Emlen, Samuel, 1730-1799

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Samuel Emlen was a minister who travelled extensively on religious missions. His wife and family remained in the Philadelphia vicinity.

From the description of Letters, 1772-1797. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122524471

The Dillwyn and Emlen family was joined in 1795 when Susanna Dillwyn married Samuel Emlen, Jr. Both the Dillwyn and Emlen families were prominent in early America as Quakers and advocates for abolition.

William Dillwyn was born in Philadelphia on July 21, 1743, the son of John Dillwyn and Susanna Painter. According to Clarkson, William Dillwyn was “a pupil of the venerable [Anthony] Benezet, who took pains very early to interest his feeling on [abolition],” (Clarkson). A Quaker merchant, Dillwyn married Sarah Logan Smith (1749-1769) on May 19, 1768 in Burlington County, New Jersey. On March 31, 1769, their daughter, Susanna, was born, and roughly a month later, Sarah died.

In 1772, William Dillwyn traveled (by Benezet’s arrangement) to Carolina to further study slavery, which was “of great use … in fixing him as the friend of these oppressed people, for he saw so much of their cruel treatment in the course of it, that he felt an anxiety ever afterwards, amounting to a duty to do everything in his power for their relief,” (Clarkson). By 1773, he, along with Richard Smith and Daniel Wells, wrote Brief considerations on slavery, and the expediency of its abolition: with some hints on the means whereby it may be gradually effected .

In 1774, he traveled to England in order to campaign against slavery. In 1777, he married Sarah Weston, making his stay in England permanent, and they lived at Higham Lodge, Walthamstow, Essex. Throughout his time in England, he helped to establish an anti-slavery committee in London in 1787 and toured parts of England and South Wales. In 1783, The case of our fellow-creatures, the oppressed Africans, respectfully recommended to the serious consideration of the legislature of Great-Britain, by the people called Quakers, was published, with William Dillwyn as author along with John Lloyd and Anthony Benezet. In 1803, he wrote, with Mary and Joshua Cresson, Meditations written during the prevalence of the yellow fever in the city of Philadelphia, in the year 1793: which proved fatal to upwards of 4000 of its inhabitants . During one of his tours of South Wales in 1807, he purchased the lease of the Cambrian Pottery, Swansea, Glamorganshire from George Haynes, who continued to manage the pottery works. William Dillwyn and Sarah Weston Dillwyn were the parents of eight children. He died, aged 81, on September 28, 1824 and was buried in the Friends’ Burial Ground in Tottenham, Middlesex.

William’s daughter from his marriage to Sarah Logan Smith, Susanna, was born on March 31, 1769 in Houghton, New Jersey, about a month before her mother died. She was raised in Burlington, New Jersey at Oxmead by her aunt Susanna Dillwyn Cox with the additional family support of her uncle and aunt, George and Sarah Hill Dillwyn who were travelling Quaker ministers. On April 16, 1795, Susanna, frequently called Susan or Sukey, married Samuel Emlen, Jr. (1766-1837) and they lived in Philadelphia. They moved to Burlington, to a newly built home, West Hill, during the 1797 yellow fever epidemic. Like William Dillwyn and his own father, Samuel Emlen, Susanna’s husband was “an influential Friend himself [and] concerned himself particularly with the issues of slavery and Indian affairs within the Society of Friends,” (Leavitt, page 70). As a result of their Quaker community, business connections, and extensive family relations, the Emlen household resulted in “a close-knit circle of family and friends, radiating outward from Susan Emlen’s home at West Hill to Burlington, Philadelphia, and England,” (Leavitt, page 71).

Towards the end of 1813, at the age of 44, Susanna discovered a tumor in her breast; and after some time of deliberation, determined that she needed to seek professional medical help. On June 4, 1814, the tumor was removed by five doctors: Philip Syng Physick (Susanna’s brother-in-law), John Syng Dorsey (serving as principal surgeon), [Caspar] Wistar, Joseph Parrish and Dr. Tucker, and a nurse at the Dillwyn home. Susanna recovered from the surgery, despite several lingering issues such as weakness in her left arm and “pain in the operative scar,” (Aronowitz, page 34). In 1816, the Emlens traveled to England to visit William Dillwyn and his family. While in England, Susanna discovered that a new tumor had appeared. According to Robert A. Anonowitz, “further surgery was not an option that she wanted to seriously consider,” and instead opted for “mind therapies like warmed sea water, vigilance, and carful observation,” (Anonowitz, page 38). Eventually, a more stringent approach was seen as necessary, and Susanna was treated with compression therapy. The Emlens returned to New Jersey during the summer of 1818, her health declining until her death on November 24, 1819.

Samuel Emlen, Jr. lived until 1837. During his life, he served as assistant clerk to the Burlington Monthly Meeting from 1800 to 1806 and as clerk to the meeting from 1807 to 1814. At the time of his death in 1837, Samuel Emlen, Jr. “established a trust of $20,000 for an agricultural school, The Emlen Institute for the Benefit of Children of African and Indian Descent,” (Leavitt, page 70). The school was originally located in Ohio, but moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


Aronowitz, Robert A. Unnatural History: Breast Cancer and American Society . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Clarkson, Thomas. The History of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament, 2 volumes . London: L. Taylor, 1808.

Leavitt, Judith Walzer. Women and Health in America: Historical Readings . Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

From the guide to the Dillwyn and Emlen family correspondence, 1770-1818, (Library Company of Philadelphia)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Dillwyn and Emlen family correspondence, 1770-1818 Library Company of Philadelphia
referencedIn Bringhurst, James, 1730-1810. Papers, 1783-1802. Haverford College Library
creatorOf Emlen, Samuel, 1730-1799. Letter. 6 of 12 mo. 1779, Philad[elphia, Pa.] to Charles Moore & wife [Milcah Martha Moore]. Haverford College Library
creatorOf Anna Wharton Wood collection, 1741-1853 Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
creatorOf Biddle, Clement, 1740-1814. Emlen-Jones family papers, ca. 1767 - ca. 1976. Haverford College Library
creatorOf Samuel Emlen letters, 1772-1797 Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Diaries, 1735-1807 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Jackson-Conard family papers, 1748-1910 Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bringhurst, James, 1730-1810. person
acquaintanceOf Catharine Phillips, 1727-1794 person
associatedWith Dillwyn, George, 1738-1820. person
relativeOf Dillwyn, William, 1743-1824 person
parentOf Emlen, Samuel, approximately 1765-1837 person
spouseOf Emlen, Sarah. person
parent-in-law of Emlen, Susanna Dillwyn, 1769-1819 person
acquaintanceOf Fothergill, Samuel, 1715-1772 person
acquaintanceOf Jones, Rebecca, 1739-1817 person
memberOf Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia corporateBody
memberOf Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia for the Northern District corporateBody
associatedWith Moore, Charles, 1724-1801. person
associatedWith Moore, Milcah Martha, 1740-1829. person
acquaintanceOf Neale, Mary, 1717-1757 person
acquaintanceOf Neale, Samuel, 1729-1792 person
acquaintanceOf Woolman, John, 1720-1772 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
England ENG GB
Ireland 00 IE
Philadelphia PA US
Indians of North America
Society of Friends
Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
Voyages and travels
Native Americans
United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
Lay ministry--Society of Friends
Society of Friends--Clergy
Yellow fever


Birth 1730-03-26

Death 1799-12-30




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