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Smith-Digges Papers(1789–1843)

  • MS 1931.7

Susanna Nelson Page, 1780–1850, married Francis Page of Rugswamp, Hanover County in 1806. Francis was the fifth son of Governor John Page of Rosewell. Five of Nelson’s children married five of John Page’s children. Two other Nelson children married Pages—children of John Page of North End. Susanna and Francis had seven children. She was the grandmother of author, Thomas Nelson Page. Her mother Lucy Grymes Nelson died five years before Susanna wrote the following letter to her friend, Lucy Smith Digges.

Excerpts of a letter, April 10, 1835, to Mrs. Ralph Digges:

My Mother’s Father [Philip Ludwell Grymes] lived in the county of Middlesex, but spent a great part of his time in Williamsburg, the then seat of government, where he had a house, and during the session of the house of Burgesses, and the General Court, his family lived in Wmsburg. It was during one of his visits to the ___ of government, that My Beloved Mother made her entrée into this world very unexpectedly, and I have heard her say, she was said to be so small that at her birth, she might have been put in a quart Pot. Of her childhood, I know very little, except that she went to school to the Rev’d Mr. William Yates, the minister of I believe, Gloster or MIddlesex, for I believe both counties were called Gloster, at that time forming but one County. Middlesex had not been separated and both counties then formed the one county. She had quite a liberal education for the times. She was a most uncommon Arithmetician, very fond of reading and learned to play on the Harpsichord—(that being the fashionable keyed Instrument in those days) of Mr. Pelham, who since my recollection was organist to the church in Williamsburg. She learned Dancing also, and, I was once told by her eldest brother that she was the most Elegant Dancer, and the greatest Belle of the age in which she lived.

Her father died before she was married, and the mansion house in Middlesex and great estates were left to her Eldest brother consequently, her mother and the rest of her children, lived in Wmsburg.

I have before said that my beloved Mother was the oldest child of her parents. She was the eldest of 8 children, 4 sons and 4 daughters. I have frequently heard her say that she was never absent from church in her life, when in health, for when in Middlesex, she attended a Church only 2 miles from Brandon, her Father’s seat, and in Williamsburg in the same way, for her parents being wealthy people they always had carriages at command. She was married before she attained her 19th year, to Mr. Thomas Nelson who was twenty four years old when he married. He was Educated in England, was the private pupil of Beilby Porteus afterwards Bishop of Chester and then Bishop of London. My Beloved Mother was married by the Rev’d Wm Yates in Wmsburg, and her Mother lived until after she had 4 children, and then died in a Dropsy, she has frequently spoken of her dear mothers death, she had been detained from her family 6 weeks attending on her Mother, and at length at the persuasion of her friends, her Mother agreed to be [taped?] for the Dropsy and was so well after it, that my Dear Mother left her to prepare for her being brought to York the place of her residence the next day, and in the night a messenger was dispatched to let her know she was dangerously ill, and before she got back to Wmsburg 12 miles from York her Dear Mother was dead. Her sisters lived with her until after they were married…

My Beloved Mother on her marriage, entered into the most remarkably religious family in the world. President Nelson, the father of her husband and his Mother, were the most uncommon people, then known. They were strict Episcopalians and my dearest Mother never heard a Baptist or a Methodist preach in her life, and indeed the only dissenter she ever heard was the famous Dr. Witherspoon of Philadelphia, a Presbyterian, and then she was carried to hear him by Mrs. Dr. Shippen, when she went to Philadelphia with my father during the session of the old Congress in 1776. She also at the same time, went to the Roman Catholic Chapel.

She had 11 living Children, and 2 sons born dead, 6 living sons and 5 daughters all of whom married and had children. She brought up her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they were brought into her chamber every morning whilst she was dressing, and said their prayers and a short catechism, such as (who made you) who redeemed you etc, and then read the Psalms for the day and the Collect, Epistle and Gospel, thro the week, for the preceding Sunday and the writer of this does not know when these exercises began with her. After she was dressed, her children and Servants were sent out of the room, and she was locked up as was the term thro the house for her being at her Prayers; where she continued nearly an hour every day. I suppose I need hardly say, she read her Bible daily. Being once asked if she prayed a great deal for her sons—she replied, “Yes my dear that I did” and she continued to do so as long as she lived. She was very remarkable in her attention to the Holy Sabbath, for she never permitted a piece of work or any thing that belonged to weekly business to lay about the house on the sabbath day, and she never in her life read, or permitted one of her children to read, any other book on the Lords day than a Holy Book, and her children, have continued as far as they are able to instruct their children in the same way, and you may hear her grand children, and great grand children asking on the Sabbath day for a Sunday book to read …

During the troubles of the Revolutionary War, she underwent a great deal, no tongue can tell whate her sufferings were, when she was obliged to run from place to place with her large family and knew that her Beloved Husband was exposed to all the horrors of war, and when he died, he left her and her children who had been accustomed to all the Luxuries of life reduced by his immence expenditures for his Country to abject poverty, the very beds on which the Widow and Orphans pillowed their heads, were sold to pay that debt, which he had contracted for this ungrateful Country, and but for the kindness of a friend, the bare ground might have pillowed the head of the Widow and Children of General Thomas Nelson who spent half a million of dollars for that Country, and now when her descendants which amounted to a 114 when she died, have applied to this Commonwealth, they will not even act upon the Petition presented. All her children a great many of her Grand Children, and one of her Great Grand Children, have laid up their treasure above where she has gone to dwell with that Saviour, whom not seeing she loved, and whom she taught all his descendants to love. She lived to be 87 years and 17 days old, and breathed her soul out sweetly on the bosom of Jesus Sept 18th 1830…