1838: Ishmael Stevens to John Cardin

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, 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]

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mr. John Cardin, Mason Hall P.O., Orange County, North Carolina

Snow Creek, Tennessee
March 29th 1838

To John Cardin & wife & all the brothers and sisters greeting.

Not having any thing very particular to write to any one of you, it has seemed good unto me to write to you in general. And first I will say unto you that myself and family are all well at this time except colds — though we have some sickness in this neighborhood. The scarlet fever is prevailing. There have been some cases which have proved fatal, but in general it assumes a mild form and lasts but a few days. Hitherto, we have escaped; but we have not forgot the saying of one that “the hurricane is bid to spare, the man that’s strangled by a hair.” We confess that we are more favored than we deserve.

Margaret Dodson, wife of Jerome Dodson, and daughter of Mr. George and Mrs. Nancy Tate, died a few days since of (it’s said) the consumption.

We received John Steven’s letter a few days since which gave us much pleasure to hear that you were all well. John Whitaker wants to know if I had answered; no, if I had got a letter he wrote to me some time ago. I got one he wrote some time before I wrote to John Stevens which he John Stevens answered not long since by writing in answer to Bob’s letter killing, as he says, two birds with one stone. If he (J.W.) has written since the time above alluded to, I have not received it & I don’t think but I am sure that I ever answered that one, for I think in writing to John Stevens, I intended as Old Lilly says to kill two birds with one stone, and this time I intend to make a mighty throw and kill seven birds at once.

We have at this time very fine farming weather. We finished sowing oats last week. We sowed eight or none acres. We may make a great many or we may make none for, as the Negro said when asked if it was going to rain, it depends very much on the weather. If it should be what we used to call a good season for oats, we will probably make none and if a very bad season, we will make lots of them. We had a very cold February. The ground was frozen during the whole month. Vegetation is very backward indeed. We will not plant any corn for some time yet. Some of our wheat looks well; some not so well.

Bob & Betsy are as well as usual. Bob complained and complained all fall and winter. He brought death within three years. I thought he looked as well or rather better than usual the other day. We concluded to weigh — he weighed 145 or six. Some consist aboard maybe. I am about as heavy as usual. Mary Ann is rather the heaviest man but I can out run her. Robert Anderson weighs upwards of 20, can run all about, can say papa, tilly, and a great deal more we can’t understand; and if he is my son (of which I have no doubt) I can prove to you that he is as old as me — what think you of it. I will leave it with you for the present. We will say something about it hereafter.

Times, as the saying is, are very hard here. But we have meat & bread plenty and if we can’t pay our debts, it is no great disgrace. People suing a good deal. There is a great deal of money paid here in costs & interest. The serving of a warrant is 50 cents; its judgement 25 cents, issuing an execution 12 1/2 cents, levying the same 50 cents, commissions 4 cents on the dollar. _____, they cost of 1/4, 1/3, and sometimes 1/2 of the paper.

April 22d 1838

No change since I wrote the foregoing except that it has been very cold for some time past. We have had frost almost every morning for two weeks. We are done planting corn the first time unless it is a few acres of new ground. I would as soon have corn planted next week.

I was sorry Old Billy to hear that you don’t expect ever to come to this country for I think it doubtful whether I shall ever see you. Tho’ I still think I will be in that country some day. I could use the common saying most sincerely, that I hope to meet you all in a future day, and such I hope will be the case. But I have no thought that I will know you from any other persons whatever. I would say to those who hold the idea of knowing others in another world as they are known here that they greatly err not knowing the scriptures nor power of God. If our personal & natural acquaintances and affections constitute any part of heaven or happiness, I would ask the question that was asked by the _______  of old, “Whose wife shall she be for the ___ had her to wife?”

After writing to you that we are all well, I find some difficulty in writing, but I don’t want my nonsensical letters prevent any of you from writing to us. I would like to hear from almost any body there with whom I ever was acquainted — Old Bob Hastings and his folks & all around old Cane Creek. Bob White, Ann Horn &c., &c., Tom McCracken & Abby, and a thousand things you don’t think  about.

Yours most sincerely, — Ishmael Stevens

I would like to know what the prospect is with John and Patsy Whitaker for a young son. The Whitakers here, I believe, are all well. Bob ___ & myself are not very conversant. We have never been to see them since married, not they us but once.

Old Billy, we have not sent those magazines yet but I will before long. Write some of you before long. If you can’t write a long letter, write a short one.


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