1840: Joshua M. Tompson to Arthur Tompson

Joshua M. Tompson Gravestone

This letter was written by Joshua M. Tompson (1806-1850) of Pownal, Cumberland County, Maine. He wrote the letter to his older brother, Arthur Tompson (1798-1853). They were the sons of Edward Tompson (1765-1854) and Sophia Pote (1771-1851). Fifty-eight of Joshua’s letters were published in a book entitled, The Tompson Family of Maine. The following is a summary of the content of those letters which tells us about Joseph and his family:

“Joshua was an attorney. From the letters he attended school in Boston (Harvard?) and then moved to Savannah Georgia to begin his career where he apparently prospered and married. He then moves back to Raymond, Maine, and stays there for the remainder of the letters. Joshua was born at the family home in Pownal, Maine, in 1807, the son of Edward and Sophia (Pote). He married Eleanor Pote (his cousin?) on March 15, 1850 when he was 43, according to information from Maine Historical documents found on line. But in the letters he has a wife in 1843 and a baby so perhaps Elizabeth was a second wife. Joshua’s brother G. W. has an amusing, lighthearted and joking writing style. Early in the letters he took a huge financial risk and his investment was a disaster and in 1846 he writes his brother that: You say you should like to know about what I have lost — ALL!; but he refuses any aid from Joshua and by the later 1840s he seems to be doing fine. In fact, he seems to have become a doctor, at least he administers Homeopathic advice and tells of trying to master homeopathic medicine by reading books on it. G.W. is married and has a daughter Abba born in 1846. One of the cousins, a sloop owner, writes from Charleston, that it is Sunday and the sun is shining and: the darkies think they are really in Heaven (with) no work. (May 1840). The boys mention coming from a large family and it is hard to tell for sure who is a sibling or a cousin but the siblings appear to have been Jane, Sarah, Charlotte, Arthur, and Joseph. While Joshua is in Raymond, G.W.’s son Harry boards with Joshua. The letters are quite modern in content with almost no religious homily as is so common in most letters of this time period. For example, Joshua’s sister Jane writes to him after he has been in Savannah a few months: I shall expect you to write as soon as you receive this. Write a little concerning your affairs, how you and that young widow comes on, or perhaps you have been making love to some of the city damsels (1833).”

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Arthur Tompson, to the care of Dr. Tompson, Pownal, Maine

Edgefield District, South Carolina
July 24th 1840

Dear Brother,

Supposing that you are now home, I will drop a line to you as I have an opportunity of sending it to the P. O. if I am brief.

My health has not been good since 9th May. A bowel complaint ever since. And to add to it, I fell from the top of the fence. Was standing upon it, feet slipped. My shoulder and elbow took the weight of the body with full force. Ground as hard as a brick hearth. It was done last Saturday. Now Friday and I have no use of it yet. I believe that neither bone was out nor broken but as the boy said, “I think it was cracked.”

I hope you are enjoying yourself finely among our old acquaintances. If you took home that medicine for Jane, get it to her to take during warm weather. It will operate much better through the system.

Arthur Tompson Gravestone

The bearer has called for his horse — brief — Give my respects to all friends. Tell as good story to Mother & Father as you can from me to keep them up. Go to Uncle Pote’s as soon as possible. Give my love to the family. See Jane! I have her last letter. You & the Doctor write!

Give me all the news. Ayer is in Louisville. Adieu! God bless you with all friends! — J. M. Tompson


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