Dr. Thomas Ruston Papers

Collection Title: Dr. Thomas Ruston Papers

Collection Number: 149

Dates of Collection: 1728-1922

Box Numbers: 2 Boxes (25 Folders)

RepositoryChester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA

Language: English

Project Archivist: Margaret Miles Baillie


Thomas Ruston was born in 1742, in Upper Oxford Township, Chester County, to Job and Mary Ruston.  Thomas was the first of twelve children.  His parents emigrated from Berwick, England, and settled in Faggs Manor in 1738, on land purchased from Letitia Penn.   Job Ruston, a burgess while in Wales, established Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Londonderry Township, Chester County.  During the French and Indian War, Job commanded a company from Chester County.  Thomas’ mother Mary died June 19, 1757, his father died January 1785.

Thomas was educated at Nottingham Academy and then pursued medical studies at the College of New Jersey (Princeton), graduating in 1762.  After a year of medical work with the British Army in Philadelphia, he sailed for England, finishing his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh in 1765, becoming, it is said, the first American to do so.  Upon graduation, he remained in England and became Head Surgeon at Devon and Exeter Hospital.   He married Mary Fisher of London in 1771.

In 1785, he returned to Philadelphia with Mary and their three children, Thomas Jr., Charlotte and Mary.  They entertained guests at their home at 8th and Chestnut Streets and Thomas, jr., attended the University of Pennsylvania.  The daughters enjoyed occasional invitations to balls and Dr. Ruston observed the financial markets of Philadelphia and London and invested money in land purchases.

Throughout this time he was also responsible for the running of his father’s property and mill business in Oxford, Chester County.  Documents in the collection seem to reflect a lackadaisical attitude toward finances as they include the continual pleas of  accountant John Parke requesting Ruston to come to Oxford to look at the books and handle a few of the more difficult clients. Eventually, Ruston tries to sell his land purchases, but defaults on surety payments and ends up in jail. He is released.  Later, the Upper Oxford mill and farm were sold by the sheriff to James McDowell in 1798.

Dr. Ruston appears to have kept in touch with the medical community in Philadelphia as he wrote “A Collection of Facts Interspersed with Observations on the Nature, Causes, and Cure of the Yellow Fever.  Part 1 in a series of letters addressed to the inhabitants of the United States” in 1804.  It is said that he was friends with Dr. Benjamin Rush, but like so many at that time, disagreed over the treatment of Yellow Fever during Philadelphia’s epidemic in 1793. 

Collections Scope:

The collection spans the years 1728 to 1922.  The bulk of the collection is correspondence – between family and friends, as well as business correspondence. The collection also includes: poetry, receipts, bonds, drawing of floor of mill, advertisement of reward for capture of burglar, invitations, estimate of cost of bridge over Elk at Ruston’s Ford, etc.

Topics include: family life, business, politics, history (title) of Fagg’s Manor, milling, medicine, etc.

Collection Arrangement:

When initially added to CCHS’s manuscript collection, each document was assigned a unique consecutive number and filed in approximately chronological order.  That order has been retained for this collection.

The individual manuscript numbers listed in this guide date from the original arrangement and are no longer used. (They are listed for in-house reference purposes only.) Researchers should use box and folder numbers when requesting documents.

Related Material:

Additional manuscripts connected to the Ruston family include a letter from James Logan to surveyor John Taylor regarding the sale of Faggs Manor to Job Ruston (see the Taylor, Harris, Roman, Frazer, and Smith families’ papers, 1683-1980 (Ms. Coll. 150)).

See also the newspaper clippings file for family information as well as information on Upper Oxford Township, Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church and Nottingham Academy.

In 1922, John F. Lewis, Esq., donated twenty-seven documents of Thomas Ruston to the College of Physicians in Philadelphia.  The finding aid is on line and can be viewed at www.collphyphil.org under the library/manuscripts heading.

The Library Company of Philadelphia has a copy of Dr. Ruston’s book on yellow fever published in 1804 and a letter from Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Ruston in regards to chimney smoke.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has Thomas Ruston’s travel diary in which he describes a trip to Paris.  His account books are with the Coxe Family manuscript collection.

