This letter appears courtesy of Jayne Spears. The original letter is held by Connie Groves.
December 20th, 1926
Dear Geter and Mattie-
Your letter of the 17th inst (sic) came duly to hand and I was truly glad to hear from you and that you were all well. This leaves us all very well, that is about like as when you was up here and we were down there that is up and around and about the place and take a car ride everyday. We went over to Jim Martin's yester afternoon, and I told him what you said that he would not answer, and he said the trifling rascal would not answer his that he wrote you a long letter and that was the last of it, he said tell you he is coming down there next summer again and eat some of Mattie's good cooking and stay next time longer.
He said that he made 73 bales of cotton and has about 2000 pounds of pork to kill and have killed two hogs and have been eating backbones, spareribs and sausage for a month and have plenty of sweet potatoes and corn bread, but not cooked as good as yours, and wanted you to come up and bring your wife and stay a week Christmas. To be sure and do so, I told him what you wrote about how longs has it been since Alex Hamilton and that other man killed the Harris boys that you thought it was forty years. He remembers that time very well that Duff had married and moved up here and him and Ollie was staying on our old place in the new house that him and Duff had built. That he talked to one of the Harris boys that week and he said he was going to whip old Alex Hamilton for he had taken all he was going to take from him and he met him and give him a good beating and went up to Johnsville Saturday he and his brother in a wagon and on their way back they got to a little prairie (I think). Alex Hamilton and this man came running up behind the wagon and they commenced to shooting them and while they were one the ground, they beg Hamilton not to shoot them any more for he had already killed them, but he shot them again. That was in the year 1889, thirty-seven years ago, you made a good guess when you said it was forty years.
I will tell you of some more shooting scrapes in that country, in 1866 Tom hamlet and old man Rance Smith had a fallen out. They were brother-in-laws too and lived down in the corner some two or three miles below the Godfrey place and met one day in the big road and both had their shot guns and began to shoot at each other. Both jumped off their horses and got behind a tree, and Tom Hamlet left one of his shoulders and arms exposed and Rance Smith shot at that and filled his arm and hand full of buck shot and Hamlet hollowed to him not to shoot him any more. Rance Smith told him to set his gun up against the tree and walk out in the open and he would not, which he did and Smith went and bound up his wounds and helped him on his horse and went with him home. They were always good friends after that.
I will relate another shooting incident, old man Henry Hays and Mark McClain, Ed and George Lowry's uncle lived across the Langles south of the big road and they had a fallen out about something and met in the big road with their shot guns and told each other they did not want a tree to hide behind, but got off their horses in the big road and each patted their breast and told them to shoot. That they fired a round or two one or both got wounded. I have forgotten now, I know Ed and George Lowry can tell about that, but that we before they were born.
There was a man by the name of Pickard who use to own the Runnels place where George Lowry lived when he sold the place to Runnels, moved down in the corner and there was another man lived back of the Brady place by the name of McCauley was working the road and had a fallen out and Pickard went home and got his gun and came back and told McCauley he had come to kill him. McCauley told him he was too damned [sic] a coward to shoot him and pulled open his shirt bosom and patted it and told him to shoot and be damned and Pickard sighted his gun a long time at him and finally pulled the trigger and filled his breast full of buck shot, and he fell dead and they buried him by the side of the road across the creek on the hill where the Rock Island rail crosses the creek, the big road use to cross the creek there in those days and they had a long bridge across the creek and went on down to Wheelerís Landing that is the Sam Godfrey place.
There were two more men who came in there in an early day. Old man James moved from the state of Alabama some time in the early forties and tied a brush behind his front wagon to show the way for the wagons to come across the prairie from where Hamburg is now, to the Jack Fogle place and that is the public road this side of Hamburg and on in to Moors old mill place, and the other man whom I speak run a black smith shop. When we went there in 1856 on the east side of the road about a hundred yards from the Palestine Church and Gerrells (Ferrells?) lived in a ridge pole cabin where Uncle Mortimore Martin lived. Any way, Rix moved down in the corner near the grade (?) and was a close neighbor to old man James and they had a fallen out, and old man James told his folks he was going over to old man James and give him a good whipping and his son Dan followed on behind to see that his father did not beat him too much and got in old man Rix's coal pen. Old man James hellowed at the gate and told man Rix to come out, he was going to give him a good beating. He saw old man Rix reach for a gun over the door and he turned and ran behind the blacksmith shop and just as he did Rix put a load of buck shot in the corner of the shop as he ran around and as he ran off like a quarter horse, old man Rix filled his back full of squirrel shot and about that time his son Dan jumped out of the coal pen and old man James said another Rix by G---d and he doubled his speed, thinking Dan James was old man Rix's son and did not know better until he ran in his house and turned to shut the door and fainted and fell on the bed. His folks at once sent for Dr. Alpheus Rawls to pick out the shot and it was night when he got there, and they had not candles and used a pine torch light and every now and then the hot pitch would fall on his back and he would hollow, my God Dock don't cut me so hard.
