1828: Elizabeth (Cromwell) Armour to Richard Cromwell, Jr.

This letter was written by Elizabeth (Cromwell) Armour (1802-1845) to her brother, Richard Cromwell, Jr. They were both the children of Richard Cromwell (b. 1751) but I believe they had different mothers. Richard was born about 1777 while his father was married to Elizabeth Waters (1759-1794). Elizabeth was born in 1802 after her father had married Mary Owings (in 1800). In her letter, Elizabeth mentions siblings Anna, Urath, and Frances.

Elizabeth married William Armour (1801-1860) in 1825. After marriage, they came to Jackson, Tennessee where Armour became a merchant.

William Armour was one of the most prominent merchants of Jackson in her early history. He was senior member of the firm of Armour, Lake & Co. This firm did an extensive business till it went down in the financial crash of 1838-39. The business house of Armour, Lake & Co. stood where the extensive establishment of Robinson & Botts now stands.

Nearly all business houses from 1820 to 1850 were general stores. Dry goods, groceries, hardware, etc., were all kept by each merchant. The leading business men from 1820 to 1840 were Armor & Lake, Armor, Lake & Co, …

[Note: Be sure to see 1826 and 1829 letters also written by Elizabeth (Cromwell) Armour.]

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Jackson [Tennessee]
June 6th 1828

My dear Richard,

I received your letter of the 10th and you may imagine how delighted I am to hear of your intention to visit us this summer. I know no person I should be more transported to see. The prospect of seeing you will keep me alive this summer. You will see by the letter I wrote Mama that Ann was married only one day before Urath. I wish it had happened on the same day. I had a few lines from brother David by the wagons yesterday. They were all well. Ann told him to say she was too busy to write just then but that she was very happy, which she will be sure to be whenever she has a good deal to do that interests her. I expect she is putting every thing to rights, and an abundance of things she has to put to rights, for I never saw a fuller house than brother David’s. When we were there, there was six or seven large trunks locked up full of one thing or another that had never been unpacked since they left Missouri. I cannot but think what pleasure it will give Ann to look over them and I expect that was what she was so busy about. If any person in this world is exactly fixed to these winds, she is and I am extremely gratified at her good fortune. I never saw anyone show more feeling than she did at parting and never was I more pleased with anybody than with her all the time she staid with me. I do think she is the most disinterested and least selfish of human beings.

Poor Ellen and Sam have lost a good friend. I greatly fear they will be neglected, but Mame will not suffer it to go for she will stir up after awhile and do something with them. Do, Richard, be attentive to Sam. He will naturally look to you for example and precept, and more so if you shew an interest in him. Younger brothers and sisters are more influenced by the older ones, than by their parents, because they look to them for example. I think Sam is a very promising boy. I think you could not have acted differently about leaving home and I think you were right. The parents ought to lay up for the children, not the children for the parents.

I am astonished at Papa, but he stays at home, keeps no company, and broods over things by himself until he actually forgets what is common or consistent in this world in which we dwell. I wish in my heart, he would come out here on a visit. I think it would put him straight. What a pity he should not take pleasure in good children – the greatest of all blessings. He might be happy if he would. It only shows that it is our own tempers and dispositions, and not what we have as gain that makes us happy or miserable, and we should above all things, avoid giving way to fretfulness and anxiety.

We were all in Bolivar when your letter came at Mr. McNeal’s — Mr. Armour, Robert, the girls, and myself and John. They were delighted to see us and both Mr. & Mrs. McNeal paid us every attention that gratitude for our friendship to Jane could suggest. They are among the very cleverest people I ever saw. Mrs. McNeal is a first-rate woman and I could see that Jane had lost a little of the pertness that I observed in her when she first came home. No doubt her mother had corrected it immediately. She is very pretty and genteel. We had excessively hot weather while we were there and could not enjoy ourselves much, although they invited all the beaux and belles in Bolivar to see the girls. We had a hot time getting home through the swamp and I made up my mind not to travel again this summer.

The girls are in anxious expectation for Mr. Lake’s arrival from [New] Orleans. They are in hopes he will accompany them home. But if he does not come time enough or cannot go, brother Solomon has promised to go with them. They have appeared to enjoy themselves. Jannet got a beaux on the road. There was a gentleman that travelled in the stage and steam boat with them that was perfectly devoted to her and she has received a letter since she came which nobody saw anything of except the price which George Smith spied to be 18 ¾ cents – the price of a letter from Maysville here, where he stopped. She will give no account of it whatever. Mary Lake believes it is from that gentleman enquiring concerning their return, which I also believe. Don’t mention this where she will hear it.

I do not feel entirely satisfied with Urath’s match. There is no certainty about it, although it may turn out well. Her prospects are as fair as most girls that marry very young men – even more so than common. But only sons are generally so spoiled, and I do not think the family will suit our folks. They are too different from us. I fear they will Urath less than any of us. I cannot imagine what prospects a young man can see before him on a farm without servants or means to begin on. It is impossible for them to get along comfortably even. But I hope they will do well.

