June 23 1855 – Martha Haun to James Haun

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Martha Haun relates the latest Georgetown news, and continues to debate traveling to California. The enclosed news clippings, which have not been retyped, are “The Wife’s Reply” 1 and an unknown poem dated from Burlington Iowa, August 15 1852.

My own dear husband,2

I last week wrote John a long letter of three sheets of paper. I was very low spirited at the time. I wrote having been quite unwell for a week or ten days. Any how, I have spells of low spirits that I cannot avoid. I have probably said something about your cold way of writing to me that I ought to have kept to myself. If there is any thing wrong you will look over it. I endeavored to write the truth exactly as I felt at the time, but I want you to do as you please about coming. You ought to know your own business and your duty better than I can tell you. I cannot see for my life how I am to get away from here or feel any degree of satisfaction in leaving. I had much rather stay one year or 18 months as I am and for you to come home then then for me to go out there now. I got a letter from Dave yesterday saying he would not now probably go to California until fall. He said he was very tired of staying there in Iowa but would have to stand it a while longer. Now I want to you to write to me when you will come as soon as you get this and if you say positively you will not come within a year or 18 months I will go out with him, though I had much rather you would come than for me to go there.

Irwin Stevenson told me to tell you to write him a letter. He sends his best respects to you and says if you will write to him and give him any encouragement he will go out himself. He says to tell him if he is doing well to stay until he has made enough to do him. I told him I would do no such thing and to hush talking that way, that you ought to stay there.

[torn] not to write to you com home
[torn] knows how bad I want to see you
[torn] there from Dave saying he was
tired to [torn] ying in [torn] but had no money to come away he went there to get money from Sant to take him to California. Sant has not got it yet. As soon as he gets it he will come back here and get ready to go to California and you must write as soon as you get this and tell me if you will come home in a year, or if you will not, promise that I will go out with him. So no more of this at present.

Our church is in a very luke warm condition. We have John Ganes to preach for us once a month. The members seems very indifferent only when he preached. Dr Alex Keens got up here to his father’s three weeks ago very ill. They thought he would die in Louisville but they got him up here and he lay ten days very low. He took a notion he would go back home and they could not persuade him out of it so they started with him and got a few miles below Frankfort when he died. The doctors said he was dying when they started with him, that he was cold to his knees in death. Wallace, you know died about a year a go. The old doctor has out lived all his children except Mrs Elliot.

Old General F. Counroy has got back to town looking like a ghost. He has been sick a long time. I wrote you all the news in John’s letter. I told you how Moore told me never to ask a favor of him for Lizzie unless I would give her up to him altogether. She would rather die than go to him. So she will stick to me go where I will, unless I force her away from me, and that I cannot nor will not do. She is anxious to go to California and if I go I will take her. I can’t leave her nor part from her, for she clings as closely to me as if she was my own child, and she is a credit and pleasure to us, or ought to be, for she is pretty and smart. Dr Craig and Paul Rankin brought Bob Keen’s old house and gave it to Harrison Rankin. Old Mrs Caldwell is dead. Beri Glass has bought Levi Brewett’s house at six thousand dollars. Harvey Graves is living in Thornton Johnson’s old house until he gets another built on his, for his daughter Norah and Jim Henry gets married soon. Clint West is talking about renting Barkley’s tavern for five years. John West is doing as he was when you left. There is a set of them always setting about the taverns. Clint John and J. Webb, Tim Pullin, Lou Adams and all that set. Sam Thompson says he is going to move to Illinois this fall but no one believes him.

I commence again tonight to write my letter. The moon is shining bright through my window and the band a-practicing over at the pool hall for tomorrow. The masons march tomorrow and have a diner. Oh, that music, how it makes my heart ache. It makes me think of my poor boy and times that are past and gone. Lizzie says, “tell uncle I am kicking up my heels in his place in bed,” and says, “I would send him a kiss if I could.” Oh I would die were it not for the affection and life of that child. Take her from me and what would I do. Next week is commencement week here, and there is going to be a ball here on Wednesday night, but I feel no interest in any of these things.

Farlan’s school is in confusion. His teachers are everyone going to leave him. Bat Thompson is boarding here and doing nothing as usual Jack Thompson is broke up entirely and gone to Missouri to his wife’s sister’s. Laziness broke him—

Mr Haun, I must close my letter and now. Let me tell you plainly I do not want to go to California and nothing will make me start, only to know that is the last chance for me ever to see you and my child again. I feel that I am getting too old to go there and run the risk of having to live and die in hardships and privation. I know my child won’t ask it of me, for he has often written to me not to think of coming, and I think if you will think seriously of it you won’t ask it. Had I known the morning you started that at the end of two years absence things would be as they are now, I would have gone then—but after having suffered all this time and to at last have to go is very hard. You will have to do as you please. My happiness is in your keeping, you must remember. So write as soon as you get this and do not delay.

Give my love to my darling boy and accept the love and life-long attachment of a devoted, sorrow stricken wife.

Brother Smith sends his love to you, and Martha, and Ann E. West sends her love to you and says bring her a lump of gold when you come–

Enclosed newspaper clippings: Buck, Ruth, “The Wife’s Reply” Chambers’ Journal.
Untitled verses: Burlington Iowa, August 15th 1852.
  1. “The Wife’s Reply” was apparently a reprinting of a selection from the Chambers’ Journal, a weekly compendium of light literature published by William and Robert Chambers between 1832 and 1956. Chambers’ had in fact reprinted the selection from a previous publisher, Grimsby. Martha Haun has crossed out the author’s name, Ruth Buck, and written in her own. Ruth Buck is not a well known figure today, however, in the 19th century her byline appeared in many popular magazines as the authoress of poems and stories.
  2. James Haun recorded the receipt of this letter in his diary of August 5 1855.