This letter was written by Dan D. Derren (1813-1885) and his brother, Ammi G. Derren, (1811- 1872) of Avon, Hartford County, Connecticut. The letter was written to their parents, Timothy Derren (1781-1857) and his wife Polly (1783-1857). Polly died on January 22, 1857; Timothy died 9 days later on January 31, 1857. They were both interred in the same grave in West Avon.
Addressed to Mr. Timothy Derren, Avon, Hartford Co., Connecticut
[Mt. Pleasant, Missouri]
24 November 1841
Honored Father and Mother,
We take this time to inform you that we are both well and in good spirits. We are lately on from Arkansas &c. & the Cherokee Nation. We are at our old stopping place Thomas A Isbell Mo. In the morning, we are going over to see Friend Wright to keep matters and things about as they should be. It is very hard times here. Money is almost out of the question which makes against us very much. But we will make something of a raise by spring if nothing takes place. Our money & notes amount to something like twelve thousand or a little over, but we have some United States paper that we will likely loose something on & a little Arkansas paper which we will have to shave. But while we have some bad, we have some of the real stuff which we intend to keep a seanet till that note that Hitchcock has is settled as he has not done as he agreed. We will want to settle with him to the best advantage. If he makes any enquiry about our business, give him no satisfaction. We have been through selling clocks a long time or nearly so – but two on hand now. We spent most of the time long back trying to collect but it is slow business. It is like pulling eye teeth to get money here, but we have got tolerably well along with our business in the States. So much so I think we can make a finish by spring. But we hardly know when we shall get through in the Cherokee Nation. They have been expecting money from the government a long time. I heard last week they had received some. If so, it will be in our favor. Let times remain as they may or collections come as they will, we intend to arrange our business so as to start on the road that leads to our nativity on or before the first of May next, if life & health is spared to us.
The last letter we received from you was mailed September 10, 1841 which we had been looking for some time. We like to hear from you often as friends are scarce in this country. A letter is some satisfaction to peruse when in a back country like this – especially when we find good news. The reason why I did not write you before is this. We received a letter from brother Sidney the same time we received yours which we answered & wrote to have him answer for us. But thinking a letter on the road would not come amiss any time, we send these few lines. We wish you still bear in mind about United States money and write us how it is going. We have sold one of our waggons – the one Jess C. repaired — & one horse for $225.00 on credit. We still traffick some in horse flesh. We have 6 on hand, but we have none that we drove on if we can arrange it to our notion. We shall keep 4 for our own use & we may have more so you can tell brother Harvey to start the old plough in good season in the spring so that the oats may not be found missing when we arrive.
I stated in the first of my letter that we was to start in the morning to Wrights, but when morning came, we found ourselves out in the ridges hunting for deer & turkey, ducks, &c. but did not have much luck. In the evening, I shot a turkey & some squirrels & ducks & like to have shot a deer. The balance of the boys brought in two turkeys. Yesterday, we arrived here at Friend Wrights – found all well. Today we concluded to make a finish of our hunting. We got in from our morning hunt about noon. We brought in 2 turkeys, some squirrels, ducks, shot a crane, hawk &c. Last week we took a bear hunt but we got on the ground 2 days to late. The man we was to go with seen the old one & 4 cubs & he came home & got some dogs, 2 other men & they killed the old one. They had a great time of it. They got all of their dogs crippled & made 8 shots before they made a finish of her. But we took a hunt for the cubs but did not suckceed in finding of them so now I think we will be satisfied with hunting for the present.
We have been thinking if you see cause to make some addition to the old house ¹ or build a new one, we will help you along with it when we get home. The reason why we write is that if you should all be well, you can be making some arrangements for the same as it takes time to build to advantage such as getting timber for joists, studs &c. & for the frame. There is nothing like having everything ready when a job is to be completed. When commencing the plan, you can adopt as you please for your own convenience. Brother Ammi has drawn a plan up. He puts it in [the letter so you] can see what his views is. But I think some other plan would be as convenient & less expensive – or at least not as long as he has drew the plan. I have been thinking it might be best to take away the east part of the old house & build on two stories high – large enough for convenience but I am a poor hand to plan when so far away from the spot & an old house in the way. If you see cause to go ahead with it, we will try to see you and help you along with the same next summer. If nothing more than we know it takes place between now and that time in any shape, you shall see cause to build. Write us on the subject in answer to this and all the news. Sister Lucy Ann, we would like to hear all the news from you and the young folks in Avon if any left & return our compliments to any that may be deserving the same. Let us know what you intend doing this winter & brother also. Write us a long letter. This 24 November 1841. A. G. & D. D. Derren
Direct to Bentonville, Benton Co., Arkansas.
¹ Following publication of this letter on this blogsite, I was contacted by Terri Wilson on behalf of the Avon Historical Society who informed me that the house mentioned in this letter was actually being restored. They believe the original construction occurred about 1810; it is one of three Derren (now Derrin) houses in Avon. The other 2 Derrin houses are similar to it and are just north and south, but those are private residences with a totally different look although the interior layout is the same.
Terri wrote me that, “This house was just a simple farmhouse when we took it over 18 years ago from the State of Connecticut. The reason it was with them is because across the street, since 1954, is the First Co. Governor’s Horse Guard (oldest calvary unit still in existence in the US) and this house was their caretaker house until we got it on a lease to restore it. It is leased to use for decades at $1 a year. When we got it, as you can imagine, it was a total mess. That is why we were able to get a lease on it because the State was ready to demolish it. What you see today was done almost completely by volunteer help and some funding. The state did give us a matching grant for the roof replacement. We are still working on it but 3 summers ago we were finally able to open the first floor to visitors in the summer. It has a variety of donated furnishings that make it a true farmhouse of the mid-19th century.”
She added that, “The reason we think that letter is the match for this house is because someone this year did a genealogy of the family (which is very extensive) and traced this house directly to the names in the letter, so we are fairly sure it was their’s. Town records of that time are very scanty, so we are going by these documents, not theirs.”