Elizabeth Trist to Catharine Wistar Bache

Your last favor My Dear friend was dated 13th October a long period to elapse without hearing from one who I never cease to think of1 with affection and respect, and in whoes happiness I feel the greatest interest If it was in my power not one trouble shou’d assail you, the current shou’d flow on as smoothly as you cou’d wish. but alas no current flows long unruffled and none one exempted from bodily or mental sufferings at some period of their lives, happy are those who are not weigh’d down by their own guilt, your troubles are what is only the common lot of humanity tho some may have less to bear, the numbers are few, there is little consolation in that Idea to be sure but we ought to be satisfied, when our situations are not peculiarly mark’d by distress or reiterate misfortunes that are not calculated upon, such for instance the conflagration in the Theatre at Richmond Fathers Mothers and children perish’d amidst shrieks of the bitterest anguish and tore their own flesh in the agonies of approaching death what a spectacle the dearest friends and nearest connections trembling and fainting on the bodies of the dead who had reach’d the border of the conflagration, the terror and despair of the living must have equal’d the agony of those who fell sacrafises to the flames the number of maim’d one Man that had his hand burnt off has survived he was a noted Gambler it may perhaps have a good effect on his Moral character in future but poor Edwin Hervey who escaped with his wife and children returnd to seek his sister they got out alive but both died since his eyes I heard were burnt out My friend Venable and poor Maria Nelson sister of Mrs Walker and the Governor I feel more regret for than those I was not acquainted with, Mr Tucker tho not at the Theatre witness’d the scene a Doctor McCaw saved the lives of many he was fix’d in a window and let down a number of ladies by pulling their cloathes over their heads and leting them down some feet by them when men with their arms across received them a member of the legislature by the name of Garth from Albemarle assisted in that way to save so many that his arms were bruised to a Jelly. there were a great number of children saved by throwing them out of the windows and what was surprising they lit upon their feet and run off, as if nothing had happen’d I have been so severely chasten’d in the school of Affliction that I begin to think my heart was adamant, but I find that I hadve not reached that state of insensibility I had supposed for I can not devest my self of the horror of such a scene of distress and every week furnishes some new tale of woe which satisfies me that little is to be look’d for this side the grave but sorrow poor Mrs Smith she was the widow of Meriweather Jones report had consign’d her to the flames but she is reserved for greater trials perhaps. I will transcribe from a letter which Peachy received from his brother Francis who is reading law in Richmond

Your friend Mrs Smith has sufferd cruelly severely by the disaster which makes it necessary to elect a new Governor It was cruel in the extreme that the first dawn of her long clouded happiness shou’d have been blasted by such a storm and extinguish’d for ever by the desolation of such a tempest She is I am told quite disconsolate—like Chrysostoms picture of the distresses of Job she is a tree in whoes branches the tempest has howled whose foliage and even body are blasted by the lightning of heaven perhaps time may soothe the bitterness of that anguish which it baffles human skill either to encrease or allay2 Tis said that Mr Smith has died poor and has left several children he was security for M Jones when he was appointed commissioner of loans and had to pay six thousand Dollars he being delinquent to that amount, and there is a report that her only Brother Franklin Reed is lost ast sea, she is an amiable good woman and respected by all who know her but like myself doom’d to misfortune My last letter from Batton rouge was [. . .]3d Decr from Nicholas he says that he hopes I am in better health than his dear Mother who was seised the night she wrote 29th Sept to me with a violent fever that she was unable to leave her bed the rest of the family were all well I feel anxious to hear from them again it is time to expect another letter and there may be one in the Office for me but there are difficulties beside the distance which is 12 miles. the last weeks falling weather has raised the River they have to cross, so as to render it very dangerous to ford a man lost his life crossing the other day. It gives me pleasure to hear that Benjamin is doing so well I have no doubt but he will be a Comfort to you as well as the rest of your children. God grant that you may be spared to see them settled in the world I hope their Grand Father rememberd them in his will tell them that they must not forget their Aunt Trist Peachy and Mary desire to be rememberd to you and the Doctor, and be assured of my sincere wishes for your health and happiness. We have just had a letter from my sister her son wrote me from N York on 17 Dec I presume you saw her as she promisd to call on you I hope you will write by Harmer as he promised to visit us on his return but in the mean time let me hear from you by mail I am always anxious to hear from my friends and yet I dread to open letters least I shall hear something unpleasant the Death of Mrs Petit gave me a pang I hope Mrs Buchanon enjoys good health God bless you and believe me ever yours

E. Trist
RC (PPAmP: Catharine Wistar Bache Papers); torn at seal; addressed: “Mrs Cathrine Bache Franklin Court Philadelphia”; endorsed by Bache: “Mrs Trist Feb 1812”; stamped.
1Manuscript: “off.”
2Omitted closing quotation markes editorially supplied.
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Catharine Wistar Bache
Date Range
February 1, 1812