This letter was written by Lucy Martin Plummer (1805-1874), daughter of Kemp Plummer (1769-1822) and Susan Martin (1776-1838) of Warren, North Carolina. In 1825, she married William Horn Battle (1802-1879), the son Joel Battle and Mary Palmer Johnston.
In her letter, Lucy mentions her siblings John Plummer, Henry Plummer, William Plummer, Kemp Plummer, and Ann Plummer. She also mentions her husband’s siblings, Catherine Ann Battle (1809-1879), Christopher Columbus Battle (1814-1859), Laura Caroline Battle (1824-1919), and the recent death of Isaac Luther Battle (1816-1843).
Lucy mentions her daughter, Susan Battle (b. 1830), and the piano lessons she took while boarding at Mr. Smedes’ school. This is undoubtedly the Rev. Aldert Smedes, D.D., who was Rector of St. Mary’s School for females in Raleigh, N.C., begun in 1843.
Lucy also mentions her husband leaving to begin his circuit, to be gone three months. William Horn Battle was University of North Carolina educated lawyer and eventually became a circuit court judge. He later served on the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Of William Battle and his wife Lucy, the following is said: “In his personal relations (William Horn Battle) was thoroughly kind-hearted, entertained generously, could talk well, but he was serious-minded and did not readily unbend. Very different was his wife, Lucy Plummer. She came from a family famous for its jollity, its love of music and dancing. In later life her health was poor and her spirits never recovered from the loss of her two youngest sons [Junius Cullen Battle and Wesley Lewis Battle] who were killed in the Confederate Army and her youngest daughter [Mary Johnston Battle] who died during the Civil War, but she never failed to make a home that was dear to her children’s children as it had been to her own.”
Lucy wrote the letter to her sister Susan Jane Plummer (1818-1888), who became the wife of Lucien Dutilhe Cabanne (1814-1875) in 1838. Lucien was the son of Jean Pierre Cabanne (1773-1841), the founder of the American Fur Company in St. Louis. “Jean Pierre Cabanne established a trading post located on the Missouri River between Omaha and Fort Calhoun, it was more popularly known as the “French Company” when it was established in 1822 by the firm of Berthold, Chouteau and Pratte. It was operated until the early 1840’s, successful in part because of its ability to provision the garrison at nearby Fort Atkinson. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In her letter, Lucy asks about her Susan’s son, James Sheppard Cabbane (1839-1908). James grew up to be a doctor and there is a story circulating that he lived a double life with two different wives and families.
[Addressed to Mrs. Lucien J. Cabanne, Belleville, Illinois, via Washington City]
Chapel Hill [North Carolina]
Feby 10th 1844
My Dear Sister,
I received your letter & you cannot imagine how much pleasure it afforded me, particularly as you suffered but two days to elapse after the reception of mine before you answered it, showing thereby that you wished to keep up a correspondence. Blessed forever be the inventor of letter writing for has he not done great good to his fellow mortals? What does afford a person greater pleasure than to break the seal of a letter that you know to be from a valued friend & relative? Even the sight of that friend, although we may not have seen him or her, does not yield more heartfelt gratification – tho it is but momentary in comparison.
I was surprised & sorry to see that you placed such a construction upon my words to Ann. If I recollect aright, & I think it do, I desired to reproach her & the balance of the family – as well as yourself – for not writing to me. There has frequently been two & three months passed without getting a line from either & when they did write, they said nothing about you. I suppose the reason is they but seldom hear from you & perhaps when they wrote, the intelligence was to them stale & therefore they did not think to inform me although it would have been news to me. I can assure you that the spirit which prompted the expression proceeded from any thing rather than indifference. I hope you will believe me when I say that you are as dear to me as you ever were & perhaps more so.
I am truly glad to hear that Mr. Cabanne is concerned about “the one thing needful” – for I am more & more convinced that without the hope of a Christian, there is no real enjoyment in this life. Besides, it seems to me to be the greatest folly for a person to procrastinate for an hour so important a business. When we see our friends or hear of their dropping into Eternity without a moment’s preparation – surely I never heard of so many sudden deaths as I have lately. I am sorry, however, that as he once preferred the Episcopal Church, that he did not have it in his power to attend one. If he had, it seems to me that he would not have changed his mind. Of the doctrines of the “New Jerusalem Church,” I know nothing for I never heard of the sect until I received your letter. The members of the church generally place great stress, you know, upon Apostolic succession & therefore contend with great earnestness that ours is the church founded by the Saviour & that persons are guilty of Dehism who attach themselves to any other. But I think if the heart is right in the sight of Him who made it, it is sufficient. I am no high church woman.
