(Tompson Family Letters)
Collection of Correspondence of the Tompson Family of North Pownal, Bangor and Raymond, Maine, 1833-1850

Collection of 55 letters, 113 pages of correspondence, in generally very good, clean and legible condition, occasional spotting, soiling, tears and nicks, otherwise good.

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Correspondence of members of the Tompson family of Maine. In the 1830’s two brothers travel to the South to teach school. One brother is a physician. The correspondence touches on the lives of the members of this extended family as they attempt to make their way in life, going into the general mercantile business, teaching school in the South, engaging in the medical profession as a country doctor, to studying Homoeopathy so as to establish a Homoeopathic medical “racket.”

Pownal, [Maine] October 21, 1833, E. Tompson to son, Joshua M. Tompson, Boston

“Dear Son,

I hear by G. P. Tompson that you are about making up your mind to go south, which may be worse for you having no capital to settle yourself in business nor friend to assist you, people are afraid of trusting strangers and as you have doubtless gained some acquaintance in Boston & it is very doubtful weather you due any better to the south or not, if you can make your income balance your expenses or a little more it is well, & remember my advice, let well anough alone for a roling stone gathers no moss…”

Augusta, Georgia June 15, 1834, A. Tompson to Joshua M. Tompson, Savannah, Georgia

“Dear Brother,

… I have consented to remain where I am another quarter, not that my pecuniary prospects appear much brighter, but because I did not like to throw myself entirely out of employment at this season of the year, when it is almost impossible for one of my vocation to obtain any situation. For you are probably aware, that in this country teachers are generally employed by the year that the proper time for procuring schools is the months of November and December, and that teachers commence the exercises of their schools on the first and second weeks in January. Hence, I think it better for the present to remain where I am, being of the opinion that “a half loaf is better than no loaf” …”

North Pownal, Me., Nov. 19, 1839, G. P. Tompson to brother J. M. Tompson, Edgefield C.H., South Carolina

“Dear Brother,

… informing you of my journey to Bangor, Jane’s health, my conclusion to sell out &c &c. I now can inform you that Jane’s health is fast improving… I have sold my stand here , house and all to David J. Pierce for 1000 dollars, payments in one, two, three and four years with a mortgage on the same for security, his father is bound with him for 900 Dollars the first note, and I am to have 125 dollars in March next if I should want. I have the privilege of staying here till April if I want to so long. We do the business here together till March and then divide the profits between us, he boards with me this winter. I have a winter’s job to collect my debts. If I have made a good bargain so be it, if a bad one I must make the best of it. It is uncertain whether I shall go to New York in the spring or not, time alone must determine. If I can alight of a good stand that I can purchase reasonable where I can have business enough. I may buy somewhere about here if not I shall go South or West. If you know of a place where I can change 2 or 3 thousand dollars a year I will come and see you. I think that Knapp and I shall go to New York this spring and then determine whether we shall make a move. All of our Family Brother are in a fair way to be birds of passage. George William is now on his way to Charleston and you will probably see him before you get this… The people here call me a fool for selling. I did not know before that I had so many friends in the place. Some of the women here it is said, have shed tears but whether it be for joy or sorrow I cannot tell which. I am now on the wing, a bird of passage, ready to take my flight at very short notice….”

Charleston, South Carolina, July 26, 1840, A. Tompson to J. M. Tompson, Edgfield, Court House, South Carolina

“Dear Brother,

On receiving your letter of June the 23d I thought it highly probable that I should ere this be teaching your brood of urchins and that you would now be in the land of steady habits. But your next note, dated June 28th, told a different tale, and demolished my airbuilt castle – I did not leave Polar Spring so soon as I intended. On the day I closed my school July 3d, I had an attack of the dysentery [atte]nded with some fever, which continued for almost a week, and consequently prevented me from leaving during that time. I was then told that the teacher at Orangeburgh Court House intended to resign, so I waited another week to see whether he would or not. He did. I then called on some of the patrons, and found them quite indifferent about a school. Some would do nothing – others wanted two or three weeks to call a meeting, to consult & deliberate – while others desired to employ me immediately. I soon ascertained they were playing a game of fast and loose- that they wished to detain me two or three weeks, till they could write to other teachers, and receive their answers. I then gave them four days to give me a decisive answer. They in the meantime did nothing, but wanted me to wait two weeks longer. I could hardly refrain from cursing them. The next day July 23d I took the cars and came to this city. For you should know, if you do not, that the Southwestern Rail Road is completed to Orangeburgh Court House, uniting with the Hamburg road at Branchville. Had I found Joseph Tompson here, I intended going to Europe with him. I shall now wend my way to the north. …”

