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James Witter Nicholson Family Letters
The collection contains two discrete series of letters. The larger and more significant consists of 51 letters sent to James Witter Nicholson in New Geneva, distributed rather evenly over the years 1804 to 1842. Thirty-nine of these were written by James's sister Maria Nicholson Montgomery, and nine more by his sisters Catharine Nicholson Few (7) and Jehoiadden Nicholson Chrystie (2). These are personal letters, written first and foremost to maintain contact with a distant brother who made only occasional journeys to the Nicholson family enclaves in New York and Maryland. In the letters of Maria Montgomery family news is paramount; common topics include the whereabouts and activities of family members, their visits and travels, their health and illnesses. Persons most frequently mentioned include Maria herself and her husband; her mother; and her sisters and their families (the Fews, Gallatins, Seneys, and Chrysties). Later letters are increasingly filled with news of her sisters' children, their education and prospects. Hannah Nicholson's husband, Albert Gallatin, is often mentioned, even when in Europe (as he was for most of the period 1813-1829). Mention is also made of more distant relatives (like Joseph Hopper Nicholson), and of family acquaintances. Politics, and national affairs in general, are touched on in some of the earlier letters; Maria was clearly an interested (if partisan) observer of public life. The later letters show an increasing preoccupation with religion. Of particular interest are Maria's letters of September and November 1814, relating to the British attack on Baltimore in the War of 1812.
Eight additional items in the collection are personal letters written by or to the children of James and Adden Nicholson Chrystie, dating from 1825 to 1848. Most relate to one or the other of the two oldest Christie sons, Thomas (1808-1888) and James, Jr. (b. 1811).