Letter written by Black female settler in Liberia

Letter written by Black female settler in Liberia

Letter written by Black female settler in Liberia

Letter written by Black female settler in Liberia, 1841 to the founder of first School for the Deaf in America (Gallaudett University was later named after him) -- Cover with 2 page letter dated from Cape Palmas, West Africa, Mt. Vaughan (see image below), Sept. 19, 1841 to Rev. T.H. Gallaudett, Hartford, Conn (founder of the first School for the Deaf in America -- Gallaudett University is named after him). The letter arrived in New York with a postmark of December 10th. Beautifully penned and signed E.M. Thomson, letter indicates she is serving as a school teacher to native children and colonist's, with lively chatter about those sailing to America, continued information about the natives makes it appear that Miss Thompson was not originally from West Africa and has probably come there with colonists, possibly from America. Postmarked Ship, and New York, Dec. 10, cover is addressed to her friend, a Reverend in CT. Additional penned notes on the letter read "E.M. Thompson - a colored woman who lived some time in Mr. Gallaudett's family & afterward settled in Liberia & taught school there with good success".
-- "It has been some time since I have heard from you. Mrs. Sigourney, when visiting always mentions your family but since she went to England I have heard nothing from her. My self and family are well now but my health has not been as good as it has been. I began to feel the effects of a sedentary life and conclude that I shall be obliged to suspend teaching awhile. I am sill engaged as teacher of the female department of Mt. Vaughan. Ann schools have been quite interesting but now many of them are absent, owing to the influenza or lung fever that has permeated among us. I have a very interesting set of native girls and am fully convinced that their focus(?) in learning is far superior to many of our own colonist children. The number of our missionaries is much lessoned. Mr. and Mrs. Payne (most probably Bishop Daniel A. Payne, 1811-1867) are now in America. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins are about to sail with Capt. Lawlin. The harvest is still plentiful, but the laborers are few. The Presbyterian missionaries are pretty well I believe. Mrs. Altruior (sp?) is about to return to America. Mr. Wilson and Lady have just returned from a trip down the coast. In your last letter you wished to know if I had even seen a deaf and dumb person in this country. I have not even heard of and when I mentioned it to the natives they seemed surprised. Since I commenced writing a large  ?  ?  was brought into the yard. I should suppose him to be upwards of 50 years old. He was shot by one of the colonists not far from Mt. Vaughan. He would be quite a curiosity to you all. I wish your children could see it. It is now rice season with us. The natives have cultivated an abundance of rice. The second rainy season has just commenced which generally lasts about two months. We have much more dry weather than they have in Monrovia. I shall be happy to hear from you and family. My best regards to them. I request an interest in your prayers that I may be faithful to my charge. Your humble servant, E. M. Thomson

IMPORTANT CONTEXT:  E.M. Thomson was married to James Thomson who was also of African descent, was the first person employed by the Protestant Episcopal Church in Africa. The attention of the Executive Committee of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society was drawn to him as the writer of an appeal of some of the colonists at Monrovia for aid in erecting a Church edifice, and as one who, in the absence of any minister of the Episcopal Church, had been acting as a Lay-reader. Not considering his qualifications such as would justify him in assuming the ministerial office, he was appointed by the Executive Committee a teacher in 1835. He continued in the service of the Society only for a short time, and died in December, 1838.

There was a war at Cape Palmas. In the destruction at Mount Vaughan Mrs. Thomson has lost every thing except her clothes; her furniture, bedding, books, linen, and household articles, which for twenty years have been gradually accumulating. I hope kind friends in America will remember her. She was one of the first teachers in the mission, commencing her labors in March, 1936, and has been connected with the mission ever since.    After these distressing announcements, the earnest appeals of the Episcopal Board of Missions brought in $5,000. lo enable them to rebuild their Mission House on Mount Vaughan, and to give relief to the Rev. G. VV. Gibson, principal of the High School at that place, and E.M. Thomson —both of these individuals having spent twenty years in its service.
  Mrs. James M. Thomson (E.M. Thomson) was born in Connecticut in 1807. She emigrated to Africa in 1831, and taught an infant school in Monrovia. She and her husband afterward removed to Cape Palmas, and in 1835 Mr. Thomson was appointed by the Foreign Committee to open a Mission Station at Mount Vaughan; and when the Rev. Dr. Savage joined the Mission about Christmas, 1836, he found the ground had been cleared, and the house partly completed. Mr. Thomson died not long afterward. Mrs. Thomson's connection with the Mission continued to the day of her death, which occurred April 26th, 1864. Mrs. E. M. Thomson, who served for many years, was called the Mother of the Mission at Cape Palmas.


