Jackson County Tennessee
Letters from Forgotten Ancestors

A Connecticut Yankee In Upper Cumberland
or Disappointment Has Always Been My Lot ~ 1840
Copyright © 1997, Frederick Smoot. All Rights Reserved.

JACKSON TN 1, Also see: WARREN TN 2.
Manuscript postmark: Gainsboro Ten July 25, and rate: Paid 25

Addressee: Mr. Carolus R. Byington, Wolcott, New Haven Co. Connecticut

Gainsboro July 21st 1840
Dear Wife
Almost eight lonesome weeks have fled Since I left you at home.
And not one word from you have [I] heard To Cheer my lonely gloom ---
I arrived at this place this morning with the expectation of finding a letter here from you as I had given directions to have it forwarded to this place when ever it arrived at McMinnville.
But alas, I was disappointed. But as disappointment has always been my lot so far in life and probably will be through the remainder of my days, I must try to reconcile myself to my hard lot remembering that the Creator of all, govern's all for his own Glory and our own good.
You would probably like to know how I got along here in my business. I started from Nashville on the 2nd day of this month for Overton Co. with a load of Books. I had the misfortune to break down my waggon twice on the road so that I was hindered so that I did not get on to my ground to commence delivering until the 8th, after I got to delivering my horse was taken blind and I was hindered nearly a week with him. But I have notwithstanding all my bad luck delivered 35 Books which is doing midling1 well considering what I have had to encounter.
The roads that I had to travel over are as much worse that any of our Wolcott roads as they are worst than the best Turnpikes there is in the State.
I had to go over Mountains, through Rivers, and woods and travel 12 or 15 miles without coming to any house which you would think would not be very pleasant travelling. And what makes it more pleasant in travelling here is the accommodations which you can generally obtain. It generally consists of a little hoe cake2 and sometimes a piece of fried middling 3 with a cup of coffee without sugar or milk, such is the fare which I have received most of the time since I have been travelling and commonly have to sleep in the room where the whole family sleeps as there is not usually more than one room4 in the house.
I should like it if [I] could have you to cook one meal of victuals5 and to sleep with [you] if it was not but one night but I do not expect to have that pleasure for sometime to come.
You cannot think how much I want to see you and the children, much more to hear from you and hear all how you have got along since I left. The only comfort or consolation that I can receive in my present situation would be to hear from you and the children and hear that you are all well. I have not seen any of our company since I parted with them at Nashville, except Woodward and I haven't been together 3 days when we first started he was with me when my waggon broke the first time.
I want to have you be sure and write to me as soon as you receive this and direct your letter to Nashville, Tennessee. I do not know how soon I should be there but I think probably in about 4 weeks in which case a letter will not have any more than time to reach there should you write as soon as you receive this. I want to have you write all how you have got along and how Berkly gets along with work.--
Kiss the Children for me. Tell them to be good Boys, and try to make them mind you. I hope this will find you all in good health and spirits as it leaves me. Give my respects to all and tell them that if they want to learn how to live, come to Tennessee.
And now Dear Vester I must close my letter by subscribing myself your ever true and affectionate Husband.

Signed: Carolus R. Byington

I sent you $5 in the letter I sent you from McMinnville. I will send you some money if you are in want the next time I write. I want to have you procure any thing you want and I will foot the Bill.

1. Midling: about middle or average.
2. Hoe cake: a cornmeal cake made on a simple griddle. An old, worn smooth, weeding-hoe blade would act as the griddle. Mix up a certain amount of cornmeal, water, and salt. Put the dough on the blade. Put the hoe blade on live coals. Bake.
Take a pocket full with you, the next time you go out.
3. Middling: the middle of a side of meat, especially salt pork or bacon, some times called middling bacon or side meat.
4. A common early rural domestic building style was a single room log house, or pen as the architects call it. Often the attic was used as a sleeping loft. As the family grew, a second log house would be built adjacent to the first. The two buildings, or double pens, could be joined by a common roof and a wood floor between the buildings could added. The space created between the two buildings is called a dogtrot. This breezeway of sorts would, in winter, allow the dogs to get in, out of the rain and snow, or in the summertime, let them find some shade. A dear cousin tells me of being able to hear the click of the dog's toe nails as they went through the dogtrot. In latter years, many dogtrots were enclosed and siding was added to disguise the building's humble origins. Even today, there are in the south, many modern buildings with simple log houses at their core.
Of the single pen log houses that I have measured, 20' x 20' square is the usual measurement.
See: The Log House in East Tennessee by John Morgan. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN. 1990
5. Victuals, pronounced "vittles": food.

From the Collection of Frederick Smoot

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15 Oct 1997