1844: Hiram Bradbury Tebbets to John Clough Tebbetts

How Hiram might have looked

How Hiram might have looked

This letter was written by 32 year-old Hiram Bradbury Tebbets (1812-1890), the son of Bradbury Tebbets (1779-1823) and Polly Clough (1783-1846) of New Hampshire. Hiram B. Tebbetts earned a medical degree from the Boston Medical College in 1837 and practiced medicine for a time in the East and then in Louisiana, but gave up the practice to become a planter. In 1842, he married Laura Watson, the landed widow of Clayton Boone. He had several land holdings, but resided on a plantation purchased from the Grahams and the Benjamins that he called “Concord” for his home in New England.

Hiram wrote the letter to his older brother John Clough Tebbets (1805-1881) — a merchant in Boston. He married Mrs. Sophia (Williams) Whitman of Boston.

1844 Letter

1844 Letter

Addressed to J. C. Tebbets, Esqr., Boston, Massachusetts
Postmarked Lake Providence, La.

Tompkin’s Bend, [Louisiana]
August 14 [1844]

Dear Brother,

I received your letter of last month informing me of your improved health etc.  It is the only letter I’ve had from you in six months. My health [has] been very good since I last wrote you with the exception of a brush of fever I had first of June as I’ve ever been since leaving the North. Laura has been in bad health this summer but it is now improving. She was attacked very much like she was last summer but has not been so sick as she was then.

I have no local news of importance to write. You have probably been informed thro’ the medium of newspapers that this country has been and continues to be almost entirely overflown. The river has been higher by several inches than it was ever known to be before. [See: Great Flood of 1844] It came over the banks early in April and still remains over. We are entirely cut off from communication with other parts of the country. Our only means of neighborhood travel is by canoes and boats. There are hundreds of Planters who are not making an ear of corn or a boll of cotton. The loss of cotton is estimated at some 400,000 bales and the damage sustained in other things is also immense. The country is in a bad condition. There are many who are making nothing and have nothing to go upon — have everything to buy and nothing to buy with. I shall not make more than half a crop though I am less injured than any of my immediate neighbors. The picking season has commenced but the weather is very unfavorable — have frequent & heavy rains.

Your business with H_____ will attend to as heretofore provided you do not come on yourself. I have been expecting your Sophia would come on and spend the winter and would like very much to have you so so.

You wrote me with regard to [our brother] Charles’ location for [medical] practice, etc. The encouragement offered to physicians is small in this part of the country. There are at least five times as many as are required to do the business. I will give you an example by stating the number and designating their location in my own neighborhood. At Providence — eight miles above me (this is a little town of about one hundred and fifty inhabitants) there are six physicians. On Swan Lake — seven miles back of me in the swamp — is another. Nine miles below on the river is another. Directly opposite on the other side of the river is another. All of these nine in number are not doing more than business enough for four. Three could do it all except a few weeks in the most sickly part of the season. The only way anyone can make anything by the practice of medicine at the present time is to go on a plantation to do business of the place for his board and get the practice of the neighborhood. when thus situated, he is at no expense and every dollar he charges is a dollar in his pocket. The object is such a case is to get into a well settled place where he can have a good field for practice. I accidentally found a situation of this kind and made money. But such places now are hard to be found. My old place was filled in less than two days after I left. There were several aiming for it but the first one there got possession and kept it. A good carpenter or blacksmith can make more money than a physician.

If Charles is yet undetermined where to go, I will make a proposition to him. I invite him to come on and spend a year with me or as much longer as he pleases. He can look about, see the country, see what opportunities there are for doing business, and if no sufficient inducement should offer to remain in this part of the country, he can then dispose of himself as he may think best. I will give him a good living, furnish him with a horse to ride, and give him books & instruments if he has use for them. I will afford him every facility for seeing the country and help him to find a situation if possible. But in order that he may not be disappointed, he should bear it in mind that he cannot come on here and make money at present. He must wait till better times. I would like very much to have him and Harriet come on and live with me as long as they can be contented. He he makes nothing, he will incur no expense.

1844 Campaign Banner for Clay & Frelinghuysen

1844 Campaign Banner for Clay & Frelinghuysen

You say you expect I’m in favor of Polk, Dallas & Annexation. You never committed a wider mistake in your life. I am in favor of no one of the trio. I go heart & hand for Clay, Frelinghuysen & Protection. Polk is a second rate lawyer — the minority candidate of the Baltimore Convention and a cowardly temporizer. He is narrow-minded, partial in his views, opposed to a National Bank, to the tariff, and to every true American interest. But he is in favor of what? Annexation — a pitiable footing on which to base a claim for the office of President of the United States. Contrasted with Henry Clay and how wide a difference do we see — a patriot, a statesman, a man of capacious mind, of consistency, firmness and integrity whose whole life has been devoted to his country’s welfare. Such a man is Henry Clay. I must stop. Tell everyone you [see] who make mention of me that I am a Whig up to the handle. Clay will be elected by a larger majority than Jackson was at his re-election —  by a larger majority even than Harrison got. I will bet on that to the amount of a round thousand.

Laura joins me in love to all. Yours etc., — H. B. T.

About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

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