson For Sale
Traveling the Paper Trails of American History
"About 200 miles down the river, we run on an Island at night, in a thick fog, and remained till day light..."
(See below for scans)
3 page stampless folded letter written by Stephen Simpson at Lexington, KY, on October 1, 1814, to his wife Mary Simpson at Philadelphia. Pages measure approx. 7 3/4" x 9 1/2".
Stephen Simpson, who was traveling from Philadelphia to New Orleans, writes a very early descriptive account of a voyage, most likely via flatboat, down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Limestone [Maysville], KY, only three months before he fought at the Battle of New Orleans.
Simpson boarded the boat at Pittsburgh and the boat ran aground in the Ohio River: "About 200 miles down the river, we run on an Island at night, in a thick fog, and remained till day light, after in vain attempting to get her off, by taking out a part of her cargo, and pushing her, with all the crew up to their breasts in water...We got off the Island, at 12 O clock next day, by entirely unloading the boat, and procuring four men from the shore to assist us." When they reached Limestone he encountered a 10-day delay: "The Boat at which I took passage at Pittsburgh, was the only one that would sail in a fortnight; and she had a first cargo to Limestone, a town on the Banks of the Ohio, about 452 miles from Pittsburgh. At Limestone, she was to discharge her cargo, and reload with Flower, for Orleans. When we arrived, however, at the former place on Thursday evening, the Owner of the boat found the flower would not be ready for a week, or ten days, altho' he had assurances by letter, that it would be waiting for him on the 25th of the month past. Thus I had ten idle days before me...I came on here [Lexington], in company with Mr. Clifford, whom I met at Pittsburgh, and to whose kindness and attention, I am greatly indebted, for many comforts in our boat...I found my way here in a hack, procured at Limestone." He notes that "The country, down the river as far as Limestone is in general flourishing, rich, and cultivated: And between this & Limestone, the soil is excessively fat and productive."
As he entered Lexington, Simpson passed by the mansion of the noted merchant William Morton: "The house of Mr. Morton, the father in Law of Mr. Clifford, which I saw coming into Town, is a most beautiful and embellished spot, surrounded by a Park, and rendered every way handsome." Finally, he mentions that he hopes to arrive in New Orleans by November 15.
Stephen Simpson (1789-1854) was a noted Philadelphia author, editor, and advocate of social reform. He was the son of George Simpson (1759-1822) and Eleanor Day (?-1841). His father served as Assistant Commisary-General in the Revolutionary War and later became a prominent Philadelphia banker. Stephen began working in the Second Bank of the U. S. and as Cashier of Girard Bank. He married Mary Chaloner (?-1856) in Philadelphia in 1813. He resigned his position and attacked the bank in print, enlisted in the army, and fought at the Battle of New Orleans with his brother George Jr. He returned to Philadelphia and in 1822 with John Conrad established the radical newspaper Columbian Observer. In 1831 Simpson wrote The Working Man's Manual and in 1832 he published Biography of Stephen Girard. See Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography (1888). The Princeton University Library holds 15 letters written by Stephen Simpson to his wife Mary 1813-1829.
George Simpson Jr. (1786-1818) served as a Captain in the 2nd Regiment, Louisiana Militia, during the Battle of New Orleans.
John D. Clifford (1778-1820) married Mary S. Morton, the daughter of prominent Lexington merchant William Morton. Morton, who had moved from Philadelphia to Lexington around 1787, built a mansion, now called "The Nest," on the north side of Lexington.
NOTE: letter includes the watermark "T G & Co." This is the watermark of the noted papermaker Thomas Gilpin & Company of Brandywine Mills, on Brandywine Creek, Delaware. See American Watermarks 1690-1835 (2002).
Postal History: black oval date stamp, LEXINGTON KENTUCKY (italics), with manuscript 25 cents rate mark.
Condition: vertical folds, tear where seal removed repaired with archival tape, age toning, foxing, piece missing where seal removed (affecting one word).
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1814 Stampless Letter, Lexington Ky Voyage On The Ohio River, Stephen Simpson: $250