Mollie Burns gives John the details of newest hometown gossip, including the marriage of her sister’s former beau to another woman, the capture and imprisonment of several other Confederate friends, and the general exodus from Georgetown due to the difficult financial circumstances in the town.
Thursday May 30th 1864
I should have written to you sooner but we have had no mails. Consequently it was useless to have written. You are mistaken about me saying I would not wear the ring, until somebody’s return. I said it was just put on my finger, there to remain until somebody’s return.
Buddie Holtzclaw was married to Miss Mollie Roberson on Tuesday last, a young lady that lived with Mrs Fitzgerald. They went to Louisville and are expected home this evening. Billie and Gabbie F. were round yesterday. Dora does not know of Buddie’s marriage yet. As soon as she dismissed him she left home for Henry County to take charge of a school but she will be home in two weeks. Buddie set to Miss B. very desperately after his and Dora’s falling out, and I think was very anxious to beat her marrying. He blames Ma and I with an interference, so I have heard, but Dora’s own good sense and judgement taught her that to marry a man and go onto his mother for a support was not at all congenial to her independence of character. You ask me if I would like to see your Ohio duck’s letters. I think I should if there is no secret on hand.
George and Jimmie Cantrill, Eaf Osborn, and Howard S. made us a visit about two weeks ago, just such as they made that July when you were here. Alvie West also. I shook hands with the man that is like to have been the means of your loosing your hat on that occasion. They came from L__ remained one day, and then went to C__ as before. Mrs Webb received a letter from your Ma to be forwarded on to you, which I suppose you have received. John Lemon and Rucker passed through Louisville as prisoners taken in Georgia. Jimmie Davis is also a prisoner taken at Mount Sterling.1 Johnny Sherritt is again taken, and sent to Johnson Island.2 It was his own imprudence, he was caught recruiting in Oweing, and his horse shot from under him.
Fannie Johnson spent a week with me. I went home with her and spent two days. We had Webb Harcourt and John Webb to chat with the first day, they were out fishing and took diner. Mr Will Crockett spent the next morning. We went down to the mill and weighed ourselves. Fannie’s weight was 101, his 171, mine 121 1/2 pounds.
Dr. Jury is going to Harrodsberg to take charge of a school there. Mr Aulghire is going to Pennsylvania to live. Mr Hinch back to Indiana. Quite a number of citizens are breaking up and leaving on account of the times. It is advisable for such as the Ganoes to leave, I guess. It was Tom Barclay’s daughter I spoke of. Hat W. has been in the corn field plowing all spring as they, like most everyone else, are minus the colored help. Bob Hopkins came to see me the other day. He has taken the oath. The boys were after Johnny Beatty, hearing, his life was to have paid the penalty. I had two visitors from Lexington Sunday. They remained until after church at night, or in fact Monday morning: Mr McCann and Marsh. One is a great big fine looking fellow, the other quiet and small but handsome. McCann has the finest picture gallery in Lexington. Our acquaintance was brought about in such a funny way. Mr McCann says it is quite a little romance. It would take me too long to tell you about it, therefore I shall wait till I see you.
I think you have been in close confinement long enough to have been exchanged or released ere this. Do, for goodness sake, come and see us, or me anyhow. I want to see if you are the same Mr John Haun as when you left, or has time as in most all persons, wrought sad changes in your personal appearances?
Let me hear from you very soon. Tommie’s love to you, and Mary’s too, if agreeable. If not just send it back home again. Goodbye, may fortune favor you very soon in a release, and restoration of former privileges, as is my ardent wish,
Mollie C. Burns
Metadata: Postmark: Georgetown, KY | July 5 Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Camp Chase, OH
In this follow up to her previous letter, Maggie Webb makes it clear that John Haun was displeased with her previous monetary arrangements, and offers an alternative.
Walnut Hills, Ohio June 30
John J. Haun Esq.,
Yours has just been received. I am sorry my arrangement did not suit you. You did not say you wanted the gold, and knowing I could sell it to better advantage here then in the country I did so, having no idea but that you wanted the funds for immediate use. Send me back the draft having first endorsed it to me and I will forward the gold forthwith.
I presume however you can without difficulty change the green backs to gold where you are, in which case it will be better for your to do so than to have it sent by express.
A brief letter of business from a cousin, Maggie Webb, to John Haun, sent during the period of his military service as a confederate cavelryman.
June 21st 1863
Walnut Hills Near Cincinnati, Ohio
Mr J.J. Haun,
Your letter to me, written at Louisville dated the 11th instance, has been forwarded to me at this place where I am now living, and only reached me two days ago. I was very glad to learn your whereabouts in order that you may get the money I hold for you from your mother.
I could not get a draft for gold here, so I send you an equivalent in currency for the ten dollars in gold which I hold for you. You will therefor please find enclosed a draft for fourteen dollars payable to your order which will I hope be satisfactory.
