The two letters below were sent by Matilda Tebbetts, nee Winlock (1830-1892) to her sister, Louisa Ann Winlock Durrett (1822-1874), in 1846 and 1847. The first was written while both Matilda and Louisa were still single. Matilda was attending the Fayetteville Female Seminary at the time. Prior to moving to Fayetteville for schooling, though, she was living with her sister, Elizabeth M. Stirman, and Elizabeth’s husband, Dr. John Stirman, at Norristown, Ark., a riverfront town near present-day Russellville. Upon moving to Fayetteville, she lived with her cousin, Catherine Stirman, and Catherine’s husband, James Harvey Stirman. Mr. Stirman was a leading merchant in Fayetteville.
In the note, she mentions several other people, some of whom are further described here:
- Bob – her brother, Robert Stanton Winlock (1826-1897).
- Will – her brother, William Winlock
- Fanny Pollard – the daughter of Dr. Thomas Jefferson Pollard and Mary Willis Stirman Pollard. She married William R. Quarles in 1850, very likely the “Mr. Qualls” mentioned later in the letter.
- Joseph L. Dickson (1817-1868) – the son of Ephraim D. Dickson and Catherine Thompson Dickson. He became a leading merchant, and Fayetteville’s Dickson Street is named after him.
- Charles G. Baylor does not appear to have stayed in Fayetteville long but moved to Texas by 1850.
Punctuation has been added to show sentence breaks, but spelling is typed as it appeared in the written document.
Addressed to Miss Louisa Winlock of Greensburg, Green Co., Ky., with a Fayetteville postmark of Feb. 20 and “10” written in for postage.
Fayetteville Ark. Feb 15 1846
I received your letter a few days ago that you directed to Norris Town. Dr. Stirman enclosed it and sent it to me. I did not go down with them. I am staying with cousin Kate Stirman. She and cousin Harvy would not let me go[.] I fixed to go with them but cousin H. told Dr S. that I should not go. cousin H. started this morning to the east for goods. We have had a very pleasant time this winter[.] there has been 8 parties scince Christmas night or not exactly parties but dances. sometimes we just go and dance and not have any thing to eat but a cup of coffee and a biscuit and then when we pretent to a party we have every thing good to eat. There is a young gentleman boarding here. he is an Irishman[.] his name is Grant[.] he is comeing to dinner. I must leave off a while.
Oh! how I shall wish to be with you all this summer. it will be so lonesome here[.] Fanny Pollard and Susan Sutton are going to school at George town Ky. they will start in a few weeks. they are the only girls in that I care about visiting. indeed Fanny and I are inseperable one never goes without the other, one never buys anything without the other, and we are just called one person. I am writing a good deal of foolishness here which do not concern you, and of course will not interest you[.] I heard from Will the other day by two men from Missouri[.] they have been to Texas and saw Will, and are returning to Mo. he wrote to Pa to come to Texas and I expect he will for he sent word to me by Dr. Pollard that he was going on in the Spring for you and Bob and then come here and go to T.
Will is doing very well in Texas
I had not heard of the death of little Mary until by your letter. I have not heard from Ky before for 4 months[.] I though you all had forgotten me entirely
Thursday evening, 19th
While I was writing last Sunday Mr. Baylor came down and stayed all the evening and after tea Mr Grant stayed until 9 o clock, and of course I could not finish my letter, but I will finish it to go out in the morning.
