Letters from Liberia to Kentucky

G.W. McElroy to Mary Owen Todd Russell Wickliffe, September 20, 1835
for Lucy Russell

Monrovia Liberia Sept 20th 1835

Mrs R. Wickliffe

Dear Madam,

A few days since I was called on by a girl who, it appears had heard that I was from Ky, and coming from that state herself, she took the liberty of introducing herself to my acquaintance. She told me her name was Lucy Russell and that she and her family with some others, whom I have since had the pleasure of seeing were emancipated by you. She had come 9 miles to see me hoping I should be able to tell her something about her "old mistress" and the family. I gladly gave her all the information I possessed relative to yourself and family. Tears of gladness ran down her cheeks when she heard in this distant land of your welfare. Her very countenance spoke lively gratitude as she talked of your kindness and benevolence to her. She likewise wished me to write to you for her, which I would gladly have done at the time but was compelled to defer it on account of feeble health, and even yet I am so feeble, that writing or any other exercise is laborious. You will therefore excuse my blundering fist and disjointed thoughts. From what Lucy told me which has been corroborated by the Gov and Col Physician She has been a great sufferer both in her person and family. When first attacked with the prevalent Fever of this Country, her situation was pitiable, all were taken simultaneously one not being able to help another, However they all recovered from the Fever; but her daughter [Sinthia died in 1836, see Alfred Russell's 1855 letter] and two eldest sons [Gilbert died in 1839] and were soon afterwards afflicted by sores or ulcers which are common in this climate and which if not promptly attended to will in a short time become incureable. Her daughter's ulcers were remarkably irratible and not having proper medical aid in time, her ease was soon disposed of as hopeless. The present Colonial Physician informed me that a greater sufferer he has never seen, and when he first visited her which was nearly a year since, he determined on amputating the limb as the only means then even with in the bounds of possibility of saving her life. He made the experiment, but she sunk under the operation and soon died. Her two eldest sons are still afflicted so much so that they are entirely disuited to perform any sort of manual labour. Lucy has never drawn any land. For several months past she was engaged as a cook at Caldwell for the poor and inform. A short time since she found a "man after her own heart" and married. She says now she soon expects to draw her lands and by Divine assistance, to raise enough to support her family. To each of her sons (who she said had not had a garment since they had been here except what she made for them by cutting up her own clothes) I sent a small present from my own scanty wardrobe. She expressed the strongest gratitude for the small present and departed charging me at the same time, "if I pleased do let Old Mistiss know how much I have suffered and how thankful I would be to receive any small present from her" I have since seen Milly she and Husband [George Crawford, who died in 1846, a year after Milly] are well and making a living. Her son [Alfred] I overtook a few evenings since returning from school. He I suppose is now a cripple for life though by the use of one Crutch he is able to walk about. I escorted him to give good heed to instruction. Should his life be spared he may be useful as a teacher. For this purpose he is now being educated.

But perhaps you would know something of the writer. All that I can now say of myself is that my name is McElroy, the first of June last I sailed from New York for this Coast. My object was two fold first to satisfy my own mind of the practicability of Colonizing free people of Colour here, and secondly to ascertain as far as possible some of the most eligible spots for erecting the standard of the Redeemer. As to the first point I am satisfied that the scheme is entirely practicable if well conducted. As to the latter, I am fully convinced that wide and effectual doors are here opened for missionary exertion, but my belief is that if Africa is ever to be converted it must be effected by the instrumentality of African Teachers and ministers. I think facts will warrant the conclusion that the white man cannot live here. I should be happy under other circumstances to dwell upon each of the above points, but time and strength fails me.

I hope Madam you will excuse the liberty a stranger has taken in addressing you. under other circumstances I should not, but my sympathy for Africa must be my apology,

Yours in the bonds of Christian Affection
G.W. McElroy

(Box39, Wickliffe-Preston Family Papers, University of Kentucky Special Collections and Archives)

Other Letters from Liberia

Introduction & Milly Crawford, 1833
Alfred Russell, 1855
Lucy Russell Briant, 1857

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Posted 12/28/97 by dolph@pop.uky.edu