Ohio History Journal

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Life was hard and toilsome in the early years of Ohio statehood for those

souls who left warm eastern firesides and crossed the Alleghenies into the

new western land. In the first years of their settling, long hours of work and

the necessities of bare existence left little time for correspondence with fam-

ily and friends. The letters that have been preserved show the writers to be

unusually literate for the time and place, and they take on added significance

in view of their scarcity. An unusual correspondent during this period was

the Quaker lady, Anna Briggs Bentley. Her voluminous collection of let-

ters with family and friends in Sandy Springs, Maryland, gives a rare pic-

ture from a woman's viewpoint of pioneer life of a family newly arrived on

their homestead and of their struggle to make the virgin land bloom.

Anna Briggs, daughter of Hannah Brooke and Isaac Briggs, was born in

Sandy Springs, Montgomery County, Maryland in 1796. Her father was a

prominent engineer and a member of the Sandy Springs Monthly Meeting

(Society of Friends) . He travelled extensively as engineer and surveyor with

particular interest in canals and western land. Except for a short sojourn in

Wilmington, Delaware, in 1813-15, members of the family remained on the

estate, "Sharon," which continued in the family's possession until its sale

in 1910.

Anna grew up with five sisters and two brothers, Isaac, Jr. and William

Henry. Theirs was a tightly knit family circle drawn closer by their Quaker

faith and the continual absence of their father. Anna was especially close to

her sister Sarah, who in 1830 married James Pleasants Stabler, postmaster of

Sandy Springs. Sarah and her husband moved into the great house at

"Sharon" in 1837, and the sister remained there until her death in 1886.