December 22 1854 – Martha Haun to James Haun

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Martha Haun addresses her husband from the home of his brother in Iowa, telling him of a new boarder at home in Georgetown, her long journey, and the fortunes of all their connections.1

I this night received your letter of date the 12th,2 and where do you think I now am? Why sitting by W.G. Haun’s fireside in Iowa. I will now tell you how I came to be here. In the first place, I wrote you that I had given up all idea of going to California. You have, I doubt not, received that letter. In it I gave you my reasons—

Well this fall I thought I could come here and it would cost me no more than to stay at home as everything was so scarce and so high and I would pass of my time faster. So I left Sam and Bet and their children in the kitchen and locked up the house, and the man that boarded with me Dr. Handle has his office where Alvin Duval had his law office adjoining the house. He will see that everything goes on right, attend to them and write me every two weeks how they are doing. I have been here three weeks or nearly so and got one letter from him saying everything was going on well.

I wish you could see this poor little deformed Doctor who boarded with me and befriended me in little matters. I want you to see him and know him. You said to me in one of your letters that you hoped I would not fall. That letter was the first one I received after I wrote you I had gone to housekeeping and that he was boarding with me. I know, my sweet husband, what you thought and did not blame you, but loved you for it. For that reason I want you to see him and know him. He is dreadfully deformed in the first place and, if he was ever so inclined, has not attraction for any woman on earth. And more, my dear husband, my heart has ever been too sad since you left me to look upon any man living and have an evil thought. Had he not have been in the situation he was, I would not have taken him to board, for no one could or would think there was any imprudence in it. My dear, I have said this because I owe it to you, but it has always been so delicate a subject I shrank from it, but as long as I had to speak of him I have at last said what I have long wanted to—so now drop it.

Now I will tell you about my trip and about the Iowa folks, I left home on Monday morning at seven o’clock and went on the stage to Paris. I ate my dinner there and got on the cars for Cincinnati. I got there at five o’clock and stayed there until two the next evening when I took the cars for Chicago. I got to Galena Thursday, the sickest creature you ever saw, a-vomiting every ten or fifteen minutes. Riding on the cars made me sick like sea sickness. I did not get entirely well for a week after I got off of the cars. I felt dizzy and stupid. I had to stay at Galena until Saturday morning, as there was no conveyance on Friday. I then got in an open vehicle and went down the river thirty miles to a little town called Savannah. I never had such a ride in my life. It was so cold, and the thing jolted me so much, and the keenest coldest winds—I thought I should freeze before I would get to Savannah. I did not, though I suffered considerably. I crossed over the Mississippi on a ferry boat between sundown and dark and when out in the middle of the river I thought of how often you and I had crossed that same stream together and I wondered where and how you and my boy was and wiped away a tear, the snow falling thick and fast on me the while. I landed at dusk on the Iowa side at a little town called Sabula3 six miles from W.G. Haun’s. It was dark and cold and we had to stay until Sunday morning, when I got in to an open buggy. By the time I got there I was chilled through. They have the coldest winds here I ever felt.

I found them all at home but W.G. He had gone to Lyons but come home in the evening. They had just got into their new house a large, two story brick with fourteen rooms—but you and I, my sweet husband, have lived more comfortable and much nicer in a log cabin. They all seemed so glad to see me. Samy would look at me and then hug and kiss me a dozen times and said she was so glad I had come and Sant was so kind to me and was as glad to see me as any of them. Sant has broken very much. He looks much older than Billy or you. He is the oldest looking Haun I know of. G.W. shed tears when he met me and made me so welcome. Graves and Timmy live about a hundred and fifty yards from the others, and live neat and comfortable. Tim is industrious and neat and a good housekeeper but has very poor health.

