1852: Dr. Thomas Duncan Martin to Henrietta (Perkins) Martin

How Dr. Thomas Martin may have looked in 1852

How Dr. Thomas Martin might have looked in 1852

This letter was written by Dr. Thomas Duncan Martin (1815-1900) to his wife Henrietta (Perkins) Martin (1827-Aft1900). Thomas was a physician and farmer who resided Sutton’s Creek District, Perquimans County, North Carolina [Woodville Post Office] until relocating eventually to Raleigh. The Martins were married in 1849. The 1850 Census gives 27 year-old Joseph Bateman as the overseer and property records indicate that Thomas owned 24 slaves ranging in age from 1 month to 55 years of age.

The 6 November 1900 edition of The Sun [Baltimore, MD] carried the following obituary notice for Dr. Martin:

Death of Dr. Thomas D. Martin. Raleigh, North Carolina, Nov. 5. — Dr. Thomas D. Martin died here last night at the home of Capt. S. A. Ashe. He was 85 years of age and a native of Elizabeth City, this State. He was a man of thorough education and an accomplished physician until he gave up practice in 1861 to become a surgeon in the Confederate service. His health gave way in 1863 and he retired from the service. He was possessed of ample means. His father, Thomas D. Martin (1783-1820), was a lawyer of marked ability, a native of Hanover Court House, Va. His mother was Miss Mary Wingfield (1787-1875), an aunt of Bishop Wingfield, of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Dr. Martin was a pupil of the celebrated botanist Dr. Asa Gray. He married Miss Henrietta Perkins of Perquimans County, this State, who survives him. It is reported that he has bequeathed considerable sums to the University of North Carolina and to Trinity College, Durham.

As a surgeon in the Confederate Army, Dr. Martin served in Co. F, 27th North Carolina Infantry. This company was originally known as the “Perquiman’s Beauregards” and was mustered in on 16 May 1861. Dr. Martin enlisted at the age of 46 and was elected a Lieutenant by the men in the unit. He was detailed in a hospital at New Bern on or about July 1, 1862. He was reported absent on detail at New Bern until transferred to a hospital at Greensboro on or about February 15, 1862, and was defeated for reelection on or about April 22, 1862.

Dr. Martin references his slaves in this 1852 letter and a cryptic note in the post script suggests that two of them — George and Ned — had recently been captured and were being held in nearby Elizabeth City.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mrs. Henrietta Martin, No. 19 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Woodville, [North Carolina]
June 23rd 1852

My dearest wife,

Yours of June 17th was received by Saturday’s mail. I hoped to learn from it that you had consulted the Doctor about the progress of your disease while you were absent. I wish you had advised him of your return to the city immediately and have saved me some several days suspense. I did not go in person to the Post Office last evening but sent Luke off before I left my wheat field. He brought two papers for you, a letter from Molly Wingfield to me, but no letter from you. I wish the Post Master General would permit me to set the Post Master’s from Philadelphia to Woodvills to nights. I flattered myself I would leave them a little more mindful of their duties. My darling, you should not have waited for the Doctor to look in after your return. You know how laborious his life is, and what little time he has to spare, that you might ____ that he would not care until advised of your return. I think you ought to have written him a note saying you had returned to the city and would be pleased to see him at his leisure. However, I will not scold — though we are not only anxious to hear from you, but wish to near also what the Doctor thinks of you.

My darling, I got this far this morning after writing a long letter to Molly Wingfield, when I felt so tired and drowsy I could go no farther. I have bee reaping all this week (Monday & Tuesday) and am now hauling up the wheat from the field back of the house that I may put the hogs in there. I nearly finished cutting the B____field yesterday, having cut all that was ripe & some that was hardly ripe enough. Wheat shatters out very much even when it is not ripe enough to put into common size shocks. I am afraid it will yield as well as the _____ growth led us to expect, as the head does not seem as heavy as it was last year. My corn is growing off finely, and needs hilling very much. I fear before I get through ______ing that it will be silking & tasseling & too large, breaking much down by the plows. I did wish to hill early to secure a crop of peas.

