With this introduction, the flowing extracts of a letter from my sister may now be introduced:—
MARGARET HILL HILLES TO JOHN JAY SMITH.Wilmington, Del., 9th mo. 10, 1852.I think, with thee, that Dr. Richard Hill was a very estimable man, and the old letters I value exceedingly. I greatly rejoice that they have now found a reader who will appreciate them as I do. Most gladly will I aid thee, and for this purpose I write immediately to answer some of thy queries.
Dr. Hill practised medicine, and was a slave-holding planter in Maryland. His wife was his first cousin once removed; she appears to have been, and was always spoken of by her daughters, whom I knew, as a very superior woman, and as having shown great devotedness to her conjugal duties. Their children were:—
1. Richard, the oldest of Richard and Deborah Hill’s family. He never married. An estate, much of it land now in the heart of the city of Philadelphia, was left to him and Hannah by his father’s uncle, named also Richard Hill,†(footnote) so that they were reputed wealty when their father’s pecuniary difficulties occurred. Richard, Jr. followed his parents to Madeira, and became a partner in the important house established there, where he died a young man, while his father was on a visit to America.
2. Hannah, who married Dr. Samuel Preston Moore, when very young, and before the family, or the principals of it, came to reside in Philadelphia. They were married at Friends’ meeting, and, I believe, were never “dealt with” for transgressing the then existing rule of the Society, against marrying so near a relative, for they brought a certificate when they removed, and he was an elder in Philadelphia; while their younger brother and sister, Dr. Charles Moore and Mileah Martha Hill were disowned for so doing, and never could bring their minds to acknowledge that they were sorry for it so they continued without the pale, until after our uncle Charles’s death, when my aunt regained her right.
3. Deborah also followed her parents to the Island; she married Robert Bisset, and died in England, leaving three children, Richard Lamar Bisset, Henrietta, and Mary Hill Bisset, who were reared by their aunt Lamar, and are all now deceased.
4. Mary married Thomas Lamar, and had no child, and I know little of her character or her history farther than that she was a woman of the world, fond of high life, &c., and what the letters reveal.
5. Harriet married John Scott, and had one daughter, Mary, who died young, and a son, John—called Jock in the letters—who grew up and held an official appointment in India; he died about the same period with his widowed mother. She seems to have been an affectionate, timid, and sorrowful woman; her married life, entered upon without her father’s consent, was not entirely happy; her husband was much older than herself. She was living when our uncle and aunt Dillwyn were in England, and is frequently mentioned in their letters.
6. Rachel married in Philadelphia Richard Wells, an English gentleman, and had two sons and three daughters, of whom many descendants are known to us.‡(footnote)
7. Henry married Ann, a daughter of Reese Meredith, and left no children.
8. Margaret was the wife of William Morris.*(footnote) Her husband died young, and left her a mourning widow.
9. Sarah was the well-beloved consort of one of the loveliest of human characters, George Dillwyn.
10. Milcah Martha has been already mentioned as the wife of Dr. Charles Moore. She was the only child born to Richard and Deborah Hill in the Island of Madeira. The Roman Catholic religion prevailed there, and a nunnery was situated near their residence, to which his daughters were in the habit of resorting. Their little sister had been born on the birthday of the tutelar saint of the Island, St. Michael, and it was the custom that every child—so fortunate in their estimation—was dedicated to the saint, and named in honour of him—the boys Michael, the girls Milcah. Whether this fact was known to her father or not, I am unable to say, but he had given the name to his child in memory of a beloved sister whom he had left in America. The Catholics took it for an evidence that he was favourable to their religion, and claimed the child as the right of their saint. Many contests he had with them on this account; they even went on their knees to beg that she might enter the nunnery, and thus insure her eternal happiness. A bushel of gold was offered for her, but the fond father was not to be bribed. At length stratagem was resorted to; her nurse was employed to persuade the child to elope with her, but the conversation between them as they were taking the air on the roof of the house, was overheard by her sisters below, and it was concluded safest to send her over to her sisters in America. She was now nearly ten years old, and her mother’s desire to see the daughters and sisters from whom she had been long separated, combined with a state of health which had become delicate in consequence of the heat of the climate, afforded reasons that induced her to consent to leave the husband whose fortunes she had so devotedly followed, for a time. His business had been for some years prosperous, and he had nearly completed his arrangements for leaving it in the hands of his son and sons-in-law, in order to revisit his native shores. A vessel of his own was prepared to bear the precious freight of his wife, her youngest child, with its faithful nurse Betty Hicks, her son Henry, and her maiden sister Molly (as she was familiarly called) Moore, who were to precede him but a few months; when the beloved wife and the honoured mother, and the darling sister, was suddenly removed by death.
Great indeed was the shock. His consternation and distress was heightened by the fact that there was no Protestant burying-place on the Island, and the Catholics did not suffer heretics to be laid in their holy ground. There was no alternative but to commit them to the ocean. At this the feelings of the husband revolted, and, according to the narrative of Betty Hicks, to which I used to listen with intense interest in my childhood, a sham funeral was got up; a loaded coffin was followed by the mourning family, and formally consigned to the deep, while the corpse was secreted till night, and then buried in the cellar. I have no reason to doubt the truth of this account, though my aunt M. M. Moore, to whom I somethimes appealed for a confirmation of it, never gratified my youthful desire by either an assent or dissent; so true was she to the injunction of secrecy that had been laid on her in childhood.
Go to: Doctor Richard Hill