Please write after getting this as I shall be anxious to know if the draft goes safely. With best wishes for your success and happiness.
Maggie K. Webb
Direct your letter to
Hamilton Co., Ohio
I received your letter dated February the 15th. I had written one to you about ten days before I got yours. I told you in that one about my getting home on the 3rd of March and all about myself. We are all well and doing as well as we can these hard times for it is said to be the hardest times that has ever been known in Kentucky. It is almost a famine here now. There was so little raised here last summer on account of the drought.
I told you in my last that I was again boarding at Pratt’s, that I had put Lizzie to school in Midway, and I keep Anna with me. I find with all the economy that I can possibly use it is cheaper to board than to keep house. I have tried it effectually and know it to be so, though if times had not off got so tight I should have continued to keep house for the satisfaction of it–but I have got the room that Mrs Holtzclaw occupied when you left, a very comfortable retired room. I am very comfortably situated.
Old Mrs Beaty was buried yesterday. She had another stroke of palsy. Ed Applegate and Darinda Maddox get married next Wednesday. I believe I told you in a former letter about Ellick Carrick and Queen Cantrell running off and getting married, and about Frank Rankin joining the reform church. Frank sticks up to his profession well. The church is in a very lukewarm condition, though we have John Ganoe to preach one Sunday in the month for us. There has been several families had to break up and leave town because they could not get provisions to eat. Everything is so high. Johnny Beatty, Rose and J.H. Thompson has left for the present while times are so tight. Mike Algiers’ stables, buggies, hacks, and horses was sold yesterday by his creditors to pay his debts. He is broke, as industrious as he has always been, he is broke. He says he can pay his debts and have a thousand dollars left to begin with. His dwelling house has not been sold. I suppose his farther will keep that from being sold. Ben Finnell is pretty badly bent. Harvey Graves’ house was burnt down one night last week with very nearly all of its contents. Some of the family did not save one suit of clothes. They get some few things out, though nothing of much importance. They discovered the fire at two o’clock in the night. From all appearances it must have been the work of an incendiary, though they do not like to think so, or they do think it, but do not say it. His loss is estimated at seven thousand dollars, besides the insurance. It was insured for three thousand and the furniture at one, making four thousand in all. He is a-going to build immediately and build nearer the road. Persons say he is going to build a much finer house than the other was.
You spoke in your last letter of what Jack and Dave told you W.G. said about your not paying him. I do not know whether it is so or no and even if he did say so I would not, if I were you, suffer it to make any impression my feelings, nor would I ever attempt to pay him, and I would not hesitate to tell him so, for I know to my own certain knowledge that he justly owes you more than that, nor will he say half as much about it, nor care half as much as some of the balance of them. Them that told you such stuff has no regard for your feelings nor his. I do most honestly think he is the best hearted brother you have, though you know he always keeps himself in such a press for money. That makes him do things he would not otherwise do.
Sant told me to write to you and put on your guard. I told Sant that you owed him, and he said in justice you did not, and further said it would do Bill no good if you was to pay him, that that it will only go with the balance some of this days to pay his debts and that
amount would not keep him from breaking no how. He said you would be foolish to labor where you are to make money to pay that debt. It would be just like throwing it away, for it would then do neither of you any good, where if you would keep it yourself it would do your family some good. Sant told me if I did not write to you this way that I was not as smart as he took me to be. You must not say a word to any one about what Sant says; it would get him into a fuss and he is mad and grumbling more than half his time at Bill any how. He says just as many hard things of Bill now and more than he used to and still makes his house his home–but I know he has talked as hard of him to me as he could more than once. I do not know how to take any of this, but this much I know: that do as you will they will talk hard of you so I want you to do as the balance: take care of yourself. They will say hard things of you, do as you may, and you might just as well give them something as not. They would think just as much of you and more too. If I was you I would tell Billy G. plump and plain that I did not intend to go to the mines and work, and make my child work to get money to pay him merely because he had a claim according to law when if justice was done you do not owe him one cent. He would think just as much of you. Now keep this to yourself but act it out for your child’s sake.
