This letter was written by Calvin Rist (1817-1852), to his younger brother, Amos Rist (1822-1875). They were the sons of Thaddeus Rist (1775-1830) and Polly Comstock (1782-1838). Also mentioned in the letter is their older brother Ezbon Rist (1814-1855) of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, who labored as a shoemaker.
By 1850, Calvin Rist was working as a lawyer in Barbour County, Alabama. He died shortly afterwards. The 15 April 1852 edition of the Daily Alabama Journal reported:
Our town was caused to mourn over the loss of one of her brightest and most talented citizens, on Sunday morning last. Calvin Rist, who has resided in this town for years, died on the 28th ult. [28 March 1852] leaving a large number of friends to mourn his untimely end. That fell destroyer, the consumption was preying upon him for several months and has carried him to his last resting place – Clayton Banner.
Amos Rist is listed among the undergraduates in the Sophomore Class at Brown University during the 1842-43 school year. Amos went on to become a physician and resided in Hogan, Logan County, Kentucky before his death in 1875. He served as a surgeon for a brief time during the Civil War.
Addressed to Mr. Amos Rist,
Wilbraham, Uxbridge, Massachusetts
King Creek [South Carolina]
June 22, 1841
You may be surprised that I write you from this place, as well as that I have not written you oftener. I have been in Florida for the greater part of the time since February. But not all the time in the same place. Therefore, I did not know where to tell yo I should be. I received a letter from you while in Jacksonville that you wrote to me in Barnwell and also a paper. But you have not written to me very often. Perhaps you have been too busy yourself to find time to write. But as I learn from Ezbon, you are about to have a vacation, you will have an opportunity to renew our correspondence.
When I left Barnwell last January, my health was poorer than it has ever been before. But a month after it was good as usual, has continued tolerably good ever since. I presume you have seen the letter I wrote Ezbon as I saw from your paper that you had visited Uxbridge. I am expecting to go to Barnwell and may remain there through the summer. So you will know where to direct when you write.
I like the climate of Florida very much, which is more than I can say for its society or morals. There is some doubt in my mind whether there is righteous enough in it to save it. I do not believe Texas is worse, but can tell better when I see it. Shall probably visit Texas next winter, if nothing occurs to prevent. Did think of returning to Massachusetts and attending Law Lectures at Cambridge this summer. But I am not certain but it is vacation most of the time if not all.
You still continue to prefer Harvard to Brown or any other college? If so, go there by all means. But be careful not to go to [Wesleyan University at] Middletown if you think that its Sectarianism, or abolitionism, or any other ism is likely to injure you when you come out, for you cannot tell where fortune may send you. You want to prepare yourself to go into the world, to any country or any part, where fortune may hold out the strongest inducement. Therefore, learn to take liberal views of every thing.
As you will have some few weeks after receiving this before you enter your college course, I can only report that you had better become perfect in what you have been over. It is not the number of books you have read s much as the amount of knowledge you have acquired. All they wish is that you should be able to go on with the class that enters. If you should not get in at Cambridge (which is not probable), do not let it prevent you from entering Brown University. For when yo have once made up your mind to a thing, let nothing but impossibilities stop you. It is this hesitating, guessing, supposing, and calculating disposition that makes the Americans so much despised by other nations. “I pray you avoid it.” Be firm, be determined.
Ezbon seems determined to live and die a shoe maker. I am sorry to see it for I do not consider it so healthy, independent, or honorable as farming. Every one for his choice though. I do not wish to influence him. It is impossible for him ever to be rich while he works on a bench.
I have already spoken to you about visiting Mr. Clark and various other things which if you dislike advice as much as you once did, I am sure have disgusted you. I have been in the world long enough to know than men are judged by appearances in a great measure. Dress neat, be always sociable, but never stoop to form an acquaintance, however desirable. I trust your experience at Wilbraham has prepared you for your entrance upon college life. Your expenses will be less at Brown, if that is to be considered mainly. Be careful of your health, for what does man’s education profit him if he has spent his time, money, & health to acquire it. Judge ye.
During my stay in Florida, I visited several of the military posts — Pilotha, Picolati, Black Creek &c. & made the acquaintance of many of the officers. Saw one Indian, alive & full grown. Viz. the interpreter of the Post.
Wild Cat [a.k.a. Coacoochee] has been sent off this winter with many other warriors, women & papooses. It is a question for the debating society: whether the Indians or the other inhabitants are the most desirable neighbors. There seems to be very little difference in their refinement and all the difference in their education is employed to cheat each other. I do not intend to teach school any this summer but shall study law entirely. I may go North if it should become sickly here. If it were not for the expense, I would visit Massachusetts. It is certainly very disagreeable to want money. Can’t be helped in these times. No help for a lazy man. Less for a sick one. I am hot, tired, lazy, & I do not know what else. Write. Barnwell, South Carolina. Remembrances to all enquirers and do not show this proof of the weakness of your affectionate brother, — C. R.