Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Sister's Farewell Letter

After the Civil War, times were hard in Itawamba County. It was a war-ravaged land. Crops were ruined and money was scarce. There were numerous instances of lawlessness. Many of the county’s citizens left their homes and fled west in search of a better life and new hope. Families were split and friends were separated.

During 1872 several families left the county and took a long overland journey to California. The Galloway, Cook, Beachum and Rhyne families settled near Castroville in Monterrey County south of San Francisco.

William Beachum’s sister, Mary Hughes, who lived in Burleson, Alabama across the state line from Itawamba County learned from her brother’s neighbor that her beloved brother was taking his family to California. Below is her farewell letter to him he received shortly before he left Itawamba County:

Burleson, Alabama
May 24th, 1872

Mr. William Beachum

My Dear Brother,

I will not attempt for it is impossible for me to describe my feelings on learning of your intended departure which through the kindness of Mr. Abney (one of your neighbors) I learned of yesterday. He tells me you intend starting the first of June. I heard last spring you talked of going to California but I could not believe you would go. I would like so much to see you, and had I known it sooner I would have come to see you, but it is impossible now.

Dear Brother, I feel this separation to be final. I know by the course of nature we both must soon leave this world but I hope we will meet in a better world.

I wish you would come to see me, if possible. I can hardly bear the idea of a final separation, as I think of it. All the love of early years springs to my heart and confuses my brain. My heart is too full for utterance but if I never see you again on earth may God bless you and bring you to rest in peace. May your last days be your best days. May you be happy in this life wherever you may be, and be crowned in eternal glory in the world to come. Write to me, before you start, and after you get to your destination, please let me hear from you.

Farewell to you all. May God bless is my prayer.

Your sister devotedly

Mary Hughes

Illustration from: Woman’s Work in the Civil War by L.P. Brockett and Mary C. Vaughan, 1867


Anonymous said...

How absolutely heart breaking. Those times were grindingly hard and sad.

Terry Thornton said...

Thanks, Bob, for this sad but moving glimpse into life and conditions in the hills 136 years ago. Conditions are different but the human heart and love it can hold remains constant --- a most touching letter.