This letter was written by Dr. Jeptha Fowlkes (1808-1864) to his second wife, Maria Jefferson (Baker) Fowlkes (1806-1864).¹ They were married 24 January 1846 in Davidson County, Tennessee. Dr. Fowlkes first wife, Mary Gatlin Lamb, died in November 1841 in Nashville.
Dr. Fowlkes was the editor of the Daily Avalanche, a democratic party newspaper published in Memphis. In 1860, Fowlkes supported the Democratic candidate John C. Breckinridge for the Presidency. Henderson Summerville was the editor of another democratic party newspaper published in Memphis called The Appeal outwardly supporting Stephen A. Douglas for the Presidency. These editors engaged in such heated debate in their respective newspaper columns that a duel was arranged and only called off at the last minute when Dr. Fowlkes claimed that, being a family man, it would be unfair to risk his life against an unmarried man. Dr. Fowlkes was also the President and major stock holder of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
This letter mentions the purchase of a 22 year-old female slave for $600 as a servant for his wife.
Addressed to Mrs. Maria J. Foulkes, Nashville, Tennessee
Tuesday Night, August 11, 1846
My dearest & best Maria!
I am disappointed in not hearing from you tonight. I look with much certainty for letters from you and whenever you do not visit me by your letters, I feel disappointed. You have no idea of the enjoyment I feel in reading your letters. They give me spirit of the writer; I seem to inhale the very “des spirit” of your dear self and the communication of the devout & holy christian with God though the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not more delightful & edifying & strengthening to the pious worshipper than the communion I hold with my own dear Maria — my own self — my better half — by letter. Faith is her purity; faith in her devotion to me; faith in her every word, look & act! By faith I now espy the secret inward emotions of her bosom this night; by faith.
Thursday night [August] 13, 1846
I have been disappointed in not hearing this night especially from you. I have stood on tiptoe of hope & expectation! but I have nothing yet! I fear you are sick yet I can not in reason fear it because you would have me written to. Then I must attribute it to inconvenience at sending to & from the Post Office. I do not know when I can come up. I have the prospect of selling two pieces of real estate at some 20 to 24,000 dollars and it is so important to me to do so that I must not go off so as to lose this prospect. Our future comfort & happiness depend upon it. And dear, excellent beloved wife, you must do me the ____ of believing that nothing short of the most imperious necessity could keep me for one hour from you! You grow dearer & dearer & still more, more dear to my heart! Would that your eye were now at my heart inmost emotions discerning how tender & devoted & ____ every throb for you! But enough of profession. I shall lose no time to see you. Yet I can’t exactly say when I shall be up — as soon as duty will allow.
I have just paid $600 for a very superior woman for you — 22 years old — and said to be extraordinary. I did not come about her just now but it so _____ happens that such can be had that I have bought her for you. You will be pleased with her.
It is hot & healthy, dull & lifeless about town.
Our children well & all our friends except Aunt Nelly. She is quite sick. All the negroes — especially Jim & Celia send ___ love to you & the children. Kiss the boys for father & believe him devotedly your fond husband.
Very tenderly yours, — J. Foulkes