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Haverford College
Quaker and Special Collections

Henry Drinker Correspondence, 1777-1778

Ms. Coll. 854
ca. 74 items (1 box)

Table of contents

Biographical background

Henry Drinker (1734-1809), son of Henry and Mary (Gottier) Drinker, m. Elizabeth Sandwith (1734-1807), daughter of Wm. and Sarah (Jervis) Sandwith in 1761. They were members of the Society of Friends and Henry served as clerk of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. He was a partner in the Philadelphia shipping firm of James and Drinker. In addition, he was an ironmaster (Atsion, N.J.) and at one time owned 500,000 acres of land. He was an active supporter of Westtown School and served on the Board of Overseers of Public School of Philadelphia. In Sept. 1777 he refused to formally declare his loyalty to the United States government and as a result was taken prisoner (along with other prominent Philadelphia Quakers) and subsequently exiled to Winchester, Va. where he remained until April 1778.

(Sources for biographical information: DQB)

Summary of collection

ALS (also typed transcripts of each letter).
Letters originally kept as part of a scrapbook compiled by donor.
Publication of letters prohibited.

The correspondence between Henry and his wife Elizabeth relates to his arrest, imprisonment and resulting forced exile to Winchester, Va. during the American Revolution. His letters home discuss his physical, and in particular, his spiritual well-being, his concern for the welfare of his children as well as news of other exiled Friends and efforts to present their case before Pa. and Va. authorities. Elizabeth Drinker's letters to her husband relate family and neighborhood news, Friends' visits and efforts on behalf of the exiles, as well as her constant concern for her husband.

Related collections

Additional Drinker material may be found in: George Vaux Collection of correspondence and documents, 1659-1914 (Ms.Coll. 1167); Nicholas Waln family papers, 1783-1895 (bulk 1783-1819) (Ms. Coll. 966); Scattergood family papers, 1681-1909 (Ms. Coll. 1100); Isaac Procter papers, 1790-1850 (part of Ms.Coll. 950).

Arrangement and description of collection

Letters are by Henry and Elizabeth Drinker. Folders 1-10 are letters of Henry Drinker, folders 11-17 are letters of Elizabeth Drinker. Letters are arranged chronologically. A typed transcript accompanies each letter.

Henry Drinker's letters, 1777-1778

10 folders, their contents as follows:

  1. 5 ALS - 9 mo. 3, 1777 to 9 mo. 12, 1777
    • HD's state of mind regarding his imprisonment
    • note from Timothy Matlack (Secretary of the Council of Pa.) to Col. Wm. Bradford that the prisoners held at the Free Masons Lodge (Phila.) are to be sent to Staunton, Va.
    • list of what HD wishes to take with him to Va.
  2. 4 ALS - 9 mo. 13, 1777 to 9 mo. 20, 1777
    • travel to Pottsgrove, Pa. with James Pemberton and Miers Fisher
    • travel from Reading and advice to his children
    • mention of other prisoners--John Hunt, Thomas Wharton, Thomas Gilpin, Thomas, Miers and Samuel Fisher, Edward Pennington, S. Pleasants
    • put into custody of Daniel Levan (Sheriff, Reading) to attend them to Winchester
  3. 4 ALS - 10 mo. 12, 1777 to 10 mo. 23, 1777
    • arrival in Winchester, Va.
    • memorial sent to Governor and Council of Va., also Congress re: unlawfulness of their imprisonment
    • visit of Va. Friends Elizabeth Jolliff, Widow Hollingsworth and Robert Haines on return from Yearly Meeting in Phila.
    • remarks on support of Friends and lack of letters from home
  4. 5 ALS - 11 mo. 1, 1777 to 11 mo. 15, 1777
    • HD's state of mind
    • prisoners' meetings for worship
    • concern for his family and lack of letters from home
  5. 3 ALS - 11 mo. 18, 1777 to 11 mo. 20, 1777
    • no reply from Governor and Council of Va. to prisoners
    • remarks on John Pemberton
    • concern for his family
  6. 4 ALS - 12 mo. 10, 1777 to 12 mo. 27, 1777
    • remarks on case of Wm. Drewett Smith who chose to "subscribe to a Test imposed on him" and was still banished to Va.
    • prisoners decide to take all action as a group, and not as individuals
    • HD's state of mind "calm & quiet"
    • concern for his children and why don't they write?
  7. 4 ALS - 1 mo. 12, 1778 to 1 mo. 30, 1778
    • proposed move to Staunton, Va. of the prisoners by the Board of War
    • Alexander White (Va. attorney) takes memorial of prisoners regarding proposed move to Congress and Council of Pa.
    • A. White reports that Council of Pa. considers them prisoners of Congress, and that their arrest hasn't accomplished any good
    • Governor of Va. wants them moved to Staunton
    • Wm. Matthews's arrival and orders they will not be moved until memorial considered before Congress
    • reports of Friends (Isaac Zane, John Parrish, Wm. Jackson, Joseph Janney, Joseph and Benjamin Wright) going to Yorktown to represent grievances to Congress
    • discusses Congress' views on the prisoners
    • concern for his family and urges them to attend meeting whenever they can
    • problems with their landlord in Winchester, Va.
    • concern over strangers [Major Crammond] boarding with his family
  8. 2 ALS - 2 mo. 7, 1778 and 2 mo. 16, 1778
    • Congress refuses to release them unless they take oath of allegiance
    • HD ill and bled by Dr. Parke
  9. 3 ALS - 3 mo. 8, 1778 to 3 mo. 31, 1778
    • no news from family for a month
    • illness and death of Thomas Gilpin
    • illness of John Hunt, amputation of leg
    • illness of others, including himself
    • moving to house of David Brown (Israel, James and John Pemberton, S. Pleasants and HD)
    • religious thoughts on reliance and dependence on God
    • reports that Congress will turn them over to Pa. to be put on trial
  10. 4 ALS - 4 mo. 3, 1778 to 4 mo. 16, 1778
    • funeral of John Hunt
    • HD's restored health
    • news that Pa. Assembly recommends their release
    • query to Charles West as to whether HD can attend a Monthly Meeting there
    • T. Affleck concludes to go to York and endeavor for his liberty
    • remarks on his wife (ED) joining "embassy" to Lancaster

Elizabeth Drinker's letters, 1777-1778

7 folders, their contents as follows:

  1. 4 ALS - 9 mo. 16, 1777 to 10 mo. 28, 1777
    • health of family (child ill) and concern for HD
    • Friends' concern for HD
    • news of children and neighbors
  2. 4 ALS - 11 mo. 4, 1777 to 11 mo. 17, 1777
    • news of family
    • lack of letters from HD
    • visits of neighbors
    • conditions at home
  3. 6 ALS - 12 mo. 3, 1777 to 12 mo. 31, 1777
    • activities at home
    • Friends' visits
    • concern for his health (hears of his illness through letter to Phebe Pemberton)
    • sends HD clothes
  4. 4 ALS - 1 mo. 1, 1778 to 1 mo. 28, 1778
    • family news
    • daughters ashamed not to have written more often
  5. 4 ALS - 2 mo. 2, 1778 to 2 mo. 26, 1778
    • concern over lack of letters from HD
    • news of neighbors and visits of Friends
    • details of Major [Crammond] boarding with them for the last eight weeks
    • news of the state of their properties
  6. 5 ALS - 3 mo. 3, 1778 to 3 mo. 29, 1778
    • news of family
    • visits of Friends
    • concern for his health
    • receives news of death of Thomas Gilpin and illness of John Hunt
  7. 5 ALS - 4 mo. 3, 1778 to 4 mo. 22, 1778
    • news of death of John Hunt
    • concern for health of HD and sends him medicine
    • ED writes HD from James Webb's house near Lancaster, Pa.
    • ED with other wives in Lancaster, writes "Company" letter to Friends in Philadelphia
    • letter to Owen Jones, Mary Pemberton, Mary Sandwith and James Morton that Susanna Jones, Mary Pleasants, Phebe Pemberton and ED have arrived in Lancaster
    • letter to "Dear Friends" that they have talked to President and Council of Pa. and that their husbands are to be taken to Lancaster area and released

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Contact Diana Franzusoff Peterson ( or 610-896-1284) for more information about this collection. Please include the manuscript collection number in your request.

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