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The 1678 Letter

by Linda Allred Cooper

Most of the American Allreds descend from Solomon Allred born 1680 in Lancashire, England.  Solomon was the youngest child of John Allred (1635-1701) and his wife Ellen Pemberton (1638-1684).  Although Ellen was actually Ralph Pemberton’s first cousin, she was raised in his home and treated like his sister. Therefore, Ralph’s son, Phineas, called her Aunt Ellen and, after her marriage, he called her husband Uncle John.

Ralph and Phineas were merchants and, based on family letters, they ran a fairly successful business selling wool and cotton cloth, tobacco and some food items such as currants. Both Ralph and Phineas seem to have traveled a lot to keep their supplies stocked and customers happy.  Both wrote home often and thankfully Phineas kept these letters, bringing them with him on the ship, Submission, when the family left England in 1682 to live in Pennsylvania.  Around 1950, Phineas’ descendants gave the entire collection of letters, journals, and other documents to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The following letter was written by Phineas Pemberton to his father Ralph on November 2, 1678.   Phineas was in Bolton, England, and Ralph was in Radcliffe, England. The letter is full of tidbits about their business, names of some Quaker Friends and Meetings, and at the end of the letter is some information about a visit from Uncle John Allred. Once again, we see proof that John was very poor but the Pemberton family obviously helped him when they could.

Translating the old handwriting and old English was a challenge, but thankfully Larry Cates (
Librarian I, Heritage Research Center, High Point Public Library, High Point, NC) stepped up and offered to transcribe this letter.  However, if you find a mistake or can offer an alternative transcription of a word or phrase,  please let me know Note:  Phineas used his initials to sign the letter (PP) and his wife’s first initial, P for Phoebe when talking about John’s visit. The Jon mentioned in the first part of the letter is a young apprentice boy - not to be confused with Uncle John Allred.

The 2 day 11/mo 1678

Lo: fa: [Loving father?] if thou had given me an acco’t [account] of what was wanting this day it might have done well for tomorrow I thinke to send Jon: with what is mentioned in this note now Rc’d [received], this next weeke Jon: has A desire to go & see his relations & I thinke to let him go so th’t [that] I thinke it will be best to put of[f] thy comeing untill Jon returns And then go for Aspull & if thou canst buy some cloth att Wiggan Ro: Higham Ja: Downall Tho: Naylor Peter Orrell & Will’m Bayly came to the: meeting att A Gregorys first day was A Weeke & as I am informed Higham & Downall came into the: house & hast taken the: names of as many as They knew & Intends to Endeavor A Conviction/ This day Rachel went A way Tho: Rawlison Lenard Fell & some other friends where I have beene wch knew thee Remember’d theire loves to Thee  The Child is not better but my & P love to thee & am thy son                                                                                      PP

uncle J Alred was here since I went and caryed him selfe very begerly as I am tould by P when he had beene kindly Entertained all night that would not serve but tould P shee must send his wife some sug’r to put in her meale [meate?] & leafe tobacco for her & him som[e] tobacco & said he knew I would not be Angry, & further I am tould he left a Lousey bed behind him att my fathers for there he lodged.