1817: Joseph Myrick to John Stuart Barrows

This letter was written by Joseph Myrick (1788-1848) of Hebron, Oxford County, Maine. He was the son of Bezaleel Myrick (1736-1802) and Huldah Moulton (1749-18xx). Joseph married Mary Mills Winslow in Gallatin, Kentucky in 1827. He died in Carroll, Kentucky in 1848.

Myrick wrote the letter to his childhood friend, John Stuart Barrows (1791-1845) — a native of Hebron, Maine — who came to Fryeburg, Maine in 1810 and established a law partnership there with Col. Samuel A. Bradley. John Barrows married Anna Ayer Bradley (1793-1825) in 1820.

We learn from the letter that Joseph was engaged in an unidentified trade in Hillsborough, Maryland, that suffered financially due to the lack of cash within the farming community that he lived. He shares some observations of Southern dialect that he finds humorous.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter


Addressed to John S. Barrows, Esq., Fryeburg, Maine

Hillsborough [Maryland]
July 16th 1817

Ha! in love again, ha! for the first time seriously. Well get married and get children. It is the only pleasure this life can afford. “Afraid she half suspected you have been a knave in your treatment of her sex! What a profound — I was going to say ignorance of female nature — But you are in love and think at least one is precisely what a sage or wise man would say a perfect female ought to be — and I make allowances. In my humble opinion, your charmer is either more, or less than human if that is made a serious, an insuperable objection to your success. I will not pretend to argue the point whether it is right or wrong that we love them for the charms of their innocence, and they love us because we are not exactly like themselves. One whose former conduct has savored a little of libertinism has the advantage of working upon the vanity of the fair one, with whom he is seriously in love, that a young man with maiden innocence wants. She might have some little ambition of making a conquest where so many have tried in vain. You ask if I am expecting to be married soon. No. I have entertained a kind of indefinite wish and expectation of being married these ten years. This I still entertain; but no particular definite expectation.

I think I shall not continue here much longer though this is very problematical. There is an individual among the trustees whom I most cordially despise, and what makes this of more importance, he is himself a majority of the board. In other words, overbearing influence is such that he sways them nearly at will. This man is a strange compound of good and bad qualities — of undoubted integrity, a strong mind enlightened by a better education than the generality of men in this part of the country. On the other hand, he is haughty and overbearing and sometimes insolent to a degree that I never before was acquainted with in any man. [He is] a man of violent prejudices, almost as likely to take an erroneous opinion as a correct one, and when once his opinion is formed nothing short of almighty power is able to change it. These circumstances make my situation less pleasant than it would otherwise be and is sufficient to make me determine not to consider this a situation for life. How soon I shall leave then in uncertain, but should it be in a year or even in three months, I should not be disappointed.

I engaged in trade as I expected but it does not prove very profitable. The bad crops for two or three years past has made farmers poor and the immense emission of paper by the banks during the war, which they have been ever since, and still are ___ing in has rendered that article very scarce — circumstances very unfavorable to selling goods on a small capital. We shall close our business very shortly.

This is a very level country. That is the reason that we have the ague and fever and I do not suppose there is a cartload of stones on the whole peninsula if all the males were away. When I first came here, the dialect of the people appeared very singularly to me. But it has become familiar and I have probably adopted into my own conversation some of the provincialisms of the South, In every instance when you would say I guess or suppose, a Marylander would say I reckon. We very often hear such expressions as the following: “like I do”,  “like he does”, “right smart” as for instance, “there were right smart of people at meeting” [or] “he is worth right smart of money.” I like right smart of cream in my coffee, &c. &c. A Marylander would hardly know what you mean by snow storm or rain storm. They never associate the idea of snow or rain with storm, and I believe we may have a violent storm without either.

Hillsborough stands on Tuckahoe Creek, a branch of the Choptank RIver, and had 150 or 200 inhabitants. Boats that will carry 1500 or 2000 bushels of grain come within about two miles of it and vessels with fish, &c. from Cape Ann come up the Choptank within 6 miles of us. One was up last winter. The Chesapeake is 12 or 15 miles off. Philadelphia is about 100 miles north. Washington 100 south or S.W. Baltimore 60 or 70 in the same direction.  Easton, the largest town on the eastern shore 14 [miles] from this place — about as the village at N. Yarmouth.

There perhaps never before was so dull a time for business of every description. Wheat on this peninsula has come in very short, but in other parts of thus in the neighboring states it is much better. Corn now looks very promising. Some of it is 10 or 12 feet high. I have got down and will write my name, — Joseph Myrick

24th July.

The season has been remarkably favorable for vegetation — warm and frequent showers. Were it not for this, our prospect for johnny-cake must have been bad indeed. The first, second, third and in some instances, the fourth planting of corn was destroyed by the worm. That that was planted so late is small and unless the season should continue to be extremely favorable, can not come to perfection. They begin to plant about the middle of April.

Too many of my friends, like yourself, think that others tell me all I want to know and under that supposition neglect to write. I hope you will do so no more. Your letters will be very gratefully received. Where is Revel — that lazy dog has owed me a letter I believe these six months. If I could say anything to induce you to write soon, I would say it.


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