The following letter was written May 1858, from Abraham M. Lansdale to Henry M. and Mary E. Bradley of Pike County, Alabama. Abraham M. Lansdale lived at Hermit-hill, Bradley County, Arkansas.
The letter appears courtesy of Peggy Bowman.
Again my best friends I write alone, I write. And as a matter of course if we were not well, I would tell you. And I write from a country with which I am well pleased, for there are but two objections that I can urge against it. And they are these.
First, and greater than the new unimproved condition of the country bars off to a great extent the convenience of life and society.
Second, (which is frivolous) that the lands are in a great degree and to a great extent so level that in rainy weather that the water lays on the ground in such vast spreading bodies that it is very unpleasant to travel about, though in a very few dry windy days it all disappears and the lands presents itself to the eye in one far spreading plain with neither hill nor vale and then what adds (with me) an enchanting beauty to this country is the thick foliage of the wild forest. For there is no swamp that I have ever seen (the Mississippi not excepted) that can boast of its thick verdan growth, more than the forest of Arkansas. And in a word my friends if it was possible for you to be caught up in the balloon of the mind and transplanted near the edge of an endless swamp, for it bears that appearance precisely, that when you are traveling on business, or roaming for solitude's sake, that at every stride you are about to enter some vast morass, but it is never found for as soon as the breakers on the west side of the Saline are crossed there are no more hills nor valley's to the banks of the Washita, which is more from the east by a smooth plain without discending even one hill but as______up to the waters edge as this beautified this frontier west.
And now Cousin Henry & Mary even if I was under no pledges to write you often, and write you the truth, the long tried and well proven bonds of undivided friendship that binds our hearts and affections firmly together would force me upon the very pleasing line that would lead you to the point from which you may look on this country for yourselves and be deceived by no man. For as to myself, I would betray my own heart, as soon as I would willfully deceive and allure you from your better interest or truer pleasures. For in your peach and prosperity I feel a warm lively and unchanging interest. And therefore my truest friends, let the final issue prove what it may, according to my knowledge of this country, and to the best of my Judgement, I will with the full force of my weak manner of expression put back the veil of deception and strip facts of every covering and strive to the best of my ability to give you the naked truth. I will commence with the description of the timber, it grows as follows all over the land, white oak, red oak, poast oak, hickory, pine, ash, beech, maple, elm, black and sweet gum, is the general forest growth. Under growth, dogwood, ironwood, laurel, chinkpin, holly, hackberry, french mulberry, grape and muskadine vines in profussion, besides mirrads of weeds and vines of annual growth. We have no long leaf pine, no poplar, no chestnuts, no cuckleber, and if there is any cedar I have seen none. There is but very few springs here. But the water is good. And plenty in wells, stock water is said to be scarce in time of long drouths, which I believe, the lands as I have said before if an objection can be urged at all it is that they are too full. The soil is a fine dark grey resembling very much dirt mixed about half with rotten ashes, but loose and mellow. And in places very full of little round clear flint. ___but perfectly mellow even there. And said to be very ____a proof of which in one case I have seen some around here so soft and springy that in wet weather I dare not offer to ride around in the woods under no consideration for even in dry weather the ground is so mellow that a man will make plain tracks whereven he treads and a horse will sink over the fetlocks. And now I will give you my information as to the production of these lands. And my reasons for forming of this idea, (for as to what men says it is all delusive). The cornstalks are the largest that I ever saw. And the ears of corn are heavier and longer than I ever thought of growing on any land for it is no rarity here to see a ear of fourteen inches long. And ten or twelve inch ears are as common here as six inch nubbins are in Pike. But remember last year the boys tell me was one of the best crop years that they ever saw. But again brother Issac and John both has not more land in cultivation that I had there, and either of them made twice as much as I made in one year. Brother Isaac made last year 3800 pounds of lint cotton. Corn____others and sold one hundred and ten bushels. John made no corn, but cann (cane?) aplenty. (some men says that the land here will make forty bushels to the acre). Now I will give you the coming prospect (according to my opinion) of the convience not far distant of this country. I can be at home and hear the steam boats on the Washita and on the Saline both at the same time. One in ten and the other in fifteen miles and eighteen miles north there is a oil well and now in progress of building from Memphis westward. And public roads are beginning to be opened through this country. And there are two or three steam-mills near enough so that we can get to them in one day with a waggon and back the next, and when the waters are down we can go to market one day and back the next. And we send our cotton to New Orleans under a bill of insurance for one dollar and seventy-five cents per hundred and under these considerations, I think that when the country becomes improved and fasilities grow it will be the most convenient country in the West. But there is one thing yet. Schools are scarce, and advocates and promoters of Education scarcer. Though I have heard some advances made of late in reference to schools. But I want you now to read this with a cool sober second thought and weigh it in your mind and see if you can not better yourself in leaving that poor broken ill convenient pine woods country and come light hearted to Arkansas for I can say to you with a clear conscience that I believe this country to be just such a one as we have often wished to be in the soil of fair production, good water, good health, and near to market and no hills to climb. Who would ask for more? There is one thing that I know, and that is this (let others be as they may) that I am satisfied that I know at last what I never knew in Alabama, the soothing pulse of calm content. For according to my honest opinion, progress is fully the treasure in my most anguish and hopes. But two items of being far superor to that I looked for there are range and hogs which was destroyed by a great summer burn of '51.
Take all these things into your mind and ponder them well and in your own Judgement, govern your actions, for I would not bear the censure of ensnaring you in a trap of dissappointment for all of the rich lands of the West. And in the course of time if I find that things are different from what I have represented things for you to say at some time distant, Henry you deluded me! But to know that you was coming to satisfied as I am would be a true pleasure to me. And the day that you landed and greeted me at home, I would see my most sound and sweetest hours. I wait impatiently for an answer to some of my letters to you, I want you to write often and give me all ____and I will keep you posted in the Western country and that will not be a little for these accidental letters are full of news.
Now hug the boys____,__mmy, Jack, Bunky, ____that I remember and ____yet.
Abraham M. Lansdale
Bradley County Arkansas
Read more letters
Back to the Bradley County home page