Date: July 22, 1776
Author: Elizabeth (Betsey/Mrs. Charles) Miller
“It is with pleasure I inform your your Niece Betsey is with me. She was inoculated for the small pox 14 days agone, & is like to have it very light, the other Children are at Mr. Scolley, it was with some difficulty I was favor’d with her Company, as Miss Scolley thought it most proper to take her, herself, I have received many insults from them since the Child has been with me, what they can mean I do not know, as I never gave them the least Ocasion, had they the friendship for the Children they Pretend, I should think they would wou’d endeavor to increase their funds [ ] much as possable, not to threat those who they have Reason [ ] is their friends, in the manner they have treated me, the Particulars I shall defer till I see uou, their conduct to me will not abate my Affections for the Child in the least, while in my family she shall be treated with all the tenderness in my Power, I have sent repeatedly for the Children to come see me, but am deny’d… I had thought of keeping Betsey this simmer, (if agreeable to you & her friends at Roxbury), to go to School, and rising her up in a proper manner, as she is in want of many things, but if I am to be insulted in the manner I have been by that family, I should not chuse to Undertake it, as you know [ ] no one is fond of being treated ill for endeavoring to serve their friends, tho’ I have not forgot the last words of your dear brother to me concerning the Children…
Yours, Betsey Miller.
P.S. Mr. Miller desires his Complent”
Source: John Warren Papers 1765-1821, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. Transcribed by the author from the original ms.
Commentary: Written in the months following the evacuation of the British from Boston, refugee families returned to the city to re-establish their lives. Betsey Miller wrote this letter to Dr. John Warren, then in Continental Army medical service in the vicinity of New York City. This letter refers to Joseph Warren’s children and apparent jockeying for them among the Miller, Scollay, and Roxbury Warren familes. Betsey Miller and Miss Mercy Scollay had sharp words for one another with respect to maintaining Joseph Warren’s orphaned children, particularly eldest Elizabeth ‘Betsey’ Warren (about 1765 – 1803). I infer that Joseph Warren had asked both Mrs. Miller and Mercy Scollay, in an overlapping fashion, to care for his children in the event of his demise. In the absence of a written will, these promises inadvertently triggered ill will between the Miller and Scollay women. A Sally Edwards was staying at the Miller’s, a situation adding to Miss Scollay’s ire. At one point, according to a letter by Samuel Adams, Mercy Otis Warren offered to house and educate young Elizabeth Warren. The offer was politely refused by young Elizabeth in favor of staying in the Miller household.
The identities of the Millers remain unclear. Their common surname does not help matters. J.L. Bell has pointed out that a Miller was a member of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, appearing in the journals of that body, thereby suggesting a prior association with Joseph Warren. A Miller or Millar is credited with an excellent 1775 engraving of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The latter Miller may have been a Boston printer with prior personal and Patriotic associations with Joseph Warren. They may even be the same person.
Note that the dots and blank spaces […] in the transcription are verbatim from the original ms, reproduced in its full text here.