Thursday, January 23, 2014

#1 - Charles J Tyson Meets Maria Griest: letter to his sister

Charles Tyson Meets Maria Griest
My great-great grandfather, Charles J Tyson and his brother Isaac Tyson, young, energetic Quaker (Friends) moved from their home in Philadelphia to set up a new business: a photography studio in Gettysburg, PA in 1859.
 As the Gettysburg Compiler announces (as well as several of their own ads):
What they could not know then is that the War between the States would commence and Gettysburg would become a famous battle.  And many of their photographs would become prized possessions of collectors and museums. (That's a separate story, all together). They were still settling in and at the same time needed a shop assistant.
Charles quickly became drawn to the country side of the county and became friends with other Friends, notably a Cyrus Griest and his family of Menallen Meeting, some several miles north of Gettysburg. Of course, it helped that not only were the Griests outgoing and friendly, but that Cyrus had a beautiful and intelligent daughter, Maria.
Maria Griest Tyson -post Civil War
*Quakers used First Day for Sunday, and Seventh Day for Saturday.
[Transcript of a transcript of a letter from Charles J Tyson to his sister Ruth Anna Tyson (b. 1840-d.1914). “Original copy in possession of Edith C. Peters”]

Ruthie A B Tyson
No. 924 Cherry St
Phildelphia, Pa.

2nd Mo. 20, 1860

My very dear Sister Ruthie,
      As Brother [Isaac Tyson] wrote to thee last, I will claim the privilege this time. 
      I have so much to tell thee I scarcely know where to commence, however, Brother intends to write also so that what I miss he may think of. 
     Last Seventhday week Maggie White sent over for one of us to come to their house that her Sister Addie was dying. We were busy at the time but feeling such an interest in them Brother attended to our customers while I went over. She was very low indeed but finally recovered from her weak spell but it returned again in the evening and when Isaac and I called in she was bidding her friends goodbye. She had a kind word for all of them and talked with more strength than I expected she possessed. When giving me her last good night she thanked me very kindly for my attentions to her and earnestly desired that we would not forget Sister. She concluded by expressing a desire that we would meet again in heaven the scene of that dying change is far better imagined than described. 

