Category Archives: Antebellum Alabama

1850: Thomas Larmuth to William Hunter

This letter was written by 23 year-old English native Thomas Larmuth (1826-1866) who seems to have been paying for his sight-seeing excursion of the United States by performing various jobs in which he could apply his skill as an engineer. In this particular letter he wrote to his former acquaintance, William Hunter (b. 1818), an English-born millhand at the Hamilton Corporation, a cotton textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts.

How Thomas might have looked in 1850

Gleaning any kind of information about Thomas from US census records proved impossible due to his mobility but I fortunately stumbled on his identity from an article published on the internet pertaining to Leopold Larmuth (b. 1855), an ear surgeon who grew up in Manchester, England. It seems Leopold’s grandfather was named Thomas Larmuth (1797-1873) and he lived in Salford, Manchester, where he was the proprietor of his own machine manufacturing firm (eventually the Tobleben Iron Works). This Thomas Larmuth had three sons who acquired the skills of their father—James Williams (1821-1902), Thomas (1826-1866), and Matthew Henry (1831-1908). James and Matthew continued to work for their father producing boilers, steam cranes, rock drills, and many kinds of machines using in manufacturing.

Thomas Larmuth, however, decided to see America before settling down in Cheetham, Lancashire, England, to work at the family trade designing and manufacturing machinery. In the 1851 UK census, he was still living with his parents but in 1853 he married Rachel Adelaide Taylor (1831-1911) and by 1861 had moved his growing family to Frodsham in Cheshire. After the 1861 UK Census, Thomas disappears from public records and his family speculates that he returned to America where he worked in the Confederacy as an engineer. A member of the family claims to have found a death notice stating that he drowned in the Mississippi river on 17 January 1866. His wife, who made a living as a pianist, was left to raise their five children back in England.

From the Manchester Courier, Saturday, 5 May 1866. Courtesy of the The British Library Board and supplied by Gwyneth Wilkie, author of the article about Leopold Larmuth.


Addressed to Mr. William Hunter, Hamilton Corporation, Lowell, Mass.
Postmarked Mobile, Alabama, January 2, 1850

Mobile, State of Alabama
January 1st 1850

Mr. William Hunter, dear friend,

It is now so long since writing to you that where to begin or how to pen this is rather more than I can tell. Since leaving your happy roof, I have traveled over the greater portion of the United States and am now wending my way back into Massachusetts through the states of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and from thence to Washington and on to New York.

Since leaving you I have been all through the southern and western states. I was engineering on the Ohio river, also running a locomotive on to the Mexican Gulf from New Orleans, at the present time am working repairing steamboats in Mobile. I have lived amongst Indians, Spaniards, French, Creoles, Dutch, and every other nation that is represented in this country.

There has been only one letter sent to me from my friends since leaving you and I feel very anxious to receive some. I have written two letters to you and also one to Mr. Stott but have never heard whether they reached their destination. One I wrote in Michigan; the other two were written in Kentucky.

We have everything here very comfortable at this present time. We have all the doors and windows open, the ladies all go out in the evening without any bonnet, the gentlemen wear nothing but a light dress coat. Last evening being New Year’s eve, the ladies and gentlemen all turned out in fancy costume and made such a display that I never saw equal before. 1 This morning a party of us took a walk in the country out to see the orange trees and flowers of all descriptions growing at this season of the year. Makes one feel very comfortable after feeling one of your cold winters.

You must excuse me for being so abrupt as it is my intention to write home so wishing you and Mrs. Hunter a happy and prosperous New Year, I remain yours truly, — Thomas Larmuth

P.S. Give my kind regards to Mr & Mrs Stott. Also to all enquiring friends. If you have anything to communicate, be kind enough to write to me. Post Office Mobile, Alabama

1 Thomas was probably referring to the callithumpians who caused a large commotion in the streets. Often they were masked or costumed revelers making noise for an official occasion.

