Martha J. Terrell (Minor) to Dabney C. Terrell

My dear brother,

I have this moment recieved your letter of the 11th of Jan: I hasten to assure you, that, though your friends have not written often, they have not neglected you so entirely as you have reason to think. Uncle Dabney, Mr. Gilmer, Nancy Carr have written. Your friend Madison I know has written, for Mary Jane, who is now in Williamsburg, mentions, in one of her letters to me, his offering to enclose her letters to you.

Brother, beloved brother, why do I trifle on subjects comparatively so unimportant? Your sweetest, best sister has not written—Oh Dabney! she will write no more. To me time has brought external composure; but when the freshness of your grief rises before me, it renews mine in all its agony. Oh! may you have recieved Nancy’s, Uncle Dabney’s, or some of the numerous letters which have been written ere this reaches. May I not again be the first to announce affliction, lest my hand writing should seem to you the harbinger of wo!

But let me endeavour to procede methodically. On the day after our beloved Virginia wrote to you last spring, she presented her delighted husband with a son. They called him Peter after the father of the fatherless our revered Uncle, and if it be possible to form a judgement of a child only a year old, he promises to resemble his namesake. He has a noble disregard of self already. His cakes and his playthings he dispenses among the children, with a look that plainly says “it is better to give than to recieve.” His countenance—Oh you will never behold it without mournful joy: it displays all the sweetness of his angel mother. Why do I thus linger on poor little Peter? Surely not to engage your affections for him, for I know his parentage and his name will make you idolize him. Oh no! it to fly for a moment from my painful task. After the birth of her boy our sister, for a few days, appeared to be recovering; but our hopes were soon blasted. Attack succeeded to attak; and, after supporting a painful illness of more than two months, with unexampled patience on the 22nd of June she resigned her spotless soul into the hands of her God. If there can be any comfort in such a stroke, we ought to derive it from the manner of her death. Perfectly resigned to the will of her Master, she spent her last moments in endeavouring to alleviate the afflictions of her friends—When we meet we will talk of all this—it blinds me to write about it.

Brother Frank has relinquished the painful practice of medicine: he has broken up house-keeping and is now living here and teaching [. . .] 18 boys at $50 dollars a scholar. He has long intended to write to you; but the task was so painful that he delayed it. He was very much affected to night, at the distress you expressed at not hearing from us, and said he would certainly make another effort to write to you.

Why you have recieved none of the letters which have been written to you we cannot concieve?! The fault must have been in the direction; so, I shall enclose mine in a polite note to Mr Jefferson, begging him to forward this, and inform me how to direct in future. And for the future nothing but total inability shall prevent me from writing to you at least twice a month.

I am living here in order to be with dear little Peter. Mary Jane went down the country with Aunt Cary last fall. She is much pleased with her situation.

Aunt Carr’s family and the rest of your friends in these parts, are well. Poor Aunt Carr though, has been sorely afflicted on account of George Stevenson’s failure, with which, no doubt, you are acquainted.

Yr: truly affectionate Sister
Martha J. Terrell
RC (ViU: Carr-Terrell Family Papers); addressed: “Mr: Dabney C. Terrell,” with “at Geneva” added in a different hand. Enclosed in Frank Carr to Thomas Jefferson, 9 May 1817, and subsequently enclosed by Jefferson in a letter to Albert Gallatin, before 6 June 1817.
Martha J. Terrell (Minor)
Dabney C. Terrell
Date Range
May 5, 1817