15 December 8, 1850

Lyman writes to Henry in December 1850, having just returned from driving Mr. Bishop’s cattle from Arkansas up to Boonville Missouri.  Lyman did not form a very high opinion of the people he met on the 400 mile trip to the Missouri River.  It’s interesting that he would go to Boonville instead of Kansas City, but I don’t know anything about cattle driving in the 1850s except that the Missouri River was the destination.

Mr. Bishop has gone on another buying trip, so apparently Lyman has gained some responsibility.  But he still complains he is only earning enough to cover his immediate expenses.  Lyman says he was ill for a couple of weeks with bilious fever (probably typhoid or malaria), but has recovered.

Lyman describes the holidays briefly.  Thanksgiving had featured a public feast and a sermon against “ultraism” (political extremism, often associated with reform movements like abolitionism), and Lyman says the slaves have the whole week of Christmas off, and spend it celebrating.  But he also mentions a bill is being proposed to expel free blacks from Arkansas (this was ultimately signed into state law in 1859), which he says would “break up a great many” families if it passed.    

My transcription follows the images:


The original images are from the archives of the Ashfield Historical Society and are used with permission.


Van Buren (Sunday) Dec 8th 1850

Dear Brother

Yours of Sept 9th came duly to hand and was thankfully recd but I was delayed in answering it in consequence of starting for Missouri about that time.  I took a trip to Mo. in charge of a drove of cattle belonging to Mr. Bishop and consequently had a view of the Natives not of North America but of Missouri who by the way (most of them) are same as far as the trading of cattle or horses are concerned and that is about the extent of their knowledge.  I was gone about six weeks, went as far north as Boonville on the Mo. River which is about four hundred miles from here.

We have quite a snow here at present, about six inches deep which is something quite uncommon for this country.  It has melted some today and will probably all be gone before tomorrow night.  Bishop is gone to N. Orleans at present and is expected to be gone for 3 or 4 weeks yet.  He will buy his groceries in N. Orleans but will go East (Boston probably) in February to purchase dry goods.

Business is very good here at present.  Our cash sales average about 2  or 3 hundred dollars per week beside a large credit business.  I am bookkeeper here in this establishment and am getting so that I think books tolerable correct.  We keep by double entry in which you have to be very particular.

I don’t expect to get much more this year than my expenses covered which will be over one hundred dollars, Doctor’s bill & all.  As I have been sick since I last wrote you (which I like to have forgot).  I will now mention it.  I was taken about the first of Sept with the Bilious Fever which kept me down about two weeks.  But I soon recovered and am now enjoying as good health as I have for years.

Thursday last the 5th day of Dec. was the day appointed by the Governor as day of thanksgiving and it was kept.  Stores were all shut and the Presbyterian Preacher of this place gave us a good discourse on ultraism, after which we had a fine dinner prepared for the occasion.

Christmas is the greater day here.  The slaves have Christmas week for themselves to do whatever they choose, but they generally keep up dancing the most of the time.  They are about passing a law in the state to expel all free Negroes from it which will break up a great many should that law be passed.

It is getting to be about 10 O.C. at night (and Sunday night at that) and I have a business letter to answer yet.  I must close.

Give my love to Marie, the children, Aunt Jerusha, and all our friends in Mass.

From your brother


I have written home several times, but have not recd but one letter from them since I have been here.  I have just written again and am in hopes they will answer it.

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