August 29 1854 – Martha Haun to James Haun

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Martha Haun continues to debate the merits of traveling to California or remaining at home in Kentucky, begging her husband to inform her precisely what he wishes her to do.

August 29 18541

My own sweet husband,

I have just received your letter of July the 16th.2 It will be eight weeks tomorrow since I got a letter, until this evening. It was brought to our church to me. I was there with a parcel of the sisters a-making of a new carpet we begged money enough to buy and we were putting it down on the floor. I had spent the day quite pleasantly. I read my letter went up to the far end of the church to be alone when I read, but I could not as usual refrain from shedding tears. The sisters all made affectionate inquiries about you. So I put on my bonnet and went home to indulge in what I could not help—a long cry.

I wrote to Dave in the meantime, wiped my tears and tried to look as cheerful as I could, and went back and helped them to finish—but my poor heart, if they could only have looked in to it they would have seen it bleeding at every pore, though with a tolerably cheerful face the while, for, oh, I have learned that there is not much true sympathy in this world. My poor boy trying to wash his shirts and you that I have always took so much delight in making and fixing your cloths going dirty and ragged. These things are heartrending to me and I am determined if our lives are spared to be with you this winter. If you do not come home Dave has promised to go with me and start the first of December. I had rather go out than for you to come home without a handsome little fortune. I know I would like the trip; I have no fear or dread of any hardship that I may meet with, for nothing will be hard to me if I can only arrange matters here to suit me, which I think I can, though it will go very hard with me if I have to leave Lizzie and yet harder with her and I do not know yet whether I can take her and these little negro children. But you and John are far dearer to me than anything else on this earth. It seems that I must be parted from some of you and, oh, it is reasonable that I should give up everything else for my husband and child—at any rate my feelings tell me so.

I stopped last night. I now commence again today. I feel somewhat better and hope again has predominated. I will yet see you in this world. We must go again to the church today to finish. I have her with the sisters and have employed myself tolerably well. We are a-going to have a district meeting. It is to commence on Friday and will last until Sunday night. It is to make some arrangement about the Bible Union Society. We will have several preachers. How I look forward to the meeting with satisfaction, yet with sorrow that you are not here to enjoy it with me.

Tom and Laura has been down to see me tonight and Tom discourages me so much about going to California. He says it will never do for me to go to California, or rather, to the mines. He says I ought not to think of such a thing, for he has no idea I could stand it.

I sometimes think it would be better for you and John to come home this winter, money or no money, for I do know we can make a good living and be together. It will cost a good deal for me to go out, and so many to miss me and feel the want of me—I mean the Negroes and Lizzie—and likely all to no purpose as far as interest is concerned. But I feel I must see you by an other spring and if you do not come I will at all hazard go to you. We have so few to provide for that it looks foolish in us to make our selves miserable about it, and to be happy or contented away from you I cannot. Oh, I think if I could only have you with me in a comfortable little home of our own where we could go to our church and have the society of our brothers and sisters and see John engaged in something, to be a-making something for himself and enjoying himself with his young friends, I would be so happy. I have suffered so much in mind since you have left that to be with you would he happiness enough for me. Again at other times I feel the same old ambitions arising to have you and that dear child rich that I think I will bear everything to accomplish it. I say these things to you, or rather I give you some of my thoughts and feelings, and I want you to examine your own feelings and, as you know so much better than I can what the prospect or chance is for making it, you will know what to do and how to advise me. Recollect we are sacrificing a great deal in being separated and if you think the chance is a poor one then why not come home?

But, on the other hand, if you think you could accomplish your object by staying from three to five years longer and think you would rather do so, please write me and I will know what to do. I will go out just as soon as you write me to the effect that you would rather stay. I want you to read and consider this letter well, you and John, and make up your minds, for you know by this time what the chance is there.

Consult together what is best and write me positively what you had rather do—not what you had rather, but what you will do, and tell me what I must do—for I have no one to tell me but you. Please, my dear, sweet husband, tell me exactly what you would rather I do, for I want to do what would please you if I knew what it was. The way you have written to me leaves me in such an awkward position. I do not know what to do. You say if I want to go so bad and think I can stand it, come along now. I want to do what you want me to do. John says, “Ma, do not come. Don’t think of such a thing. I would not have you here for anything,” and gives me his reasons, and good ones. You write as though you only agree to my coming if I want to come so bad. Now I want you to tell me pointedly what I must do, or what would be best for me to do. You know I have always done what ever you advised me to and if you will only tell me what you think would be the best for me—to come out there, or for you to come home this winter or spring. I will so gladly go if you say so and if you say you will come, oh, with what delight will I look forward to the time—