I went over to Jane’s that evening, Pauline Sant and me, as Nanny and her had not visited for sometime, but I had them make up and they now visit. John Haun was lying in the lounge at Jane’s with the ear ache and a bad cold. He looks very badly. Will has paid John his money, or rather paid him what he owed him in lots in a town called Lyons 12 miles from Will’s. He have him 20 lots for what he owed him and John stays in Lyons. The same John yet cannot live with anyone in peace–

Sant is not in partnership with any of them he rents out his farm and stays at Will’s and putters about there and helps when he feels like it. He looks like an old man and is very careless in his dress. They have laid aside all their particular notions they used to have and get along the best they can. Every fellow has to wait on themselves. Will has got up a new mill house frame and wants it to running by spring. He says he is a good deal in debt yet and cannot attend to all his business himself. Graves will leave there in spring I think from the way they talk they intend to settle in Lyons. Graves has undoubtedly done well by going there. Will has given him a first rate chance. W.G. says he put in nothing when he can and he does nothing compared to what Bill does, and his family is furnished bountifully with everything, and they can set as fine a table as I ever sat down to, loaded with every luxury.

Pauline has the hardest time of any of the kin I have seen out here. I feel sorry for the poor thing. She acts in the capacity of housekeeper and cook. I never saw a better girl than she is, and she is very smart. She often talks about John and will say, “Aunt, do you think John would love me if he was to see me?” tell John of this. Nanny has an easier time than any housekeeper I know of. I do not know what Bill would do without Pauline. He would have no comfort in his house without her, and she feels keenly her situation but cannot well help herself. Bill has a tolerably pretty place here, but they live backwoods fashion, and the roughest-looking set of people. The women all go in two horse wagons when they visit.

Tell John I went across the road one night with all the kin to a ball. I never saw anything the dancing and dress and doings, or only among the negroes in Kentucky—and even they some of look and act as well or better. I know California is no worse; it can’t be.

Now my dear husband my eyes are red and swelled form crying—for how can I read a letter from you and not weep? Tonight I feel so disappointed since I read in your letter that you did not intend to come home this spring. Now my dear husband remember that I am getting a little old and it is a critical time of life with me, and that is so long and hazardous a journey for me to undertake alone, or without you with me to take care of me should I get sick. I know from the way the cars make me sick that I could not well stand a sea voyage. Taking all things into consideration I think it would be best for me to stay and try and wait patiently your return. I cannot summon up fortitude enough to start that journey without you with me. I do not believe I would ever reach there, since the cars made me so sick. Yet I might, but it would be expensive and unsafe. Unless we were determined to make that our home I think it would be better for me to stay here.

You must make allowances in my letters to you for a show of my feelings, for they frequently get the better of my judgement. I sometimes think that I must and will see you at all hazards though it would cost me my life, and I express myself so in my letters to you, for I think I can to you express every feeling of my heart and you will understand it. That is the great trial I have to encounter: my feelings getting the upper hand of my judgement. Sometimes I get along very well and think it is all for the best, what we have done, and look forward to the time when we will all meet again and feel cheerful and satisfied, and again I get so anxious to see you that I feel like I cannot stand it any longer and sometimes write when I feel that way and write just as I feel at the time. Now you know my disposition, or ought to, as well as I do myself. You know my strong love for you and my child and at the same time you know my ambition and pride. There lies the struggle. Sometimes one has the supremacy and sometimes the other. Now I will say this to you: do what you think best.

W.G. thinks you ought to stay a while longer if you are making money and I ought to stay and take care of what we have here. If you think you would like to live there come home and make your arrangements and take me with you or go anywhere else you may like, so long as you take me with you. I did not think hard of you as you seem to think I did, by asking you to tell me what you had rather I would do—but I have made up my mind not to go and unless you write me that you expect to stay two or three years longer. I will not think of going. So you can know what to depend on and know how to make your calculations. I think it would be sinful in me for the love of money to expose my health and undergo what I would have to do in going to California when I have but one child in the world and am getting old. So I will say to you: do what you think best but do not look for me out there. You will not, my dear husband, blame me—I know you cannot—for shrinking from the undertaking. So make your arrangements to suit yourself and I will abide then without a murmur if I can. If I should in my letters sometimes give way to my feelings, do not think hard of it. It is because I love you and want to see you.

Tell my boy not to forget his mother and to write to me occasionally. Tell him Pauline wants to see him very much. I showed her his likeness and she thought him very hansom. Tell him I love him as dearly as I do my life and want to see him, but I want him to do the best he can for himself. If he is not contented and satisfied there, tell him not to stay but come home and not to make himself miserable and ruin all his happiness for the sake of money, unless he wants to do as he is doing. It is his choice entirely not to stay, for he can make his living almost anywhere, but I do not, now, in his young days, want him to destroy or make himself miserable on account of money—but if he prefers doing as he is doing it is all right.

