January 1861

Olive Hill, Wayne County, Indiana
January 1861

My Dear Friend Lot,

Your “huge” letter “arriv” a few days since & was welcomed by your humbled servant with a shout that alarmed the town so much that about one half of them thought I presume that the South Carolinians were upon them. Laying aside all jesting and speaking candidly, it certainly furnished with more information concerning matters which have occurred in your locality during my absence than anything I have yet received in the shape of a letter. Although I might have wished it more definite in some particulars, yet your headache I suppose prevented you from entering into a detailed account of each particular thing which happened, and also your space would necessarily have had to be enlarged in proportion as you digressed upon each particular in the order they transpired.

My intention, as you are well aware when leaving Iowa, was to reach Oregon as speedily as possible. But by some unlucky freak of old dame fortune, I stopped on my route to visit some of my relations (of whom I have more than I ever dreamed I had) and whilst so doing was taken with a violent attack of fever which came very near finishing my earthly career — so near, indeed, that all were about giving me up when I began to recover but gained strength so very slowly that I was unable to resume my journey even if I had the means after defraying my expenses incurred by my illness.

So I commenced teaching in November and have been at it ever since here in Old Wayne County. The prices are a little better for that business here than there. I have some notion of trying the trip again in the spring. If I do, I shall go by land and take Mt. Pleasant in my route as I would like very much to see the people about there once more. True, as a general thing, they are not all blessed with an abundance of wealth, but they have warm hearts and generous impulses (& that’s what I like).

Some of the incidents which you noticed in your letter I heard from other sources — especially the marriages of Miss Jennie Cornwell to Mr. Williams. But that did not astonish me so much as some of the others which have taken place since my departure. For instance, the marriage of Mr. [Jacob] Westfall to Miss [Sarah] Munson. It must surely have been rather a short courtship for my recollection, if it serves me right, places Miss Mary Jenkins as Jake’s affianced. But it is rather a strange world take it all in all. Woman’s affectation duplicity and heartlessness: Man’s hypocrisy, deceitfulness, and smooth tongued honeyed words — all prove the utter faithlessness of the human family. Self interest now days is the guiding star to the young of both sexes. The be fashionable and fickle. The be proud and insolent. To be rich and ignorant. These are a few of the many characteristics Young Americas of the present day can boast of possessing. Please excuse if I moralize too much.

The next I will notice is the nuptials of Cornelius Spearman and Miss [Julia A.] Coiner. That also “got me” as I had rather anticipated his “hitching” on with Miss Harris but of course we can not always check or control our feelings — especially in matters of the heart. They will undoubtedly live very happily together as they both belong to one church and that too the greatest of all churches you know, in the West at this day and age of the world. How long it will so continue, I know not, but am happy to inform you it is slightly below par here at the present time. There is a Methodist Church about a quarter from my school house and they only have meeting there once every two weeks. But this is rather “stale news” for you, I presume, so I must try and find something that will be more interesting to you if I possibly can.

My school will be out in five weeks from now and we are preparing to have an exhibition. I have given out “Paddy Miles” and intend to give out “Rough Diamond” besides. We will have numerous other pieces to fill out the evening, I presume. I wish you were here [to] take your old part of Dr. Coates as we have an exceedingly pretty girl to act the part of Mrs. Fidget. But I am rather doubtful whether it can be produced here with the characters which we have with the same applause which it received there.

This is a great country for girls, Lot. Any amount of them of all descriptions that the most lively imagination could picture. I am rather better acquainted with some of them now than I would like to be. In fact, it is absolutely impossible for a fellow to get along here without making himself either agreeable or disagreeable and you know I am too gallant to do the former so being rather “susceptible” I find that I am in for it. Now it is just as far from any nature you know, Lot, to whisper to a girl without making love to her, as it is for your individual self to do the same thing. I don’t know but I shall marry here yet before I leave. I have become acquainted with several young ladies here who are reputed to be wealthy, have farms besides money on interest. This thing of marrying for love is all a “fudge.” Money is the desideratum of all mankind and marrying for it is about as quick a way of getting it as any other, don’t you think so? Pshaw! Did you ever hear such nonsensical talk. I ought to be more serious about so sober a subject as matrimony.

I should like to know what you all think about the condition of matters in the South: whether you think that the South can peaceably secede and establish a Southern Confederacy and still avert that terrible calamity — a civil war? For my part, I never conceived of so deplorable a state of affairs. The present looks dark and gloomy and the future promises nothing better as yet — no ray of sunshine penetrates with its warm and pleasant light the gloomy veil that surrounds us. Oh! for a Garibaldi — a man capable for the emergency who would at once by some well directed stroke of policy or of power strike at the very root of that Hydra-headed monster disunion and crush it out entirely at once and forever. And in my opinion, it could be done by commencing and hanging about a dozen of the most radical abolitionists at the North and about an equal number of the most violent of the fire-eaters of the South. We can only wait and hope for the best.

You mentioned “Lilipution” in your last letter. She is a charming girl surely and as true as steel and truer even than I am, I suppose, though I blush to confess it. Give my congratulations (my hand trembles so much just now you know after writing so long a letter) to Miss Jennie Cornwell and her husband. Write soon, Lot, and let me know all the news. You must wait on “Dillie” occasionally. She is an excellent girl. Give my respects to all my friends and especially to your mother & the girls and Johny, little Johny you know.

[Your friend, — Joe Fisher]

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