1841: James M. Aiken to Mathew Aiken

This letter was transcribed directly from the internet where it was offered for sale on e-bay in September 2011.

The letter was written late in 1841 by James M. Aiken to his brother, Mathew Aiken (1810-????) of Jonesborough, Tennessee. They are believed to be sons of Col. Mathew Aiken (1775-1860) and Blanch Brown (1789-1862), both natives of Virginia who relocated to Washington County, Tennessee before 1810. Blanch’s brother, Shepherd Brown (1801-1883) is the subject of much discussion in this letter — apparently a victim of the Yellow Fever scourge that swept through the southern states and up the Mississippi River in 1841. Shepherd Brown was a partner with Joseph H. Johnston in the banking business in Vicksburg in the 1840’s. He married Nancy Cottrell in Virginia in 1824 but she appears to have died sometime prior to the 1845 Warren County, Mississippi census. It is not known whether the banker/merchant residing in New Orleans in the 1860 Census by that name was the same Shepherd Brown.


[postmarked Newbern, Virginia]

Mathew Aiken, Esqr
Jonesborough, Tennessee

Paper Mills
1st November 1841

Dear Brother,

I thought that I would not write until I heard from you. What can be the cause of your silence? I sent Frances’s trunk a few days after you left, and hope that it has reached its destination safe. We have received two letters from Uncle Shepherd dated the 20 & 27th September. The Yellow Fever was still raging there, and does not seem to abate in the least. On Saturday, I received the New Orleans Picayune of the 10th October. In it was an extract from the Vicksburg Paper giving a statement of some twenty who were attacked on Sunday the 3rd October and at the head of the list was the name of Shepherd Brown. You may be assured I was very uneasy & alarmed respecting him. I have just received a letter from him stating that he was on the recovery and hoped to leave his room in a few days. Please write before you return. If you have not done any thing with _____, try and do something on your return. I have received another letter from Carolina and want to leave as soon as you return.

The Great Road Convention met last Monday. There was some fine speaking – 144 delegates – they apply to the Legislature for a macadamized road from the Tennessee line near Abingdon [Virginia] to the most eligible point on James River. I think the Road will be made.

We have got nearly all of our corn in. I hope you will be able to bring some money with you. Some of the folks are getting very pressing. I have heard nothing from Mr. Gates. Give my kindest love to all the family.

I write in haste. Yours affectionately, — James M. Aiken


Mention is made of the “Great Road” in this letter. This was, I believe, the Great Stage Road that led from Abingdon, Virginia, to Jonesborough and Greeneville, Tennessee.

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