Valentines for Two Sarahs

Do you ever wonder about how your ancestors got together? Was it love at first sight? Did a relationship develop over time? Did they marry for convenience or for money or for love? Who introduced them or where were they when they met? So many questions that are fun to ask, but may not get many answers.

The topic for #52ancestors this week is Valentine. Last week I discussed all the known Oswell Eves in my tree. In the same line, there are several Sarah Eves. All three of the Oswell Eves in my direct line had a daughter named Sarah, all named for the previous one. Two of these Sarahs had fascinating, if not completely true, courtships.

Sarah Eve
Sarah Eve was born 15 February 1749 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Oswell Eve and Anne Moore. She most likely attended the Quaker school and seems to have been quite well known in the community. A family member wrote of her: “Her hair, though red, was always fashionably dressed and her appearance was stately. On one occasion when a companion said she was ‘too proud’ another answered there was more humility under Sally Eve’s high head than under many a Quaker bonnet.” She kept a journal of daily life as a record for her father while he was at sea.

The family lore is that Sarah was engaged to Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Tragically, Sarah died in early December 1775, just 3 weeks before their wedding was supposed to take place.

But how do you prove an engagement? There is no record of it. The papers of Dr. Rush make no mention of her and Sarah’s journal is written between 1772 and 1773 and the last pages missing, so any courtship that may have happened was not captured in the journal. There is evidence that he charged Sarah’s father for services rendered to Sarah before her death. In her journal, Sarah is seen avoiding Dr. Rush while sick because of his tendency to bleed patients, but Dr. Rush is often appearing where she is, taking time out of his busy schedule to be with her. Dr. Rush seems to have been paying his attentions to several ladies, even in the month he supposedly became engaged to Sarah.

However, the following appeared anonymously in The Pennsylvania Packet following her death and is attributed to Dr. Rush:

[She] was the only daughter of an happy couple who spared no pains in her education. Some family occurrences obliged her to withdraw from the eye of the public, at a time of life when she was perfectly qualified to appear before it with advantage. She carried into retirement all the virtues and accomplishments of public life. It was impossible for her to lay them aside, for they were the gifts of nature. It will appear from the sequel of her character, that she belonged to the first order of beings.

Her understanding was strong, her imagination brilliant, and her taste correct. These were improved by an intimate acquaintance with some of the best poetical and prose writers in the English language. Her disposition was amiable ; a person who had lived with her from a child, declared, that she had never once seen her angry, or heard a hasty word from her lips. Her manners were polished. They were not put on, and laid aside, like a part of dress ; she was always alike captivating, even in her most careless moments, and in the society of her most intimate friends. Her person was elegant, her face had an happy mixture of the beautiful and agreeable in it ; her voice was soft, and her elocution was flowing. Her sentiments were often original, and always just ; it was impossible for her to speak upon any subject without gaining the attention of company. Such were her unaffected displays of good sense, modesty, and good humour, that no one, I believe, ever left her without emotions of love, esteem, or admiration.

She was at peace with the whole world ; and no wonder, for she was at peace with herself. No one every heard her say a disrespectful word of any body ; on the contrary, she was a volunteer in behalf of every suffering character ; she plead the cause of wounded innocence with success, and never failed to call up pity to reprieve unfortunate guilt, where justice had pronounced sentence against it. She laid all the errors of both sexes upon the weaknesses, seldom upon the depravity, of human nature. Heaven rewarded this candour, in not imposing upon her the difficult and painful duty of forgiving enemies. She never had one.

She possessed the most exquisite and delicate sensibility of soul. Upon hearing of distress in any body or of any kind, she did not show her sympathy by expressions of pity, or by dropping a tear in company, but by the less equivocal sign of an affecting silence, and by the most particular enquiries into the issue of the distressed object, after an interval of time so long, that the relator of the tale had sometimes forgotten the principal circumstances of it.

She was cut off in the 24th year of her age by a painful and lingering illness. It would be to level her virtues to say she bore it with patience. She bore it with magnanimity. She dreaded the attacks of her pain which were periodical, only because they sometimes extorted groans from her which disturbed her parents. She was reconciled to living, only because she thought her life had become necessary to their happiness.

It would exceed the bounds I have prescribed to myself, or I might here mention her many edifying conversations with her parents, her friends, her physicians, and her attendants during her illness. She sometimes gave a temporary exaltation to their minds, which obliged them to view her with astonishment, and if ever the heads that thought, the hearts that felt, and the hands that administered to her, relaxed one moment in their duty, it was only when they beheld her capacity of happiness enlarged beyond the possibility of being satisfied with anything short of the happiness of Heaven.

Thirteen months later, the same paper announced the marriage of Dr. Rush to Julia Stockton.

Without question, Dr. Rush and Sarah were good friends, but proof of an engagement seems to be lost in history.

Sarah Eve Adams
This Sarah Eve was the daughter of the above Sarah’s brother, Oswell Eve. Sarah was the second child and daughter born to Oswell Eve and Aphra Ann Pritchard. She was born 27 October 1785 in Charleston, South Carolina. According to the memoirs of her sister, Emmaline Eve Smith, Sarah was “the beauty of the family. Delicate and refined in appearance, highly cultivated, but very retiring, she was universally beloved and admired.” Sarah spent much of her growing up years with her mother’s sister, Catherine Pritchard Fitzsimons, and would often accompany them on vacations to the North.

Emmaline describes her sister’s courtship and marriage as follows:

On one of these visits to Newport [Rhode Island], she was unpacking Uncle F[itzsimons]’s trunk and came across a beautifully written order from one of his clerks for two volumes of poetry. Campbell’s “Pleasures of Hope” and Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village” and imagining that the young gentleman with such a literary taste must be superior to most of her admirers, she became favorable to his suit which soon followed her return to the South.

Mr. Adams was a very handsome young Irishman and splendidly educated. He was her beau ideal of a perfect gentleman and she idolized him. They resided in a pretty house of their own which they called Adams and Eve’s paradise, and had everything to make them happy, excepting children.

These portraits of John and Sarah were done in 1809 by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin. The originals are in the collections at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Sarah married John Strong Adams on 2 March 1803 in Augusta, Georgia. John was a commission merchant, sometimes having slave ships assigned to him. Sarah and John visited Ireland at least twice during their marriage. The first time they accompanied Sarah’s brother, Oswell, to school in Ireland.

On a second trip, John unexpectedly died on 5 June 1812, at the age of 37. He was buried in his father’s grave in Randalstown, County Antrim, Ireland. Oswell left school to accompany his sister home. The day before they were to leave from Liverpool, Oswell died. Sarah was left in the care of the captain. During the voyage, the ship was captured by pirates and then rescued by the British Navy. Because of the War of 1812, the ship had to go to Halifax. There, Sarah caught another ship and sailed to Philadelphia where her father met her and took her home in his carriage.

Sarah took up sewing to support herself when she returned to Augusta. She took care of her younger siblings when their mother died in 1821. When her sister Henrietta died in 1833, Sarah took in 3 of Henrietta’s children, raising them as her own. Sarah died 7 March 1851.

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