June 27 1853 – Martha Haun to James Haun

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Martha Haun writes to her husband James Haun, who is mining for gold in California. She updates him on the local gossip, the family slaves, and their niece, Lizzie.

May the 24th 18531
June the 27th 18532

My Dear Husband,

This is Sunday morning and while our church bell was ringing for meeting I received your kind and long-looked-for letter. This is the second one I have received since you landed in California.

Oh, how glad and yet how sorry I am to hear from you. Sorry because I am not with you to share your hard life, as I expect it is, and I think I could be of more use out there than here. Oh, how it makes my heart ache when I think of you and imagine you see a hard time, but this is the lot of the human family, and the easier we make it the better—

I am well–and Lizzie and all the Negroes—but I am broke down in body and spirits. I have just come in from the country from seeing the last of my brother James Hurst. He is no more. He bid a decease to this troublesome world on Tuesday night last at half past one o’clock. He lay sixteen days and suffered more than any human being I ever saw. The doctors say it was an affliction of the spine. He had no use of his limbs except his hands and arms, and had spasms every ten or fifteen minutes, or cramps. His ankles were down almost out of joint.

Oh my dear, if you could have been by his bedside you would have see what religion could do in a dying hour. I never did nor never expect to see again such a glorious triumph over death. He said from the first he would not get well. He had no desire to do so. Every moment when free from pain was spent in prayers and exhortation up to the last hour of his life. A few hours before he died he told us to sing. We sung ‘Jesus, thou art the Sinners Friend.’ He raised his trembling hands and tried to shout and said in a whisper, for he could not then speak above a whisper, “how I crave to be with the Lord.” He was then breathing short and heavy the last words he said was, “Sweet Jesus, thou hast sent thy ministering angels to hover round my bed.”

Ganoe preached his funeral before he was buried. There was a great many at the burying and a house full all the time he was sick. I mourn his loss but rejoice to know that he has made a happy exchange of worlds, for his has been a life of toil and sorrow. There is now but three of left in this country.

Mrs Smarr died suddenly on Monday morning last with disease of the breast. She had a baby and died in ten minutes after the child was dead born.

Dave Runion has bought Stevenson’s store and going in to business here again, Dan Runion is married to Miss Sally Blackburn. He had a hard time to get her. They attempted to run away but her farther Dr. Church Blackburn stopped them. He then kept her so close that they could not make another effort for several weeks, but with the assistance of the young men here they succeeded in getting off. They are in Maysville. The report is that Dr Blackburn says he will kill Dan if he ever see him.

Louis West and Bled Harman has gone to Texas to look for a home. They–the woman folks and the old General–has had a blow out since Bled left and Bled’s wife and children has come to Barkley’s tavern to board. Mrs Johnson comes in every day she spent part of the day yesterday and day before with me. They are all very kind to me and I do not take sides with either. The old lady says the Johnson’s are the most deceitful set of people upon earth. Bert and Betty are still courting as usual, but I have got to believe they will never marry. They frequently meet in my room and Bert told me yesterday evening he had no idea of marrying here. Tell John that Joanna Cullen is to be married next Wednesday to one of Stark Taylor’s sons. Davy Threlkeld and Opal got up yesterday and John Crumbaugh is a-going to stay down there this summer. Bet Foster is married and come up as they did. I have forgotten the man’s name she married, but they say she has done well. He is a merchant at Little Rock, Arkansas. They have been married thirteen days. Lizzie Othwell that was and her husband and child are here to stay all summer and Bob Rankin and family. I do not think their son is half as smart as ours, or as good looking either.

Our church is just about in the condition you left it. The people have commenced coming in from a distance to the examination and commencement of the Baptist schools, which comes off this coming week. There will be a big ball here next Thursday night.

Old man Holtzclaw cannot get his boys bailed out. There is no one will go their bail—I had but a faint idea of the dissipation of this town until I have been boarding here. I am truly glad my son is not here, for I do not think this place cannot be beat for idleness and drunkenness any where on earth. There is not one man out of every ten that pretends to do anything but sit about and drink whiskey and talk. It is really disgusting to see and know the men spend their time here.

I am treated kind and well by every body and have as many friends as I ever could have
any where, but it is no place to have a son in idleness, and how men can spend their time in the way they do I cannot tell without being miserable. Bat’s wife is expected to die. She has disease of the heart—

Property is still down here and no prospect of its getting up again. This is a great fruit year here though very dry at present and has been for some weeks.