Sant asked me one day if I ever lived as easy a life as Ray. He said, “no, by God, nor you never will. I know you never did and I know you never had everything thrown into your lap without ever asking for it as she has.” He said to me, you see for yourself that he would, and does, make a slave of anybody, even his own child to keep her humored. He would make every drop of kin he has labor to keep her up in her laziness. Then Sant said, when you see and know what he would do, if you let Jim pay that money you would be very foolish. I told him I could not prevent it if you took a notion to pay. He said I ought to try and you ought to listen to it, for Bill would not stint one day for all the kin, children not excepted, of anything she might want, no matter how foolish, not to say any of their lives. I do say of a truth, she is the laziest, crossest, dirtiest, most extravagant woman I ever saw in all my life before. He certainly has less satisfaction in his house than any poor devil I ever saw. I never felt as sorry for any man I ever saw as I did for him. Oh how it made me think of you, how hard you would think of me always if I ever got fretted and grumbled. How mad you would always get at me for it, and I always a-doing and trying to do something for my family. To see the contrast–she does nothing under the heavens nor takes no care, no interest in anything, no more than a stranger. She then quarrels and fusses continually and he puts up with it and tries to humor her and never scolds at her, let her do as she will. I know such a wife would run you mad, but it is their lookout, not ours. I tell you these things for the purpose of letting you know that your brothers that have wives care only for themselves and their family that you may act to them as they would to you–but by this time you certainly have found it out.
Now about my going to California. I came home fully determined in my mind to go out there the first of May and I have thought and studied every way about it. I think if I had never of written to you about coming that you would never said to me come. Well I would get to thinking about you, and I would feel sometimes that I could not stand to be separated from you and that I could brave anything to get to you. Then I would write and tell you how I felt, not thinking it would be the means of causing any unhappiness on your part, but I done wrong. I thought to you I could express my feelings and you would not think hard of me, but I have got so some times now that I can think reasonably about it and at other times again I cannot reason. My feelings rule but, oh, it is one constant effort on my part to subdue feelings and let reason and interest gain the ascendancy. I have done it to some extent, as I said before.
I had determined to make an effort to go and to keep an eye to what would be to our interest at the same time. It was to make money that we made the sacrifice of parting in the first place and we have gone through the worst part of it, Well, to sell the negroes now they would not bring much over half as much as they would have done one year ago, for they are down now very low, so it would not do at all to think of such a thing now. We would loose too much. For me to go leave them would be almost like throwing away that much money to go some where else to make it. I thought at one time I could do it but after trying I found it not so easy to leave them in the hands of a man that had nothing. It would not do. How easily they could be run off or be sold and we would never hear of them and the men say they had run off. Well, if he had no property we would be at the end of our rope, and again to leave them with a responsible man. That sort of man does not like to take such a responsibility and if they would consent to do so, I know people well enough to know that they would care very little whether they lived or died, so I could not feel satisfied to leave that much property at the mercy of people that could not, nor would not, feel much interest in our welfare–not enough to put themselves to much trouble whether we made or lost. This is a very selfish world, I have long since learnt. By my going out there it would make us run the risk of loosing more than we would probably make.
(When I told Sam and Bet I had a notion of going to California Sam said he had rather die almost than for me to go and leave them. He said it was bad enough when I was here for them to get along and they could not do it all without me, that whenever I was away they was public property. And he said there was plenty of people that envied others their Negroes and would delight to abuse them whenever they had it in their power. He had learnt that while I was away the winter and two since you have left.)
Then why, when money is our object, place our property in jeopardy? I think it would be very unwise under all the circumstances for me to go and leave it, though as I said before, I was so anxious to be with you that I thought I could just as well go as not–until I began to make an effort to go.
Then I saw it was not so easily done without risking too much. Then will you think of all these things and not think hard of me for expressing the wish I did to be with you, or for causing you to feel so bad as you said it did. Oh, have you forgotten that I am a mother and a devoted wife that cannot control my feelings as regards my love for you so, or to be always on my guard how I speak to you, or always and at all times take a deliberate view of what would be to our interest. You speak of your hard and unpleasant life. I know it, and it is that that has ever made me feel that I wanted to share it with you. It makes me so sorry to think of it that. I feel like I could live on bread and water if you and John were only happy. I care but little for myself. God knows it is for you I have felt and on your account. I wrote about going to you thinking I could be of some little comfort to you if I were with you. I am willing to sacrifice myself for you at any time, but I do not think, when money is the object, that we ought to sacrifice our property here, to go there to make it. It is not selfishness in me, nor because I do not want to go, but because I do not see how it is possible for me to go, the way I am situated without running the risk of too much loss. So I will say no more about going until I get further orders from you, but will rest content to hold on here and take care of what we have here until you feel satisfied to come home believing it to be the best thing I can do, and, oh, do not think that I am enjoying life as you seem to do in your last letter while you are toiling and suffering privations.
