This letter was written by Robert Ralston, the son of James Ralston (1767-1832) and Frances Hays Grier. He wrote the letter to his cousin, Christiana Martin (1805-1877), the daughter of his Aunt Letitia (Ralston) Martin (1771-1861) and her husband Thomas Martin (1759-1856). Christiana married William Smiley (1800-1878) about 1840 in Augusta County, Virginia.
In the letter, Robert also refers to his brother James Ralston (1803-1885), his sister Mary “Polly” (Ralston) Lattimore (wife of Gen. William Lattimore), his sister Jane, and two of his nieces, Frances Grier Ralston (b. 1830, daughter of James), and Mary Ann Lattimore (daughter of Polly). He also mentions Rev. John Nathan Caldwell Grier (1792-1880) who was married to his sister Agnes (Ralston) Grier (1795-1873).
Addressed to Miss Christiana Martin, Augusta County, Virginia Middlebrook Post Office
West Nantmeal Township
Chester County, [Pennsylvania]
January 2nd 1838
Your kind favor of August 1st hath been so long unanswered that I am truly ashamed of my thus prolonged negligence; a long apology for the same would be but useless. You may rest assured my long silence was not to be attributed to any want of friendship or regard for you all but I have been so little in the habit of writing since we left West Chester that I can scarcely persuade myself that I can write at all. However, I am making an effort even at this late hour (believing better late than never) to answer your kind favor. It appears my last bore date March the 4th. When comparing that with the date of your last, I am not so censurable as I had supposed. Therefore there appears to be room for amendment with us both. So much for an introduction.
I now proceed to inform you that we at present are in the enjoyment of usual health. The reverse hath been the case with us since I last wrote you. As respects myself, I had the misfortune to get a fall from the haymow while drawing in hay. The hand of Providence was very evident in the preservation of my life. I must have fell from twelve to fourteen feet from the square of the barn into the horse stable. Went feet foremost, passed through between two joists which were very close, [and] received quite a mangled wound on the chin which is now healed but has left quite a mark. My head was much turned to one side and several of my teeth much injured but no bones broken. When brought to the house, I was they say a frightful object. My head pretty much on one shoulder and bleeding freely from the mangled wound of the chin. Fortunately the doctor was within gunshot and at home. He soon dressed the wound and in a few days it was but little trouble to me. I was confined pretty much to the house for about three weeks. Upon the whole, I have been mercifully dealt with. I still feel the effects of it in the neck — particularly in the back part of it. My teeth also are yet quite sore by times and the chin has still an unnatural feeling but feel reason of thankfulness that my life hath been spared.
The wife also hath had a severe spell of affliction but is again through mercy restored to her usual health. About the 20th of September, she had a violent attack of Bilious together with her other diseases which brought her appearing to the verge of the grave. For several days, there was not the least expectation of her recovery. She has often said that she had not the least expectation of recovery herself. But all things are possible with the Almighty. When she became free of Fever, her strength returned past all expectation. In fact, we think her general health is rather better than formerly and sure I am she makes less use of the crutch moving about the house than before her sickness.
Christiana is in usual health. In fact, this region of country hath been blessed with an unusual degree of health for the last year. Sister Jane visited us yesterday and lodged with us last night. She was well together with friend Thomas. James Ralston’s oldest daughter, Frances, has been brought to death’s door by a violent attack of worms. After discharging upwards of two hundred, it’s almost a miracle that she is living. For the last few days, she is in a hopeful way of recovery. John Ralston also hath been confined to the house for the last two weeks with what is supposed to be rheumatism and some of the children are bad with the chicken pox.
Christiana hath recently received a letter from her cousin Molly Ann Lattimore stating that they together with friends generally are in usual health. Sister Polly is afflicted with sore legs which by time is very troublesome. Sister and Molly Ann visited Pittsburgh in the fall spent about six weeks with John Ralston and Christian. Were much pleased with their trip.
Mr. J. N. C. Grier ¹ made a visit to Western country in September last. Was absent about four weeks. Christiana Ralston went with him as far as Pittsburgh where she fortunately met with sister Polly and Molly Ann. Mr. Grier appears quite pleased with the Western country. Some of his people think his object in [visiting] that country was with the view of having [thoughts] to remove there. Time will only prove this matter.
Thus far we have had quite mild winter weather — but very little snow as yet. We had the Rev’d Mr. W. Farlan ² to assist Mr. Grier at his protracted meeting in September last. He enquired particularly after your health and wished me when writing to any of you to remember him affectionately to you all. He was in delicate health and did not address us often but much to the satisfaction of the people generally.
Tell James Berry that I purpose answering his last in due time. I must bid you good night and wish you all a happy New Year.
Yours affectionately, — Robert Ralston
¹ The Rev. Dr. John Nathan Caldwell Grier was born at Brandywine Manor, Pennsylvania, 8 June 1792. He was graduated at Dickinson College, in September 1809 and began the study of theology with his father, the Rev. Nathan Grier, in the year 1810. He was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Newcastle, 7 April 1813. In September 1814 he received a call to the Church at Brandywine Manor, where he remained as pastor fifty years. For sixteen years before his death he occasionally assisted the pastor of the church. He died on 12 September 1880.
² Possibly Rev. William McFarland?