Landon Duncan (1786-1867)
Papers, 1814-37, n.d., Ms97-023
March 24, 1837. Letter from Landon Duncan to his cousin Hiram Duncan in Blakely, Stokes County, North Carolina.
Addressed to: "Mr. Hiram Duncan Blakley, Stokes County, N. Carolina." Return address: "Giles C. H. Va". Note "Recd. this 5th Apl. 1838 H. D."
It is with regret that I have been compeled to delay an answer to your letter so long. I recd yours on the 12th of this inst at which time I was out on my official duties and did not return for 8 days, and after my return, for the last 6 days, the waters have been so high that I could not get to the post office. On the 17th we had a tremendious storm of wind & snow. I was at that time on my way home, I rode 15 miles facing the storm, my sufferings were great, so much so that I had to take shelter under a friendly roof, I set out for home the next day and come in sight of my own farm, but had to lie by until the next day before I could cross the water. A sudden thaw commenced which has kept up the waters ever since, so that I have been closely confined at home, The waters begin to fall, so that I hope to resume travelling within a few days. I apprehend had the snow melted away by a warm rain; that we should have had a second edition of Noah's flood: for it was about 17 inches deep in the valleys, and 2 feet upon the mountains & melting during the time of its falling. The weather for the 5 days past, has been very warm, the atmosphere has been clear of clouds; but filled with smoke, so much so, that the rays of the Sun are obstructed morning & evening, to me the phenomena is strange than otherwise at this time_ Had the season been dry, & much fire in our wilds and mountains, I should without hesitancy concluded that to have been the cause; but my philosophy is too limited to determine what the cause may be.
We have had no weather since Feby. began that admitted the farmer to prepare for a spring crop. Crops of small grain now growing, look very unpromising, the continued hard frost throughout Feby. has greatly injured it. At this time the weather is favourable to the puting forth of vegetation, & should the weather continue thus favourable we may expect the grass & herbage to soon make their appearance, which will be no unwelcome thing, to many of us who have poor cattle.
Grain, generally speaking, is plenty in our country. Corn, at present on New River is selling from 37 1/2 to 42 Cts per bush. In the East end of the county it is 62 1/2 Pork, last winter was from $4. to $5. per Cnt according to quality. No mention is yet made of Bacon. Money is very hard to collect and our citizens much indebt. I see, nor hear of nothing that may flatter with regard to amendment. I am of opinion until we adopt some other method in our family & domestic affairs, times are not likely to alter for the better.
Although we are shut up amid the mountains & wilds of Virginia, yet Pride & effeminacy have found us, & taken up their abode amoung us. These, are in reality great enemies to our moral & natural prosperity, yet none receive more friendly acceptance and encouragement among our citizens! I like the saying of Franklin, Viz. "Many a one for the sake of finery on the back, has gone with a hungry belly, & half starved their families; Silk & satins, scarlet & velvets, put out the kitchen fire." "What maintains one vice would bring up two children." These are sayings, pregnant with truth & applicable to the men of our day.
You wish to know of me whether you could obtain a profitable school here for the summer season. I know of no place, unless it would be in the town of Pearisburg. I have made some enquiry of the Teacher in that place, who imformed me, that he should leave the place in April, and expected to be succeeded by a Gentleman from Montgomery County. I also conversed with two of the influential men of the place, who gave me no satisfactory encouragement in your behalf. I stated to them, that you would teach Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, English Grammar & Geography and as to your moral character it was unquestionably good. They have been greatly imposed upon hitherto by teachers, which I apprehend is our cause of their coolness in the reception of Strangers. They have had a fine young man for their English teacher for several months; but a very dissipated & profligate classic one.
I am unable to find language to convey an adequate idea, to you of my grief of mind, arising from the unnatural & imoral conduct of my aged Uncle. I cannot better express the Spirit that gave rise to such ungodliness than in the following lines which make the 5th verse of a poem which I composed on the vicious pursuits of man in 1821.
By sense he's led, to lust a slave, Now acts the fool, & then the knave; His hearts the place where furies meet, A den of thieves, and Satan's seat.
I am so exceedingly mortified in feelings, that I have not read your letter to my family, nor can I. Alas! what must be the feelings of my worthy aunt & dear Cousins_ I must sympathise with you all. Shall I use reproachful language against my aged Uncle_ No, No. Let_ bowles of pity yerne over his unfortunate miscarriage_ and fervent prayer to God in behalf of the aged transgressor. Dear relations, strive to burry all former differences, and in future exercise the language & conduct of kindness. unkind language will do no good but increase the strife, which as it rages, will more & more unman us, and make us wretched_ O Let me with pasied hand entreat each one of you, to seek the peace of God which passeth understanding. O to head my God say, thy sins are forgiven thee, & I believe that declaration with unhumble penitent heart, it brings joy & peace ------. Let us never ------ of God's goodness and Mercy nor of our souls_ they are precious in the sight of God, and surely they should be equally so in our own eyes. I must restrain myself, my feelings are more like preaching than letter writing. I must say while I have been meditating on the grace of God & the privilege of Sinners the fire has burned in my soul_ praise ye the Lord for his mercy endureth forever_ My health is good with the exception of this paralysis which increases_ I am in the hands of the Lord, let him do with me what sumeth to him good_ My family are in good health & so are all our relations as far as I have heard from them_ Elisha is living --------- house 15 miles distant at $10. per mo & is well pleased with his home_ I have a man hired for 6 mo at $8. per mo.
Visit us soon as it may convinient for you so to do.
Remember me to bro. Charles_ your Father, mother, & brothers.
I think I must conclude my scribble, though my nerves are
more composed than they were the former page, yet my matter is
nearly exhausted & my pen worne out.
March 24th 1837.
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