Now, my dear, take everything in consideration and make up your mind, and for my satisfaction write as soon as you get this so I will know what to depend on. I have no one else to tell me and your word and your wish is everything to me. I look to you, I depend on you for everything. Now I want you to consider everything, whether you would rather come back and for us all to live together, black and white, and get along in an easy, comfortable way, or rather struggle longer with hardship for the sake of fortune, just say so. One thing I can tell you: you need never fear any unhappiness on my part in any situation if I am with you any more on this earth, for I had rather live in a shanty or in the poorest way you can imagine with you. The truth is I am determined never again to be troubled about anything if I can only have you with me. You will see me the happiest creature you ever saw in your life if you ever see me again. I will remain so as long as you are spared to me. Well, I have said enough on the subject. I will now leave it with and wait and look with all anxiety for an answer to it—please answer it in full and be positive in your answer.

I will now, my sweet, darling, husband, tell you of other matters. We have had but one rain here since the middle of June. There has never such a time I’ve known in Kentucky. There has been no vegetables this summer. People say they will not have more potatoes than they planted. There is no tomatoes. In fact there is no vegetables at all and meal is one dollar a bushel, for flour four dollars a hundred, butter is twenty cents per pound and scarce at that, bacon and ham $1.21 9/10 a pound, and potatoes 1 dollar a bushel, and the most of the farmers are suffering for water for stock. They are talking of not raising one a barrel of corn to the acre. The grass is as perfectly dead as you ever saw it in the dead of winter. People say there has never been such a time see in Kentucky before, and the hottest weather I ever experienced anywhere in my life. It is so at this time and has been so ever since the middle of June.

Thornton Moore had a negro man die of sun stroke in the harvest field, a stout, healthy young negro that he gave close hundred dollars for a year ago. Tom White is broke. He has given up all his property to his creditors, the old house that he moved out of was sold last court day for five hundred dollars. They say he will have nothing left when his debts are paid. I was told there was a great many suits brought against him last court. Billy Graves bought the house. White owes him for borrowed money. The talk is that Alvin Duvall must throw up before long; the people are pressing him tight. I have put all the notes and accounts you left with me in Nat Polk’s hands. He says if he got nothing for them he will charge nothing and it was no use to let them lay here always. I tried Bat, but as usual he was two lazy to do anything. He had some of them in his hands ever since last summer until a month ago when I made him give them back. If anybody can do any thing with them it will be Polk, for he is an industrious fellow and he thinks he can get some money. At any rate it will cost me nothing for him to try, and there was no chance to let them lay here. Old sister Smith told me today that Rigo that married Emma had not been doing anything since he went back but losing his money and he had lost two thousand dollars of that and all their clothing by the fire there. He lost his money by lending. They are very anxious for them to come away from there.

Tom Johnson and Laura talk of starting out in October. Most of the folks think they will go no farther south than the farm. The general impression here is that Tom has not got much money, but he says he has a suit in court—some land claim—and is compelled to go back and if he wins that suit he will have a million or two. If he has money he has made no display of it whatever, for he is very plain and economical, seemingly, and cuts no dash whatever.

I will now give you the dates of all the letters I have received from you since you left. I always told you in everyone of my letters when I had got a letter and the date of it and I thought that was just as satisfactory as though I had written the date of all of them in one letter, for by looking at my letters each one of them you could see what letter I had got last: Thursday February 28 1853; July 4th 1854; October 28 1853; August 28 1853; June 26 1853; March 18 1854; May 28 1854; April 1st 1854; and to D H Smith, January 28 1854. I have also got seven from John, the last July 16th 1854. Why does not my boy write me more frequently? Tell him to do so, and tell me all his feelings and keep nothing from me. If he is unhappy tell me and if not tell me. Tell him his mother takes a good cry every time she thinks of him washing his shirts and cooking his own victuals. Oh, come to your mother that takes so much pleasure in waiting on you and let me have the pleasure to do it, for it is all my pleasure to wait on and make happy and comfortable, my dear child and husband.

Now farewell and do if you please write me as soon as you get that. I want a long letter from my boy too. Lizzie is asleep by me she almost a woman in size. If I had not her here with me to do for and to love me and to love I do not know what I would do. Oh if I could only do as you dreamed—it would be a long, long kiss.

Remember I am your true and devoted wife.

M. Haun

P.S. Yesterday I was forty-three

Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
  1. James Haun recorded the receipt of this letter in his diary on October 10 1954.
  2. James Haun recorded the composition of this letter in his diary July 16 1854.