Letter dated at Smyrna, Turkey, April 21, 1823, from David Offley, to his sister, Mrs. Mary Offley Sharpless, at Philadelphia, Pa.

Folded letter has red “BALTIMORE MD.” cds, red “SHIP" handstamp, and manuscript “14-1/2” rate. The Baltimore postmark is dated July 22nd, indicating that the letter took 3 months to reach the U.S.

The letter includes writing about his son Richard, who has gone to the U.S. on a trading venture, with $2000 given by his father, to make his way in the world, and his plans to do this for each of his sons, noting that this is a one time only monetary assistance to them. He also expresses a hope that peace will be restored in Turkey (the Greek rebellion was raging at this time). More interesrting content, including writing that his 2nd wife (a Greek woman, Helena Curtovich, who he married in Smyrna in 1820), has “become more reasonable” since the first years of their marriage, and is presently nursing their 9 month old child, Edward. He also playfully teases his sister for not writing as often since she has married (she married Blakey Sharpless in 1820).


“Somehow or other since your marriage, I have received very few letters from you. I must, however, my dear Sister, be just, and allow that ladies who have a child...and pay the attention to them that I am sure you do to yours, have not so much time to spend in letter writing. Not that it takes so long a time to write a letter, but when one is out of the habit of so doing, it requires some exertion to sit down to it; and then, when you feel half disposed, the child cries, or some other such accident, and it is put off for another time... I do not therefore believe that however the cares of a family may deprive me of receiving letters, that she loves me any jot the less for all that. So this matter is settled, and as friends say, my mind feels the easier for it.

As you are now a married lady, I can talk more plainly to you about family matters. My dear Helen, who joins me in love to you and all our friends, has become more reasonable than she was in the first years of our marriage. Our little Edward is now nine months old, and I am certain of not having another child at least before another nine months. The child she nurses, and finds her health all the better for it.

A vessel has just arrived from Baltimore, where I hear Richard was [his son, Richard J. Offley], and although I did not receive a letter from him, I am satisfied it was not his fault. I suspect he could only have remained with you a very short time, and that it would not be long before he returned. I beg my dear sister, you will have a kind & friendly eye over him. Perhaps a word from you may at times be necessary, and do more than sermon. He left me a good young man, who I believe never told a falsehood in his life, his morality unimpaired. God send he may ever remain so. Advise him about expenses. He must now think for himself. I gave him 2000 Dollars to ply in the world with. My family & my fortune will not permit me to renew this gift, and he must now think as much of gaining as spending money. Holmes [another son] will probably land here this winter, to whom I shall give a like sum, and until I have so done by all my children, & find myself and wife provided for, it is not likely I shall renew it.

We are all peaceable and quiet here. God grant it may long remain, for I really fear I am chained to this spot for the rest of my life. I cannot account for it, but so it is, & I shall not be surprised if by the receipt of this, Richard should be wishing himself again in Smyrna...

A thousand kisses to my dear little girl [his daughter Anna, who he left in the care of his mother & sister in Philadelphia when he came to Smyrna]. If Peace should once more be an inhabitant of our Country, and Richard or his Brothers should return here, particularly with an American wife, then I shall wish to see my dear child...”

Below is another, 3 pgs letter, dated Smyrna, Turkey, August 11, 1823, from David Offley, to his sister, Mrs. Mary Offley Sharpless, at Philadelphia, Pa.

Folded letter was privately carried by ship to the U.S., by his son John Holmes Offley,(as mentioned in the letter), and has no postmarks. There is a red wax seal on the back, with a Turkish inscription impressed in it (see the last photo).

He writes of his son John (John Holmes Offley, 1802-1845), who had come as a youth to live with him in Turkey, and who is sailing with this letter to the U.S., where, with $2000 given to him by his father, he is to make his start in business. He also writes of his son Richard, who he had also sent to the U.S. with the same gift of money. Of special interest is his reference to the Greek rebellion, and how the war between Turkey and the Greeks has caused him to lose a considerable amount of money.


“My dear Sister. You will, I expect, be rather surprised at having this letter handed you by John. His great desire to visit you has induced me in this instance to act rather against my judgement in permitting his departure. He will not be of age until October next, and I had rather he should have delayed his departure two years after than to have gone two months before. I have, however, suffered his desires to prevail once more. God knows how anxious I feel for him. He is a good young man, but not so steady as his Brother, and he will, I fear, need much more of your good advice. He is very fond of company, in the choice of which I have however no doubt he will be careful. I have endeavoured to impress on his mind what a serious task he has undertaken. He now leaves a father’s house and care to take on himself the direction of his conduct thro’ life. I have given him in money & goods, a like sum with Richard, say, two thousand dollars, and which is all he is to expect of me during my life time. What more he may sometime have to receive depends on thousands of circumstances over which neither him nor myself have any control. If Richard and him can do no better, I recommend them to use their exertions to make friends who may ship a cargo by them to this place, and return her to establish themselves, in which case my experience would still be useful to them, and when under my direction, I should be able to make them such further loans of money as might be necesssary to carry on their business without endangering the competency I now have, and which no consideration shall induce me to do.

My losses by the Greek rebellion have been considerable. I have, however, just enough left to insure me a sufficient competency according to the economical manner I now life in these times. At my age, & with a young family round me, my sense of justice & propriety will always make me adhere to this determination, and which when you see an opportunity & necessity, you will please inform to my sons as a spur to their industry & exertions.

It is a long time since I heard from Richard. He has never wrote me one letter by post since he left me. From you I have not a single line since his arrival in America, & I must confess I anticipated much pleasure from the opinions you would give me of Richard. I feel great anxiety for my sons. The reflection that they will get along about as well as other young men is my greatest consolation. It appears to us here that Richard has not pursued his plan of connecting himself with his Boston friend with sufficient zeal. We may not, however, be well informed.

After two years, David [another son who came to live with him in Turkey] will want to start out. He is a little giant, three inches taller than I am, and every day growing. His character is not formed, it is different from the others...it will be some years before you will see any of my new race [a reference to two infant sons born in Smyrna to his second wife, a Greek woman who he married in Smyrna in 1820], altho’ it is my intention, should my circumstances permit, to send them to America to finish their education. They are two fine children, and as yet there is no appearance of a further increase of family. If it comes - come in welcome - if not, I shall not be sorry. My dear little girl, [a daughter he left back in the U.S.] some day will want to come and see me, and as she will have Brothers passing & repassing the ocean, I shall wish her to come. Give her many kisses for me and tell her to love me...

I should like once more to pay you a visit before I leave this world. Perhaps circumstances of which I now have little idea, may cause me to gratify this, and sooner than I expect.

Richard appears highly pleased with ‘friends’ [Quakers - the Offley family, except for David, were pious Quakers], and says according to his ideas, they are decidedly the most polite people he has met with. In this I join him. Their education certainly tends more to make people happy in this world than any other sect, but one which I dare not mention [the one he dares not mention is Islam, of which he was very impressed, as noted in another letter of his].

Well Mary, bye & bye you will have children roving about the world, and then you will know what the heartache is. You now only know what the arm ache is...[he means the arm ache of holding babies]...”

Contents of other letters written by David Offley, 1815, 1818, 1820, 1821, 1822, 1824, 1829, 1831