My father's overseer, Alex Presley stole one of old man James girls and they were married by old uncle Joe Martin, and in a few hours on come old man James and told Presley he would be a dead man before sundown and went on to Johnsville and Presley after old man James left his father's house, got my father's double barrell shot gun and cleaned it up and loaded it with twelve blue whistlers in each barrell and put it in the rack and set down waiting for old man James to come back and after dark we heard old man James hollow hellow at the gate and Presley got up and got the gun. My father went out and old man James told my father to tell Presley to come out and he told my father to go back into the house and tell Presley he had forgiven him, but he would not and so old man James got down and went in the house and they made friends and had them to go back next day.
I could relate a good many other shooting scrapes, but will wait until I see you. I sent you a copy of the Eagle Democrat which contained an early history of Bradley County which I had written. Did you get it?
Well, I will tell you something of the history of the Martin family as you wrote wanting to know how long they have been in Arkansas. Well, old John martin was born in 1750 and married old General Marion's sister and General Francis Marion married his sister and he served through the Revolution War with him. His horse got killed in the Battle of Brandywine and he rode behind General Francis Marion on his horse off of the battlefield.
There were three children born, James, my grandfather, Joe, your grandfather and Mailand who married a Miss Lanfer (?) in South Carolina. Joe married a Miss Margaret Brooks, your grandmother and James married a Miss Metilda Wallace, my grandmother and they had six sons, John Thomas, William, Sadler, Mortimore and Palma and two daughters, Dreunetta and Matilda. Joe had two sons, Billy your father and John and one daughter, Mary. Old John Martin died in 1780 and his widow married a man by the name of Sadler and they had one son, Lucian and two daughters, Kate and Salley. Kate married a man by the name of Star and Sally married a man by the name of Sandifer. They lived in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Ruff McClain remembers them. Your Aunt Mary has first cousins in South Carolina, the Loves, Sandifers and a good many others. She is one degree nearer kin then me. I could write a hundred pages telling you the history of the Martin family whom they married and the names of all the children that were born to them and who they married. Now, I can answer your question of how long has the Martin family been in Arkansas.
John G. Martin came from Perry County, Al to Union County with his mother's brother Minor Wallace in the early forties and settled near New Lundon. (sentence missing) John Martin married Rebeca Gill in Union County in 1847 and moved to Bradley County and settled on the Saline River hills east of Johnsville near old Dr. Cabeens, in the early fifties. Sadler Martin married two sisters, Jane Mann and his second wife, her sister Penny in Carthage Mississippi and moved to Arkansas in September 1856 and settled on the Rawls place. Mortimore Martin married a Miss Sarah Cato in Leake County, Miss in 1823 and moved to Arkansas with his brother-in-law old Henry S. Rawls in 1855 and he settled on the west side of Snake Creek about a mile north of where the road crosses the creek and Henry Rawls settled the Givens place. Uncle Joe Martin came with my father from Mississippi and he settled on the river hills about a mile east of where George Lowry lives now. They had three brothers, Thomas, Palma and William and their father and mother who are all buried in a Good Hope graveyard in Scott County, Mississippi. Your father's mother, Margaret died August 25, 1868. Uncle Joe Martin died on the Gillis Place below the Rufas Meek place in 1859. He was a Latin and Greek scholar and one of the smartest men in South Carolina in his day. And your grandmother's father Brooks was a rich man before the war. Billy Martin, your grandfather went back to Mississippi in 1875 and got some money from the Brooks estate. He rode one of old Fannís colts over there, one of the finest horses I most ever saw and left him over there and came home by a boat and afterwards sold the horse over there. That old mare brings up another long history in your father's history. A wartime history when he wore the gray and beared his breast to the storms of war and followed the old southern cause to the end. I know where of I write for I was right there and heard the boom of the cannon and felt the old hearth jar and all through that memoriable struggle, my father and yours and all the men were gone which only left the old men and the boys at home. Yes, I was there, John and me hunted and fished and had a good time over all those old wood, river and swamp. We had no store, bought shoes clothing or hats and no coffee or good things to eat but what we raised in the country. (sentence missing) weaving for clothes for the soldiers and to ware and yet we had a plenty to eat and drink if it was brand coffee and a Johnny cake and sweet saugum molasses and coon and o'possoms and deer a plenty and the girls looked pretty and sweet in their home spun dresses and palmetto hats and shoes to dance in were made out of daddies broad cloth coats and pants. My what a good time we use to have, even if was war times.
