Hot Springs Ark. 3/31/13
My dear Mr Muir:-
Your delayed letter is to hand, and while I wrote you from a leave of duty I had no thought of you doing what you have & deeply regret the expense & inconvenience entailed.
With the more fortunate & intelligent there is a craving for sympathy when in pain & trouble. With my Uncle it was a mania, while my father was not insensible to this feeling he abstained from expressing it in words; to him it would have been an exhibition of weakness as unmanly as tears.
To win words of condolance & sympathy Charlie would tell of neglect & cruelty which had no foundation save in the characteristic treatment meted out to us children. These Munchausen tales were - no doubt - the source of information conveyed to you, which as evidence seemed conclusive. Men have been convicted of crime on testimony less circumstantial.
As a result of a crippled right arm affected with neuritis save to sign my name I have written little with a pen for 25 years. despite this fact your articles and letters has brought the old days & times so vividly before me that I ask your indulgence
for a few minutes while I recur to them.
That your father was rigorous & exacting was known to his neighbors, this with his dignified & gentlemanly appearance, among the frugal class begat a sort of respectful awe, when in his presence. To the credit of his children be it said no complaint or mummur escaped their lips as to the strict discipline to which they were subjected. Not blessed with Scottish tacurnity. With us it was different. We shamefuly and uncerimoniously blabbed our troubles and annoyances. Joined to Charlies tales. unbeknown to him. this placed our father in a false & trying position. Poor dear father. Wronged, misjudged, with motives misconstrued. My God in his mercy judge me less harshly than I did him.
When I reach home and have access to my typewriter I will fire some happenings of these days. including my relations with your father and the love and confidence inspired for him that I know will interest you. (occuring after you had left)
You ask that I tell you something of my own life. I am 66 years of age. I entered the Army July 4 1862 at 15 years of age was discharged in Feb. 1863. And re-enlisted as soon as I would be accepted. Saw most strenuous service before Petersburg and Richmond and was discharged Aug 186[5?]
In the fall of 1865 I purchased the 80 acres comprising the Muir homestead from David Gallaway for $800.00 and sold it in 1867 to "Jack & "Bill" Eunis. On Dec. 31-67 I married Hannah M. eldest daughter of David Egleston. We have one child. A daughter unmarried, who lives with us.
In the winter of 83-84 I took a homestead in Nebr. bought a section of R.R. land adjoining and in a sod house of 2 rooms determined I would "grow up with the country". In the fall of 88 was elected to the legislature. In the following summer was appointed Deputy Collector of Int Rev. and in July 1 1890 became Receiver of the U.S. land office at Broken Bow, Neb. In 1892 was nominated for Congress but was defeated by the combined forces of Pops. Demo and Prohibs". On the expiration of my term (4 years) I resumed farming and in 1865 was appointed State Agent of the Nebraska penitentiary and removed to Lincoln. In 1898 was made Register of the United States land office at BBow which postiion I held under the administrations of McKinley and Rosevelt. At the expiration of my 8 years was advised by my physician to seek a lower altitude and moved to Emperia, Kas. where we now reside.
My time is occupied in caring for our house, a little land in Ks. and our ranch in Nebr. I am striving also to enjoy my leisure time, and
Old Wis neighbors
some means in derry food and helping my fellow man as best I can. In these efforts I am ably seconded by wife and daughter.
I cannot conceive of enjoyment derived from life by those who live for self alone. Neither does it accord with the lives and teachings of Our fathers. who found their greatest pleasure in Service and Sacrifice.
My sister Ellen married "Johnny" McReash at 16 years of age who was ________years her senior. She died 8 years ago "Johnny" a litle dried up weasened looking old man is still living. He has a certain philosophy in his make up & way of expressing himself that affords me pleasure in meeting him. They have 3 children living. 2 boys 1 girl.
Of the entire Mahaffy family one remains. Geo. the Youngest: Margaret lost her reason and died 6 months ago in an asylum. Her remains were taken to the old grave yard in Buffalo for burial. Daria, Henry Mahaffy's son, was killed in a runaway in northern Ia where he was living.
"Bob" Duncan - your old neighbor Wm Duncans son was also brought back to Buffalo a few days after Margaret M. and rests besides his parents. Jessie McDuncan my daugther occupies the old homestead. Will Diamond died a couple of years ago at an advanced age. He had been Co. judge for 25 years
Levi Dat[illegible] died very suddenly two years ago, while we were there on a visit. His sister Mary - now an old woman - is the only member of the family left. John Bairus' death occurred above 2 yrs ago. "Jimmie" Maitland lives by himself in Pardeville. Crippled with rheumatism he suffers constantly. His sister Eliza's second husband is George Lawson. There father you will remember married a Gallaway Jane never married and lives by herself in P. also Pardeville by the way has become in a small way an active business center. The farmers as far out - yes [further?]. As your fathers old farm find it a better place to buy and sell than Portage. Some fine residences have been created and in its thrift & cleanliness contrasts greatly with the dirty dilapidated looking place of 50 yrs ago.
The old Cripps farm is owned by Charlie Cuff Has fine improvements and as you will recall is attractively located. The Reeves family are all dead. The "Widow Smith", as she was known to all, whose husband "Dan" Smith joined your first farm in the east passed away as recently as two years.
Her family married & left her years ago but she clung with pathetic tenacity to her old home - isolated - receiving few visitors - making no calls and died amid the same surroundings that had witnessed the only happiness she ever knew. She was not unattractive & quite intelligent
And thus my dear friend I might go on but have submitted a few facts & names of those with whom you may be familiar.
Save possibly Mrs Turner widow of John Turner of "[Turners] Mill" memory. Now 90 yrs of age. There are [none?] left of the generation to which our parents [belonged?] And their children are old & passing away. Our visits there are frequent. We view the funerals and view the scenes endeared by a thousand reccollections But to the many children of former friends & acquantances our names are a dimly defined and fading tradition. Strangers occuy the old home & places we were accustomed to visit. Unchanged the landscape still remains and with its undulating surface inland lakes and many streams there are few places more beautiful. If there is anything or any person about whom you would like to enquire I would be pleased to serve you.
I know that your time is precious. pardon then this lengthy letter & its prolixity And believe me I am
Sincerely your friend
727 State St
P.S. Remember me kindly to your Bro David & sister Sarah.
Hot Springs, Ark.
1913 Mar 31
Original letter dimensions: 28 x 21.5 cm.
Whitehead, James, "Letter from James Whitehead to John Muir, 1913 Mar 31." (1913). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 3951.
Reel 21, Image 0259
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