W.G. has not written to me since he left here. He promised to do so but has not. Neither does Jane write. I have heard nothing from John Hurst since I wrote you before.

I would like to know if you and John has received all the letters I have written you.
Let me know in your next—

My dear husband, write to me and tell me how you fair and how you are treated by Henry. From what W.G. told me he is very selfish, him and Cath. They care for no one but themselves and are not disposed to befriend any of their kin. And, oh, for Gods sake do not let my child be imposed on by either of them, for Henry has  imposed on me enough without treating my child amiss. Say nothing to Henry about what W.G. says. He told me not to write to you anything. He said that you would see for yourself.

I fear you and John gets nothing you can eat, and, oh, if you should get sick who
will do any thing for you? My dear write me all the particulars, write me everything about how you get along with Henry and keep nothing from me. I often think of how you stand
Cath. She is such a rough, dirty, lazy creature. I know it is hard for you to stand her ways. Tell John for me never to become rough and  low on his manners under no circumstances. Tell me what your prospect is for making money. If you could only get four or five thousand dollars do not stay, but come back and lets live together and make a living helping each other. If you could get a few thousand dollars to start on, with the help we have we could make a good living by all going to work and attending properly to business, so let me entreat you as soon as you are convinced you can do nothing there to come home. Tell me how you do about cloths, your washing, and about your eating and everything. If you only knew how I imagine you live and how it troubles me you would write me all about it. My dear I have all confidence that you will act wisely and not despair or get low spirited for John’s sake, and I know you are philosopher enough to know that is not the way to remedy anything, but keep lively and cheerful under all or any circumstances for the sake of your health and to keep others from taking advantage of you, for a melancholy disponding man is not fit for business or anything else. Pray do not let John give way to melancholy or low spirits, for if you can do nothing there you can come back and have more and do as well as hundreds here. If I could only know you were living and cheerful I would feel so much better. As for myself, I am compelled banish melancholy if I want to live and have any health–for low spirits affects my health sooner than anything else on earth. Then let us be wise and not make our short lives more miserable than they need be. Tell me all about John: how he seems to be any how, and how he talks, and tell him for me to write me just exactly his situation and opinion about things. Tell him not to neglect writing to me. You said you and him was busy, but did not say what everyone seems anxious to hear.

There has been a great many here today to inquire after you. Mrs Holtzclaw says you must not forget your promise to write all about the country. I cannot name the people that send their love to and respects to you–it would take a whole page to put down their names, but almost every body you knew here. The Negroes are all well and going well, the babies are growing finely. Sam and Bet is very sturdy and work hard and behave themselves just as well as white people, and in fact a great deal better. I think more of them than I ever did in my life. Everyone in town says they are the best servants they ever knew and I do think they are the best principled Negroes I ever saw. I now am convinced that kind treatment makes the best Negroes.

Now, my dear husband, if you think you would like to have me there, just say to me what would be the best time for me to start and I will arrange my affairs so as to go. I think I can do it, and moreover, if you expect to stay there two or three years, I think I could make as much money if I was out there as any of you, a woman’s labor being worth so much. I am anxious to go. How would it do for me and Kit to go out? We could start from New Orleans–no danger about her until we got out there. What do you think? Write to me immediately. I think Kit and I could make a heap if we were out there, and I know we can get there if you say so. I believe I could get Sant to go with us. What say you? Will you let us come? I am so anxious to be with you if you think it would do let me know as soon as possible. I know I can stand the trip, for I would start with a big resolution and that is half the battle.

Now, my dear husband, I must bid you farewell for this time. Remember my heart is with you wherever you may be, and will ever be, while you and I are on this earth. No matter
what distance separates us, my feelings are  the same and it would be my greatest happiness to share life with you in anyway, be it hard or easy. My love to my boy and tell him his ma loves him better than her own life, and he must write me. Farewell my kind husband.

I remain your devoted until death,

Martha Haun

P.S. I had forgotten to tell you that Lizzie Topass is married to a Mr Perry of Versailles. Hawkins says she has done well, and that he is a very steady, industrious man. He owns the stage lines from Versailles to Lexington.

Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
  1. James Haun recorded the receipt of this letter in California on July 13 1853. In his diary, he expressed joy at receiving it, but complained that his wife had not told him which of his letters she had received, or given him any news of their church at home.
  2. James Haun recorded the receipt of this letter in his diary on August 27 1853.