1836: Garrit Striker Mott to Jordan Mott

Garrit S. Mott signature

This letter was written by Garrit Striker Mott (1812-1869) when he was 24 years old and working as an employee of Mr. Maddox in Mobile, Alabama. It was addressed to his father, Jordan Mott (1768-1840), who lived in New York City with his wife, the former Lavinia Winifred Striker (1782-1862).

The letter is interesting on several accounts. First, the author notes the dramatic differences in climate between the gulf coast and his New York City home. He mentions the fact that many of the Mobile citizens escape the heat of the city in the summer and take up residence in Summerville, an upland area northwest of the city. Second, he notes that his employer works him hard and asks him to do things that many other citizens of Mobile might ask their domestic slave help to perform. Third, he mentions his attendance at the First Episcopalian Church in Mobile (now Christ Church Cathedral) and notes the deterioration of the original place of worship necessitating its abandonment. Until the new church was erected in 1840, apparently services were held elsewhere, including the Presbyterian Church. And fourth, he mentions hearing of the Great Fire of New York that occurred on December 16-17, 1835, destroying most of the southeastern tip of Manhattan around Wall Street.

According to family records, Garrit S. Mott never married. He died in Charleston, South Carolina at the age of 57.

TRANSCRIPTION

[Addressed to Mr. Jordan Mott, No. 9 Nassau Street, New York]

Mobile [Alabama]
January 3rd 1836

Dear Father,

Although I have written nearly twenty letters (all of which I hope you have received), this will be the second one that I have written to you. I was very much surprised to see or read the letter from Hopper. It caused a hearty laugh. Mr. Maddox transferred it over to me saying that I was the interested person he would leave me to answer. He told me to say that in case this letter was not satisfactory on the part of Hoppers Question, that he would then write the particulars of my health situation & habits, all of which I think is good. I cannot but remark that my situation & business is quite different from what I had calculated on as we have no Negro Boy at present. He gets me to do things which I did not do at Schieffing’s. I took him to be the man which I have found him – that is very close & I think too much so for my comfort. Anything which he wants done which is at all unpleasant, he lays hold himself to show me that he is not afraid. Notwithstanding, I have worked harder since I have been here than I ever have at Schieffings (and that was hard enough). Mr. Maddox calculates to start on a tour through the northern part of Alabama about the first of July or sooner perhaps. I certainly do not like the idea of staying here during the summer time as almost every person that I have spoken to about it has told me by all means to head out at Summerville in case that I stayed in the summer time. I will say that I admire the climate here in the Winter as it is so very mild. While writing this, I was in my shirt sleeves & felt very pleasant. We have had very pleasant weather here for a month back except a few days rain. When it rains here, it is every other five minutes. I have not heard any thunder here as yet.

As I am very anxious to come home, my feelings accord with your invitation & should very much like to bring it about some way so as not to stay in this city in the summer. & in case I should to board at Summerville. But Mr. Maddox does not like that idea at all as I could not be of as much service to him as he would like. It may be, after a while, that I might like to stay here if I only knew how the climate would agree with me. The climate is the only great objection that I have & next to that is the heavy expenses as that a person is under & very often a small salary.

The Great Fire of New York (December 1835)

I have heard of the very large fire that you have had in New York & hope that the loss will not be as great as is supposed. I have only received one letter from Samuel as yet, but expect one daily. Tell Uncle Garry that he must not let Elsworth go to New Orleans to live – that the salary would be no object to him as he would run a very great risk. They have & will always have the yellow fever there & is the very worst kind of a place for him to go. Hopper wrote me that Elsworth would write to me very soon. I have not received any news from him after all said & done. New York is the head quarter.

I have been to church today (3rd January) & was much pleased with the sermon today. A week ago at the Episcopal Church, it being rather old, the congregation heard something crack & they made a general rush for the door. Since then, they have had their meetings in the Presbyterian Church in the afternoon until they build them a new church.

[January 4th] As I have not received any letters for some eight or ten days. I did not know the reason until Mr. Maddox received the letter from Hopper & that explains it all to me. As Mr. Maddox does not like me to write letters in the day time, I shall not make it so long as I might otherwise. Please tell the Boys that I have not made any other sale further than mentioned in a former letter. If papa would ask Hopper to give me a statement of all the money that I have had from J. H. & Mr. J & the amounts of each of the Bills paid & to whom or whose bills they are, so I wish to know & calculate accordingly. I should like to have an answer in response to my staying in the city instead of boarding at Summerville & how I had better act.  Mr. Maddox thinks that there will be no danger at all. It is to his interest to say so. I am as yet boarding at the Alabama Hotel as they will not give me my bills at the yearly rate, & therefore shall have to wait until they present it. The weather this morning is like Indian Summer & that is the way it is when it does not rain.

Please give my love to all. I am your affectionate son, — Garrit S. Mott

FOOTNOTES
  • The author’s mother, Lavinia Winifred Striker (1782-1862) had a brother named Garrit Hopper Stiker (1784-1868) — a Captain in the War of 1812. He is presumably the “Uncle Garry” mentioned in this letter who had a son named Elsworth. Winifred and Garrit were the children of James Striker and Mary Hopper (a daughter of John Hopper).
  • The author’s father, Jordan Mott (1768-1840) should not be confused with Jordan Lawrence Mott (1799), the American inventor and industrialist who owned the J. L. Mott Iron Works in New York, though the families may have been related. The author’s father worked from 1796 to 1836 as a silversmith, watchmaker, and jeweler in New York City. In 1835-36, he partnered with his sons Jacob Hopper Mott (1810-1861) and Jordan Mott, Jr. (1808-1874) in their firm (“J.H. and Jordan Mott, Jr”) listed in the 1836 City Directory at 9 Nassau Street, where this letter was addressed. After Jordan Mott’s death in 1840, his sons Jacob and Jordan continued the jeweler business on Nassau Street in New York City under the name, “Mott Brothers.” See notice and advertisements in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1852 below.

Notice in 14 December 1852 Issue.

Mott Brothers Advertisement

  • I have not yet been able to determine the identity of Mr. Maddox, the author’s Mobile employer, nor his occupation or line of business.
  • The author mentions boarding at the Alabama Hotel, located on Royal Street. It was in Square 129 on the Mobile map below. Additionally, he mentions the Episcopal Church, Square 84, and the Presbyterian Church, Square 96, in the Mobile map below.

Map of Mobile in 1838 (click on image to enlarge)


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