Letter of Johannes Whiteknaught to his Son Henry (1782)

The following letter was came from Miles Whitnah, who received it from Bill Dike, who received it from Rna Whitnah, who copied it from a copy held by Margaret A. Whitnah (grand daughter of Henry).

Dear son:

I embrace the oppertunity of returning you an answer to your letter dated October the 18th 1782 and am glad to hear of your health and welfare, and I would acquaint you at this time, that I and your mother are as well in health as our age will admit of, and all your Brothers and Sisters are by the Divine blessing of Almighty God are in a good state of health.

Dear Son, task me not with ingratitude of not writeing me oftener, consider my infirmity by reason of age(1), and that we have not an oppertunity to send unto you as often as we would desire. Dear Son, I am extremely glad to hear of your recovery from sickness it being the hand of God upon you for sin and wickedness that this sickness was sent unto you(2). How happy would I and your tender mother feel, if it should work upon you so far as to be the means of your conversion, oh my Son the way of sin is Death and after death the dreadful judgement that will be pronunced against loose, wicked, profligate persons will be angering. God grant you grace to amend your ways and to repent in time before the door of mercy is forever shut from you. And such news from a tender son as a real reformation from sin and wickedness will give the greatest satisfaction(3). But my dear Son, let me still impress one sentence in your mind, that is, remember you are born to die, and as the tree falleth so it lieth. Dear Son, I would desire my kind love be presented to your tender and affectionate wife and family and God grant that you may together serve the Lord on earth that you may live together in heaven above when time is no more. I have nothing particular more to write unto you but I and your mother sends our love unto you, and likewise, all you brothers and sisters desired to be remembered to you and all your family--Dear Son, as for the times here they are hard, short crops this summer and little or no in circulation and heavy taxes to pay and upon that you may judge the care of us here.

Pray send me an answer as quick as possible and so I conclude myself ever loving Father until Death,

Johannes Whiteknaught(4)
Nov. 11, 1782


  1. If Johannes Whiteknaught is the Johannes Witeknaght of New Jersey, he would have been about 82 years old at the time of writing this letter.
  2. It's possible that Johannes held to the notion that all sickness comes as a result of sin. Regardless, he appears from the rest of the letter to believe that Henry was guilty of some form of sin.
  3. Quite possibly, Henry left home in New Jersey because of the apparent friction that existed between him and his father. The nature of Henry's sins is not apparent. Perhaps it was a difference of beliefs (note Johannes' words "be the means of your conversion"). Perhaps it was a simple disagreement between father and son.
  4. The spelling shown here was that shown on the letter copied by Rna Whitnah from Margaret's copy. This could be the original spelling, but it should be kept in mind that either person could have mis-copied it. This form of the name is a form most often used by family members to refer to Henry's father.