1842: Nathan Archibald Chaffin to Capt. William Bradshaw

This letter was written by Nathan Archibald Chaffin, born 3 April 1819 in Liberty Gap, Bedford, TN. He died 24 July 1845 in Columbia, Maury Co., TN and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. His parents were Archibald (“Archer”) Chaffin (1786-1860) and Frances Fears (1786-1860).

The identity of Capt. William Bradshaw is uncertain. There were several Bradshaw’s living in and about Maury County, Tennessee around 1800. One William Bradshaw was sheriff of the County in the early 1840’s but the William Bradshaw to whom this letter was addressed sounds as if he was some sort of merchant in Columbia. The “Hugh” mentioned in the letter as having gone to Summerville may well have been Hugh Bradshaw – a brother or some other relative of William’s.

It’s pretty clear from this letter that Nathan Archibald Chaffin has been visiting the red light district in Memphis, but holds a warm spot in his heart for one in particular back in Maury County – “Old Masiah.”

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[Addressed to Capt. William Bradshaw, Columbia, Tennessee]

Memphis [Tennessee]
December 11th 1842

Dear Bill,

This is Sunday and I have more time to write today than any other. Yours of the first came to hand on Friday & I can’t say when I was more agreeably disappointed for I wrote to Sam Mayes a few days ago and requested him to enquire if you were dead or ran away.

Bill, I have not been to church today. I have been selling goods as times are hard & money scarce. We have to make every edge cut that will & Johns has been sick for two or three days & I am almost broke down.

Bill, you ought to come down here. It would give you knew life. A man can see more business done here in a day than he can see in a month in Columbia. There is not that deep gloom of indescribable melancholy hovering over this place that you say over shadows Columbia. You say Columbia is not as it used to was in days of Minterville & the Tan Yard. Those were happy days and I fear they have fled, ne’er to return.

Bill, I am hell bent on making some money and the first girl I find worth fifty thousand – as you say – I will make a rush at her. There has been as big fools as I who have married fortunes and it shall be my fate or no wedding, by George. I am opposed to any business that will not pay, or seem to pay, or at least make a fair showing. Bill, there are several fine girls here, but they are like Job’s Turkey. They are d—m good looking but I say d—m poor women with rich ways. I have not been to see any girls for several weeks & the Lord knows when I shall go again, but I hope soon. People will say what they please, but I say a man is much happier who visits the ladies. I know from experience. What does man live for but enjoyment.

Bill, this place is rather dull in the way of frollicks but Christmas is near and I hope they will wake up and have a dance or two. I have no hopes of private parties for I know nobody. I hardly know my next door neighbors.

Bill, I saw Hugh a few days ago. He was quite well. He went from here to Summerville. He said he perhaps would come back here before he went home, but he was not sertain.

Bill, the fellows here are not so very proud about a Temperance Meeting. They always make it a rule to drink when they are asked, or when they are where it is, or when they feel like it, and when they can get it.

And as for grinding, I must confess I am truly sorry for the fellows who have not a quarter & I fear the widow fives will suffer. Just tell them to draw on me for 2 or 3, Bill, at any time and this draft shall be honoured.

Tell [my brother] Jess I am sorry to hear that he is the grand loafer of Columbia. I had as soon hear of any other name. I suppose he is filled-out as he wears the ring.

Tell Loring and Jess to take care of their snakes and do not let them freeze this winter and stop as many of the wholes as they can. I think some of them want stopping very bad.  ….all the rest of folks flourish.

Bill, go & see some of the girls for me. Give my respects to all the fellows & tell Pretty Bill to write. I have not time but I will answer all letters. Yours Truly, — N. A. Chaffin

Give my love to Old Masiah and tell her none of the girls can knock the thing as cold as she can. And tell her I will write her soon.

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