Letter from Sarah Fountain in Alabama to her sister Hannah Coker in South Carolina, 27 December 1835

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Many people moved west in the first decades of the nineteenth century for the promise of new land. In the South, many families moved into present day Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to grow cotton. This letter discusses one family’s move from Society Hill, SC, to Dallas County, AL, located in the center of the state on the Alabama River. In this letter to her sister, the author demonstrates her reluctance in moving and the hardships of the journey. The middle paragraph on the first page, which begins “O my sister,” notes the author’s sadness at leaving her family. Also of note is the first complete paragraph on the second page, which discusses their journey through an “Indian Nation,” probably the remnants of the Creek Indian Nation in Alabama.


Letter from Sarah J. Fountain to Mrs. Hannah A. L. Coker, 27 December 1835. Papers of the Lide-Coker Families. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.


Dalas County, Alabama, December 27th, 1835

My very dear sister,
We have at length arrived at our place of destination after 5 weeks and 2 days travel. We reached this place last evening and took up camp and expect to remain here until we can get a house. We are about 3 miles from the place where Mr. Rowel and the Negroes stay; they soon heard of our arrival and came up very quick and such rejoicing and ado. I never heard. They all look quite fat and hearty. We are very near Mr. Crumpton’s himself and family came immediately to see us and insisted on as many of us as could to go and stay with them until we could get better fixed but we preferred staying at our tents. He is building and said he had been making an effort to get his house done that he might accommodate us but was disappointed. Brother has the prospect of a house but Pa has none. The house that he calculated on getting is otherwise disposed of.

O, my sister, I can’t describe to you my feelings here in this strange country without house or home, so far separated from my dear friends, and as yet I see nothing enticing in the place. But I do not wish to condemn it unless I knew more about it.

I feel that we have been most singly blessed in our journey, though we have been long on the road we have all reached here safely and in usual health. There has however been considerable sickness among the Negroes but they are all pretty well at present. Pa sold 3 yokes of his oxen on the way. 1 he sold for $16, the other 2 he gave for a little pony for Joseph and Brother put 2 of his saddle horses in the wagon. One of my oxen gave out entirely so that we had to leave him. A gentleman was so good as to let him go in his field about 20 miles from this place, but I never expect to hear of him again. My little wagon broke down with me about the middle of the Indian nation. We had to travel with it

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so until we got to Mount Meggs which was 50 miles, but it was with much difficulty. We got to Mount Meggs about 2 o’clock last Tuesday, spent the night with Cousin Mary Temples, found them all well. Cousin Mary had a babe about ten days old, which is her tenth child. We passed by old Mrs. McAll’s the next day. The old lady looks badly, says she had a very sick family this summer.

I felt my safer passing through the Indian nation that I expected. Saw but few Indians and they appeared quite friendly. We entered the nation about 11 o’clock on Thursday and got out of it about 12 o’clock the Tuesday after. The road through the nation was better than we expected from what we had heard, but it was very rough and hilly generally.

I had intended giving you more of the particulars of our journey but I feel so gloomy and melancholy and so anxious to hear from you that I can’t write. We have not heard a word from any of you since we left home, but I knew that you were anxious to hear from us and through I would write a few lines to let you know that we are in the land of the living. Do write as often as possible. All join me in love to yourself and brother Coker. Do kiss the dear little children for me. Lizzy says kiss them for her. Lizzy and James say tell Uncle Coker, Aunt Hannah, Cousin Jane and Anna howdy ‘ya for them. I can say no more at present but request an interest in your prayers and subscribe myself as ever,

Your affectionate sister,
Sarah J. Fountain

P.S. Direct your letters to Pleasant Hill, Dalas County. Do remember me to all enquiring friends.

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicator 3-4.2: Summarize the institution of slavery prior to the Civil War, including reference to conditions in South Carolina, the invention of the cotton gin, subsequent expansion of slavery, and economic dependence on slavery. (H, E, P)

Standard 4-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and its impact on the institution of slavery.

Indicator 4-5.6 Compare the experiences of different groups who migrated and settled in the West, including their reasons for migrating, their experiences on the trails and at their destinations, the cooperation and conflict between and among the different groups, and the nature of their daily lives. (H, G, E)

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.

Indicator 8-3.1 Explain the importance of agriculture in antebellum South Carolina, including plantation life, slavery, and the impact of the cotton gin. (H, G, E)

Standard USHC-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and the resulting regional conflicts that took place in America in the nineteenth century.

Indicator USHC-3.1 Explain the impact and challenges of westward movement, including the major land acquisitions, people’s motivations for moving west, railroad construction, the displacement of Native Americans, and the its impact on the developing American character. (H, G, E)


Additional Flash Versions:

Fountain Letter, page 1.
Page One
Fountain Letter, page 3.
Page Two
Address side of letter.
Address/Back of Letter


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