Skip to main content

Sharpless Family Papers

Identifier: SFHL-MSS-040

Scope and Contents

The papers were separated into three series:

  1. Series 1: Joshua Sharpless family, 1792-1812
  2. Series 2: Jesse Sharpless family, 1806-1892
  3. Series 3: Miscellaneous


  • Creation: 1792-1892


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Friends Historical Library believes all of the items in this collection to be in the Public Domain in the United States, and is not aware of any restrictions on their use. However, the user is responsible for making a final determination of copyright status before reproducing. See

Biographical / Historical

The collection includes correspondence, journals, writing and miscellaneous papers from two branches descended from Joseph and Lydia (Lewis) Sharpless, Quakers of Pennsylvania who married under the care of Radnor Monthly Meeting in 1704. They had ten children, all of whom married. Their son Benjamin Sharpless (1709-1785) married first Edith Broom and secondly Martha Mendenhall. Benjamin and Martha's son, Joshua Sharples (1746/7-1826), was a Quaker minister. He married Edith Yarnall, also a Quaker minister. Joshua and Edith's son, Joshua Sharpless (1779-1860), married Philadelphia Drinker in 1808. She was the daughter of Joseph Drinker (d. 1809) a member of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting who spoke out at Meeting in 1795 against racism.

Jacob Sharpless (1722-1775) was a younger son of Joseph and Lydia Sharpless, and he married Ann Blakey. Their son Jesse Sharpless (1759-1832) married Joanna Townsend in 1784, and they had ten children, eight surviving to maturity. Jesse Sharpless began as a saddler and then became a Philadelphia merchant. Their son Townsend Sharpless (1793-1863), a successful Philadelphia dry good merchant, married Mary Brinton Jones (1795-1856) under the care of Birmingham Monthly Meeting in 1815. She was the daughter of Samuel Jones and Lydia Crosley Jones of Birmingham, Pa. Both were active in Quaker social causes. A younger daughter, Lydia A. Sharpless (1803-1883) did not marry and was active in Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (Orthodox)

Lydia Jones Sharpless (1818-1911), the daughter of Townsend and Mary J. Sharpless, married Ezekiel Hunn in 1836 under the care of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (Orthodox). Ezekiel Hunn (1810-1902) was the son of Ezekiel and Tabitha Hunn of Kent Co., Delaware. He apprenticed under Townsend Sharpless and was received on certificate from Wilmington Monthly Meeting to Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (O) in 1835. The Hunn family in Delaware was actively involved in the Underground Railroad.

Lydia J. and Ezekiel Hunn had three children: Ezekiel Hunn, Jr., Mary Sharpless Hunn, and Townsend Sharpless Hunn. Ezekiel Hunn, Jr., (1841-1926) attended the University of Pennsylvania, served in the Pennsylvania Militia in 1863, and became a Philadelphia attorney. He married Anna Eliza Jenkins (1855-1902), daughter of Jabez and Elizabeth Jenkins of "Wild Cat", Kent Co., Delaware, in 1876. In 1891, he requested membership at Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (O) for his minor children. He is buried in Friends Southwestern Burial Ground.

Lydia J. Hunn's younger brother, Henry Hale Graham Sharpless (1823-1870), was born in 1823. In 1855, Sharpless married Mary Van Buren and was disowned by the Quakers for marrying out. Sharpless ran a dry goods business in Philadelphia, which was started by his grandfather. He died in 1870, at the age of 46.


2 linear ft. (4 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection represents two branches of the Sharpless family of Pennsylvania descended from Joseph and Lydia (Lewis) Sharpless). It contains correspondence between extended Sharpless family relations including Sharpless, Hunn, Jones, Drinker families and journals of Joshua Sharpless, a Quaker minister who worked with Native Americans and visited Quaker meetings in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Canada. Correspondence covers various topics including the travels of women ministers, yellow fever, and contemporary events. The second series contains primarily nineteenth century correspondence of the extended family of Townsend and Mary Brinton (Jones) Sharpless. It includes letters written by Henry H. G. Sharpless during his European tour and extensive correspondence received by Ezekiel Hunn who served briefly in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of E. Biddle Heg in memory of Walter Sterling Biddle, his grandfather

ca. 1940

Gift of Elizabeth Foster


Related Materials

RG5/221, Foster-Meyers family papers

RG5/070, Lydia Jones Sharpless Hunn papers

University of Delaware, Ezekiel Hunn, Jr., letters to Lydia J. Hunn, 1887

Processing Information

The bulk of the collection was the gift of E. Biddle Heg, in memory of his grandfather, Walter Sterling Biddle, ca. 1940. This gift is confirmed in FHL correspondence of 1983-1984 between the donor and J. William Frost, Director of Friends Historical Library. Heg was a graduate of Swarthmore College, Class of 1936, and the papers concern descendants of Joseph and Lydia (Lewis) Sharpless through Jacob and Ann Blakey Sharpless.

The journals of Joshua Sharpless were given to FHL by Elizabeth Foster in 1946 together with the 18th century correspondence of members of the Sharpless and Drinker families. She was a descendant of Joseph and Lydia (Lewis) Sharpless through Benjamin and Martha Mendenhall Sharpless.

The papers from the two donors originally were cataloged as separate manuscript collections in the 1940s. In the 1980s, the two were combined as a single manuscript collection representing two branches of the same family descended from Joseph Sharpless and Lydia Lewis Sharpless. In 1991 they were rehoused and a checklist created. In 2016, the collection was separated into two series according to provenance and an enhanced checklist created.

Sharpless Family Papers, 1792-1892
Finding Aid Prepared by FHL staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA