1837: Marshall Reed to Barney Cory

This letter was written by Marshall Reed (1815-1837), the son of Nathan Reed (1776-1836) and Mary Muzzy (1777-1871) of Lexington, Massachusetts. Marshall was boarding with and working for Mr. Turbutt Rowles Betton (1795-1864) in Tallahassee, Florida when he wrote this letter in February 1837. From the contents we learn that Marshall had a clandestine relationship with a young lady from Boston who was betrothed to another man. He carried on a correspondence with her while in Florida through his friend, Barney Cory — the recipient of this letter. Unfortunately, Marshall did not live long enough to pursue the aforementioned relationship. The following obituary for Marshall appeared in the Boston Commercial Gazette on 7 August 1837:

What young Marshall Reed might have looked like

Died in Lexington, the 31st ult. Mr. Marshall Reed, aged 22. — It seems but answering the just claims of friendship to pay a passing notice to the memory of one whose virtuous character had gained for him the respect and esteem of all knew him. The subject of this notice having served a regular apprenticeship in a respectable commercial house of this city [Boston], left here at the commencement of last winter, to remain a few months in Florida, and upon his return from that place was attacked by a severe bilious fever, which in a few days after his reaching home, terminated in his death. During his apprenticeship he had by his upright conduct gained the entire confidence and esteem of the gentlemen in whose employ he had been for several years, and by his amiable deportment, his disinterested friendship, and a scrupulous regard fr the feelings of others, he had secured for himself a large number of friends, in whose bosoms he will ever be held in affectionate remembrance as long as they may live. Prompt, active and energetic, in all the calls of daily business, he was still as prompt and active in all those duties which he deemed rested upon him as a moral and accountable being; and regulated his life and conduct as one who felt that Earth was not always to be his home… Let a voice too come from that tomb to the widowed mother and relatives of the deceased, reminding them of the purity of his earthly character; and let this recollection, when the bitterness of their present grief shall have yielded to the consoling power of time, cause them to lift their hearts in thankfulness to the Giver of all good, that they mourned not — for the living, lost — but for the virtuous — saved.

Marshall wrote the letter to Barney Cory (1815-1882), the son of Nathaniel Barney Cory (1782-1846) and Meribah Gardner (1791-1857). Barney became a wealthy Boston merchant with his import business. HIs obituary was posted in the Boston Journal on 19 August 1882:

The death of Mr. Barney Cory at his residence on Arlington Street took place at half past 9 o’clock last evening. Mr. Cory was widely and favorably known in business, and esteemed in social circles for his many excellent qualities. Mr. Cory was born in Compton, Rhode Island, and came to Boston in 1832 when he was thirteen years of age. He entered the employ of Messrs. J. D. & M. Williams, who then kept in the “Green Store” on the Neck, which was for years one of the landmarks of that section. During his first year’s service the firm moved to South Market Street, and Mr. Cory subsequently became a partner, having by his diligence and business tact acquired the confidence of the firm. Mr. Moses Williams, his first employer and patron, retired from business in 1866, after an active business career of fifty years, and is now living in the ninety-second year of his age. Mr. Cory was a member of the Handel and Haydn Society for many years, and he has been active in promoting the musical taste of the city by liberal expenditures and personal attention… He leaves a widow and two children.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mr. Barney Cory, Care of John D. & Moses Williams,¹ Boston, Massachusetts

Tallahassee [Florida]
February 5th 1837

Friend Barney,

I received your letter of 30 December on the evening of 15 January with much pleasure. I had just time to acknowledge its receipt on the outside of mine to you of same date (15 Jan) before the mail closed. I was much pleased to hear from you as I shall be at all times, for I can assure you that I consider you one of the nearest friends I have. I also received yours of 9th January on the 25th enclosing something that was to me very valuable. I have no doubt but what Tempi² is very grateful to you for your kindness in enclosing her letters in yours and forwarding to me. I am afraid that we make you a great deal of trouble but Barney, I will thank you in earnest when I shall once more be in good old Boston.

Page 1

I suppose when Mrs. H. saw you at the door and enquiring for Tempi that she thought it looked rather suspicious to see you — a stranger to her — enquiring for Tempi. I do not believe she will tell you that T. is engaged when she shall know your business. I would not have you interrupt your business to hasten the delivery of Tempi’s letters. A few hours procrastination can make but little difference. I am afraid we shall unite so often that we shall tax your generosity too much. But I have no other friend in Boston that I should wish to trust in this business.