Continue to direct your letters to Georgetown, as I expect to be there by the time I can get an answer to this. All here send their love to you. Will is not at home, nor won’t be for two or three days yet. Do not suffer your mind to be worried about me, but do as you think best. Bet will have an other child this spring if nothing happens. Everything is jogging on in Georgetown as usual, no news of interest. Tell John I will write to him in a few days. Now farewell my sweet husband and sweet child and think how lonely I feel when  I say farewell to you—but I must close.

I remain your faithful wife,

M. Haun

Oh, yes, tell John Bet Holtzclaw and two or three other girls dressed up in men’s cloths and promenaded the streets one night just before I left.

Metadata: Sender’s location: Sabula, IA | Recipient’s location: Nelson Creek, CA

James Haun Diary, February 1853

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Cash paid self and John on our way to California1

Sunday 6 – To I. T. Pratt for board, Georgetown Kentucky, each $5.25
Passage and dinner, Covington Kentucky, each $4.00

Monday 7 – Broadway House Cincinnati, each $1.50
Railroad passage to New York, each $16.90
Hack hire at Cincinnati, each $.25
Supper in Cleveland, each $.25

Tuesday 8 – To breakfast, each $.38
Apples, each $.10
Supper, each $.37
Hack hire in New York, each $.50

Thursday 10 – Passage to San Francisco, each $275

Friday 11 – Colt revolver for John, $17

Saturday 12 – Theater tickets, each $1.25
Bath and whiskey for myself, $.50

Monday 14 – Vest, $2.00

Tuesday 15 – To minstrel show, each $.20

Wednesday 16 – Inedible ink in New York, $.25
Boots $3.50
Slippers for myself, $4.00
Cash handed to John, $10.00

Thursday 17 – Water cure book, $2.50
Pocket day book, $.38
Sundries, $.15

Friday 18 – Dried beef, $.49
Inkstand and paper, $.32

Saturday 19 – Bathing, $.25
Pocket compass, $50
Life preservers, each $1.50
Pacific House, board each, $14.00
Boot black, each $.25
Hack hire, $.38
Carrying trunks, $.35

Sunday 27 – Bottle claret, $1.00
Two lemons, $.20
Servants on ship, $.36

Monday 28 – Ate 3 meals. Landed San Juan city.

March 1853

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Tuesday 1 – Up the San Juan river.

Wednesday 2 – To Castle Rapids.1 $3 to steamer across the lake

Friday 4 – To lake Nicaragua, and on to Virgin Bay Town.
Bottle claret, each $.50

Saturday 5 – At the port on the lake at Virgin Bay Town
Cash bread and coffee, each $.20
Dinner Virgin Bay, each $.60
For trunk, $9.75
For Johns trunk, $8.40

John and I took the first boat to shore with many others. I stood in water up to the top of my boots as she took in water, but we landed safe in Virgin Bay Town. We dined and waited for day, and, after getting our mules, we set out 12 miles for the Pacific. After passing over one of the most singular countries, and steep mountains, and by all sorts evergreens and fruits, and the natives living in houses made of round sticks and Bamboo cane and covered with flag leaves, we next landed safe at the Pacific Hotel after dark and we paid for supper, breakfast.

March 5 – Lodging and dinner, each $2.50. Arrived in the town of San Juan del Sea.

Sunday 6 – I got up early took a stroll. The Brother Jonathan2 is lying at anchorage a few hundred yards out, opposite our hotel.

In looking around at the high cliffs I saw cactuses 6 inches in diameter and 8 or 10 feet high. I had liked to forgotten to mention the mile high mountains in Lake Nicaragua3 and the clouds hanging around their top. I saw many natives stark naked, and good sweat oranges, 1 cent apiece.

Here it is considered the Fall season. The road we traveled over yesterday was quite dry and dusty, though it rained every day, when we first landed at the mouth of the San Juan river (it is spelled Juan). After Breakfast, we went in a-bathing.