N. Pownal Jan. 10, 1841 J. W. Tompson to J. M. Tompson, Edfield District, S. Carolina

“Dear brother,

… I wish you would persuade brother A. to accompany you & go into business here. I think he has stopt out there long enough & to long for his health. I find it is on the decline. Business is much better in Bangor than Portland. Hiram thinks you would both of you do well there. He writes that he is doing better than expected. … Tell G. W. I shall give him a schooling for staying out there so long. I was in hopes he would come back and go to Bangor with me. If I could only have him there, I should be perfectly contented. Hiram thinks there is not a doubt but he could find him business enough & some that would suit him… I wish you would pick out someone for the Doctor. I don’t care about his marrying his housekeeper & I don’t know as he will, but don’t say a word. There is not one of his friends that would like it. There is a great contrast between she and Eliza…”

North Pownal, December 22d, 1843, A. Tompson to Joshua M. Tompson, Raymond, Maine

“Dear Brother,

Yours of the 8th instant is received. You mistake; I am not “lonely.” Ego sum num-quam minus solus quam cum solus. I spend my leisure hours in reading. Time rarely hangs heavily on my hands. It is probable, nay, I feel that it is almost certain, I am embargoed for the winter, and shall not be able to get out of this neighborhood again till, spring. What a state Maine is with a rocky, sterile soil – a Greenland climate and locofoco population. Here we have six months of winter besides three more of cold weather.

Brother, your letter contains some expressions which are censorious and unjust. When writing it were you under the influence of aqua vitae? I do not know why you should “for one year before I came home count upon my assistance.” I have no recollection of holding out to you, since 1840, any hopes of that kind, and your good sense certainly could not induce you to suppose that I would run blindly into an agreement with you before seeing the place, or knowing, comparatively speaking any thing of it during the years 1839 and 1840. I was not only willing but anxious to go into trade with you and could have joined you at almost any time after three months notice. Then it was I who was flattered with delusive hopes. But I will not recriminate. As to my “dumb silence” it has not, I think injured you in any respect. If it has, I sincerely regret it. You surely are at liberty to use all your funds and abilities to the best advantage in pursuing your business, my “cold silence” to the contrary notwithstanding. If you have taken “my dumb silence for the strongest kind of a negative,” there are others with whom you can go into trade, if it pleases you…”

Bangor, May 10, 1847, G. W. Tompson to J. M. Tompson, Raymond, Maine

“Dear Brother,

… I don’t know how long I may do business with Hiram as neither of us are under any obligations to remain any longer than we choose. I think business will be pretty good the present season which is one inducement to remain another is I have a vast deal of old business yet unsettled – and thirdly I think it a bad idea to often change business or places of business. Infer not from the above reasons that I do not feel deeply sensible of the interest you take in my affairs – Although I think if you comprehended fully the state of my business you would advise me to remain here, at least for the present…”   

North Pownal, Jan. 5, 1850, A. Tompson to J. M. Tompson, Raymonrd, Maine

“Dear Brother,

Yours of the 22d ultimo is received. I was owing you no letter, so reserve your censure till it is required – We are at present comfortable – our help comes and goes like the old woman’s soap. Get out with your cider, are you always riding some hobby – …

When you come, bring some tea, coffee, sugar, spice and tobacco, so far says Father – also bring, says mother, a spittoon, a washbowl and pitcher, a half pint mug, three tumblers, a box of Wright’s pills, and last, not least, a shit pot, one with a cover is preferred…”

Yarmouth, Feb. 27, 1850, G. P. Tompson to J. M. Tompson, Raymond, Maine

“Dear Brother,

I received a line from Henry yesterday, dated Sunday Feb. 24th informing me that you were no better, but rather worse, which I am very sorry to hear. On receiving Henry’s letter, my first impression was that I would go into Portland to day, lay your case before Doct. Clark, get him to put up a little package of Homoeopathic medicine with directions how to take it, and send it to you by the stage driver, with a line from your humble servant. But not knowing whether you would take it, as your faith is so great in your own method of practice, and having three patients to attend to today, I concluded that I would first consult you on the subject. I was in Portland on Monday & spent half of the day with Doct Clark, and feel well satisfied that he will hit your case the first time trying and cure you in a short time if you follow strictly his directions. He would rather see you, but he is unable to travel so far at present unless it be very pleasant. Write immediately and if you are no better I would advise you as a friend to lay aside your Lobelia & try the Homoeopathic medicines for once in your present case. I will see Doct. Clark if you say so. I think I can give him a pretty true account of your case, and if I can be of any benefit to you, I will do it cheerfully… I have just commenced reading the authors on Homoeopathy and in the course of six months I rather guess I shall make a racket…”