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Trade Paperback
192 pages
Sep 2003

Liberty Letters: The Personal Correspondence of Hannah Brown and Sarah Smith

by Nancy LeSourd

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Goose Creek, Virginia

Third Month 17th, 1857

Dear Sarah,

You have been on my mind constantly. I miss you so much. When will you and your family be able to visit us here at Goose Creek? I hope you will have occasion to visit this summer for it has been much too long since we have been togethermore than a year since we have seen each other. When Grandfather goes to Philadelphia to buy plantings for his nursery, I pester him to take me with him. Yet, Mother and Father say I must stay in school and not be traipsing all over creation.

Sarah, you know me well. You know that my mind and heart are somehow bigger than Goose Creek, Virginia. I yearn to see the world. At least Grandfather lets me see most of Loudoun County. I have been helping him on his latest surveying project. He is updating his map of the Snickersville Turnpike and often takes me along to make notations. He and Joshua hold the chain and the compass, while I carefully take notes of the measurements they call out in Grandfather’s Surveyor’s Notebook. Ever since he published his map of Loudoun Countythe one he did with your uncle four years ago, he has more mapmaking business than he can manage.

Remember when I last wrote about Joshua? He has become invaluable to both Uncle Richard and Grandfather. He works at the foundry most days. But whenever he can, Grandfather spirits Joshua away to help with the surveying. Grandfather says no one else holds a surveyor’s chain as straight and tight as Joshua does. So, you see Sarah, it is rather convenient, don’t you think, that I should go along to assist Grandfather with the note taking? Joshua makes me laugh. And he is rather handsome. I am glad he came to our village. He has no mother or father. Yet, everyone here likes him so well. It is as if the entire village has adopted him. He has impressed Uncle Richard with his diligent work and quick mind. Grandfather enjoys his sense of humor as much as his chain-holding skills.

Speaking of Grandfather, I think he is most happy when he is on a towpath or road in his buggy with his viameter, measuring, calculating, plotting, and planning. He loves to be free. I think I am just like him.

Do ask your parents when you might come to Goose Creek. Many here ask about you. I wish you still boarded at Springdale School next door to Evergreen Farm. Then we could be together every day. I miss rushing home from school to visit with you. We had such glorious times.



Goose Creek, Virginia

Third Month 26th, 1857

Dear Sarah,

What an amazing sight! About one hour before sundown, Grandfather, Mother and Father, the little ones, and I gathered at the top of a nearby hill facing west. The Almanac said there would be a full eclipse of the sun, but I was unprepared for anything so incredible. Imagine the sun being completely covered by the moon. A strange and wondrous sight indeedalthough we were warned not to look directly at the sun. Doing so could burn our eyes and blind us.

Grandfather says God has many wonderful things to show us if we are watching. He says the trick is to remember God’s surprises far outweigh anything we can possibly imagine. Something to ponder, don’t you think, my dear friend.

Your sun and moon and stars watching friend,


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fourth Month 9th, 1857

Dearest Hannah,

I miss you too! I also miss Springdale, Goose Creek, trips to Purcell’s Store in your grandfather’s buggy, and even young Israel who teased me mercilessly. Is Friend Eliza Janney still teaching at Springdale? I learned so much from her. More than book learning, she taught about what matters in life: liberty for one and all.

Do you remember when she came from New York to teach at Springdale? There was much consternation in Leesburg that this northern-bred woman was teaching children anti-slavery ways. Of course, what did they expect from someone teaching at a Quaker school?

Is Principal Janney still traveling as much as ever? He has such a heart for sharing his wisdom at the Quaker meetings all over the country. His writings are well received here. Last week, he had tea with my parents and Friends James and Lucretia Mott.

How is your grandfather? Uncle Robert looks forward to their visits together. He often comments on what a fine mapmaker Friend Yardley Taylor is. You must share all your stories of your adventures with him.

Do tell me all that is going on there in Goose Creek.

Your devoted friend,

Goose Creek, Virginia

Fourth Month 15th, 1857

Dear Sarah,

I received your good letter and will report to you all the Springdale news I have heard. Your beloved teacher, Friend Eliza Janney has been spending much time taking care of her husband, Friend John. Do you remember that she married Principal Janney’s son? He has taken ill with a severe cough and nothing done for him seems to help. The doctor frequently attends to him. His family often takes him to the springs in hopes that he will recover. You may wish to write Eliza, for she would be encouraged to know how she has influenced your life.

Today, Grandfather, Joshua, and I spent the entire day in the buggy. We measured, re-measured, calculated, and laughed and laughed. It was an absolutely perfect day. The weather was glorious. It was exhilarating to be out in the clean spring air. As usual, I kept the notebook, and carefully wrote down everything Grandfather called out to me as he and Joshua worked the chain and compass. Mathematics is not my favorite subject at school. Joshua and Grandfather can make calculations in their heads faster than I can write them down.

Joshua says he loves to spend time with Grandfather because he is so talented. I have never thought of Grandfather that way. I know he enjoys many things. He enjoys his job delivering the mail from house to house. He enjoys his surveying and mapmaking. He enjoys plantings and tending his nursery with some of the most exotic plants one can imagine. Most of all, though, he enjoys his family. I always feel so loved when I am in his company. He does not think me dull or silly or childish. When I am with him, I feel as if I could do and be anything I wish. I think it is the same for Joshua.

Joshua has had many disadvantages. One would never know it though as he is so friendly and kind. He speaks of his future rather than the past. He talks with Grandfather about planting, mapmaking, surveying, working at the foundry, and inventing. He is excited about working with Uncle Richard on a new project — a special plow that will make tilling the soil much easier.

With every good thought toward you,