This letter was written by Ishmael Stevens (1805-1866), the son of Benjamin Stevens (1752-1829) and Rachel Holloway (1767-18xx). He married Mary Ann Mitchell (1813-1863) in 1836. At the time this letter was written, the Stevens family had four children (all mentioned): Robert Anderson Stevens (1837-1919), Rachel Jane Stevens (1838-1869), Martha Ann Stevens (1840-1888), and John Currie Stevens (1842-1921). [Note: sometimes spelled Stephens]
Stevens wrote the letter to his brother-in-law John Cardin, Jr. (1804-1896) of Orange County, North Carolina. John was married to Mary Ann Stevens (1798-1871) and had several children — the two eldest mentioned in this letter: Ishmael James Cardin (1824-1909) and Martha Jane Cardin (1831-1883). [Note: sometimes spelled Carden]
See also 1838: Ishmael Stevens to John Cardin
Addressed to John Cardin, Mason Hall, Orange County, North Carolina
Snow Creek, Tennessee
June 27, 1842
Your letter of last month came to hand in due time and was thankfully received, and I would say to you that notwithstanding the slight affliction of your family, I was glad to hear that it was as well with you as it was. Your letter afforded me particular pleasure inasmuch as it enabled me to see and hear that you were giving your children some education at least. Ishmael James and Martha Jane have made great progress indeed. Martha Jane writes very well for a girl of her age, and practice will enable Ishmael to write well enough for useful purposes. You are now without excuse for not writing to me, therefore, I shall expect — and that reasonable — a letter from you occasionally.
And I now hasten to inform you that we are all well as usual. You can tell sister Becky that she must be content with having her name attached to the tail-end of Martha Ann for at least nine or ten months longer, for as luck would have it, Mary Ann was delivered of a fine son on the 24th of last March, and I expect we will call his name John Currie, and I would say without jesting, that he is a fine, large and likely; it was supposed that he would have weighed ten pounds when he was born and he has continued to thrive ever since.
In your letter you request me to inform you how I coming on; I would rather you has asked that information of someone else; for I never like to hear a person speak of themselves very much; but as I believe you would like to hear of my doing well, and as it is common for us to like to hear from those with whom we are acquainted should they even be doing bad, I shall attempt to answer your request as honestly as I can, though a person is apt to be partial to themselves; but to proceed. I have got a very agreeable woman for my wife; she is inclined as every prudent woman should be, to make my will & decision her own, and to render herself & me as happy as circumstances will admit. We have now lived together upwards of six years and have never had a quarrel fight nor foot race. In short, if there ever have been any bad feelings existing between us they have been few and of short continuance. Secondly, we have four little children, like most others, sometimes sick, sometimes well, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, and those of them who are large enough are sometimes in mischief and seldom out, but upon the whole I would not exchange them for yours nor any others of their size and weight.
Robert Anderson can spell & read a little in words of two and three letters, pick up chips, fetch water, and do many other small things. Rachel Jane can say some of her letters and do a great deal of mischief. Martha Ann can do about as much as any other child of her age & size. Little John Currie can suck & sleep & then suck & sleep again.
I have 122 acres of land which I think I could sell for ten dollars or upwards an acre, notwithstanding the hardness of the times and scarcity of money. I have five head of horses as good as other peoples — twenty-two head of sheep, between thirty & forty head of hogs, geese, ducks, & chickens enough, meat, bread & Irish potatoes if nothing happens in their season. I have some old corn & good prospect at present for new. I have the last grist of old wheat at mill, but I tell you I would have much good new wheat, for the rust used it bad. I will have a heap of straw.
And above all, I have a hope that when I shall have done with this world and the things thereof, I shall become an inhabitant of a better, where I shall meet with you and John & the children that God hath given you and all my relations, friends & acquaintances in old Orange [Count] where parting will be no more forever.
I can inform you that I was re-elected Justice of the Peace for Maury County on the 5th of March last beating my opponent 8½ to 1. Justices are elected by the people in this state & a lost every other officer.
If you recollect how old Jacob done & acted while living in that country, you can know how he is doing now. Robert Whitaker is doing tolerably well. Viney has seven children now living. Abram will never be as rick. Gerard I don’t reckon. Thomas & William get along just so so. Make plenty to each and pay their debts.
You wanted me to inform you whether I ever expected to come to that country. In reply I would say to you that I think it very doubtful. My time & attention in all probability wil always be demanded at home. If circumstances will ever justify me, I will certainly come.
I will not presume to advise you to move but if you have an idea of moving, tho’ I should like to see you, I would not advise you to come here but go to some newer country. We can raise an abundance of produce here but we have to sell low in proportion. Baring accidents, I will raise upwards of 150 barrels of corn myself this year, which will not at husking time be worth more than 50 cents a barrel cash. I would like for you to see my field of corn at this time. It is fine, fine.
If you should consider this letter worth 25 cents and will write to me again, I will write to you again also. And when you write, tell me a great many little things. Let all my folks see this. Tell John Stevens to write to me when he gets ready.
Bob & Betsy & folks are well except Betsy has the ague & fever. I will quit for this time.
Yours, — Ishmael Stevens