Court documents relating to Dr. Ruston’s land purchases and his father’s will are online at www.justia.us/us.

There are letters from George Washington and Hugh Williamson in the University of Virginia collections   Ruston is referenced in The History of Delaware County by Henry Graham Ashmead.

Collections Contents:

Series I – Donation Letter and Documents 1728-1922

Box 1 – Folder 1

No. 1014:         Letter, typed,, July 28, 1922 from John F. Lewis to CCHS indicating donation of Dr. Thomas Ruston’s papers.

Box 1 – Folder 2

No. 1015:        Document, September 17, 1728.  Record of Job Ruston elected and sworn as a Burgess of the city of Monmouth, Wales.  Indicates his membership in Parliament and right to vote.

Box 1 – Folder 3

No. 1016:        Letter, Boston, September 11, 1795, in answer for an item for sale.

No. 1017:        Document titled “At the Court at Kensington” and, August 29, 1759.  It references grievances of the Delaware Indians made to the King by Benjamin Franklin, Esq., Agent appointed by the Assembly of Pennsylvania. Incomplete?

No. 1018:        Poem. “June 1st addressed to Mr. S,” poem of a jilted lover “by the Honorable Miss B, sister to Lord (?)”

No. 1019:        Land Tax Receipt from Great Britain, October 26, 1762, paid by Mr. Thomas (?), received by William Peacock, Personal Collector.  Printer’s ad at bottom of receipt with advertisements for books on the back.

Series II – Manuscripts 1763-1785 College Life and Life in England

Box 1 – Folder 4

No. 1020:        Letter to Dr. Finley, president of Princeton College, from T. Ruston, February 26, 1763.  Discusses advice Dr. Finley had given to students at the college and contemplates his future.

No. 1021:        Photocopy of original note, an addition to above letter? Undated.

Box 1 – Folder 5

No. 1022:        Letter to Aunt, Mrs. Mary Wilkinson, in Worcester from T. Ruston in Edinburgh, February 20, 1764.  Recounts his journey and current life as a student.

No. 1023:        Letter to Aunt(s), Mrs. Mary Wilkinson, in the Forgate Street., Worcester, from T. Ruston in Edinburgh, October 2, 1764.  Discusses family and school.  Indicates his sister is “expected to lye in of a season, sometime in the month of August.”

Box 1 – Folder 6

No. 1024:        Letter to Aunt(s), Mrs. Wilkinson at Mrs. Prustons in Forgate Street, Worcester, from T. Ruston in Oxford, March 29, 1763.  He tells of being excited about coming to England and says he didn’t come right after graduation as he was “employed by the King, to take care of those poor soldiers that….”

Box 1 – Folder 7

Nos. 1025-1028:          Letter to “Honored Sir”(his father), from T. Ruston, London, December 14, 1765.  Relates the need for money, his completion of his studies and graduation.  Continues letter on January 31, 1766, explains to father the difficulty of making a living as a physician in Philadelphia and New York and gives reasons why.

Nos. 1029-1031:          Letter to “Honored and Dear Sir” (his father), from T. Ruston, London, February 28, 1767.  Tells of friendship with a Dissenter and how he came to meet his future wife.  Latter part of letter includes more explanation on his finances and “requests for remittances.”

No. 1032:        Letter from London to “Dear Sir,” December 1765.  On back of letter there seem to be notes on various medical treatments.  Mentions opium treatment, St. Vitus Dance and bark blisters.

Box 1 – Folder 8

No. 1033:        Letter to Dr. Ruston, London, from William Johnston, February 23, 1771.  Wedding congratulations and an invitation.

No. 1034:         Receipt from Mr. William Fisher to Richard Glover, December 20, 1773.

Box 1 – Folder 9

No. 1035:        Letter to Dr. Ruston from (Monsieur Williams?), Paris, August 22, 1776.  Letter appears censored as many items inked out.  Discusses “political state of the maritime states on this continent” and mentions Sugar Islands.  At end of letter, there is a section addressed to Mrs. Ruston describing Paris social life, mentions seeing Tristram Shandy’s story.  Typed transcript of letter in folder.

