1841: James Monroe Tate to Franklin Grayson

How James Monroe Tate might have looked

This letter was written by James Monroe Tate (1817-1847), the son of Dr. Charles Tate (1772-1842) and Mary (“Polly”) Tate (1779-1863). Tate wrote the letter to Franklin Grayson (1814-1899), a Virginia farmer and the husband of his sister, Nancy Louisa Tate (1819-1885). Franklin was the son of John Grayson (1787-1874) and Agnes Whitlock (1793-1858). Also mentioned in the letter are siblings: (1) Leonidas H. Tate (1805-1866) with his wife, Mary Caroline Bradley (b. 1812) and their infant daughter Susan W. Tate (1840-1860), and (2) Charles Campbell Tate (1808-1874).

From the letter we learn that James M. Tate was a physician, like his father (He says he is “still healing round in this & surrounding counties”). But he doesn’t think his prospects are good due to the shortage of money and the “dull” times. He also admits that his heart isn’t in the profession. Family records indicate he moved back to Tazewell County, Virginia where he died, unmarried, about six years later.

Spencerburg, the oldest town in Spencer township, Pike County, Missouri, was laid out in 1836 by John M. McQuie [some 30 miles south of Hannibal]. It was named from Spencer Creek, which flows nearby and which also gave its name to the township. Spencerburg is located on the old Paris Road which at one time ran nearly to Louisiana, Missouri. The town declined when the Chicago and Alton Railroad laid its track approximately 10 miles south of Spencerburg, and the towns of Curryville and Vandalia popped up along the railroad. The name Spencerburg is found on some old maps as “Spencersburg” and is listed in the postal guides of 1870 through 1894 as “Spencerburgh.”

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Franklin Grayson, Bradford, Smyth County, Virginia

Spencerburg, Missouri
December 31st 1841

Brother Franklin,

I received your letter of the 26th November a few days since which was indeed welcome intelligence. I feel not only much gratified but very thankful to hear, notwithstanding the p_____a of the times, that you, my relations & friends are still blessed with health and competency with these blessings. We should endeavor to be content & thankful. I shall not at present notice your letter in all its parts. Suffice it therefore to say that while perusing a letter from the Old Dominion, I feel at home and almost forget that I am so far distant.

Inasmuch as I have written home some 2 or 3 times since John left — who I trust has ‘ere this safely reached home — I shall say but little of myself. I am still healing round in this & the surrounding counties to little or no good purpose — am not altogether unemployed — but nearly so. I am in good health [though] my spirits are rather below par. I am bound to reflect much upon myself for perusing & continuing to pursue a course so at variance with my interest, I have greatly deceived my friends.

The hard times are much complained of here. Money is evidently hard to raise from sale of products, property is selling low, & very dull. Any quantity of pork could have been bought in different parts of the state at from $1.50 to $2 per hogshead. Beef, grain, &c in like proportion. Hemp & tobacco will perhaps command money at a fair price.

I received a letter from Charles a few days ago — also a note from John while at Nashville — both of which I will answer soon. I have now had 3 letters from you, the second of which announced the birth, beauty, sprightliness &c. of your daughter, and seem to have been written much for her benefit. I presume that Leonidas was somewhat astonished receiving a letter of such grave importance from me — dated early in October perhaps. At that time, I had some notion of settling myself here, if approved by my friends. Therefore, my purpose in writing to him was to ascertain the wish of those with himself who felt interested in my humble welfare. He is a brother for whom I should have something more than brotherly regard. He was the guide & pattern of much of my youth, for instruction and example. I am much indebted to him. Allmost all my recklessness, I have not lost sight of nor forgotten the many advantages and important privileges of my youth, nor have I forgotten all of the good impressions, though I have abused many of them, made upon my mind at home.

Our friends here are generally well. Give my love & best wishes to all at home, to Leonidas & Caroline & Miss little Susan for me. And accept for yourself & family my regard & attachment.

— J. M. Tate

Write to me soon. Ask them to write from home.


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