Appalachia Heritage

January the 23 the 1870

January 23 1870 andrews nc

Several months ago, Peggy P. asked me if I’d be interested in reading a letter that had been handed down through her family. It seemed to have been written to folks who lived in my county near the town of Andrews. Peggy said reading W.C. Penland’s letters reminded her of the letter in her possession. After reading it-several things in it also reminded me of W.C.-they seem to use the same phrasing-even though their letters were about totally different things.

One thought I had after reading Peggy’s letter-the writers of her letter and W.C. grew up in the same region (about a 45 minute drive by car today)-so was the phrasing used common for our area-or common throughout the entire US? Maybe one of you can answer that question.

The letter was written by Susan Lunsford and her husband, Mat Lunsford. Susan was Peggy’s Great Great Grandmother’s sister. It touches me on so many different levels-give it a read and see what you think:

January the 23 the 1870

Dear father and mother  i this evin seat my self to drop you a few lins to let you no that we are all well at present hopin my few lins will come safe to hand and find you all enjoyin the same blessin and to let you no that I have got a fine boy I call him Jousep Henry after his Granpap Pendergrass he was borned October the 4 1869.

Whet is 20 cents per bushel corn is 3 dollars a bushel we have got 69 bushels of corn. We have kild one hog that wade 3 hundred and 48 pounds at 18 teen months old an one we didn’t way and I got one to kill that will go about 2 hundred and fifty and got 18 hogs left  We have 2 cows one will have a calf in March the other I don’t know when we have settled down her to stay 2 years or longer if we want too but I git more and more dissatis fide ever day if I was back in ole north Carolina I never would say Mat less move again. tho we have plenty to do us this year and plenty more comin on for another year but what satisfaction is it to me if I ain’t satisfied and all that dissatisfides me is to want to see my old father an mother and can’t I want to see you all I want you all to writ as soon as you git this letter not one but all

Susan Lunsford

Margaret I want you to write to me one time if you pleas if you hant for got that that you ever had one sister called  Suzy. Nin and forn and rocksy and lasy all drop me a few lines I would take grate pleasur in readin a few lines from you all  tell Jissy Baldwin and Joy to write to me I will send pap and mother a stran of little francis hair I send the girls some scraps of our dresses but if you have forgot my name look at the top of the letter I will write you my name  in full I will close so no more at present only I remains your child till death I still remains you sister so good by to you all from Susan Leunsord to her ole father and mother to her sisters all so

A few words from Mat to let you no that I am well and well sadisfide and tryin to do the best I can suzy has got dissadisfide here lately she sez she would be sadisfide if she could sho nanny and pap her fine boy the resen I am satisfied I recken is am so much like the … ???…  Bill an his family is well we live about half mile apart we have rented land and both work to gether this year we have sod ten bushel of wheet and hay all it makes free of rent 30 achorks (acres) of lan to tend in corn four acres to tend in tobacco you might not think hard of me for not ritin no sooner for we was a while that we did not no wether we would go on or stay her as soon as we got our minds settled we had to build our cabins to move in too I thought it would be no use to rite till I got settle we have made a contract for 2 year I would like for sum of you to come and see me next fall I will send you a way bill to come by if you node the situation of the country you would be willing to leave north Carolina tomorrow. Susan hole study is on the friends that is left behind it is true I would like to see you all but my mane study is to do the best I can for my self and family I pass off the time at work through the day at nite I nurs my too baby for pleasure so I take up no time in idles I will close for this time so no more at present only remaining your son till death.  From M.M. Lunsford to his father and mother write soon and fail not.


What I liked about the letter:

*The similar phrases used by the Lunsfords and W.C.- “at present only remiaing your son till death”, “I this evin seat my self to drop you a few lins to let you no that we are all well at present hopin my few lins will come safe to hand and find you all enjoyin the same blessin”, and “I will close so no more at present only I remians your child till death”

*I love how Susan gives them a hard time about not writing her, calling them out by name, and even saying if they’ve forgot her name she’ll write it at the top of the page. Sounds like she was a spit fire.

*Since we’ve been discussing hog slaughtering-I enjoyed her details about their hogs.

*I like the contrast between what she writes and what her husband writes. Through his words you can feel the determination that he is going to make it for his family-and if everyone knew how good it was there-they’d all come too.

*The letter was written on January 23rd-the way mail was then-I wonder how long it took for her folks to get it-could it have been an unexpected Valentine for them?

*My favorite part of the letter keeps running around in my head. Susan missed them but she mostly wished they could see her boy that she was so proud of. She tells them she will send a stran of little Francis’s hair-is this another child they never seen or is it a child she had before they left NC? Makes me wonder if they passed that little strand of hair around and talked of how they missed little Francis-of how there was a fine baby boy named Jousep Henry-who they  might not ever see but would love from afar.

What did you like?


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  • Reply
    February 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I loved this. Makes us appreciate being near to family now.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I loved the letter. So neat!
    Blessings to you,

  • Reply
    February 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Interesting. You pretty much covered what I though was interesting. Funny how letters seemed to be so formal back then.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    I love old letters, Tipper. Loved everything about them. I have one that my aunt wrote to my mom when mom was pregnant with my oldest sister. I think of them as a little peek at the past.

