Three letters from the Jane Curl Walker Letters Collection are summarized below. These letters offer a unique window to life in Arkansas in the mid-19th century.
The full Jane Walker Letter Collection can be found in the PDF links at the tab to the left, with scans of all original letters, complete transcriptions of the letters, an annotated table of contents, an index by topic and key word, and an index by people and places.
Judge David Walker wrote this letter to his Aunt Jane Walker in about 1845. The letter concerns a stove that Judge Walker had given to Jane and her family at the time that Jane moved her young family to Fayetteville.
In 19th century frontier America, the stove was one of a family's most important possessions. The stove provided heat in the winter, and allowed baking bread, and cooking meat and eggs.
The letter also gives some of the details about the home that Judge Walker provided for Jane and her family in Fayetteville. Jane's husband Martin L. Hawkins had died of pneumonia in 1840, leaving Jane a frontier widow with 6 children under age 15, including a newborn. Judge Walker saved this young family from destitution. Read more about Jane Walker's life in her biography at the link above.
This was a letter by Edward Freyschlag to his wife Lucy, written in July 1850. Edward was part of the group of 120 Fayetteville citizens who traveled to California in 1849 in search of gold. The letter was written from the Bidwell Bar Feather River in the Sierra Mountains of California. Edward writes of the letter he has just received from Lucy with a lock of his young son Hermann's hair.
Edward reports news of his brother Christian and "the girls", his sisters Barbara and Metta, who have left the Sierras and moved to Sacramento to open a boarding house. Edward returned to Fayetteville in 1851 but his siblings and their descendants remained in California permanently.
At the close of the letter, Edward states he will probably leave California the following spring, depending on the success of his claims, and on how much he will be paid for any employment he finds over the winter. In fact he did fairly well during his 2 years in California, and was able to afford the most expensive passage back to Fayetteville: by ocean around Cape Horn to New Orleans, then by riverboat up the Mississippi and White Rivers to Fayetteville.
Our great uncle Martin Hawkins Jr. wrote this letter to his mother Jane Walker from the Confederate Army camp at Wilson's Creek in Missouri. The letter was written the day before Martin was killed at the Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861. Martin was just 21 years old, and had joined the CSA only one month earlier. The poignant transcript speaks for itself (spelling is quoted exactly):
Aug 9 1861
We are camped 9 miles South of Spring Field [Missouri] we have been here for 3 days. There has been no fiting going on yet but there is no telling when we will fite. The Enemy is still in Spring Field. There is so many reports about them that it is hard to tell where they are. There is between 8 & 10 Thousand of them and about 30 Thousand of us. All the boys are well at this time. Give my love to all. I would right more but have not time—
The Battle of Wilson's Creek was the first major battle of the Civil War west of the Mississippi. The Confederates routed the Union forces, establishing control of southwestern Missouri. Union casualties in the battle were 1,317, and Confederate were 1,230 (dead, wounded or captured). Our ancestor Edward Freyschlag was also at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, and probably had the sad duty of returning to Fayetteville to let Martin's mother know of his fate.