Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Christoph Süverman to Thomas Jefferson, 5 May 1810

From John Christoph Süverman

City of Washington 5th May 1810


Respectfully I wish to inform you of the Unhappy exit of Mr Pirny, he boarded, and lodged, with us ever since his return from the Western Country, the principal part of the time he has been confined by Sickness, I believe ariseing from uneasyness of mind, not having recd anything for his late services to Govr Lewis. he was wretchedly poor and destitute. every service in our power was render’d him to make him comfortable; not doubting but the moment he had it in his power he would thankfully & honestly pay us.

last Week the poor Man appeared considerably better, I believe in some respects contrary to his wishes, for unfortunately on Saturday last he procured himself a quantity of Laudenam. on Sunday Morning under the pretence of not being so well went upstairs to lay on the bed, in which situation he was found dead, with the bottle by his Side that had contained the Laudanam. Our distress was great but it was to late to render him any assistance. he was buried neat and decent the next day which in addition to his former expences, fall very heavy upon us, whose circumstances you are well acquainted with, cannot bear it without suffering considerably, and hope you will be so oblidgeing as assist us as soon as it is possible to recover anything on behalf of the poor Man.

I am with great Respect Sir your Obedt H’ble Servt

John Christoph Süverman1

RC (MHi); in an unidentified hand, signed by Süverman; at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson Esqr Montocello Virginia”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 May 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to William D. Meriwether, 21 Aug. 1810.

John Christoph Süverman, formerly one of TJ’s servants at the President’s House, had become blind and impoverished by 1810, when he was working as a grocer (Donald Jackson, “On the Death of Meriwether Lewis’s Servant,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 3d ser., 21 [1964]: 445–8).

John Pernier died on sunday, 29 Apr. 1810.

1Here and in Süverman’s 8 Aug. 1810 letter to TJ, the umlaut in his signature is rendered in the old style of a small “e” over the letter “u.”

Index Entries

  • Lewis, Meriwether; J. Pernier’s claim against estate of search
  • medicine; laudanum search
  • Pernier (Purney), John; account with M. Lewis search
  • Süverman, John Christoph; and J. Pernier search
  • Süverman, John Christoph; identified search
  • Süverman, John Christoph; letters from search