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A Colonial Wedding Trip Up Mt. Penn

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A Story of 1770, Written by the Famous Lawyer and Publicist, John Dickinson, Who Refused to Sign the Declaration of Independence.

The earliest account of a honeymoon trip to the White Spot, Mt. Penn, Reading, appears in the “life and writings of John Dickinson,” of the Revolutionary War fame. Dickinson married pretty Mary (“Polly”) Norris, in Philadelphia, 1770. The bride lived in the magnificent country home of the Norris family, at Fairhill. The seat was one of the finest near Philadelphia. They were married very quietly, as Dickinson was thoroughly disgusted with the prevailing custom of “kissing the bride,” and “escorting the bridegroom to the bridal chamber.” He also politely asked the newspapers merely to print two lines about the secret wedding, which took place July 19, 1770. Only a few attended. The bridal pair visited a few Quaker friends in August, and then took up their bridal trip to Reading. After they had arrived here, the groom wrote the following letter.

Reading, Sept. 20, 1770. To Mrs. Mary Norris; My Dear Aunt:

We arrived here yesterday at dusk, pretty well tired and in pretty good spirits. Tuesday we dined with your worthy tenant at Norrington, who, with his wife, gave us a very kind reception. That night we got to the Yellow Springs. We brought some of the water away with us, but Polly complains that it makes her eyes smart, so that I believe she will not use it any more.

Yesterday we set off for this place. Part of the day afforded us most delightful prospects, with which my dear companion was extremely pleased. Some part of the road was hilly, crooked, stony, stumpy. She bore all the jolts like a philosopher. We dined at Pottsgrove, and among “memorable things” it may be put down as one, that after proper respect paid to a beefsteak, somebody desired an egg to be poached. Cousin H. may add as another remarkable fact that yesterday completed two months of marriage without one quarrel.

We are in good quarters here, and therefore have stopped here this day; I can’t say rested, for at one we went in the carriage about half-way up a mountain (some people call it a hill) near this town, but the road becoming very rough, we undertook the remainder of the jaunt on foot. Steep and stony the ascent - a mere type of a virtuous life, and that, everybody knows, is grievous enough to our frail natures for a while, but most charming to the happy folks who persevere to the top. In this the similitude still held, for when we had clambered up to a great height a mere Paradise presented itself to our eyes. We wished for you Cousin H., and Cousin H. G. to enjoy the prospect, the last to describe it. When we return we will be more particular; at present we cannot, for though I verily believe it is as high and as pleasant as Parnassus, yet we did not find a single Muse sauntering upon it.

Tomorrow we proceed for Carlisle, which I expect to reach on Saturday. I told Polly my design to go there today. She cheerfully consented. In short, she is a most excellent traveler. With her every disagreeable thing in travelling is tolerable, and everything not disagreeable is pleasing.

She is now lolling, and I am writing in a great hurry, every moment expecting a gentleman, who left his compliments while I was out, and promised to call again.

Please to present my love to all at Fairhill, Somerville, Bellville, and to your dear little (blank). My Polly presents her love to you and all those just mentioned. I am, my dear aunt, your very affectionate nephew and most obedient servant,

John Dickinson.

Polly desires this letter may be sent forward to Bellville. Witness her hand the day and year aforesaid.


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