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John C. Hull letters to John Thomson

Identifier: MSS 0098-F0149

Content Description

This group of twenty-four lengthy autograph letters, ranging in date from 1825-1845, from John C. Hull at various locations in Maryland, (West) Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, are addressed to his father-in-law John Thomson in Newark, Delaware, and are full of business and family news. (Three letters from Jane Thomson Hull to her father are also included in this small collection.)

Documenting varied business ventures and the westward migration of his family, John Thomson’s letters contain a wealth of information on a variety of nineteenth-century topics. Originally acquired by Dr. Henry Clay Reed from a Swann auction (Sale no. 107, lot 65, 1945), they comprised a portion of the gift of papers given to the University of Delaware Library by Mrs. Reed in 1976.

With a tendency for descriptive detail, John C. Hull wrote about the variety of fields in which he was employed between 1825 and 1845.


  • Creation: 1825-1845


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical / Historical

The John Thomson Family of Delaware and Pennsylvania were of Scotch Irish origin. John Thomson of Newark, Delaware, the recipient of these letters, married Hannah Evans (likely sister of George Gillepsie Evans). They had eight children, including Jane (Thomson) Hull, the writer of three of the letters in this collection. The majority of the letters were written by John C. Hull, Jane's husband. From the letters, it is clear that Hannah Evans died when some of the Thomson children were still young; the letters reference Jane as caregiver to her brother Samuel. The letters also make clear that John Thomson later remarried, and that his domestic situation in the 1830s was relatively unhappy. In the letters, Jane and John Hull mention several of Jane's other family members, including her brother Samuel Thomson, and sisters Mary, Elizabeth, and Grace.

Early letters in the collection reflect on Mary Thomson’s determination to marry Washington Russell, against her father’s wishes. Mary Thomson and Dr. Washington Russell were married on November 1, 1828. Jane’s other sisters, Elizabeth and Grace, married two brothers, sons of Joseph and Martha (Palmer) Chamberlain: Elizabeth Thomson married Dr. Joseph Chamberlain, and Grace Thomson married Dr. Palmer Chamberlain.

From 1828 to 1831, John Hull managed the property at Octoraro Forge, located on Octoraro Creek in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The forge was originally built in the late-eighteenth century by a Quaker minister, John Jones, and had changed hands several times. By 1828, the business included an iron forge, a merchant mill, a saw mill, and 800 acres of land, with houses for twelve families. In several letters, Hull wrote about the iron works.

In 1832, an intense cholera epidemic struck in Wheeling, (West) Virginia, and mortality in the area was estimated at 50 – 60%. Writing in June 1832, Hull reflected on his fears about the disease and described local conditions in detail. Other letters relayed health threats of the period; in 1831 Jane was dangerously ill following childbirth; and Jane later wrote about one of the children surviving scrofula (extra pulmonary tuberculosis).

By 1833, John and Jane Hull were investing in farm land in Ohio. They purchased a large farm on a creek and began to make improvements, while residing and farming at various rental properties in Wheeling. Many of Hull’s letters from the 1830s contain information on land speculations and farm prices in Wheeling and Ohio. He raised sheep, pigs, and vegetables. Letters describe business conditions and reflect his happiness in this employment.

In the 1840s the Hulls moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and John opened a stable. Unfortunately, the business was destroyed by the Great Fire of Pittsburgh in April 1845. Jane Hull wrote in May 1845, reflecting on the experience of seeing the blaze, the destruction, and the aftermath of the great fire.

Little genealogical information is known about John C. Hull, though many biographical facts can be drawn from these letters. John and Jane (Thomson) Hull had at least seven children together, including Charles Hull, Alexander Hull, Joseph Hull, John Evans Hull, Sarah Jane Hull, J. Richardson Hull, and Elizabeth Hull. They lived in Pennsylvania, (West) Virginia, Ohio, and Delaware.

Cranmer, Gibson Lamb.History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia, and Representative Citizens. Chicago: Biographical Publishing Company, 1902.Jepson, S. L. "Epidemics," History of the Upper Ohio Valley, Vol. 1. Madison: Brant & Fuller, 1890."Letters of William T. Berry," William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine,Vol. 14, No. 1. (Jul., 1905), pp. 19-23.Old Bible Records with Charts and Genealogical Sketches, Volume II, pp 240 – 242, and Volume X, p. 82. Compiled by Cooch’s Bridge Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, Newark, Delaware. University of Delaware Library, Special Collections.


24 item (63 pages)

Language of Materials



This group of twenty-four lengthy autograph letters, 1825-1845, from John C. Hull at various locations in Maryland, (West) Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, are addressed to his father-in-law John Thomson in Newark, Delaware, and are full of business and family news. (Three letters from Jane Thomson Hull to her father are also included in this small collection.)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Marion Bjornson Reed, 1976.

Related Materials in this Repository

This item forms part of MSS 0098 Miscellaneous Literary and Historical Manuscripts.

MSS 0271 The George Gillespie Evans Family Papers and Supplement contains papers of John Thomson and other family members related to Jane (Thomson) Hull.

Related Materials in other Repositories

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission also hold some business records for Octoraro Forge in the 1830s.

Shelving Summary

Box 6, F0149: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0098 manuscript boxes

Processing Information

Processed by Colleen E. Lemke, March 2005. Encoded by George Apodaca, March 2015.

Finding aid for John C. Hull letters to John Thomson
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2015 February 10
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

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