Box 1 – Folder 10

No. 1036:        Receipt from Mr. Fisher for the Laudable Society for the Benefit of Widows, April 9, 1777.

No. 1037:        Receipt, April 10, 1777, from Robert Chester’s Rectory for payment of tenths.

No. 1038:        Letter to Mrs. Hannah Warkman, Glouster, England from T. Ruston, December 27, 1777.  Includes photocopy of original and transcribed portion of letter in regards to Revolutionary War and expresses concern with General Howe’s route.  Original is very faded.

Series III – Manuscripts 1783-1807 Life in Philadelphia

Box 1 – Folder 11

No. 1039:        Handwritten copy of bond in reference to payment from James (N?)ourse, Richmond, November 1, 1787.  Written by Benj. Harrison (1786) “Qun. Esq.”

No. 1040:        Receipt for subscription to Columbian Magazine for July 1788-December 1788, paid by William Fisher, Esq., received by William Spotswood.

No. 1041:        Handwritten copy of articles and money columns from London Evening Post, 1783.  Includes exchange rates of foreign currency at Philadelphia.  Dated October 21, 1783.

No. 1042:        Receipt for purchase of wine at a vendue by Morgan O’Brian.  Received payment by William Fisher to Dan Vardon, “Morgan O’Brien’s Account.”  Dated May 24, 1788.

Box 1 – Folder 12

No. 1043:           History of the title of Fagg’s Manor as stated by Israel Morris circa 1788.  “Brief of the Title of Fagg’s Manor as given me by Joseph Morris” June 22nd.  “..from L. Aubery (sp.) 1682 to John Fagg in trust for Lady Gulialana (sp.) Marie Penn for the yearly amount of a beaverskin for 5000 acres if demanded (Recorded Phila. Patent Book A Vol. 3….) [she] divided real estate to…”

No. 1044:        Receipt for subscription to the Columbian Magazine or Monthly Miscellany by Dr. Ruston, 1789.

Box 1 – Folder 13

Nos. 1045-1047:  “Observations on his stream of water” by Dr. Ruston, November 16, 1789.  No. 1046 is a drawing titled, “Section of the Wheel.”  No. 1047 signed December 12, 1789 by Joseph Barnes.

No. 1048:        Plan of A Mill.  Ink drawing of a floor plan for a mill.

Box 1 – Folder 14

No. 1049:        Letter from Mary Ruston at Philadelphia to her daughters, October 6, 1790.  She relates dining with Captain McDowell and talks of a pet monkey.  Writes about getting poultry and ducks for her new yard.  Expresses dismay over cook leaving and how she needs a new one.  Also mentions coach repairs and cost of clothing, etc.

No. 1050:         Letter from Mary Ruston at Philadelphia to her daughters, October 23, 1790.  She discusses the arrival of a new cook and mentions her “good syllabubs and custards” as well as her personality, etc.  She gives instructions as to what to leave and bring from the house (Oxford?) when they come and to “give Thomas fifty kisses for me.”

No. 1051:        Receipt for trees for T. Ruston, October 25, 1790, “21 Pennock trees…”

No. 1052:        Receipt for 7 ¾ shares Bank U.S., September 1, 1792.  Dr. Ruston to Clement Biddle.  “Clem. Biddle’s acct. agt. Dr. Ruston”

No. 1053:        Receipt for surveying lot on corner of Chestnut and Eighth Streets for Dr. Ruston by James Pearson of J. Jearson and Thomas Nevell, February 21, 1793.

No. 1054:        Letter to Mrs. Ruston from teacher Joseph. D. Hamlin regarding three months of schooling for her daughters, June 28, 1793.

Box 1 – Folder 15

No. 1055:         Receipt, Thomas and William G. Latimer’s, August 13, 1793.

No. 1056:        Receipt from John Jayne for 400 acres land in Delaware Township, Northampton County, February 14, 1793.  Note written on end “August 19, 1794 Assigned to Thomas Ruston.”  Back has signatures.