     At their request I remained in the house all night but she did not depart until the following fifth day morning ½ nine o’clock during all that time she suffered intense pain, it was surprising to all how she could survive so long when we saw her Seventhday evening. I did not expect she could live two hours longer. After the funeral her Sister returned to the home and saw that it was in order after which she went to the house of a friend where she intended staying until she determined what to do. She is also in very delicate health and I would not be at all surprised to hear of her death in less than a year. A more afflicted family I think I never heard of. You will see notice of Addie’s death in the papers of this week. 
     Now we will pass from these sad recollections to thoughts more pleasant both to writer and reader, had you much snow in Philadelphia Seventhday? It commenced here sometime in the Night and continued snowing thick and fast until late in the afternoon of Seventhday - I suppose it lay a foot deep on the level and in some places it drifted (Seventhday night) several feet deep. 
      We came to unanimous conclusion that the”time had come” for us to go to “friends meeting” so off we started in quest of the “fixins” necessary for such a trip. In the first place we wanted a sleigh and the animals to pull it. Secondly we wanted a pilot to see us thro, after some hunting we succeeded in getting a fine double sleigh and a pair of spirited nags, half the battle was over. Next started the search for the pilot or pilots or pilotess or pilotessess it mattered but little to us first we called on a couple of Ladies who were acquainted in that neighbourhood. One could not go owing to some previous arrangements the other declined on account of having a bad cold. Next we thought we would try our luck with the “pilots” so we wended our way to see old James Wills who is well acquainted there and had similar fortune there. His son was absent from home, he being the only male member of the family at home he did not like to leave, as his son’s wife was confined to her room with cry spells. But he said he understood there was a young man in town who wanted badly to go “Bendersville.” He had come up from Oxford on the Engine having run into a snow drift and left the cars behind until two o’clock yesterday. So we went off in pursuit of him for our benefit as well as his - the motive might have been a little selfish but we won’t stop to discuss that now. 
    Enough that we found him at the hotel from which we hired our sleigh. After conversing with him about five minutes I discovered him to be a friend by the name of Sam’l Kent of Chester County, one of the building committee of the new meeting house. Also he was an old school mate of Cousin Pusey Miller at London Grove School and acquainted with Benny Orme & sisters. Some knowledge of Eli Thompson and Sue Miller and a school mate also of Garret Hambleton’s. By that time I felt as well acquainted with him as though I had known him for years. He was on the way to “Springdale” near “Bendersville” to attend a wedding party which was to take place there Seventhday evening. 
      Someone was to meet him in Gettysburg but neglected to do so, and thee may judge the young man was in a great way, it was then half past nine o’clock and he had but short time before arrived in Town, as the “Engine” was behind time. He said he would promise us a first rate time if we would order the sleigh and go up that night getting there about eleven o’clock and take the company by surprise. 
     We were right in for it for the distance was short-about ten miles-so we tried to get the team but Charlie Tait (the owner) was afraid to let his horses go out as they had just come in from Waynesboro, a distance of twenty-two miles so we gave up going till morning. Upon going home (our adopted home) we found a note from one of the Ladies who we first invited stating that she had decided to accept our “kind invitation” which, to speak the truth, was not the most agreeable news after we had made other somewhat conflicting arrangements. However, we went for her the following morning about half after seven o’clock and left Gettysburg flying a few minutes after eight. 
      We had a splendid ride tho it blew a perfect gale on the top of some of the very numerous hills between here and “Springdale.” We arrived at John Wrights which is one mile this side of “Springdale” a little before ten. The poor old man is totally blind and has been so for several years. His two “old maid” daughters keep house for him and an old bachelor bro. also lives with them. I never felt so perfectly at ease as I did while visiting the “Quaker Settlement” yesterday. All those we met, yes all, every one (and there was some twenty-two or three strangers) seemed to me like old friends, they all know of us by our advertisements in the papers and our friend James Wills had been up there speaking a good word for us so that our course was clear. 