1836: Thomas P. Nodine to William Nodine

This letter was written by Thomas P. Nodine. He may be the same blacksmith born in New York in 1824 that relocated to Connecticut prior to the Civil War and enlisted in Co. B, 28th Connecticut Infantry under the name Nodyne. I could not verify this or his parentage given the absence of information in early census records. William wrote the letter to his brother William Nodine (1804-18xx) who worked as a cartman, later as a blacksmith, in Williamsburgh, Kings county, New York. William was married to Catherine K. Richardson in the 1820’s and had at least two children by the time his letter was written in 1836.

It’s difficult to discern from Thomas’s letter what he was doing in Mobile, Alabama, in 1836 besides hunting reptiles which I assume was only a pastime and not the “excellent job” he claimed having. In any event, it’s easy to understand the fascination that visitors from the northeastern states experienced when they first encountered an alligator. Thomas may have been employed by a merchant in the trade between New York and Mobile which was well established by this time.

An 1835 Woodcut of Mobile, Alabama


Mobile [Alabama]
July 15th 1836

Dear Brother,

I received with much pleasure a letter from you daed June 14th. I expected it before but am happy to get it. Let it come when it will. It is still quite healthy here and all prospects of continuing so all summer as I hope it may. We have an excellent job and one that will pay well. We have two black boys to work for us and profits from them will be something nice. It is out of my power to bet when I will be home but it will be as soon as possible as I am anxious to see you all. But you must not expect me until you see me. Tell Mother to give herself no uneasiness as I never enjoyed better health in my life.

There is stacks and cords of game but I think you would not like such game as much as you do the northern as they would not be so handy to pocket. We have been out a hunting several times. I suppose you would like to know what kind of game it is that is so handy. Well them, just imagine yourself a locust log floating in the water about fourteen feet long with a mouth one half the length of the body with four short, crokked legs with nails about 4 inches long and then you wil know exactly what our game is (Aligator).

When I come home, I will be very glad of an introduction to that Miss E. Lambert you talk about so much in your letters. I don’t know who she can be. I am well acquainted with a young lady and a particular friend of mine by the name of Lizzy Lambert but it cannot be the same. But whoever she is, give her and all her family my love. The same to Miss Crawford. Remember me to all inquiring friend.

My love to Mother and Father and sisters. My best respects to your wife. I remain your affectionate brother, — Thomas C. Nodine

1850: Lewis Conner Tutt, Sr. to John F. Smith

This letter was written by Lewis Conner Tutt, Sr. (1817-18xx), the son of Richard Johnson Tutt (1772-1840) and Mildred Conner (1776-1837) of Culpeper, Virginia. Lewis was married in February 1844 to Matilda Josephine Jones (b. 1826) and together they raised half a dozen children or more—of whom was Lewis (Jr.) who served as a sergeant in Roddy’s Escort, Alabama Cavalry.

From his post war “Amnesty & Pardon” papers we learn that Lewis was “by profession a merchant and since immigrating to [Alabama, was always] engaged in merchandizing and farming.” He claimed to have “never sought or held political office nor in any manner a public man but devoted all his time and energies to his business.” He went on to describe the hardship he now faced having had “the larger portion of his estate swept away by the emancipation of slaves (he had owned 14) and other losses sustained in consequence of the war.” He made it clear that he had supported the Constitutional Union Party and therefore voted for Bell & Everett in 1860 hoping to avoid the “calamities which have befallen our country.” He pointed out that he never was in the Confederate army or service, and only offered aid to ease the helpless and suffering families in his county. Furthermore, he had already begun to hire freedmen “at liberal compensation—those he formerly held as slaves.”

Lewis wrote this letter to his brother-in-law, Dr. John F. Smith who married his sister, Mary “Ellen” Tutt (b. 1813) on 12 October 1841 in Rappahannock, Virginia.