I made a visit to your cousin Edmonds on Sunday last, found all very well & highly pleased to see some one who had seen you and could tell them about you. Your pretty cousin was somewhat in high dudgeon and your not having answered her letter — though Ms. Cuccy says he had been at his utmost in attributing your not writing to the irregularity of the mails stating perhaps that you had not received her letter & if you had, your answer had miscarried. But when I told him you had received your cousin’s letter and had not answered it up to the time of my leaving, his act was at its limit, whilst your pretty cousin’s slighted feelings were considerably on the increase. When she saw me though, she said she was perfectly reconciled & that you had not forgotten them. Your cousin Edmond expressed himself as being very much pleased to see me and to hear so directly from you. He made me promise that if you returned shortly, to let him know when we should be in Elizabeth City and he would send us there, and your cousin would bring us up home the next day — after making the request as strongly two or three times, I thought I should not refuse.

I have been looking for your Mother all this week as she sent me word by Carson Monday morning that she would be here on Tuesday or Wednesday. They were reaping all last week and perhaps they may be at it again as she has not come. She was very well on Monday. I have not received but one note from her though I have written her by nearly every opportunity. I should have written her yesterday morning by Jack but expected her then or today certainly. Perhaps she will be down here tomorrow. If she does not come this week, I shall go up on Sunday and meet her at Mr. Reed’s or Ma’s.

I shall reap again on Friday if I can get the help. Mr. Pratt has cut throughout the whole harvest so far and as much as any negro I have tried. He has done 20 times the work  we asked that I could hardly drive out of Jemmy White. And my negroes have done double sa much. I have bought 2000 bushels of oyster shells and am going to making a compost of swamp mud as soon as I get out my wheat crop. I must make manure or st___ eventually on so small a quantity of land & now all chance of the Hinton Land is gone.

Mrs. Johnson has not left yet. She is detained on account of her grandmother who is very feeble. I saw her on Sunday with Dr. Johnson who is attending her, but have not heard from her since. She was some better. Molly told me she was writing to you there and will tell you more particularly about the family.

I saw Mr. Elliott on Sunday at Mr. Granbuy’s on his way home from Norfolk. He says his mother bore the trip very well and seemed improved when he left. Mrs. Granbuy speaks of going near Norfolk — perhaps to Mr. Granbuy’s — to spend the summer. I should think she would have a lonely time being so much accustomed to company. I had a message yesterday from Mrs. James N. Whid___. Her health is still feeble from dyspepsia. She says she don’t like my passing her twice and not calling to see her. I suppose I must try to see her when I go for you but that can hardly be, for when I start the fastest speed will be too slow to my desire. Oh, my love, that some compassionate eagle would loan me his wings and this night should you nestle in my bosom. I long to see you. I think it continually. Day or night, I find myself clasping my empty arms & talking to the ____ one that is far, far away. Dearest, don’t you hear me? Don’t you feel the pressure of my face & arms around your loved form? I know you do. Though separated to so great a distance, we hear, talk, see & think alike, as if we were ___ present to each other.

What is the matter with the Doctor’s medicine it works its effects so slowly. If he knew I longed to have you with me, her certainly could add so more potent additive, some charm that would cheat disease of its accustomed time. Write me how the Doctor thinks you are and when he thinks it will do for you to leave. But darling, don’t hurry his consent to your leaving before his better judgement would advise. Tell him he & Philadelphia are welcome to your society just so long as is necessary for your cure but not one moment longer.

Fare well, my dearest. God bless you and keep you from all harm is the sincere wish of your affectionate husband, — T. D. Martin

P.S. 24. Your Mother & Ma has been here today. All well. George & Ned are caught & are now in Elizabeth City. Mr. Williams has just sent me word. All send love.


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