I have been very unhappy of late with regard to our dear brother Kemp’s situation. Bro. William wrote me two or three times that his health was so very bad. In fact, Dr. Pope told him his case was very critical & really I looked with great dread for the boy’s return from the Post Office for several days, fearing I should get intelligence of his death. But thanks be to the great Disposer of events, I am informed now that he is much better. I heard that although he was perfectly aware of his danger, he shewed no wish for making any preparation for he said he was perfectly satisfied upon that subject. I was so much concerned about it. I could not rest & feared to write to him upon the subject. You know he has some strange notions about such things. I wrote to Ann & expected great fears on his account – said more about it than I should – had I not thought it probable she would shew him the letter. She wrote me she did so & thanked me for having written in such a manner. I do sincerely hope it may cause him to think & act before it be too late. The disease from accounts seems to me one of the strangest I ever heard of. The Dr. now thinks it is the Liver disease, but I should sooner think from what I can learn that his lungs are implicated for he has a cough & too full a pulse which are indications. The Dr., of course, knows best but I have thought that he may have told him so, to encourage him, &c.
Ann wrote me also that sister’s Bro. Henry’s & William’s health was also more feeble than usual. I feel considerable uneasiness about them – not that I believe either is in immediate danger. Yet I fear that neither will ever be well again.
Our family, my dear sister, surely has been singularly blessed & while I hear of afflictions by death or otherwise befalling others, I can but calculate that we must meet with our portion. Mr. Battle received intelligence but the other day of the death of his brother Isaac who lived in Florida. He died the 17th of December. I have not seen any of the family since but I hear they bear it with great fortitude. You said you thought Mother lived with us. She always has done so until we moved to this place. You know Sis Catherine is now a widow & lives in Raleigh. Susan McKee & Columbus are also there, so she thought she ought not to leave. In the last letter I received from there, I am informed that she intends to come up as soon as the weather will permit & it is strongly suspected that she will again live with us. I ought not to be so selfish as to wish it, but I miss the dear old soul so much. I think Laura would be happier too if she lived here. She is very pious & not very fond of company – the society here being very small & what there is very good, seems to suit her very much. The workmen are going on rapidly with our new house & I hope when that is completed to have them to live with us again.
I should not be much surprized if Sister Catherine ultimately comes here to live. It seems as if she had better, she has 5 sons to educate & but limited means. She could do so with greater ease if she would remain here & take boarders, but I do not advise. Bro. Richard is settling the Drs. estate & spends the most of his time in Raleigh just now. His health is no better – suffers with disease of the heart & is not so lively as formerly.
You wish to know whether Sue plays on any instrument. Yes, she is learning to play on the piano but dislikes it exceedingly & I very much fear she will not be a a proficient for she will not practice enough. I am tired of her being boarded from us but dislike to take hr from Mr. Smedes’ for it is so good a school. Joel, I understand, is mounting the ladder. He says he does not find the study of mathematics so difficult this session. He is withal very steady.
You brag on your boy. How often I wish to see him & try to picture to myself how he looks. In today’s paper, I see the death of our dear old friend Mr. George Anderson of Tennessee; also that of Minerva Little Graham. I also see Daniel Turner has offered his plantation dwelling house, mills &c. for sale & is going to the West. I suppose you have seen an account of our distinguished stateman Judge [William Joseph] Gaston’s death. Mr. Battle delivered an eulogy on his character & life on Monday last, which between you & I, I think was very good. Mr. Battle started on his circuit on Wednesday & will not be back until May. Don’t you pity me? My paper has given out so I must conclude by requesting you to give my love to Mr. C. & tell Sheppard he has such an Aunt. Do, dear Sue, write often to your affectionate sister, — L. M. Battle
You wished to know whether Cousin A. Hall is teaching school. She has not since she has been to this place, but has taught her daughters. Mary, the oldest, is a sweet, pretty girl & appears as well in company as if she had been educated in a Northern city. Cousin Atmore (?) moved here for the purpose of educating her sons – she has two, and three daughters.
Biography of Judge William Gaston, mentioned in letter:
“William Gaston (1778-1844) graduated from Princeton with honors, elected to the State Senate in 1799, and in 1808 to the House of Delegates, over which he was chosen to preside. He represented the State in Congress, 1813-15, and was Judge of the Supreme Court from 1834 until his death. One of the counties of North Carolina is named in his honor. An interesting sketch of him is given in Wheeler, “Historical Sketches of N. C,” Philadelphia, 1851, Vol. II, p. 114. See also William H. Battle, “Life and Character of William Gaston,” Chapel Hill, 1844. Also Robert Strange, “Eulogy of William Gaston,” Fayetteville, 1844. Also Appleton’s Cyc. of Amer. Biog., Vol. II.