You wrote so cold and seemed to blame me and think that I was taking my pleasure. Oh God have you forgotten that there is no pleasure for a lone woman, as I am now, with none to care for me, but many, yet many that would delight to hurt my feelings? Yes, it is an unfriendly world and I am alone in it a-trying to bear up and philosophize with myself to bear my lot for your sake and my child’s–and then for you to write me such a letter as the last one, blaming me and intimating to me that I am living by pleasure while you are living by faith. It was so cold! Not one word of affection or tenderness–yes those anxiously looked-for letters–and oh when I read it, how it pierced my very soul–you, my husband! It put me to bed for three days. It seemed to me that you had lost all the love you ever had for me, not to let me have a word of tenderness or love in your letters–for it is all I get or expect of love or tenderness from you. The cold, selfish friendship of the world has almost froze my heart, and when I get a letter how anxious I am to read it and look for love and tenderness from you, and how my heart delights to dwell on any little expression of tenderness, be it ever so slight–but in your last I was made to feel that you had grown cold towards me. I felt for a time that I was ready to die, that for you I lived, for you I give up everything else on earth, and for you I give up everything else on earth, and for you I suffered–and then to think that you had ceased to care for me! But I do not believe it now. I cannot–I have so much confidence in you that it can only be lost with life. Then, oh, think of me as I am, a poor lonely, heart-stricken, desolate woman, and not living in pleasure as you intimated, but only trying to live at all. Please don’t write me a cold letter and blame me so in it, for I live or die upon the contents of your letters. My God, you are my all on this earth. To you I cling and if you grow cold I am truly without one on earth to look to or cling to, for I shut myself out as much as I can from the world and live on the hope of meeting you again and in the discharge of my duty as near as I can. This is truly all the comfort I have: to do right and hope for a reward.
I read a letter from Larue to his wife yesterday. It was full of love and sympathy and tenderness. In the same evening I read one from Laura Stiller to her mother. It was the same way, expressing the tenderest regard and feelings– and oh when I read them and thought of my own letter. What a difference! How it made my heart sink within me and made me think what have I ever done, or even been more than they, that I must have to bear so much more in the way of coldness–but my sweet husband I do not believe you wrote that way to wound my feelings. Oh, no, it would break my heart were I to believe you did not love me nor care for my feelings.
As to trouble or being unpleasantly situated and having unpleasant things to bear with, my situation is by far more unpleasant than yours. It is true I have more comforts than you have but as for work, I idle no time, not as much by half as I did when you was here. You have nothing but your work to annoy you but, oh, think for one moment of my situation and my feelings, and you cannot envy me my pleasure. I am not as a widow even at liberty to seek society and enjoy it, and more I have no task for it for my treasure and my love is on the earth and my heart is with them and I sit in solitude keeping all my feelings and love locked up in my own bosom waiting the time to come when I can throw myself once more in your protecting arms and pour out on your bosom my soul’s joys and sorrows, for my feelings must all stay locked in my own breast until I do see you. I have none to tell my secrets to, no one but you to confide in. I can and will cheerfully bear my situation if it is to be to our mutual benefit, and you will give me a word of encouragement in your letters, for I stand much more in need of encouragement than you do, for mine is the hardest lot of the two. If you will only think impartially you must know it to be so. I am a helpless woman and have to be strictly on my guard in all things and at all times, while you are a man and can do as you please and do not have that lonely helpless feeling that a woman has…
But I will now say to you, to wind up all this long letter, that if I have said one word to hurt your feelings in any way I pray you forgive it–for I would rather suffer anything than to write one word to wound your feelings. Oh God, I meant to comfort you and you to comfort me. Let us try to comfort each other in our letters, for I can say of a truth, my greatest comfort is a letter from you. Now let me say to you: exercise your own judgement about how long you stay and what you do and it will all be right with me. I would not under any consideration have you leave on my account until you are satisfied to do so. Lay your own plans and do what you think best, and if you love me still and won’t blame me when I am doing the best I know how. It will all be right with me. I cannot go with the encumbrance I have here and be anything like satisfied or feel like I was doing my duty. As for any of my kin I would be better without any, for they are anything but a satisfaction. I will write you again soon and tell you how Moore and Liz treated me and little Lizzie. You may look for a letter the next mail after you get this.
And now my precious husband and child, keep in good heart and do just whatever you think best, for on your judgement I rely, knowing it is so much better than mine. If you only write to me that you are in good spirits and not hurt with me I am satisfied and will be and do the best I can. Write me soon dearest. I dreamed I was in your arms the other night Oh how happy it made me-but it was all a dream.
I remain your devoted and true wife until death,
Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
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.
P.S. Yesterday I was forty-three
Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
In this letter Martha Haun reports the unexpected return of David Haun to Kentucky. Dave had disappeared without a word from Marysville in January. 1 She also requests $200 from her husband to assist with household expenses.
I received your letter dated December the 28th, and, oh, how disheartened I am about writing to you when I hear you do not get my letters. I have written everything that I thought would interest you in the least and yet you have received so few of my letters that it discourages me about writing. I had been writing every week for some time before I got your last and had determined to keep it up as long as you remained out there but I have been discouraged from it by your not getting them. I have sent you several papers and the minutes of our state meeting.
