BUSINESS AS USUAL
by Joseph Parsons Brown - Commonwealth of Onslow - A History
Owen G. Dunn Company . New Bern, NC . 1960
Steamer Napoleon, mentioned below, may have been similar to the 1850 Steamship Florida
which was USS Florida during the Civil War. This image was not included in Brown's book.
While our search has not yet revealed Grandma's views in the matter, we suspect that underneath her flowing train and murmuring taffetas she loved a good time much as the girls do today.
Granddad operated a store along with his other business. Bills-of-lading made out by the firm of White and Barnes of 201 Pearl Street, New York, for goods shipped via the steamer “Napoleon,” which plied between Swansboro and New York show that Grandpa catered to the best trade and listed such items as “prints,” “chints,” “Kentucky Jean,” “Brown Linen,” “grass cloth,” “drilling.” “plaid,” “cotton cashmere,” “Irish Linen,” “tick,” “bleached shirting,” black cambric,” “Marsaille Vesting,” “cotton flaggs,” “cotton shawls,” “Blue Italian Silk,” “Ladies Persian Thread Hose,” “6 dozen boxes hooks and eyes,” “8 packs pins,” and sundry other articles to the value of $344.09, all of which are shown as a purchase dated April 19, 1845, and shipped direct to the Colonel back in Onslow County.
The owner of the faded old papers together with the Colonel's real name, and whether the title of Colonel was military or honorary, shall for this purpose remain a mystery, but for all that, they are genuine, and give us an intimate glimpse into the life “Before the War” as it happened right here in Onslow.
Along with the order Granddad sent a request for a report on the “State of the Market.” About a month later he received the following reply:
New York, May 9, 1845
I cannot hope that a letter from here just now, will be worth the postage, but as you expressed a wish to hear from us, I can at least gratify you that far, and leave the rest to fortune.
It is a tolerably large village, this of ours, but with the exception of hanging a man now and then, a race, a murder, robbery or some trash of that sort, it is confoundedly lacking in excitement and therefore young men become corrupted in morals and are often led into shockingly bad places—apropos of shockingly bad places, reminds me of a visit a night or two since, to a certain dwelling, situated in an odd corner of the city, up a short lane with a lamp on the corner—you would hardly know the place, if I was to describe it more minutely—but that is of no consequence. I had the pleasure of meeting a person there, who tells me she is aware that there is a gentleman residing in the wilds of North Carolina whose name is somewhat similar to yours and from some other circumstances she related concerning the person, I am inclined to believe it must be you. She spoke of him in the most glowing terms and told me that at a time when she was mighty hard up, he, a comparative stranger, came forward with the usual noble nature of the Southern and gave her a helping hand. She respected him much, she loved him more and again and again regretted that he was not then near her that she might tell him so.
What the Devil have you been doing? I am afraid something on the sly, for I was not aware of any particular favor shown by you, at least sufficient to bring forth half I listened to, and if you have not been doing more than I know of at present, I can but attribute her fascination to some beauty of your person. We are out and no mistake, in fact Devilish small potatoes when your name is mentioned, and she has become so fastidious as to cut Fuller entirely and only permits me to have a chat with her because I told her I was in correspondence with you. I cannot help saying that I like the girl much, and if it was not for her dam'd stuff about the Colonel I might visit her frequently, if not oftener.
She talks now of renting a room in some quiet part of the city where, she intends to support herself with the needle, and I certainly intend to assist her in so laudable an undertaking. But enough of her—there is another individual who speaks of you in somewhat different character, and inquires loudly and often for “That Ring,” but I have told her to go to the devil so often (very impolite to a lady I confess) that I believe she has gone there—I presume you know of whom I speak—
What is going on out your way? How get on the girls there, are they handsome, mighty easy or what are they? Pray give me a good long letter with full particulars. I know of nothing here that would interest you much just now, but hope that after hearing from you I shall be able to give you a letter worth reading, or at least I shall try to do so.
Andrew will, I expect, write you in a few days with full particulars of the state of the market.
With best wishes for your success, I remain,
James (James M. Hunt)