Judson Female Institute, Marion, Alabama


Marion, [Perry county, Alabama]
July 26, 1850

Dr. John F. Smith,
Dear Sir,

You will no doubt think it strange that I have not written to you before this, but after your expressing so much doubt in regard to the time you should leave Pontotoc in Mississippi and your promise to write to me from Memphis, I concluded to wait until I heard from you before I wrote. I received your first letter after leaving Pontotoc about a week since from St. Louis and your last from Boonville day before yesterday. I did not know until I heard from you at St. Louis whether or not you had left Pontotoc, or if you had, what route you had taken—whether by land all the way, or by Memphis. I am sorry now that I did not write for I expect you have been anxious to hear from this place. For the same reason that I did not write, I thought it best not to ship your trunk until I heard from you which I did as soon as I received your letter from St. Louis.

I was very much pleased to learn that notwithstanding your hard and fatiguing trip that you had all arrived safely with the exception of your sickness. I felt very uneasy all the time until I heard from you all and from your symptoms in St. Louis, was not much surprised to learn that you were sick after getting to Boonville. I am very glad to learn that you are improving and hope your health will be entirely restored.

The horse you left in Greensboro died the day after you left. The tavern keeper wrote me he could do nothing with him and could find no one who could. I am satisfied from all I can learn that his disease was not the glanders. Brazelton appeared to be very much astonished—declared he knew that he knew of nothing that was the matter with him and said that he was willing to do anything that it was right and proper that he should do to give you satisfaction. I thought I would not press the matter on him as the note was not due until I heard from you. I think you done well to sell your horse in Memphis, taking everything into consideration.

Your affairs stand pretty much as they did when you left—everything being entirely easy. I shall collect a little money from the Judson [Female Instutute], I think, during the examination which takes place next week. The Howard [College] and the [Marion Female] Seminary examinations are both over. We have had very dull times here since you left and some of the hottest weather I think I ever felt. A part of the time we have had a great deal of rain but for the last week it has been dry.

Toppled & shattered headstone of Elizabeth, consort of Warren Mullikin. He married her sister less than two years later (you could say he “got a mulligan?)

We have at this time a considerable amount of sickness—typhus and billious fever. My girl Elvira has had a very hard spell and is just recovering. Warren Mullikin’s wife 1 was buried today. She died after about three or four days illness. A Miss Johnson, granddaughter of Mrs. Rutledge, died a few days since. Miss Neal is not expected to live and there have been several deaths amongst the negroes. Dr. [Samuel] Johns, James [Anderson] Howze, and Mr. [Hector] McLane are all sick at this time, but I suppose not dangerous. Since the rains ceased, we have had a spell of very hot, dry weather with cool nights and mornings which has produced the sickness.

If the present dry weather should continue for a week or two, with an occasional shower, our crops will be good. I have never seen such an improvement in crops in my life as has taken place since you left.

Matilda has been sick since you left and came very near dying. She was taken suddenly with faintness, swimming in her head and palpitations. It was several hours before she was relieved and her nervous system was so much prostrated that she could not get about the room for more than a week, and can scarcely go from the house to the garden at the present time. Lewis I found quite sick after returning from Greensboro. We have had quite a crowd of persons here during the last ten days attending the examinations and the meeting of the Grand Division of the Sons of Temperance.

Remember me affectionately to Ellen and Edward. Also to Mr. Turner and family and relatives generally. Matilda desires to be kindly remembered to Ellen & yourself, and requests particularly that sister Ellen should write to her. You need not feel any uneasiness about any of your matters here for there is not the least occasion for it. I will write you again in three or four days. Write me as often as you can.

Yours, — L. C. Tutt

Say to sister Ellen that I will write to her in a few days and that she must not wait for my letter to write. Tell her to write and give me all the news in Missouri.

1 Warren Mullkin (1821-1860), a collector in Perry county, was married to Elizabeth A. Patterson (1828-1850). She died on 26 July 1850. “She lived the life of a christian and died in the triumphs of faith” according to her gravestone, which lies broken on the ground in the Marion Cemetery. The couple had been married less than four years.