Just one week after I got your last letter I was surprised early one morning before I was dressed by the arrival of Dave on the Lexington Stage. He had got to Lexington the night before. He said he could not get well out there so he come back to try and get well. He was twenty one days from San Francisco to New Orleans. He does not look as bad as I expected to see him, though he is thin. He says he is going down to Dave Lloyd’s to work and see if that will not cure him. He is certainly a singular fellow in his notions. It is not worth anyone’s while to feel any interest in him, for he will do just as he pleases. and does not appreciate kindness. He come back without money or clothes but he does not care anything about it. He says he can make as much money as he wants, he don’t want money. I see no way to ever make him right, only for everyone to be as indifferent about him as he is about himself.
Jane will start home in a few days. Graves has come for her. I told Dave if he would stay herewith me I would board him for nothing but he says he must go to work to see if he cannot get well.
I work myself. I have hired out Kit, Wash and Jim, so I have none but Bet and myself. I have rented all the house at a hundred and thirty dollars, and moved out the little dentist, and have taken Thomas Finnell and his family to board with me at five dollars a week. They furnish their own room and have their own negro to wait on them and furnish their lights. The dentist is a day boarder at a dollar and seventy five cents a week. Tom Burbridge will be a day boarder, but I myself do the work and have more satisfaction than if I had more negroes. I help to do everything myself and I feel better by it to keep myself busy, so I think I can live, if we all keep well. We did not start right last year and it took me all the year to get right.
I wrote to you for money. I do not know whether you ever got the letter. Kit will be confined very soon again. Whenever you think you want me to come out there write to me positively to come—for Tomas Kimill says if I want at any time to quit keeping house he will take the house off my hands. So if you want me to go, you must write to me to come. If you can get a few thousand to come back with in a year from this, I think you had better do so. I do want you to come back able to situate ourselves well. If you cannot do that I had rather go there, or I had rather you would stay longer, as bad as I want to see you, then for you to come back as poor as you went. There is always plenty of people to rejoice over other people’s disappointment. I think you will succeed. At any rate if you do not get enough to come back this year I think you had better come back yourself and arrange your business and take me with you—but I believe you will make enough to come home to stay.
I think I can pay my way now very well. Tomas is very obliging and gentlemanly to me. In fact, everyone is. I have no right to complain of any one. I am willing to go, or willing to do—any way for the best. Then, let us all three do the best we can for the present and do it as cheerfully as possible, believing we are doing it for our mutual benefit, and looking forward with delight tot he time when we shall all meet again.
Dave gave me a great deal of satisfaction about you and John. I thought I would not grieve as I had done about you anymore, nor I have not since he came, as yet. I do well know it is the best thing you could have done, but sometimes I would give the world if I had it see you. I can say of a truth I never knew how closely my very existence and all my happiness was centered around you. I look forward with so much pleasure to the time when we shall clutch each other in our arms again, never to part this side the grave. Keep in good spirits by thinking how happy we will be when we meet again. You must write me often and tell me all your prospects. D.H. Smith showed me a letter a day or or two since from you dated January the 28th.
Dave has gone down to Dave Lloyd’s. Lloyd Winter has been to see me. He is living in Illinois. He is a great big overgrown fellow. There is nothing new here that would interest you. John Lemon lost his wife last Sunday morning. She had a baby and left it ten days old, a boy. Poor John seems heartbroken. The Holtzclaws all leave this week for St. Louis. He leaves Pratt’s misses two hundred dollars as amatter of course. It causes some talk. Henry Cozzens has come and brought up Kate’s remains and his baby is a very fine child.
Dave tell me you have to pay one dollar for a letter after I pay to Marysville. That is pretty tight. It is a poor solitary life I live without you, and as to real enjoyment, I do not know what it is but I have made up my mind.
Do not you or John cease to love me as well as you did when we parted. It seems to me that my love grows stronger the longer you are away.
Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
This copy of a promissory note and accompanying notes from Alvin Duval, a Georgetown attorney, appear to relate to a much-debated inheritance, also alluded to in Martha Haun’s letter of April 11 18551.
“$183. One day after this date I promise to pay to C. West on order one hundred and eighty three dollars, for a value of $200. Georgetown February 19th 1845.
(signed) H.P. Haun”
The above is a copy of the note from H.P. Haun to C. West filed in the Scott circuit court. I brought suit on this note in October 1845 to July to the payment of it. H.P. Haun is interested in the estate of his sister Elizabeth, who had died in September 1845. Mr Haun returned from Iowa and paid the debt, and at the May town 1846 the suit was dismissed.
The note which J.H. Haun took with him to California appeared by his receipt to West is for one hundred and eight dollars executed August 15th 1843 to John Applegate and by now signed over to said West. It will be seen at once that the two notes are not the same as Henry supposes, but different in amount, date and pass on to whom payable. January 30th 1854.
