Letter dated at Smyrna, Turkey, June 20, 1820, from David Offley, to his sister, Mrs. Mary Offley, at Philadelphia, Pa.
The writer of this letter, David Offley, (1779-1838), was born in Philadelphia; He served as 1st Lieutenant in the 10th U.S. Infantry, at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., 1798-1800; Established the first American commercial firm in Turkey, at Smyrna in 1811, and was the chief U.S. merchant in Turkey; U.S. Commercial Agent to Turkey; Negotiated the first U.S.-Turkey commercial treaty in 1830, and in 1832, was appointed by President Andrew Jackson, 1st U.S. Consul at Smyrna.
The content includes of his plans to have his son Richard, who lived with him in Turkey, go to New York and set up a business there, and then return to Turkey; Tells of his marriage in 1819 to a woman of Smyrna, Helena Courtovich, who was from one of the richest families there, but the family fortune was lost in trade, and he also tells of the birth of a son, also is his description of how his business is doing, and of the expected arrival of Commodore Bainbridge on the “Columbus” (William Bainbridge, 1774-1833, U.S. Naval Hero, his last service afloat was aboard the “Columbus” in 1820), and noting that, since he is the only American in Smyrna, he will be obliged to offer “every politeness & attention to my countryman”, but wishes that instead of the Commodore, a dozen American merchant ships were on their way, noting that he is expecting 5 or 6 soon, and while he is writing this letter, he announces the arrival of a ship from Baltimore.
“I have not given up the idea of some day paying you a visit with my wife. That cannot, however, be until I have a son capable of taking my place here...my establishment here is too valuable to be lightly abandoned. It is in contemplation to establish Ricard & Issaverdery in New York. It is quite probable they will leave here early next Spring, and Richard, after some time, to return. I shall be proud to send Richard among my friends, for although he is my son, I must say he is a most amiable young man. I have preferred delaying their departure in the hopes that commerce and commercial men will become more certain ere long. Richard, also is rather young, but still, in his judgement, steadiness & perfect morality, I have the highest confidence.
I wrote you particularly about my Helena. I am rather doubtful whether you have received the letter. I have told you she is of one of the most respectable families in this place, and at one time among the richest. Before her parents death, which was within a few days of each other, the greatest part of their fortune was lost in trade. She has been brought up by a Brother & Sister, & while she has had the advantage of a good standing in Society, at the same time has been taught the value of money. She is silent, rather timid, patient, of great sensibility, little of which is shown in words, but in her actions; in person, tall, slender, a pleasing countenance, and on the whole, what is called rather an elegant than pretty woman. As the honeymoon is long since past, I think this must be allowed a favorable description of a wife.
I requested you, after leaving a melancholy blank in the family Bible, to register our marriage - ‘David, son of Daniel Offley, was married at Smyrna, in Asia Minor, 4th May 1819 to Helena Courtovich, native of that City’. I have now further to request you will add - ‘Henry Daniel Offley, son of David & Helena Offley, was born at Smyrna, 26th March 1820’, & thus at once I annouce to you the birth of my son, as fine looking boy as you would wish to see...
I am happy in being able to tell my sister that notwithstanding the very bad times, we have been able to keep clear of losses, except for some small amounts, which altogether may amount to five or six thousand dollars. We have little to do at this time, but last fall & winter our business was rather better than usual. With a good capital and a credit not surpassed by anyone in this place, we are enabled to offer good facilities to our friends, which will assist us to keep a good share of business.
We are told that Com. Bainbridge is expected here, with his Lady, in the Columbus. As I am the only American here, I shall have to depart from my retired system in that case, to offer every politeness & attention to my countryman. I will confess I had rather a dozen Merchant ships was on their way. Not so Master David [another of his sons] in particularly, who is on the constant lookout for her.
Well, since writing the foregoing, we have at least one rich merchant vessel to our address, from Baltimore, and reason shortly to expect two others. It appears we are never more to have any vessels direct from Philadelphia; in fact, so many of our friends have failed, that we are almost strangers among the present class of merchants...”