No. 1057:        Receipt for hauling wheat to Dr. Ruston’s, October 27, 1795.

No. 1058:        Letter from William Wister to T. Ruston for payment on bank notes, January 23, 1795.

Box 1 – Folder 16

No. 1059:        Letter from James Clayland in regards to examining the land Dr. Ruston purchased, August 10, 1795.

No. 1060:        Collections notice to Dr. Ruston by Edward Smith and Co., March 14, 1795.

No. 1061:        Letter, April 25, 1795, from John Parke, East Nottingham to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia requesting him to come down and help clear up accounts at East Nottingham.  He discusses vendue and inability to find some people that need to pay up.  Manuscript seems to indicate that Mr. Parke has been appointed auditor for the Ruston Mill.

No. 1062:        Letter from James McCalley to Dr. Ruston requesting payment for surveying fees to Charles and David Evans, May 4, 1795.

Box 1 – Folder 17

No. 1063:        Receipt, May 4, 1795, for yearly subscription to Library Company, Philadelphia, John Parker Norris, Treasurer.

No. 1064:        Letter from John Parke, East Nottingham, to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia, May 12, 1795.  Detailed accounts of the mill and also mentions account books of saw mill and toll grain. (toll:  a proportion of grain or flour taken by the miller in payment for grinding.)

No. 1065:        Letter from John Parke, East Nottingham, to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia concerning his accounts, June 6, 1795.  Mentions James Strawbridge and discusses land Dr. Ruston purchased in Northumberland.  He offers his services there and requests a patent for his own land bought in Luzerne County.

Box 2 – Folder 1

No. 1066:        Letter from Samuel Swan, Boston, to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia, August 21, 1795.  Explains that he won’t buy 350 acres in Georgia Dr. Ruston offered him for purchase.

No. 1067:        Letter from Samuel Swan, Boston, to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia, August 23, 1795.  Mentions Georgia lands, three townships, and squatters.

No. 1068:        Letter from James Clayland, at Indian Queen, to Dr. Ruston, August 28, 1795.  Discusses payment of taxes and services rendered.  “The bearer will wait for a line from you.”

No. 1069:        Letter from William Wistar to Dr. Ruston, September 3, 1795, about payment of bond.

No. 1070:        Cover for letter from John Swan, Boston, to Dr. Ruston, Chestnut Street, September 4, 1795.

Box 2 – Folder 2

No. 1071:        Letter from Eben W. Judd, New York, to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia, September 4, 1795.  Discusses a special bail.  Mentions Mr. S. Coates being part of a bond Mr. Judd and Mr. Freeman sold to him.

No. 1072:        Letter from John Parke to Dr. Ruston, September 16, 1795.  Discusses possible mishandling of funds by John Hever.

No. 1073:        Letter from Dr. Ruston to D. Pascaly (D’Pascalis?), September 27, 1795.  Letter tells him to stop harassing his family.

No. 1074:        Letter from William Shiree’s land office to Dr. Ruston, September 30, 1795.  Discusses surveyor omitting date of survey of 242,000 acres.

No. 1075:        Receipt from Blackburn, register of the Canal, Lottery Tickets, October 27, 1795, purchased by Dr. Ruston.

No. 1076:        Letter from Eben W. Judd, Windsor, VT., to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia, October 31, 1795.  About sale of Dr. Ruston’s land.

Box 2 – Folder 3

No. 1077:        Letter from James B. Sharpes, Waynesboro, Georgia, to Dr. Ruston, Philadelphia, November 10, 1795.  Discusses death of Dr. John Ruston on September 9, 1795, and what is happening to his estate in Georgia. 

No. 1078:        Letter from John Parke to Dr. Ruston, November 18, 1795.  Discusses advertisement against Hever’s actions.  Local names and business.

No. 1079:        Receipt for one year subscription to Library Company of Philadelphia, May 27, 1796.

(No. 1080 not part of this collection)

No. 1081:        Receipt for tuition and listed supplies for son Thomas at the University of Pennsylvania, November 1, 1796.     

