[letter from Walter S. Milnor b:1914]

December 17, 1951

My dear Jim and Theresa[1]:

            Immediately must I apologize for not answering your letter earlier but for one of the rare times in my lifetime I have been miserable with a touch of the flu which has left me with a very tiresome cough, then in addition, the weather has been very severe making it very difficult for me to get around. To add to my embarrassment for failure to make prompt reply, I find myself the recipient of a wonderful case of the files, the size and flavor of which I have never experienced a parallel. They arrived early this week and both my wife and myself were amazed and we both wish to thank you sincerely. Just how we can reciprocate I don’t know at the moment.

            Edith[2] and I are much impressed with your three children[3], a regular set of st***, 14, 15 and 16 ˝ yo. And from their pictures, three separate dispositions and good keen high school intelligence. I’ll bet there are times when you have a handful!

            Your trip sounds intensely interesting with so much territory covered before the set in of winter. It has been several years since my wife and I covered much of the same territory together and during the interim she has been to Boston and back. I am now trying to induce her to go to Washington D.C. in January as she suffers so with the cold here and our daughter, Patricia[4], is very anxious to see her.

            Nearly every day I have been intending to go see my sister, Madeleine[5], and “borrow back” the family records which she took to make a typewritten set of copies. But I have not been able to make connection so the following is from my best memory:

            The original Milnors or Milners were brought over from Deal by William Penn sometime between his first trip and the immediate following two years. Extant records do not show who were on the various boats as much confusion existed at the sailings due a smallpox epidemic. The first boat containing 100 Quakers, the “Welcome” lost one-third by smallpox en route. In any event, the three Milnor brother emigrants arrived at what is now Chester between October1682 and October 1984. During this period Philadelphia grew to 300 houses and 2500 settlers! The brothers were first farmers in Bucks County, as far north, almost from Philadelphia as Chester is South. Later records show that one brother was later a councilman of the city of Philadelphia. There is no doubt but that the Quakers were much “pushed around” by the British during the Revolutionary War, many found their named occupations interfered with and were forced by circumstances to participate in lives far different from their normal choice. During the occupation of Philadelphia one of these Milnor descendants was operating a ferry from close to what is now Cherry Street over to ?????? where a small cluster of houses existed without material population growth for nearly 100 years. Later this ferry operator[6], my forebear, either a son or grandson of one of the three emigrant brothers, was a combination fisherman and ferryman. He was excommunicated from the Quaker church of Philadelphia for participation in the war. He was guilty of taking the firearms from drunken British soldiers while ferrying them over the Delaware, hiding the muskets between the deck and the ferry bottom by pushing them down a secret trap door. Later the muskets were turned over the Revolutionaries.

            Since many Quakers ????????? the ???? Milnors were undoubtedly direct descendants from the Philadelphia ferryman. So that as early as 1800, one hundred twenty-five years later we find the ????? in ????.

            The name Purvis was a family name of a very close friend of Mary Tyson my grandmother. This is also ??? of the name Sears. My father was ??? the middle name.  ???? to this friend. When I was born in Baltimore ???? made changing my father’s name from Walter S. Milnor Sr? and my son Walter S. Milnor III.

            Upon the recording of Social Security id, ?? numbers ??? dropped the Jr. and use ??. My son ?? ??? Milnor. ?? thus avoiding confusion of credits, invoices and banking in the same immediate community.

            Upon information received from the Milnors scattered over the mid East, my fraternal forebears are direct descendants from Isaac Milnor who lived in Bristol, Penn., in the 1690’s.

            I enclose two clippings from the Baltimore Sun, 1929, which I ask that you guard carefully and return to me. They represent the last I heard of my father and the last picture I have of him. You may have already seen the brief article, if not I thought you might be interested.

            What I have said in this letter is all that I can readily recall of the family history. When I recover my records I may be able to add to it.

            My wife at this writing is very sick with the flu and can not add a paragraph to this letter which she had expressed a strong desire to do.

            Knowing that you children will be “flat busted”” at Xmas time like all children are, having spent their entire allowance on Xmas, I enclose a dollar each for them which may save them, at least temporarily, mortgaging their allowance for a week in advance.

            Merry Christmas to all of you.

            [signature: Walter Milnor ?r.]


[1] James Purvis Milnor and his wife Theresa

[2] Edith Cowl, Walter Milnor’s wife.

[3] Nancy, Walter and Sue Milnor, children of James Purvis Milnor

[4] Patricia Milnor, daughter of Walter Milnor

[5] Madeleine Milnor, daughter of Walter Milnor b:1856

[6] James Milnor b: 1773 , not sure about this story…. his memoirs claim he helped General Washignton in the Revelutionary war? a 10 year old he would have been at the end of the war era…. young to be a ferry man?


Image of the letter, page 1

Image of the letter, page 2

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Image of the letter, page 4