      I talked about a half an hour with the old man he seemed very glad to have us come see them tho he could not see us, he spoke of a visit paid them about fifteen years ago by Samuel Levick he said he stopped in one firstday as he was passing thro the country. He had told them he had heard there was a Friends settlement there abouts and would like to attend their meeting. John made him very welcome but was all the time unconscious of his being a minister. When meeting time came, they started together and upon arriving at the meeting house John supposing him to be as he said a “sprig of a boy,” he showed him a seat in the back part of the meeting house which he took possession of but in a short time he arose moved up into the center of the meeting and gave them a “powerful sermon.” John said it almost frightened him to hear how the little fellow could talk, I don’t know what become of him after that day, expect he went his way. 
      Samuel had visited there before so that we all felt at home from the first. After warming up, we started for Sam’s Kent’s uncles (Springdale). His uncle Cyrus Griest is a very nice old Friend, as “plain as a pipe stem” and somewhat similar in size and disposition -- he is more like Thomas Hutton than any man I have ever met with. We got there about half an hour before meeting time, which this season of the year commences at eleven o’clock, his family consists at present of three Single Daughters and three single sons at home. He has two or three children married and living in the neighborhood, Annie is the eldest Daughter at home--I suppose in the vicinity of twenty five or six next and-my choice-comes Maria a sweet girl somewhere about twenty she is very intelligent and very mild my beau ideal of a “nice girl,” the next comes Lizzie about sixteen not much smaller than her sister Maria. She also and, in fact the whole family, seem to be intelligent. Of the boys Cyrus is the eldest about twenty-three, next Jesse--bout nineteen, and Little Amos in the neighborhood of twelve now that I have give thee a description of the family, I will make some comment upon the proceedings. 
No, I have entirely forgotten the old lady or “Mother” I should say, old Lady don’t seem quite to harmonize and I forget her first name She is a good-natured jolly, old Friend someone on the style of Mary Thompson but a good bit larger and when she laughs her very sides shake. She enjoyed our company very much, after we had been there for two minutes we felt entirely at home the girls were not at all forward--neither were they backward--all that was necessary was for one of us to commence a subject of conversation and they would talk and did talk. 
      Fortunately I got a near seat to my choice so by meeting time we were all right. I invited both the younger girls to ride in our sleigh, which they kindly accepted, in going to meeting, I kept them going pretty strong and in returning a little stronger. The meeting house is a small one a real old fashioned structure with the bare joists exposed. Our meeting was a quiet one and I did enjoy it in spite of my thought wandering occasionally to the other side of the meeting. We broke up about twelve and returned to “Wrights” to dinner taking our girls with us. It was after dinner that I had such a good talk with Friend John Wright. 
     Is thee tired of reading, Sis? I would like for thy sake only to stop but the theme is such a delightful one to me that I cannot cease until I have done—so thee must bear with me for I may possibly fill this page, the next, the third and the fourth as it has been so long since I wrote to thee. Thee can divide this one into three and distribute them in their places. Isaac has just declared his intention not to write until next firstday he says, He expects I have told all the news and he might as well save a postage stamp. I think it is a wise conclusion for if he finds anything to write about after I get thro it will be something that I know nothing about. Thee remembers thee sent me a letter, a sweet letter on my twenty-first birthday, this is not as good a one but it is an unusual from this source; but thee did not get it on thy birthday tho not long after. Thee can think when thee looks over thy letters that there is one from Brother Charlie, that long “foolish one.” 
       Well to return to the place that I wandered from we returned to Wrights to dine. We had a sumptuous dinner spent the afternoon there but the girls had arranged for us to take tea with them. So we left Wrights a little after four, we invited our Lady (who by this time was considerably in the way) to accompany us but she preferred spending her time with them as she was acquainted with them (the Wrights) before. So off we started and in fifteen minutes we were at “Papa” Griests again. We were cordially welcomed back and invited in the sitting room and most of the time between that and tea time I was occupied in talking with “the old man,” thee knows, kind of a getting round him, he was very open and free in his conversation and I tell thee what, thy little Brother “done his prettiest.” I talked religion to him and he talked it back again and vice-versa, from that to farms, his farm and land generally in that part of the country. I found that he owned about one hundred sixty acres of good land and his farm was well stocked. I have made some inquiry since and find he is very well off and still making money pretty fast in the nursery business, He raises all kinds of young fruit trees and sends them to his agents located in different parts of the country. 

