I have a sister. My mom and dad each have two. Lots of my ancestors had sisters, lots of them were sisters. Two of my 4th great-grandmothers were sisters to each other and they had eight more sisters.
As I thought about this theme, I thought about my relationship with my sister and how much I treasure it. She is a best friend, a confidant, someone who gets me. She also sings “Sisters, Sisters” from White Christmas to me frequently.
With those thoughts and feelings, I thought of my 6th great-grandmother, Mary Adams Bones. She was the oldest of five sisters — Elizabeth, Ann, Martha, and Jane. At the age of 41, left her home, which was within walking distance to at least two of her sisters, and emigrated with her family from Ireland to South Carolina and Georgia.
I wonder what it was like for her to leave her sisters behind. Mail would have taken weeks, if not months. She probably never saw any of her sisters again. In a world of instant communication via email, text, and FaceTime, this feels heartbreaking.
We know that there was some regular correspondence between Mary and her sisters. Many nieces, nephews, and cousins visited or immigrated to Georgia and were taken care of by the Boneses or their children, cementing family ties for another generation.
One letter survives the years. Deposited in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland is a fragile letter with slanted script and ink smudges from Mary to her sister Jane Adams Staveley. It’s dated 20 March 1823 from Millcreek. The love and bond of these sisters can be felt through out the letter.
My dear sister, your much esteemed and affectionate letter with inward pleasure I received and was happy to hear that all my dear relations were well also to hear that your son John’s health was improved. I pray God it may long continue, that you shall enjoy the pleasing society of each other’s company.
Oh my sister it’s with a sorrowful heart I communicate to you the melancholy news of my dearly beloved [son] Thomas’s death the 11th of September. He bid adieu to this world [ ]. He died at his plantation in the state of Georgia 80 miles from Augusta; was in Augusta the week before his death. My trials have been great but all I ever met with were only as a drop of water compared to the loss of my dear Thomas. I have many things I could wish to say but the subject is too painful to my feelings although my dear sister I should not mourn at the will of God his blessings have been peculiarly great to me and mine. In August my son James was taken ill of the fever and ague. It continued with him for better than two months. It was feared he would not live. In November my son William was at the point of death occasioned by a fall from his horse. For some days his life was despaired of. I thank God they are now well.
December the 8th I left this for Augusta arrived there the evening of the 11th. On the 12th I underwent the severe operation of having the lump taken out of my breast. The almighty supported me far beyond anything I could have expected. When taken out it was the shape of a large gizzard all covered with fat. The doctors took it with them and opened it. When the outside cover was off the inside was like a piece of rock. Its roots were sticking out in every direction. The doctor said had it been two months longer a cutting the roots would [have] been through that cover my life was then gone. I thank the most high my breast is well and my health is at present good.
I beg you shall let no one see this incorrect scrawl. I would attempt to write it over but the task would be more than [ ] could do. James and the children join with me in wishing to be affectionately remembered to Mr. Staveley, yourself and all [the] cousins. God keep you my dear s[ ].
Your ever affectionate [ ],
P.S. Remember me affectionately to my cousin William Borland and his partner. Say we were much gratified on seeing their son John. He stayed with us two weeks; went from this to Augusta; was there a few days. I beg to be remembered to all who are pleased to ask for me….Adieu