Our trunks is coming in all well.

The first thing that saluted my ears was the breakers of the sea at this place. They continue and continue to roar while I write, standing near the water’s edge.

March 6 – to oranges and lemons, $1.00
to passage on steamer, each $2.50
to paid for trunks ———

We went on board Sunday evening and bid adieu to San Juan del Sea one hour before sunset. Our course was North of West from 3 to 5 points, with a strong wind to drive.

Monday 7 – In the morning John and I were somewhat sick; in the evening the Pacific is quite smooth.
To bottle claret, each .50

Tuesday 8 – The sea is quite smooth. We are now and have been all morning opposite three high Guatemalan coastal mountains. I am told they will be in sight all day.

4 o’clock — ocean quite smooth with gentle breeze, the steamer is running quite as steady as a Mississippi steamboat, North of West 2/4 five is our course. Quite warm.

Wednesday 9 – After sunset. Quite warm all day. The Pacific quite smooth. All’s well. Today we crossed the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Today I saw a number of black fish.

Thursday 10 – 8 o’clock in the morning. Saw a steamer going in the opposite direction. Dry, warm and clear–has not rained on us since the night of the 3rd, the last night we was on the San Juan River. We will pass Acapulco today.

At night. Have just seen quite a number of porpoises and occasionally a shark. I saw the sunset in the water this evening and opposite the town of Acapulco after sunset.

Friday 11 – Quite pleasant all day with a gentle breeze ahead.

Saturday 12 – Warm and sultry with heavy swells. Many passenger were not at breakfast. I feel out of sorts, kind of squeamish, too sick to eat dinner. The wind is from the North West, getting cool. I had to put on my vest. Could not eat supper. We are crossing the Gulf of California.

Sunday 13 – Quite unwell this morning. The vessel continues to role about. Ate nothing all day. Had preaching. The text was Matthew 16.24, verses 5 and 6—

Monday 14 – Crossed the Gulf of California. The sea is calmer. Ate breakfast, but very weak. Had to put on my over coat and socks again. Saw three whales and three sharks this morning. Now, we are less than 2 miles of Margarito Island to the East, and not a shrub to be seen on it. Ate three meals today.

Tuesday 15 – Somewhat cloudy. A headwind. In sight of Land.
Bottle wine 1.00

Wednesday 16 – A strong headwind all day and night. Many passengers sea sick. I got quite sick in the evening.

Thursday 17 – The ship is still rolling. I could not eat breakfast. It got warm and pleasant and smooth sea at about 12 P.M. At 2 P.M. we sighted snow, back off the coast on the mountains. We anchored at San Diego to take on 25 tons coal at $2,500. Weighed anchor at 11 o’clock at night and put to sea again.

Friday 18 – Sunrise. Sea smooth. Passing an island on our left, land in sight.
12 noon. Sea rough. Passing Santa Barbara. Sunset at Point Conception. High wind.

Saturday 19 – Strong headwind all day. Ate nothing all day. High mount.

Sunday 20 – 8 o’clock tide to the wharf of San Francisco. Passengers leaving ship. Dave3 and John has gone to get their breakfast. As I want none, I will wait their return. Much of this town is built out in the bay on spiling. There is a great amount of shipping here. At half past ten I walked up to town and breakfasted. I called for 3 eggs, 75 cents, making in all $1.37 ½.

We next went aboard the steamer Comanche8 for Marysville at $10 each, and meals at $1.50 each. We started at 1/2 past 1 o’clock at the narrows in the bay. Above 35 miles up is Benicia the capital of state. These bay shores is beautiful. The many hills seems to have been harrowed rolled and set in grass without a stump or tree. Passed Benicia 1 hour Sunday evening.

Monday 21 – Cash to John’s passage, $13.00

At 4 o’clock this morning we were at Sacramento wharf. I went ashore at daylight and got breakfast at 50 cents.

At 8 o’clock we started again after the steamers Page and Gove Dany for Marysville. The Page blew up 10 miles below Marysville. We arrived there about 4:00 in the afternoon and went out to H.P.’s4 Ranch and remained there until the Friday 17th of June.

Cash paid for trunks, $1.00
for dinners, each $.50