Shee family papers

Collection 3154

1775-2009, undated; bulk 1775-1785
(0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box [5 folders])

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Shee, Bertles, 1742-1787.
Shee, Cecelia Parke.
Shee family papers
1775-2009, undated; bulk 1775-1785
0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box [5 folders]
Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Lori Cohen.
Mixed materials [Box]
Cecelia (circa 1750-1779) and John Parke (1755-1780) were the children of Thomas Parke of Kent County, Delaware. Around 1770, Cecelia married Bertles Shee. Cecelia lived in Philadelphia and Dover, Delaware. Both John Parke and Bertles Shee served in the Continental Army. This small collection of papers from the Shee family mostly consists of detailed letters Cecelia wrote to John in the army between July 1775 and February 1777. There are also genealogical notes, a copy of Bertles Shee's will, a letter concerning property in Ireland, a letter from John Chew concering Bertles Shee's debts, and a set of typed transciptions of most of the documents in the collection.

Preferred Citation note

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Shee family papers (Collection 3154), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Biographical/Historical note

John and Cecelia Parke were the children of Thomas and Ann Parke of Kent County, Delaware. John Parke was born in 1754, attended the Newark Academy (now the University of Delaware) and the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), studied law under Delaware lawyer and politican Thomas McKean, and, in the mid 1770s, joined the 2nd Battalion of the Philadelphia Militia. During his service, which included a promotion to lieutenant colonel of John Patton's Continental Regiment, he befriended generals Caeser Rodney and George Washington and fought in the battles of Long Island, Trenton, and Brandywine. He resigned from the military in 1778 and went to work as an author and poet. Among his published works are translations of Horace and a tribute to George Washington. John Parke died in 1789 in Dover, Delaware.

In 1769, Cecelia Parke married Bertles Shee (1742-1787) and the couple had one son, Parke McGannon Shee (1776-1862), and a daughter Cecelia. Bertles also served during the Revolutionary War as paymaster in John Patton's Continental regiment and lieutenant colonel of artillery. Cecelia resided in both Dover, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and died in the late 1770s.

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Scope and Contents note

This collection of papers from the Shee family is housed in one box (five folders) and spans the years 1775 to 1785. In Folder 2 are sixteen letters sent from Cecelia Parke Shee to John Parke between the years 1775 and 1777, though a few letters are not dated. Aside from the letters, there is a 2009 copy of transcriptions and notes from the donor (Folder 1), a few miscellaneous family papers, including a copy of Bertles Shee's will (Folder 3), miscellaneous clippings and genealogical notes on the Shee family from an unknown writer (Folder 4), and the original enclosure in which the papers were housed (Folder 5). Researchers are asked to please consult the transcriptions provided in Folder 1 before handling the original fragile documents in Folders 2, 3, and 4.

Though few in number, Cecelia's letters are detailed and touch upon numerous personal events, including visits with friends, such as Nancy Stocker, a woman apparently after John's affections, one Miss Sally Robinson, Thomas McKean, and Caesar Rodney. "Caesar Rodney has waited on me," she mentioned on 3 December 1775, "I am endeavoring to get him to settle our old account - he tries to shift it off." She also briefly mentions acquaintanceships with members of the Bradford, Wharton, and Willing families of Philadelphia. She also wrote about her husband, son, and family. "[I] have increased my family by two negroes a boy and a girl which Bertles took for bad debts" she wrote on 16 August 1775. In her letter of 20 July 1776, she praises her son, Parke Shee, "a very rakish name," she noted. "[A]nd the rogue has such sparkling eyes . . . every body says he is the finest [Philadelphian] they have ever seen." Another topic she mentioned frequently but in lesser detail was her health. In October 1776, both she and her husband were sick: "Mr. Shee continues in a very bad way - slow fevers – as for myself I am not much better than he – but I am used to the sickness - and my poor child I am obliged to wean for want of a nurse." In total, these letters offer incredible insights into the life of a well-to-do family from a woman who, though sometimes left alone (since Bertles also fought during the war), kept remarkable company and a clear mind despite her health problems.

Other notable items in the collection include a copy of Bertles Shee's will, dated 1778, in which he mentions his son Parke, a daughter Cecelia, and his “late wife;” an undated letter from John Chew concerning Bertles Shee's debts; and a 1789 letter from Richard Dolin to John Shee concerning property in Ireland. There is also a small collection of handwritten genealogical notes on the Shee and Parke families from an unknown writer, as well as two clippings that were found among the papers, one with the headline “Great Funeral of Washington Held Here;” the other is a copy of a poem or song with the title “The Delaware County Sketch of the late hubbub in Uncle Sam’s Mealtub.”

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania , 2010

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

Due to the fragile nature of the original documents in the collection, researchers are asked to first consult the transcriptions provided in Folder 1 before handling the original documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Thomas K. Yardley, 2009.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

An additional letter from Cecelia to John Parke, dated 6 August 1775, is in the Society autograph collection.

Letters from John Parke can be found in the Society autograph collection and the Simon Gratz autograph collection.

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Controlled Access Headings

Geographic Name(s)

  • Dover (Del.)--Social life and customs.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social life and customs--18th century.
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.

Personal Name(s)

  • Parke, John, 1754-1789.


  • Brothers and sisters--Correspondence.

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Kasier, Leo M. "The First American Translations of the 'Odes' and 'Epodes' of Horace," The Classical Journal 60, no. 5 (Feburary 1965), p. 220-330.

Thomas K. Yardley transcriptions and notes, 2009, Shee family papers (Collection 3154), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Transcriptions of Cecelia Parke Shee letters and additional notes by Thomas K. Yardley (2009)   1 item

1 1

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Cecelia Parke Shee letters to John Parke (1775-1777, undated)   16 items

1 2

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Miscellaneous family papers (1776, 1778, 1785, undated)   4 items

1 3

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Genealogical notes and miscellaneous clippings (undated)   3 items

1 4

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Original collection enclosures (undated)   1 item

1 5

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