I have determined to write you every week in hopes you will get some of my letters, for I perceive you do not get near all of my letters. I know I get all that you and John write. I can tell by the way you write. It is the same case with Mary Lared and Mrs Shorme: they say their husbands does not get all their letters but they get theirs.
We have had a very pleasant winter so far, not very cold weather. This is, I think, the coldest day we have had, but yesterday we sat all day without a fire–it was like an April day. I do not think I ever saw more rain fall in the same length of time than fell last night, yesterday and night before last, with a great deal of lighting and thunder– but it cleared off very cold.
When I write so often I have very little news to write you. Ben Bradley got home from the south last night. He has been there setting up his wife’s business. They talk of going to St Lewis in the spring to settle. Mrs Saunders is pleased with Missouri and has brought a farm within 12 miles of Bob Keene. Green Tucker gets married in a week or two to a Miss Morrison who lives at Squire Kemp’s and is some kin to the Kemps. She is a poor but a very nice, pretty girl of about 22 years of age. He told me himself about his going to get married and said he would start immediately after his message to Missouri to settle there. In fact there is very little change in the place in any way since you left.
Some have sold out. I have written to you all the charges in that way. The talk is now that Alvin Duvall is very much involved and will have to sell his property. I know not how it is, whether there is any truth in it or no. One thing I do know: his wife is as extravagant as if she was worth thousands.
The Georgetown Hotel has the run of customs all summer; it has been crowded, while Pratt has not more than eight or ten regular boarders at no time. Pratt has acted the gentleman towards me from first to last since you left and now he seems anxious to accommodate me in any way he can, but every one despises his wife and respects him highly. I wrote you that Hugh Sullivan had bought Mrs Reed’s property at a thousand dollars. I have written you everything as it transpired that would interest you in the least. I have got in Dr Meets and his wife, the kindest friends. They seem to think a great deal of me. In fact I have no reason to complain for everyone is kind to me. I have every reason to love the people of Georgetown, and I do feel more attached to it than I ever did before in my life. The way I am living is as pleasant, and I think more so, than any other I know of in your absence. It wouldseem to be a lonesome way to anyone to think of it, but I do not feel as lonesome as I did when I had to mix with a people I cared nothing about.
Bets Holtzclaw, Ethan Finnell and Laura Miller has all been toFrankfort and spent two weeks playing around there to catch beaus, but I do not think they succeeded. Bet is going back again in a few days to try it over again. Her mother spent the day with me today. A.E. West got a letter today from Henry, her son. He is in Arkansas surveying. He gets eight hundred a year and found everything. Billy Johnson and Johnny are at Hickman’s where Jack Winter lives. Jack says they will make seventeen hundred dollars a year there, probably more.
This is Tuesday night the 24th. I commenced this on Saturday night the 21st. Sunday night I had one of my old spells of sick headaches. I was taken directly after diner on Sunday and was very sick all night, but as usual got up well or nearly so the next morning. Yesterday and last night was very near as cold as the cold spell we had last Winter a year ago, but today it is cloudy and looks like snow, and my feet had like to have frozen last night. I got up three times and warmed my petticoat and wrapped them up. Liz is of no account on a cold fright to keep my feet warm. Oh, how I missed you and wished you were laying by me. My dear, if ever I getyour sweet form by me again you never shall leave me, if only for one night, and I know I would not go and leave you a night for nothing on earth. This separation will make me foolish about you as long as I live, for I have found out that I love your letters more than all the world besides, except my child. My husband, you little dream how devotedly I love. I did not know myself the strength of my love for you. But, oh, if God will only permit me to see you again I will stick closer to you the balance of my life than woman did to man on earth. May God speed the happy day when I will again hear that sweet familiar would and sit and gaze on that lovely face and feel again those dear arms pressing me to your bosom. I never was as anxious to live in my life as I am now. I cannot bear the thought of dying without you. I do not believe I could die and you away permanently.
Tom Othwell has gone to Missouri to locate George Algiar. They had a sale of his household effects on Thursday last. He intends to board. You know I wrote you he had sold his property. I also wrote you that Tom Barclay had bought Frost’s house at six thousand dollars. Runions has got to keeping store here again and Stanfords have sold out his goods at auction and are going to Louisville. Will White has got in as clerk again in this place and is boarding his family at the Georgetown Hotel. Hazel Offutt and wife are boarding there this winter also. They were too lonesome to stay in the country this winter. I wrote you all about old Uncle Solomon’s death. You have said nothing about getting the letter. I also told you about John Hurst being ill, and I told you in a long letter of three sheets of paper about my keeping house and all about my dealings and about the Negroes and everything about my self and my feelings every way. I hope you will get all of my letters, or I know it would interest you to hear everything from here, be it ever so simple. Sam Thompson still talks of going to Missouri in the spring. I wrote about his moving to town and living in the old Caplinger house. He is in partnership in a distillery on Eagle with one of the Thompsons, his kin. Some think he will fool away his money and not go to Missouri at all. I am told he gambles a great deal. John West has has been in Savannah all winter. He has not got home yet. He is on a gambling tour. Louis West, Clint, Tom White, Bat Thompson and all those men are just doing as they were when you left.