I could not help laughing at Mr. Armour when I read him your letter. Of all things, he hates to be brought to a point, and you were so explicit there was no getting off. He would not say what he thought of your demand, but I could see it was higher than he expected, or than James’ business will justify, I expect. Indeed, I know he is not able to stay at home and do nothing and pay such a salary to a young man to work for him. I do not think your demand too high. Mr. Armour observed you would not spend as much here as in Baltimore, but I said you would have the pleasure of spending your money and living in a more agreeable place than Paris. For my part, I do not believe the business in this country is large or important enough to justify anybody in procuring agents to do it for them, tho I think it a first rate place for a young man that is beginning the world with a family and small means. They can live cheap and comfortably, and the society is good enough for those that have wives and children to keep them company. But I don’t know how it would do for a young man of your expectations and ambition. Indeed, I do not think you would find Paris tolerable with regard to society. I do not know a single person there that would be the least company for you, excepting your relations. Jackson is somewhat better. There are more genteel people here and some that you would find as agreeable as any in the world.

But indeed, I do not think anything but the prospect of doing remarkably well as to business should justify your going there or coming here. I make these observations carelessly because I do not expect you to follow my notions especially, for I know you are capable of judging for yourself. I only wish to give you all the help I can in making up your mind. You are perfectly right in coming out and seeing for yourself. And I would not on any account make any positive engagements until I had seen, for numbers could give you a true and perfect idea of this country but they could not say whether you could do better elsewhere, because none know what your prospects are and what exertions you are capable of making and intend to make where you are. Mr. Jakly has done well for Mr. Armour and remarkably well for himself, but his prospects were not so fair as yours, and you would not be satisfied tp do no better than he has done, for he has no friends, no money, no education, and no knowledge of business to begin with and could neither spell nor write a decent hand. He has done well considering all these disadvantages and Mr. Armour has been the kindest of friends to him, but it strikes me that James will not have it in his power to fulfill your expectations, tho I have no doubt he has the generosity and soul to be as liberal as a prince.

Mr. Armour has never said a word to me about your letter but I will try to make him come out now. He is lying on the settee reading the paper. It is very hot. Well, my dear, what shall I write to Richard? He answers, indeed my dear, I don’t know what to say about it. He continues reading. Well, shall I tell him you will write to him yourself? Yes, tell him I will write soon, but he won’t do ot tome enough and I’ll try to get some more out of him for your present satisfaction, and will ______ by till I do so. Well I have talked to him about it and he seems to think that if you could get 500 hundred dollars in Baltimore, you had better not make any positive engagements with James, but had better perhaps come out and see whether there are any advantageous prospects such as becoming acquainted with business here to induce you to take less, or perhaps you may become interested with him after you see for yourself. Let me advise you to talk freely and plainly to James. He is very much disposed to be like Uncle George – stiff and reserved, and dignified. Don’t let him put on any such airs with you. Make him open his whole heart to you before you enter into any engagements with him. Make him tell you plainly what his prospects are, what he expects from Uncle George, and what he expects from Captain Holbrook. He is very proud and will be unwilling to expose his poverty or disappointments to anybody, but don’t let him put you off. Tell him plainly what you expect from Papa and that will be an inducement for him to come out. Remember, it will not do for young men to enter into business together when they cannot confide in each other, and cannot speak their minds freely for fear of hurting each other’s feelings and let things go wrong sooner than talk it over and put it right. I do not know a more unpleasant situation, and if James will not open all his concerns to you and attempts to send you out here to attend to his business just like a servant without giving you a clear idea of his plans, I would just have nothing to do with him. I give you this advice because I know that is his character with all his family except Mr. Armour, with whom he communicates freely. But to his mother and sister, he is ridiculously reserved and uncommunicative, and they have foolishly indulged him by rather enquiring and trying to find out his intentions by asking others and in a roundabout way than coming out openly, I have often spoken of it to Mr. Armour but he says he is strange and curious and it will not do to be too plain with him. But I think it is all nonsense and if he cannot bear plain dealing, I would deal with him in no other way. But I am rather disposed to think if you come out openly with him at once, he will lay aside such folly and be like other people. He has always been open and sociable with me and I think him very clever with the exception of that over bearing spirit that all the Winchester’s appear to have. But I know they can all be kept in their places if people will be independent and pay no regard to their eccentricities and then will be uncommonly clever people. I should be much disappointed if what I have said should prevent your coming out. I do not pretend to know enough of your concerns to advise you how to act, but only tell you what you cannot know. I shall look for you anxiously and shall be glad to hear what your ideas are about this country if you have time.

Please get two pair of shoes made for John – a little larger than the largest Frances sent. He will want them badly by that time. Fan can get them and I will pay you. Again, do write frequently. You have no idea of the pleasure your letters give me. You cannot make them too long. You must not show this to Urath and I hate too not to let her see everything. I have been so much in the habit of it all my life. George is well and sends his love. – Elizabeth Armour

It is a pity we are not all at home to enjoy the bridge. How delightful it must be. Mama must be delighted and the place must look sweet indeed. If there was peace to be found on the earth, the heart that was humble might look for it there. We have no fruit, nor prospect of any. I will send your letter and message up to Ann. If you come to this country, you must be sure to come to Jackson. It is in every respect preferable to Paris but don’t say I said so.

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