-- Cape Palmas (this is most probably where the above letter was written), founded in 1834, was the original settlement of the Maryland Colonization Society, which purchased the peninsula with muskets, powder, cloth, pots, beads, and other items of trade. The peninsula became the site of three missions, established to Christianize and civilize the native Africans. Known as "Mount Vaughan," the Episcopal mission educated many members of Liberia's indigenous tribes. "Protestant Episcopal Mission, Cape Palmas, West Africa," ca. 1850s Woodcut. Maryland was one of two centers of American interest on the West Coast of Africa, the other being neighboring Liberia, which in 1847 became an independent republic. Like Liberia, the colony was planned as a haven for freed slaves, and by 1850 it could boast a small Colonist population concentrated around the Cape Palmas peninsula. This physical isolation was reinforced by the psychological and cultural distance that the settlers put between themselves and the natives.

BACKGROUND: Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, for whom Gallaudet University is named, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1787. His family later settled in Hartford, Conn., the home of his maternal grandparents. A brilliant student during his early years, Gallaudet entered Yale University at age 14 and graduated first in his class three years later. He returned to Yale as a graduate student in 1808 after having served a law apprenticeship and studying independently. After earning a master of arts degree in 1810, Gallaudet worked as a traveling salesman. However, having been raised in a family deeply rooted in Protestantism, he felt called to the ministry. In 1812 he enrolled in the Andover Theological Seminary, graduating in 1814. Gallaudet's goal, to serve as an itinerant preacher, was put aside when he met Alice Cogswell, the 9 years old deaf daughter of a neighbor, Dr. Mason Cogswell. Cogswell, a prominent Hartford Physician, was concerned about proper education for his daughter. He asked Gallaudet to travel to Europe to study methods for teaching deaf students, especially those of the Braidwood family in England. Gallaudet found the Braidwoods unwilling to share knowledge of their oral communication method. At the same time, he was not satisfied that the oral method produced desirable results.

While still in Great Britain, he met the Abbe Sicard, head of the Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets in Paris, and two of its deaf faculty members, Laurent Clerc and Jean Massieu. Sicard invited Gallaudet to Paris to study the school's method of teaching deaf students using manual communication. Impressed with the manual method, Gallaudet studied teaching methodology under Sicard, learning sign language from Massieu and Clerc, who were both highly educated graduates of the school. Having persuaded Clerc to accompany him, Gallaudet sailed for America. The two men toured New England and successfully raised private and public funds to found a school for deaf students in Hartford, which later became known as the American School for the Deaf. Young Alice was one of the seven students in the United States. (The American School for the Deaf still educates deaf students today. It is first permanent school for the deaf children established in the United States.) Gallaudet served as principal of the school from 1817 to 1830. He resigned his position on April 6, 1830, to devote his time to writing children's books and to the ministry. In 1893, at the request of the alumni association, the name of the College in Washington, DC was changed to Gallaudet College in honor of T.H. Gallaudet.

-- Scripture Biography for the Young with Critical by Rev. T. H. Gallaudet, Illustations and Practical Remarks. Hardcover / American Tract Society, Copyright 1838. 200 pages, Volume #1 - Covers Adam to Jacob.


- New York American (March 9, 1836) -- Maryland in Liberia...Letter extract from Dr. James Hall, Governor of Maryland, delivered by Capt. Lawlin of the brig, The Susan Elizabeth of New York. He describes prosperity. "...I may truly say that every month of our existence witnesses an increase of energy, industry and contentment among the inhabitants of our little settlement. I am in readiness for the next expedition...they might have their land sowed by the 1st of March..."

-- "Sabbath School Teachers' Second Book, Containing a Harmony of the Four Gospels and Questions on the History, Miracles, Discourses and Parables of our Lord, With Explanations of the Most Difficult Parts of the Text." by Rev. J.J. Matthias. New York: B. Waugh and T. Mason for the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1832 Hardcover, 3-1/2" x 5-1/4", 234 pp. A rare Sunday school lesson book from 1832, written by Reverend J.J. Matthias and published for the Sunday School Youth Library of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Includes double page map in rear of book of "Countries mentioned by Moses".
BACKGROUND: Rev. J.J. Matthias was a Methodist Episcopal minister of the Philadelphia conference, who served as Governor of Bassa Cove during the 19th century African colonization. In 1837, the Rev JJ Matthias, a Superannuated Minister of the Philadelphia Conference of the ME Church, was appointed Governor of the settlement of Bassa Cove, Liberia by the Colonization Society, and came to Liberia in the schooner "Charlotte Harper."  In the same vessel, besides the Governor's family, consisting of Mrs. Matthias and Miss Annesley, Dr. Johnson, of Kingston, N.Y., came out as physician for the same place; Dr. S.M.E. Gokeen, missionary physician of the M.E. Church, and two female teachers, Miss Ann Wilkins and Miss L.A. Beers.  After spending some time at Monrovia, Governor Matthias and family and Dr. Johnson went down to the Cove, and were soon settled.  Mr. Matthias proved a thoroughgoing, efficient and successful Governor.  The people loved and esteemed him.  Though a minister, and a good and holy man, yet he organized and kept up a well-trained little regiment of brave soldiers, reviewed them himself every month, and such a display and demonstration as they made most effectually prevented the natives from attempting any hostilities.  There was no war in Governor Matthias's day.

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