      I tell thee what, Sis, if it was not so far off I believe I would strike in, but whether I will or not as it is, time will make manifest, thee knows I have been holding off until I met one worth and something else combined I mostly have one eye open to {?} , as I plough my furrow thro life, I have by experience been taught the necessity of doing so. 

    The Bride and groom took tea with us (the same show party Sam’l Kent was to have attended the previous evening). We were introduced to them at meeting. We found them to very clever people indeed. The supper was prepared with simplicity and much taste and the table was loaded with the best of everything, “Golden coffee” abounded. I was struck with a strange feeling of admiration as Maria stepped into the sitting room just before tea. She wore a plain dress long close sleeves small collar a small plaid apron with a bib to extended up over her breast to save her dress while getting tea. I thought to myself how scarce the ladies of this age one that would walk into a room before strangers with such an apron on – there was no false show all was plain and very neat. I liked her better for that one thing. After tea we went into the parlor I suppose the company would number about fifteen or sixteen. 
      I forgot to tell thee that Maria is teaching school at home. They call the school the “Springdale School” after the name of her father’s nurseries. She has about fifteen scholars some of whom are larger than she, the schoolroom is only a few steps from the door of the main house. The way she got to teaching school was this. They had some younger children that must be taught and there was no school very near so they concluded to start a little school on their own account, very soon they received application for the admission of several of their neighbors’ children. Maria consented to undertake the charges and so it went on, and now as previously said, her scholars number about fifteen, about ten board with them--two of those are from the State of Indiana. She speaks of discontinuing the school in the spring and commencing at another at about four miles from home. I don’t know whether she has decided positively to do so nor not but she thinks of it now. 
        (Well, Ruthie, a little more patience) the evening passed along very pleasantly indeed chatting being carried on to a very great extent in all quarters as for Brother I did not trouble myself much about him as he was old enough to see himself thro and I had about as much to do as I could cleverly manage. I gave M. a description of my movement a short time previous and since leaving home. She sympathized very much with my dear sister left at home without a Brother’s care, she made me promise that I would bring you all to see them when you come to Gettysburg next summer, I know thee will come to the conclusion that I did that they were about the most clever people thee ever met with. 
        Well to make a long story a little shorter, we retired about eleven o’clock five in two beds slept like five rocks till twenty minutes of five when we roused up, fixed ourselves for breakfast, had a little talk a while with the girls before breakfast, then took breakfast and left “Springdale” about half past six o’clock for John Wrights when we arrived they were just at breakfast. Ruth let us in we warmed up and by that time our Gettysburg”Lady” was ready to start, our ride home was truly delicious, the air was clear and cold as it is possible for it to be in this part of the country, I think but we were all proof against it fortunately, and breathing the fresh morning mountain air is very good for health. We reached Gettysburg about half past eight o’clock landed our Lady safely and opened our Establishment for business, one day of pleasure and six of business. I feel so glad to think that one long talked of and contemplated visit has turned out so favorably, it happened so fortunately that we met with Sam’l Kent, had it not been for him our introduction would very much more limited and confined and probably to one or two families for the present but as it is we have an introduction into some half dozen or more already. The Bride and Groom talk of coming in this week to have their picture taken so they may see after a while how they looked when they were first spliced. 
       Quarterly Meeting takes place up there next week commencing on Seventhday, firstday will be a large meeting the business will be mostly done on secondday. 
They all gave us repeated invitations to come up next firstday but it is doubtful whether we go tho I should like very much to attend Quarterly Meeting in the country more especially “Springdale.” I expect thee has said before this “Well I declare I believe my little Brother is in Love.” No, no Sis, not yet but to speak candidly I think few more visits up there would teach me how it feels to be in that predicament, as these is supposed to have some experience in that line of business probably thee could give me some idea of the first symptoms, but if thee thinks I am wrong in regard to thy superior knowledge of such matters thee must apply to Sis Rachie I think she could enlighten us both upon the subject without a doubt. 
       Well Ruthie I must soon come to a stop—this is the fifteenth page and it finds me “about played out” to use an inferior phrase. 
        We are both enjoying good health. I was very much surprised to see how plainly thee could write in thy crippled conditions hope thy thumb will never be any serious disadvantage to thee. 

      I was pleased to learn thee had a prospect of soon teaching again. How are you getting along in the knitting business? Do you have sufficient to employ your time? How many boarders have you now? 

        I cannot tell when I will get to Philadelphia tho I would like to in a few weeks. However, we must wait patiently till the time comes. 
  Hoping to hear from you thee, I remain thy affectionate         
  Brother Charles 
  My love to all the family. 

Dear Sis Ruthie, 
      I have had the pleasure of hearing the content of the above voluminous letter and take the opportunity of giving my full sanction to all expression of pleasure wherein given. We had a truly delightful visit, one that will long be remember with feelings of intense pleasure. 
     Charlie seems to think me old enough to take care of myself. I came to this same conclusion and pitched in with all hands generally and Lizzie in particular, occasionally with Maria but found there was no show there when Charlie was about. 
    Bro. Isaac

  1. Gettysburg Compiler, 1859
  2.  Photo Maria Griest, Margaret B Walmer Collection (Aspers, PA) 
  3. Original letter, Margaret B Walmer Collection (Aspers, PA)

1 comment:

  1. How fortunate to have such a wonderful letter. It really gives you an insight into your gg-grandfather's personality.


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