I received a letter from brother Ja. Tuesday. I expect you have received one too for he wrote to you and the Dr. the same time that he did to me. Tell Charly Mat. he need not look so gloomy on that account, but I tell you there are some very fine looking beaux here, if it is in Arkansas[.] Charles G. Baylor Esq. is without any exception the finest looking gentleman I ever saw and Alfred M. Wilson Esq. is another and Mr. Joseph L. Dickson, cousin Harvey’s partner Mr. Qualls, Dr. J.G. Deavenport are all very fine chances for any girl that wants to get married. tell the girls they will have to come to Ark to get married for it is the greatest country in the world
Tell Charly I thought he would have come to see me before this, and to think that he has not even written to me[.] I will wait until a letter has time to come and if he does not write I will any how
I have just finished a fine dress to ware to the ball on the 22 of Feb. I tell you I will shine in my new dress
I am just 5 feet 8 inches high. there is not but one lady in town as tall. that is cousin Kate. we are exactly the same hight
Tell brother Bob, I am going to write to him the very next letter I write to Ky and that will be soon
Please ask Aunt Jane to write to me and make all the girls write
Give my love to every one that I know, Kiss all the children for me and two Kisses for little Bob, and Flora
Farewell sister, Matilda
P.S. I congratulate Nanny or Mrs. Hobson on her marriage
The second letter was sent nearly two years later, after Matilda had married Jonas March Tebbetts. While in Fayetteville during 1846, Tebbetts had seen “a tall slender girl with soft, earnest dark eyes and an unusually clear, white complexion” — Matilda Winlock — but did not meet her. He later had chance to meet and court her, and they were married on April 19, 1847.
Harris was a young slave owned by Matilda Winlock, whom she inherited from her grandfather’s estate at the same time as two others, Tom and Amy. Harris and Amy moved from Norristown to Fayetteville when the Tebbettses settled there after the wedding. Tom was married to a slave owned by James and Elizabeth Stirman, and they had several children at Norristown. The Tebbettses, not wanting to break up the family, allowed Tom to stay at Norristown.
Matilda’s sister, Louisa Winlock, had also married during the intervening year, wedding James Durrett, a widower with several children and a large Kentucky farm near Latonia, Ky.
Addressed to L.A. Durrett, Latonia, Green Co., Ky., and postmarked at Fayetteville on Nov. 8 with “10” written as the postage.
Your letter of Sept. came duly to hand. it found us all well. it came at a time that I neglected it, for Mr. Tebbetts just got home (the night I received it) from off the circuit. he had been gone six weeks. he has left again to day and will be gone 4 days. these lawyers are great “run a bouts” but if we were never separated we would never know how much we love each other. I am glad to hear that Bob is going to school. I think you ought to persuade him to come to Ark’s. it is a great deal better place for a young man to get into buiseness. Mr. Tebbets is very anxious he should come and either study law with him or medicine with the Dr. and says he would pay for his lectures. then he could get into buisiness almost any where in Ark’s. if he stays in Ky. unless he farms[,] it is a dull chance and he is old enough to think about providing himself withe ocupation of some kind. I do wish Ja was here now there is such a good situation here for him. cousin Harvey is just without a clerk, in his store. he has a very large stock of goods and is able to pay a good salary and he made nothing before he left Mo. have you heard whether he had got back or not
I am coming to Ky. next summer to show you the finest baby Ark’s. can produce. now don’t laugh[.] I expect it is the same case with yourself only you are not confiding enough to tell it but you know I have no secrets from you. I reckon that will be harder to realize than that I was married. When I commenced this I expected to write a long letter but company came in and I had to lay it aside and now it is too late.
You said Harris’ mammy wanted to know what had become of him.
Tell her we have him and if was our own childe he could hardly think more of him. he is the best and smartest boy I ever saw and I believe Mr. Tebbetts thinks more of him than I do.
Tell her Harris has always been a kind of a pet ever since he came out here. he always lived with cousin Kate until we went to house keeping.
Oh! I forgot to tell you we had put up 200 bushels of real Ky. apples for winter use. I shall feel like I was in Ky. now. I dont mean we will use the half of them the way we got them Mr. Tebbetts bought a farm near town with a fine orchard. you must write soon dand show this to brother James but give him my best love and Bob two[.] farewell from your affectionate sister
(And in an apparent afterthought, she wrote:)
Mr. Jone March
or in other words
Jonas March Tebbetts Esq
this is the name I want you to call him by brother Jone