St. Augustine, Florida: 1828. Unbound. This four-page, stampless folded letter measures 15.5” x 9.75” unfolded. It is dated June 18, 1828 and addressed to the Reverend Charles F. Seidel at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The cover has scarce oval “St Augustine / E. Flo.” postmark in red dated June 19 and a manuscript “.25” indicating the postage rate from mail sent over 400 miles. The letter is complete and intact. Splits have started along some of the folds; and a chip is missing where the wax seal was broken. In this letter to the Bethlehem Female Seminary, Gibbs repeatedly assures that a newly enrolled orphan’s bills will be paid using funds her adoptive widowed mother—a friend of Gibbs—receives from hiring out slaves to a local farmer: "We hope Margaret will improve knowing as she does the sacrifice her maternal Friend makes to her own personal comforts for . . . the lasting benefits of her adopted child. . . . Be not uneasy as to prompt payment as the parties concern’d have character & principles & you shall receive your next quarter as soon as the Gent to who the Negroes are hired answers Mr. Gibbs letter. The money & more due to Mrs Ashe & will be remitted to you. Be not mistaken Margaret is born of honest Parents, her Father lost his prudence and fell victim to intemperance. Her mother was one among the pious & died a Triumphing Christian, in these last moments the kind & religious Mrs Ashe receiv’d to her bosom this child. . . . Mrs Ashe would not give an Education unsupported . . . & unless Death removes the Negroes allotted to her she will have sufficient to maintain her. . . . Had you a person in Charleston to receive there payments, they could be more easily be made as our communication with that City is regular by both Water & Land – Also many robberies are committed by mail that from this isolated spot the risque is great. . . . This evening the Gent who employs the Negroes of Mrs Ashe & who lives about 40 miles from here will be written to. . . . Your seminary reciev’d several children from Brooklyn N.Y. with whose Parents I was intimate & this induc’d me to recommend it to Mrs Ashe." Very good. Item #008896
The Bethlehem Female Seminary was the first Protestant boarding schools for girls established in what would become the United States and traces its roots back to Countess Benigna Zinzendorf who founded it in 1742. Although it began as an elementary institution, by 1800 it was recognized as one of the finest secondary schools in the country. Its motto was “When you educate a woman, you educate an entire family,” and its curriculum included both liberal academics and practical household teachings. Charles F. Seidel served as its director 1822 to 1836. Over time the seminary morphed into several incarnations, and today it is a full-fledged liberal arts college, Moravian College. A scarce document attesting to the generosity of neighbors in East Florida, one of the most remote parts of the early United States, who ensured a quality education for a young white orphan girl using proceeds earned from African-American slave labor. Made all the more desirable by a rarely found St. Augustine postmark.