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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 2 August 1867

Dear Walt

Yours duly received1  I have had so many things to attend to lately that I have not been able to get time to answer and can only do so now so that you may know that I hav'nt forgotten you

We are still at work getting out specifications for the settling Reservoirs2—a job of about $700 000—and of course we feel mighty anxious to cover all points so that we wont be upset by any sharp practice

On the street to-day I saw a very interesting yet somewhat painful sight—twas that of a family moving in from the plains—An old woman—I shoud judge all of eighty—another woman of about 35—a young man and his wife abt 25 a boy of 12 two children 8 and 6 and a little babe—all but the young man and his wife were in the wagon drawn by 4 oxen—the wagon covered with dirty white canvass—The boy had leading with a rope a fine old cow—a young cow and calf were alongside—under the wagon was a large white dog and inside by the old woman was a small black terrier—They had met with an accident in the way of b[r]eaking one of the hind wheels and were therefore hard up—The faces of all were a study—but particularly of the young man and his wife—neither of them was at all handsome but yet I shall remember their faces for a long time—The old woman had that peculiar look of crazy stupidity that you can hardly tell whether they are really stupid or thinking of by-gone life  The talk of the crowd was that they had been driven in by the Indians—but I doubt that part of the story—

There is a report in town to-day that some of the "bloody injuns" were stealing cows &c just outside town—about where we propose to set our pumping engines—Of course I suppose its all humbug—but yet cannot see what such a detailed statement as is in the paper this morning is printed for—3

I had a letter from Mother a few days ago—she appears to be getting along middling well yet I wish she could get a better place to live—4

From a letter received from Mat to-day she is having a first rate time yet—I wish you would write her—address care of G. F. Mason,5 Towanda, Give my regards to Mr & Mrs O'Conner6 and friends that I met in Washington—

I hope you may be able to carry out your idea and come out to see us—

good by for the present  write me as often as you can



  • 1. Whitman's letter of about August 1 is not extant. [back]
  • 2. Located at Bissell's Point, three and a half miles north of city hall. [back]
  • 3. The first reports of this incident were, as Jeff says, "humbug." Forty Winnebago Indians returning by steamboat to their tribal lands in Wisconsin had stopped for a few days in St. Louis and temporarily encamped near the Bissell's Point works (Missouri Republican, August 2 and 3, 1867). [back]
  • 4. After Jeff's family left Brooklyn, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman gave up the house at 840 Pacific Street and in July moved to a new house at 1194 Atlantic Avenue. She complained of the small rooms and the "bad smells" from the sewer (see the letter from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman of August 1, 1867). [back]
  • 5. Gordon F. Mason, father of Jeff's old friend Julius Mason from the Brooklyn Water Works (see the letter from Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman of February 10, 1863, and Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman, ed. Randall H. Waldron [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 37). Mattie and the children lived with the Masons in Towanda, Pennsylvania, until mid-September 1867, when she and the girls returned to Brooklyn. [back]
  • 6. For William Douglas O'Connor, see the letter from Thomas Jefferson Whitman to William Douglas O'Connor of March 16, 1865. Jeff had visited Walt Whitman and the O'Connors in February 1867 (Gay Wilson Allen, (The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman [New York: Macmillan, 1955; rev. ed., New York University Press, 1967], 379). [back]
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