Clay ashland February 9th 1867


Rev R R Gurley1

My steemed friend it is a long time since I heard from you by letter It seems that that the great war has had a tendency to seperate friends almost in every part of the world. I have been quite afflicted for the last yeare with rheumatism from my neck down to my feet. –and much of the time had to be lifted about like a child. I have gottan up so fare as to be able to attend to my business. My family are all enjoying very good health. My oldest Daughter is now grown to be a fine looking young woman I sincerely hope that she may marry and do well. though I have great fears to the contrary as good husbands are few and fare apart in Liberia My boys are also growing up quite fast and will soon be young men. I have not been able to work at my trade for the last yeare, and the southern Mission to which I belong has cease to operate in Liberia from the Commencement of the war to the present time. –Nor do I know that they will even be able to operate again. We have been left since 61, without any missionary aid. The church at this place and of which I am pastor, is still in a good condition. We have regular services, and sabbath school I have just returned from a sea trip as far as Cape Palmas. in the large Emigrant ship Galeonda I had the pleasure of visiting the churches of Sinoe Cty and Cape Palmas, ordaining two ministers to the ministry of the Gospel—and encouraging those destitute churches. I saw the Emigrants landed fixed in there new homes all pritty well and comfortable I was happy to notice that they all seem to be satisfied I returned home found all well, and my health greately improved. A kind providence prepared me for my years affliction. My apprentice boys both in the taning and shoemaking trade ware fare enough advanced. to carry on the business by which means I have been comfortable supported My family including all numbers 18. The war of the United States has effected us much though inn this fare of[f] land. every thing very scarce and very high. The affliction caused by the war of the united states have been very great. Yet we cannot but regard it as the means employed by God to break the strong bond of Slavery. Many means was employed by God in Egypt to free Israel from bondage.—but none availed untill blood was shed. Many means have resorted in the united states to let Ethiopia go but nothing would avail untill blood was shed. Who can fight against the great God. I am happy to see by the last Emigration that our friends are looking towards Africa to be there home

I have long since been convinced in my own mind, that God who have divided the earth among the children of men, have designed that Ethiopia shall dwell in this part of the earth I long to see a potion at least of this vast country inhabited by an industrous christian people from the united states.—for my own part I have lived in the county for 13 years and have never had cause to regret for one moment of having chosen my residence in this land. may I bless God that my lot have been casted in these ends of the earth. I learn with deep regret by Mr Erskine of the death of your beloved son William. Rose joins me in the most hearty condolence with your self and familey please remember us both very kindly to Mrs Gurley and the children. In regard to Arlington be kind enough to write and inform us particular in regard to that place whether Mrs Lee is there & c & c You will confer a great favour on us by informing us in regard to the old people of Arlington particular my dear old Mother who I have not heard from for a long time. If there is any thing that I can do for the society at any time I should be happy to do so. Please write by every oppertunity and believe me most truly your friend

& Brother Wm. C. Burke2                      




1. Ralph Randolph Gurley (1797-1872), a Presbyterian minister, was a native of Connecticut and Yale graduate who was a leader of the American Colonization Society.

2. Burke, who was born a slave in 1819, moved with wife Rosabella and four children to Liberia in 1853. There, he became a Presbyterian minister and studied Latin and Greek.




Source: Photocopy of original letter, Mary Custis Lee Papers, Mss1 L51444 a 6354, Virginia Historical Society 

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 August 30