Page 2

Barney, I was very sorry to hear of the accident that happened to your cane. I suppose you would have sported it in fair style this winter in crossing South Boston bridge, but keep up good courage. I do not think the cane will make any material difference. You wrote in your letter of 30 December that you met A.E. and that she looked rather blue. Then Barney, I think her looks speak the truth for it is my opinion that she has by this time become rather a blue character, lives in Garden Street all looks bad. Barney, keep clear. You must excuse the imperfections of mine of 15th January as I wrote it in the dark and in great haste just as the mail was about to close.

Barney, in yours of 9 January, you speak of Humphrey coming down to your store as soon as he ascertained that you had had a letter from me. He must think it rather curious that I should request you to call on Tempi and say that I had arrived safe at Charleston. Barney, I am much obliged to you for the manner in which you avoided telling him that you had received a letter for Tempi.

Page 3

I have a fine counting room here at the corner of Jefferson Street in the 2[nd] story of the building known here as Mud Fort, and I have a fine young Negro fellow to sweep, build fires, and perform any office I may require. Mr. Betton³ keeps 15 as servants in his own family. You must think we have good attention as I can assure you that we do. Mr. Betton I like very much. He is a real Jonathan Man and if I could choose from all the people that I have seen here, I should choose him as the man for me. I do as I like much; do not go to business until after breakfast — which is 9 o’clock. But I would not have you think that I lay in bed as late as that by no means. The mornings are too pleasant for that. I generally take a walk of a mile in the country which I can assure you is very pleasant. The woods are filled with birds; some of them are most delightful singers. The mocking birds are here very numerous and sing with great perfection.

Negro Slaves Sold at Court House

I board in Mr. Betton’s family and room with his son — a young man of about 18 years — and I am certain that I could be contented here if I could in any situation in Tallahassee. But they have too many edged tools for my purpose. I have in the counting room a pistol loaded and a gun and dirk but I can assure you that I shall not use them. But you know it is best to be ready. In the public square where they expose slaves for sale, there has been about 100 hundred each day since I have been here in town. The town was in a great excitement on the 29 January in relation to a party of Indians having proceeded within 8 miles of this town taking 3 Black Waggoners and 15 mules and burnt the waggons. They soon formed a company of volunteers and after proceeding about 80 miles, overtook the Indians, mules and Negroes. The Indians escaped leaving the men and mules. They are continually having drafts here and I should think that this country — the whole U. States — might take a few half starved savages. But such is not the fact. The Indians elude them in every encounter.

To Barney with my best wishes for your happiness. I will bid you good evening hoping to be in Boston to eat some more Ice Creams the coming summer at our friends in Hanover Street. — Marshall Reed

We have shipped the last 2 days 600 bales of Cotton for Liverpool. No mistake but what Mr. Betton does a good business.

Please deliver the enclosed. I almost forgot the request but I am apt to think you would have known what to do with it.

Write all the news you can think of. Everything is news two me.


¹ John D. and Moses Williams were Boston merchants and bankers who made enormous fortunes as importers of wines and liquors. In later years, it was exposed that they cheated the government out of over $2 million in customs by submitting false invoices to the Custom House. They settled with the government for only $100,000.

² The identity of Marshall’s young lady friend in Boston is not revealed in this letter. He calls her “Tempi” which is probably a nickname for Temperance; and we only know that her last name began with an “H.”

³ Marshall Reed boarded with Turbutt Rowles Betton (1795-1864), an early cotton planter and shop keeper in Leon County, Florida. He was appointed commissioner of Tallahassee by the Territorial Governor prior to statehood and later served as Justice of the Peace and various other municipal posts. He came to Florida Territory in 1828 from Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, bringing with his slaves with him — some of whom he inherited through his wife’s Virginia family. See 1817 act summary below:

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland, That Turbutt R. Betton of Queen-Anne’s county, be and he is hereby authorised and empowered, to remove, import, and bring into this state, at any time after the passage of this act, any negro slave or slaves which he may be entitled to receive as his distributive share (in right of his wife) of the estate of her father captain William Lane, deceased, of Fairfax county, Virginia; Provided, the said Turbutt R. Betton shall, within three months after the said slave or slaves shall have been removed as aforesaid, make out and deliver to the clerk of Queen-Anne’s county court, a certificate or list of said slave or slaves, stating therein the names, ages and sexes, of the same, which certificate the clerk is hereby authorized and required to record in the same manner as is directed by the act, entitled, An act relating to negroes, and to repeal the acts of assembly therein mentioned, passed at November session seventeen hundred and ninety-six.”

Betton’s first wife was Elizabeth Lane (1790-1841) who died of yellow fever in 1841; his second wife was Sarah Ann Copeland. The “young man of about 18 years” that Marshall Reed roomed with in the Betton house was Turbutt Lane Betton (1820-1861). T. Lane Betton seems to have been affiliated with the Suwannee Springs Resort — a mineral springs establishment as early as 1841 when he was only 21 years of age.


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