June 31 1854 – Martha Haun to James Haun

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In this letter, much delayed due to a change in the postal schedule, Martha Haun discusses tentative plans to travel to California either with some neighbors or with her brother-in-law Dave, and debates whether to bring slaves or leave them behind in Kentucky.

June the 31st 18541

My Sweet Husband,

I received your kind of precious letter on Wednesday, last the 28th of June. It was dated the 28th of May2.

Just one month to the day coming. This is Friday night, the last day of June. I commence this letter and expect to write some in it every day or two until it is time to send it to start for California on the 15th of July. I started one last Tuesday to go out the first of July as the mails only leave New York the 1st and 15th of every month.

Well, you have been sick and I not there to nurse you or try to comfort you and make you comfortable. Oh what a pleasure it would have been to me. I do believe that our spirits are permitted to commune with each other, for you will see when you get my letter by the mail of the first of June what my feelings were at the time of your sickness. You were not out of my mind, sleeping or waking, for two days. It was the time you was sick. If you get that letter I speak of it will till you how I felt when you was sick, and you know I had no chance of knowing anything about it until you wrote to me in this last letter so it cannot be superstition—but I do believe that God permits my spirit to hold communion with the spirits of those I love. Your letter was very satisfactory with the exception of your having been sick, for you are making money and that is what will shorten our separation, your getting money. I stop for the night—

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If they do go in October I am determined to go with them, for if you are making money there I will not be the means of your breaking off to come to me when I can go to you. I well know I would enjoy it so much. Instead of complaining I would be perfectly happy to be with you and live that wild romantic life with you out there for a few years. I never was in better health in my life. As soon as Tom and  Laura come back I will write you again what they say and when they will go. I am in high spirits at the  prospect of going and perfectly delighted.

Dave is with me and says if he does not get right well he will go with me this fall and go right in to the mines. We talk of how snug and happy we could all be there in a little cabin in the mountains, myself and Liz to keep the house and such while you all get the gold, and then of a night we could all talk and laugh and be happy together and making money at the same time. Dave has dyspepsia. He is better now. So keep in good spirits, for I will see you if we both live, this fall—or I suppose it will be winter before I can get there. If Tom and Laura does not go Dave will go with me. I will go and I will know I will not be in your way but be a help and satisfaction. So when I get there we can stay as long as we please and when we feel like it will come back.

If you think it would do to take Sam write to me. He is very anxious to go. I some times think he could be trusted and if he was to go and prove faithful he would be of great service, and again if he was to leave us, we would only loose him which we are likely to do at any time. I think it would be as good a plan as any to take him, or perhaps the best, for he would not be of much account by the time we got back if we leave him. Write me what to do and say positively and do not leave it to me but do tell me just what to do. I do not want you to quite out there after having gone through what you have until you got a fortune. If you can do that by staying long enough and I do not want nor will I stay away from you longer than it takes for me to get to you, for there is nothing to hinder me but these Negroes and I have sacrificed enough on their account. I am so anxious to go. I know I would enjoy it so much instead of taking it hard as you seem to think. I just want you to see how happy I would be living the life you have described. I hardly know what to say to you about Sam. He has got badly spoiled and talks and acts as independent as if he was as white as I am. Since last Christmas he has not been anything like as good a negro as he was last year. He is very imprudent. I think the only way to do with him would be to take him or sell him if I go. I want you to write me as soon as you get this.

On the other hand if you have made as much as will satisfy you and intend coming home this winter let me know and all will be right, or if you think I ought to stay here until you come, be it long or short, tell me in your next and I will try as I  ever have have done to obey you. Do, my dear husband, advise me. Tell me in your next how much money you have made since you have been out there. Please send me the money I asked you for

Tell my dear boy I will by the next mail send him a long letter. Tell him he is still the pride and joy of his mother’s heart and will be while she lives. Now, my sweet husband, I must close this business letter without giving vent to my feelings, and the way I feel towards you. You well know that if I was to express every feeling of affection and sacrifice I feel I would have to write all of my time. Oh, if I could only kiss you when I  say good bye. Your devoted wife while time lasts

July the 24th

Well, you will see it has been a long time since this letter was commenced. The reason is the mail was changed. Instead of going every day to Cincinnati it only goes twice a week. It stopped about the time I expected to have sent this. Consequently, I had to wait until the next mail left New York. I have to lay down my pen every few minutes to attend to Bet’s two youngest children, Marth and Nat they are both in the house and I am giving them hive syrup3. There is a disease prevalent among the people here called influenza and they both have it. It is after ten o’clock at night and I do not expect to sleep much tonight though I am very tired, having worked very hard all day.

In the morning. The children are better. Mrs Miller has been with all the morning talking of her troubles. I must tell you what her troubles are. This day week ago Tom Johnson of San Francisco and her daughter Laura ran off and got married but Holtzclaw and Dr Bradley went with them. They are all now at the Blue Licks4 but will be home this week. Mrs Miller has sent for them to come. Tom has been cutting a big tiff since he come back from California and courted and married in six weeks. Mrs Millers only objection was Laura’s going to California. Tom and Laura was to see me a few days before they ran off and Tom told me he was going back in October. I have been waiting for them to come home to hear what he says now about going back—but I can wait no longer or my letter will miss this mail.

Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
  1. James Haun recorded the receipt of this letter in his diary September 3 1854.
  2. James recorded the composition of this letter in his diary May 28 1854.
  3. A compound from Squill, a flowering, lily-like pant historically used as both a medicine and a poison. The syrup was used as a cough suppressant and emetic.
  4. A revolutionary war battle field just outside the town of Blue Lick Springs.