Well, Christmas times are coming again next Saturday which calls back Christmas times long years ago, Christmas eve night 1856, I hung my stocking at the Rawls place and old Santa Clause filled it full of good things bought from Old Phil Durden's store at Longview and in it was a little knife and the next day or two, we and one of the Negro boys, John went down to the old spring and a little up the branch to cut me a whip stalk and I cut my little middle finger most off, the scar is still there for I have just looked to see, which I told my old sweet heart this summer when we were over to see her. There is another in my heart which she did not see which she made long years ago, she know it was there for she cut the tender chord that bound us in love's first dream and yet I know she has one in her heart too which left a tender fiber for me still oh what a love story I have written on pages of time since that time.
My heart was made sad yesterday when I received a telegram from Jule Crawford's daughter that her father had died at twelve thirty that day. I sent it to Lounds York yesterday to show it to Jonathan Ferrell and Ed and George Lowry and to others who knew him. I expect you was too small to remember when he left there. 1878, all that Crawford family now are dead, but Ed who lived in Veslaco down on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. Him and me were associates when we were young men and he was a noble good fellow and for the last hew years when I would go to Fort Worth, I would go to see him and he said he thought more of me than any man on earth, but his own brothers and we would have a good time talking about our young manhood sweetheart days and the good time we used to see going to see the girls.
We have been corresponding for several years, he said I could write the prettiest letters he ever read and would send them around to his Texas kind folks. The last time I was out there, him and me and Henry and Loraine went to see Miss Joe Hunt, my sweetheart after me and Lissie broke up and it would have done you good to have heard him and me and Miss Joe Hunt tell our good times. Miss Joe is an old woman now and the mother of ten children and a feeble old husband, Mr. Ad Rodgers, a good man however and she is a fine looking old lady, but not as spry and pretty as Mrs. Haskew.
Yes, Geter, I could write a hundred page letter of the good old time me and your father have had together, for I have known him all my life. I went to church yesterday and when I went to leave, I felt someone pull my coat sleeve and looked around and it was your Aunt Mary. My my I have known her since she was a babe in her mother's arms when we came to the state together, she was one year old. She has keen black eyes likes her father Uncle Joe. In 1857, old uncle Henry Rawls built a bresh arbor on the spring branch about fifty yards below the old spring and uncle Joe taught school there in the summertime and after that in the old log church when I first started school and taught there until the big storm in 1859 and blew a tree down on his house and hurt him and he never got over it and died in 1860.
Well, Geter, I could write all night and day in and day out for days. I can see no end, always can write a few more words that is in my mind so you will have to come up and get your saddle and if you do I will still have something to say, for I love to write; if I am writing to one whom I have a kind place in my heart for and your know you have, if I know myself and I think I do, give my kindest reguards to your little wife, Mattie, she is the best little woman I ever knew, bring her along with you when you come and she will see for herself what we think of our Martin kin folks.
I got a letter from Alvah Miller who married Lucy Rawls and went to Texas and moved there from Oklahoma, where she died and then he came back here and was down there about twenty five years ago and he lives in Pottersville in California and says that is the most overrated country on earth and tell his old Arkansas friends that around Johnsville is the best place to live and make any easy living of any place he ever saw and says if he was not so old, 78 years of age, he would come back there and live and raise stock on the Saline and have a good time which would be heaven enough for him. You know that field on the other side of the river there at Longview use to belong to his father and if he had it, he would come back there and live until he died and be buried where the gentle murmer of the Saline River waters were on their way to the sea, where the spring birds sing their sweet songs amid the glad smile of the flowers and the summer time of the year dangle his fishing line in the river and kill ducks in the winter of the year; he is a home sick brother weary and worn and wants some quiet nook where he can rest and ponder of the good old days when he lived at Longview.
Tell Grover Herring I wrote a contract and signed it and sent it to him to sign and return for a hundred dollars for the Powell place, just as it is and if he wants to build a fence in the lane, I will furnish the wire and you and Jonathan Ferrell to receive the fence if built according to the contract and I will send him a check for the wire what it cost at Warren. Ask him if he got the contract written as he said, write it and send to him, and he would sign and return to me. Look after my interest and see no one imposes me and write soon if you can not come.
Your cousin, Billy Martin
Read more letters
Back to the Bradley County home page