Mary Stevenson gets married tomorrow to Mr Bud–our Mary to Bud, the fellow that Clark used to plague her about. The Stevensons still live in Lexington.
Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
The last letter I received from you was dated the 28th of October. I received one from John last Friday dated the 3rd of December. I wrote a long letter to John the same day I received his, which was on the 13th of this month. I also sent you some newspapers. I wrote to John last Sunday night which makes two for him in one week, and week before last I wrote you, which is also in this month, which makes two to you and two to John. This is the third one to you since I received your last. I wrote one to you of three sheets of paper two or three months since. I would like to know if you ever got it. I also wrote to John the same week I wrote that to you. I wrote another a week or two after that—that Jeffry Shepard wanted me to write and the Wednesday before Christmas I sent you another by Emma Smith that was. She married and left on that morning for San Francisco. Write me whether you have ever got them all or no.
Frank Powell was to see me this evening. We had a long talk about California. He is going back this spring with stock. He says it takes a man some time to get in the way of money and to understand if he says he knows he could now make a fortune if he was there mining. He thinks you ought not to think of coming a way yet. He says you have been there about long enough to begin to know how to get along. I was asking him what he thought about me going out there and he says he would advise me to go, for if I am there you would be better contented to stay until you make a-plenty. Farther, he says I could be of great service to you to make you more comfortable—but this I leave altogether to your own judgement. If you want me to come out nothing shall prevent my doing so, but if you think it would be best to stay I will do that; whatever you think best I will do.
I am doing very well here. I am comfortably situated and am taking care of what we have here. I have written to you so often how I am doing that I think it is unnecessary to write again this time for fear you may not get the other letters. I will say that I have written to you for two hundred dollars. That is all I will ask you for while you are gone. It cost me that to go to housekeeping. I can now live cheaper than I would boarding, and take so much better care of the Negroes. Far would it be for me to give you any trouble or uneasiness on my account. I pray you have none, for I do assure you I doing well and I would not for any thing have you hurry home before you have got enough to do you some good. My advice to you is while there is any prospect to get what you went for not to give up the ship but preserve and do not on my account hurry home until you get ready. I know very well that you have had everything to learn about the county, and I well know that you could not go there, green hands, as you were, and make a fortune in one year. So I say, give it a fair trial and if you want me there you have only to say so, for as I have ever done been ready to do what ever you though was best, I am still the same. You know it requires perseverance in anything to get along. Then, my dear husband, be cheerful and contented to keep trying while there is any hope. As much as I would like to see you I would rather you would stay another year and come back with something than to come now with nothing.
None but God knows how dear you are to me. I love you so much more than I thought I could love anybody. We little know the strength of our love for anyone until we are separated from them. I can say in truth that without you, or the hope of seeing you again, I would not want to live. I have thought often and wondered how women that has lost their husbands could ever be as cheerful and happy as some of them are. Let me say to you, my precious husband—and believe me—that I have loved you so long and lived with you until your presence seems necessary almost to my existence, never having thought of having to live with out you. Oh, you have no idea, surely, how dear your are to me. If I ever get by your side again, nothing but death shall ever take me from it. Nothing of a small nature should ever trouble or vex me again for I know I will be the happiest being on earth just to be with you; it makes no odds in what circumstances, for I love you so much more than I do myself. You my darling, your sweet presence will be sufficient to make me happy the balance of my days. Oh nothing shall ever make me unhappy again if I should be fortunate enough to get with you and my child again, for you and him are my idols and I cannot, nor do I want to, help it. Notwithstanding all this, I now I have strength of mind enough to bear the separation if it is to be for our good—and I know it will be, for if it does nothing else it will make us satisfied when we get together even in no better circumstances. You know I have so much hope that I can and do look forward to the time with a good degree of cheerfulness. Then do the some and do not come until you are perfectly satisfied. You know I can bear anything that is to profit my child and you with fortitude. Then let us agree to sacrifice our feelings in this may as long as we have undertaken it with fortitude. I believe we will be blessed in it. Then let this cheer you and stimulate you to preserver. One year of the time has gone and the time will soon pass off. You could spend three or four years here and not think or see what you had done, and as many there in active business would count for something. You will feel so much better satisfied when it is over and you get home with something then you would have done if you had of stayed here and done nothing new. If you make but little you will be so much happier. You will have a clear conscience.