Box 2 – Folder 4

No. 1082:        Letter to Miss B. Dawson, Charleston, SC from Mary Oxley, November 17, 1796.  Discusses recent trip to Charleston and sickness on the way back.  Mentions Sir John Nesbitt.

No. 1083:        Receipt for yearly subscription to the Library Company of Philadelphia, May 9, 1797.

No. 1084:        Letter to Mrs. Ruston from S. Eglinton, August 28, 1797.  Family and political reports about France from friend to Mrs. Ruston.  “By the Cartaret Packet September 13, 1797,” on front.

No. 1085:        Receipt for tavern bill for “Mr. Slough,” Lancaster, October 20, 1797.  Itemizes breakfast, lodgings for man and horse.

Box 2 – Folder 5

No. 1086:        Letter from Wilmington, April 21, 1800.  In regards to being acquainted with all that happened in order to proceed in Chapter 7.

No. 1087:         Receipt for Wheat from James Donville(?), January 4, 1805. 

No. 1088:        Receipt for dance lessons for son Thomas, May 16, 1806, from the estate of Dr. Ruston to Stephen Sicard, teacher, for the time ending February 22, 1803.

No. 1089:        Printed page from Rathbone, Hughes and Duncan, Liverpool, January 3, 1807.  Subject of document includes Decree of the King of Holland against English shipping and the effects on commodities and their prices.  This document is addressed to Edward Wilson, Philadelphia.

No. 1090:        Letter fragment, undated.

Box 2 – Folder 6

No. 1091:        Medical notes, undated, on obstetrics and cardiology with a note saying “Lewenhoc says…” [Leeuwenhoek?]

No. 1092:        No document.  Black wax seal with a lion (?) on it. 

No. 1093:        Thank you note, to Dr. Ruston from Sir John Wynn, Richmond,, August 28, 1769.

No. 1094:        Document with bylaws, related to the Bank of North American concerning the state of the bank, meetings and notices. 

No. 1095:        “Notice sur John  Adams,” in French.  An account of the Treaty of Alliance, the negotiations for peace and commerce with Britain and America which took place in France, as well as other meetings of Americans in France.  The last date mentioned in the manuscript is 1790.  Names in the manuscript are Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, Arthur Lee, and Thomas Jefferson.

Series IV – Undated Manuscripts:  Mary Ruston Letters, Political and Financial Manuscripts

Box 2 – Folder 7

No. 1096:        Letter to daughter Mary, July 25th, no year, which seems to be from her mother.  Report of travel of friends, and health.  Talks of “slaves being free.”

No. 1097:        Letter, undated, to Job Ruston, Philadelphia, from Thomas Ruston regarding the Stamp Act.  Closes with family references (brother, etc.).

No. 1098:        Letter to Miss Mary Ruston, undated, from Charlotte Ruston and Thomas and Mary Ruston.  News of family and acquaintances including marriage of Miss Susan Blair to “Gen. Roberdeau’s son last week” (this would put the letter in the 1790s) and others.  Many names listed.  She asks Mary to bring her two tuckers to town.

No. 1099:        Letter from (?) Dr. Williamson at Paris concerning the financial and military status of France.

No. 1100:        Letter, undated, to daughter Mary (?), from “Mary Ruston and her little Daughter Charlotte.”  Mentions wanting the coach and to get outside.

Box 2 – Folder 8

No. 1101:        Estimate of the expense of building a bridge over the Elk at Ruston’s Ford, undated.

No. 1102:        Letter to Miss Mary Ruston, Market Street.  Invitation to the Miss Rustons to a ball, January 19, no year, by Miss S. McKean.

No. 1103:        Advertisement, Wednesday, October 22, no year, for reward for capture of suspected burglar of Dr. Ruston’s home at Fagg’s Manor and James White’s business.

No. 1104:        Letter from Paris, October 6, 1783, regarding payment of Caisse d’Icompte (Caisse d’Escompte or “The Case of Discount”) via a lottery.

No. 1105:        Envelope for a letter to Miss Ruston, S. 8th Street #93, Philadelphia.