  • Reply
    Chef E
    February 10, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Tipper darling, every time I come over here I get inspired…new poem is coming…letter writing ways…
    I liked the whole idea of the fact you had to read it more than once to fine the sentence breaks, and the second time I was reading it out loud, and imagining her sitting at the table writing it…a spit fire she was!

  • Reply
    February 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I loved the letter. these old letters are priceless. I don’t have one this old, but i do have the one my mothers father wrote to me on the day I was born Sept 5, 1944. it is yellow with age and he addressed it to my dearest darling Sandra. he was here in Florida, I was born in Savannah. I get it out and read it everynow and then and remember him. letters like this show us how our ancestors lived and loved and struggled. great post

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    February 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    What gems! Thank you for sharing such beautiful linguistics. Aside from their language, their letters are a peek into what mattered most to them! Love, family, surviving! So touching reconnecting with souls of another place and time, Tipper! :))

  • Reply
    February 10, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    How nice to hear the message the letter conveys. I wonder how far from their family they had moved? I think people who moved and left their families behind were often lonesome. After all, they had lived for 15 or 20 years with the same family in a small house, and all worked together day in and day out. The change would be difficult.
    No TV, no phone, no internet. Nothing but the letters that were written.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Nice Letter. I like to overall tone of the letter. These old letters are all so polite and portray a high regard for the recipients.
    I did not understand where this couple now live, but it is clear they miss their home and family.
    It used to be common to clip baby hair and keep it. Somewhere, probably in an album somewhere there is a clipping of my hair. I was born with a full head of black hair, as was the Deer Hunter.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Over 100 years later, we still want the same things…to show off our babies, be surrounded by family and friends, and have something to fall back on in hard times. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful letter. Maybe someone will read our blogs 100 years from now and marvel at how we did things!

  • Reply
    Farm Chick Paula
    February 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Awwww, that’s so sad it made me want to cry.
    Especially the part about if she was back in NC she would never say “lets move again” and how she missed her mom and dad…

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    February 10, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Tipper: It is great how they wrote it just the way they said it, very interesting my friend.

  • Reply
    February 9, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    What a neat letter to have passed down in her family! I love the way she described their life and I do think the thing that was bothering her the most was that they hadn’t seen her new baby. I wonder if they ever got to see him? Has anyone looked at a census to see how old Francis was and if she had been born before they left NC?
    I enjoyed the sausage post, too!
    Hope you are staying warm. It was really coooold here today!

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    February 9, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    These old letters are priceless treasures. The dialect, the phrasing, the words, it is spellbinding reading in its simple beauty. The writers are unpretentious and we hear and see them clearly and we feel we know them when we put the letter down.
    The way of talking, the wording, the terms (Susans’s study is on friends left behind, Mat’s mane study is on how to be a good provider)are expressions not at all familiar to me, even as a native son from Appalachia.
    That freshness makes the reading all the more sweet.
    I thank Peggy for sharing the letters and you for showing them.

  • Reply
    February 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    It amazes me the difference in writing compared to today. If you think of it it is writing in the simpliest form and quite understandable if you think about it.
    I do love reading these old letters.

  • Reply
    February 9, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Oh Tipper—I love reading old letters like this. I have some from my grandmother and from her father. They are all so special.
    What I liked was that she wanted her family to know about the birth of her child. AND–I loved it that she named him Jousep Henry –after his Grandpa. I love family names even now–and all three of my sons have family in their names. People don’t do that much anymore–and I’m sorry about that.
    Since I do Family History–I find that it’s easier to find family members if there are some common names involved.
    Great post, Tipper.

  • Reply
    February 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    “So I take up no time in idles” well said Matt! Well said of a young mature man with a family, no time for nonsense but he clearly plays with his children in the evening.
    Suzy’s “study”, my “mane study”. A good way to say focus, what we study what takes up our brain.
    But then really, I love the ease with which they just write.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I love reading old letters…
    I too love the introduction of the letter….
    Sounds like she is devoted to her present family and letting her parents, siblings, other relatives know that they are working hard but have plenty and doing well so as not for them not to worry about her without saying so…
    It is very obvious that she is terribly homesick…and would love to be able to show off her children to their grandparents…
    Aren’t we so very blessed that we have such quick communication today…? Do you know which state they had moved and started their life, or was it another distant part of North Carolina?

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    February 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I loved the ‘write soon and fail not’ at the end of Mat’s letter.
    Where had Susan and Mat moved to? He seemed to think it was much better for farming.
    And about the similarities in phrasing — there were just a few standard ‘readers’ in use at the time and it well may be that the phrasing come from them.

  • Reply
    February 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    thank you for sharing the letter… i loved what they wrote.. and it touched me that they were longing for family and wanted to share the birth of their child.. the little lock of hair is darling.. i love the way they write and as you said i wonder how long it takes to get the mail from one to the other..
    again.. thanks.. and stay warm. we are blanketed with two feet of snow and expecting another foot tonite. ughh
    big hugs

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