I am doing as well as I know how. I will now talk to you about other matters—Mary Larue got a letter today from his husband and he said that Charlie Osbourne had shot a man out there and said Charlie had been tried and cleared. I do hope you or John may never get into any such difficulty. I pray you try and avoid any such things.
Georgetown is pretty much as it was when you left. As for the church, it is getting on in the same way precisely. I wrote you on account of one protracted meeting we have had since you left, who joined and all about it. None of the other churches have had any big
meetings since you left. Badore Payrnes says to tell you he has not forgotten you. Everybody asks about you and seems to feel a deep interest in you. I do believe you endeared yourself to the pious people of this place before you left as much as any one ever did.
I do long for the time to come when you will get home and enjoy yourself once more, for I know you have friends here with whom you could enjoy yourself so much. Be patient and preserve and the time will soon pass off. Lewis Offutt and Mrs Pattersen marry tonight. The Saunders has bought a place within sixteen miles of Lexington, Missouri and a mile and half from Bob Keens’. They are very much pleased. The Holtzclaws leave here in a few weeks for Paducah, all of them. I will continue to write every Wednesday hereafter to you or John. You may rest assured I will not fail to do so every week until you get home again, be it long or short. I will close for the present. Write me often, my sweet husband.Farewell until next week when I will talk to you again, your loving and devoted wife until death,
Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA
I commence a letter to you with very little hope you will receive it. From your last I perceive you do not get near all my letters. I sent one by Emma Smith that was. She married a man from San Francisco by the name of Rings and left the same day for that place. The poor old man took it very hard.
You have no idea what a satisfaction your last letter was to me. I told some of the many inquirers about you, how you were doing, and it flew like lightning over the town. The people seem to take great interest in you. At any rate they are always inquiring after you.
We are all well. I have written three or four letters to you telling you all about my going to housekeeping. I presume you have gotten some one of them and it is useless for me to write anything more about it. I have collected very little money since you left and you know I had none. I found with the kind of Negroes I had—women and children—it would not do for me to board and rent a house for them. It would bring me deeply in debt in spite of all I could do, besides running the risk of loosing some of them by not being taken care of them. Kit will have another child this spring and Bet, you know, has always one or like for one. Kit’s child is just one year old and as a matter of course no one would give anything for her this year, so I have to keep her at home and try and make her do something. I have one day-boarder and intend to take more if I can get them, and I make her and Bet try to earn something that way. I have hired out Jim for twenty five dollars this year. I have not hired Wash yet. He is such a tricky mean rascal no one that knows him will have him. I am trying all the time to hire him. I will get him off after a while.
It has cost me two hundred dollars to go to housekeeping and lay in my wood and everything. Two hundred covers all my expenses and if you will send me that much I will not ask you for another cent while you are gone, for I know with an even start I can keep so unless some accident occurs. Remember I have a helpless family of children to take care of and Kit is having children twice as fast as ever Bet did, and you know I can get nothing for her to hire her out. It will make a fortune for some one a-raising there children for her and Bet will stock the town in a few years at this rate. So you see my independence is a slim one, the way I am situated, but if you can and will send me two hundred dollars I think I will not have to ask you for any more. Please send it if you can as soon as you get this. I do assure you I am trying to do the very best I can.
I know I get all the letters you write. I can tell by the way you write—
Jane Graves is here a part of her time with me and a part in Lexington with all of her
children a-spending the winter. They are all well. She sends her love to you John and Dave. I wrote a letter to you for Jeff Shepard’s sake. Tell me if you got it Isidore Burns sends his best respects to you and says, “tell him I have not nor ever will forget him.” I cannot tell you all that wish to be remembered to you, but almost everybody. Poor old brother Smith will have me read your letters to him and seems to feel a deep interest in you. Tom Barclay has brought Frost’s house and gave six thousand dollars payable in four years.
Oh, if I could only know tonight while I am writing this rest how you are, what a pleasure it would be. Eleven months of time has passed off. As long as you have gone there for the purpose of making money and have gone through so many hardships, try and preserver until you get enough to settle us well some where. Oh, how hard the separation—but if ever we are fortunate enough to meet again nothing on this earth will ever separate me from you again. I will follow you, go where you may. Oh how I long to see you, my own, I cannot express it—but when I think of you coming and having a plenty to situate us well and all being together once more it makes me bear it. I long for the time to pass off, for I feel lonely without you and ever will; it makes no difference how many people I see. I have lied with you so long that it seems almost necessary to my existence to have you with me. I do pray God he will prosper you and my dear boy, and from it me, and I pray to once more in this world clasp you to my heart and feast my eyes by looking at you and hear the sweet familiar tones of your voice. I feel like good old Simon, that then, and not till then, I could lay me down and die. Give my love to Dave and tell him to be sure to come home with you when you come. Tell John to write to me. Farewell my precious husband.
Your devoted wife until death,
Metadata: Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA