This letter was written by Mary Brown Williams (1832-1880). She and her brother, John Samuel Williams (1830-1849), were the children of Putnam Tarrant Williams (1799-1835) and Judith Virginia Markham (18xx-1833). Putnam T. Williams was a teacher, lawyer, and planter who died in Mississippi only a couple of years after his wife, whom he married in 1829.
Mary B. Williams married Field Dunbar (1827-1854) of Adams County, Mississippi. He was a graduate of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) and returned to Mississippi to manage his father’s plantation 9 miles south of Natchez and live in the mansion named “Forest.” That house burned down in 1852 and was later rebuilt.
Mary wrote to her aunt Mary (Williams) Brown (1792-1847), the wife of Elijah Brown (1781-1860) — a tanner and currier in Chittenden, Rutland County, Vermont. Mary was the daughter of Samuel Williams (1756-1800) and Mary (“Polly”) Putnam (1763-1809).
Mary’s mother, Judith Virginia Markham, was the daughter of John Markham and Lucy Champ Fleming of Kentucky. Judith must have been a sister of William Markham — whom Mary calls her “guardian” — and John Bunyon Markham, the uncle Mary says served with his son (Mary’s cousin) in the Mexican War.
Addressed to Mrs. Mary W. Brown, Chittenden, Vermont
May 12th 1847
My dear Aunt,
It has been a long time since I have written to you, but I flatter myself that you are too well aware of my feelings towards you to think I ever could have forgotten you. My love would have forbidden that, and not taking that feeling into consideration, my duty and the respect I owe to the memory of a departed parent all would have conspired against my forgetfulness. The newspaper Cousin Fayette sent me containing an account of the death of Mr. E. Granger reached me; he must have been a truly excellent man; and while it is out of my power to offer any comfort to my dear cousin, I sincerely sympathize with her. She is now a widow — deprived of one who was no doubt dearer to her than anyone. She has, however, a dear little daughter remaining to her — the only gift as to remind her of him who is gone. Cousin Lucia also sent me a newspaper — very entertaining it was. Tell her I am much obliged to her for her kindness.
I received not long ago a letter from brother. He was very well and wrote in high spirits. He is at present going to school in or near Natchez to a Mr. Mosby.¹ The school is near my aunt Mrs. Hutchins’ plantation. Consequently, he is there quite often. She has three beautiful children. Of course, in her opinion the sweetest in the world. I do not think that it is the intention of my guardian, Mr. William Markham, to allow brother to remain at Mr. Mosby’s very long. Brother is nearly 17 and is at an age when boys you know are generally in college. He spoke in his last letter of going to Brown University in Rhode Island where Cousin Fayette is. I believe it would be very delightful for him — only that it is rather cold for one who has never been farther than Kentucky and who has for the last few years been residing in the “sunny south.”
Aunt Martha wrote me that brother was a “splendid looking creature with a finely-shaped head and in short that his face was faultless.” Ought I not to be proud of him? But his mind and heart are in his sister’s opinion far superior; other things are utterly worthless. You will be surprised to hear that it is [the] intention of my uncle to take me to Kentucky this summer; he will I expect come on for me himself, and I will leave Carlisle about the 1st of August. You may imagine how very glad I shall be to see all my relations from whom I will have been separated exactly four years. I shall remain about three months in Kentucky as I have been brought up there nearly, and beside, I have two aunts, one uncle, and two or three cousins. I shall then go to Natchez to spend the winter with my aunt Mrs. Hutchins. I can not well describe to you the greatest pleasure I’ll have in seeing my precious brother — him who is dearer to me than all the world. And though I love my relations dearly and have many dear friends, yet what love can compare with that which a sister feels for an only brother?
One day, no doubt my dear aunt, you will see us both in dear old Vermont — that country from which came our father than whom a better, a kinder, a nobler man never “breathed the breath of life,” and in that noble state we shall see his sister & his nephew and nieces & all whom he honored with the title of friend. They will receive his children for his sake, will they not?
What do you think of the Mexican War? It was one year the 8th of this month since the Battle of Resaco deal Palma was fought, and I truly hope that Buena Vista may be the last. I think a year is quite long enough for our government to continue a bloody war which has taken the bravest and best from our fair land. Poor Mr. [Henry] Clay; how he must feel to know that his eldest and most gallant son has been taken from him. Has not General Taylor acquitted himself nobly? He is indeed a brave old soldier and yet I (tho’ it be contrary to general opinion) am for making Mr. Clay president. He has done so much for America that I think the Americans can never shew themselves too grateful.
I had an uncle and a cousin in the army.² They were both at the siege of Monterey where the Mississippians were the heroes of the day & they were from that state; my uncle was uninjured but my cousin, John Markham, received a severe wound in the left shoulder. They have since resigned and are not disposed to try their fortunes again on the field of battle. I am very glad that brother is too young to enter the army. When he was very young, he expressed a wish that America might one day be engaged in a war with some country so that he could shew his patriotism in defending her, and I know he would do it were an opportunity offered. However, I sincerely hope that that time may never, never arrive.
I have been engaged for several months in working a screen for one of my aunts. It represents the poet Burns seated near a table writing. At his feet is a dog and above him is a closet, the shelves of which are rather empty. His room is rather poorly furnished as you know he was not one who had the world’s riches in abundance. His genius no doubt compensated for that misfortune.
This is May — the last Spring month — and summer will soon be here. Ah, how I will hail the first of July. The weather is very pleasant. I expect it is rather too cool yet in Vermont.
Well, my dear Aunt, I must now bring my letter to a close, not however without wishing you to write to me as soon as you receive this. Give my love — my true love — to all your kind family. Ask Cousin Lucia if she does not intend to write to me very soon. Kiss Helen for me & remember me affectionately to all my father’s friends. Accept for yourself the warm love of your affectionate & attached niece, — M.B.W.
Brother always asks me in his letters if I have heard from you and while I wish you would write to me, I cannot forbear asking you to write to him also. Tell uncle he might add a P.S. in your next letter which I hope will come very, very soon. Yours, — Mary
¹ Elva Academy was established in 1829 on the Brighton Plantation, on Second Creek in Adams County, Mississippi. It was said to be a flourishing school for many years. In 1841, Mr. John S. Mosby (b. 1801) was principal and was much praised. This location would have been west of US 61 south of Natchez, and in an area where there were lots of wealthy plantation owners who sent their children to the school.
One of the plantations in the area would have been “Glen Aubin Plantation” which was owned by Mary’s Aunt & Uncle. They were John Odlin Hutchins (1816-1890) and Aubin (Markham) Hutchins (1817-1868). The 1½ story Greek Revival home with four stuccoed brick columns was built between 1835 and 1845 by Hutchins and is on the National Register of Historic Places today. It is about 12 miles south of Natchez and not far from the Mississippi River.
² According to Mary, her uncle, John Bunyon Markham (1795-1858) and his son, John Bunyon Markham, Jr. (1819-1856) both served in the Mexican War from Mississippi. The service record for Markham (Sr.) could not be found. Markham (Jr.) served in Co. C., 1st Mississippi Infantry and company records conform that he was “severely” wounded in the action of 21st September 1846 before Monterey. He was discharged on 30 October 1846. Family records indicate he was born in White County, Tennessee, and died in Miden, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, where he was stabbed to death. He married Sarah Elizabeth Upshaw (1825-1902) in 1843 in Noxubee, Mississippi.