Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Sewanee to her sister, Sallie Payne, November 23, 1878 [Digital Version]

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DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Sewanee to her sister, Sallie Payne, November 23, 1878 (November 23, 1878)

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Title: Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Sewanee to her sister, Sallie Payne, November 23, 1878 [Digital Version]
Funding from: Funding for the creation of this digitized text is provided by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Author: DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893
Statements of responsibility:
  • Creation of digital images: Center for Digital Scholarship, Rice University
  • Creation of transcription: Amanda York Focke, Asst. Head of Special Collections, Woodson Research Center
  • Conversion to TEI-conformant markup: Amanda York Focke, Asst. Head of Special Collections, Woodson Research Center
  • Parsing and proofing: Fondren Library, Rice University
  • Subject analysis and assignment of taxonomy terms: Melissa Torres
Publisher: Rice University, Houston, Texas
Publication date: 2010-06-07
Identifier: aa00184_19
Availability: This digital text is publicly available via the Americas Digital Archive through the following Creative Commons attribution license: “You are free: to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work; to make derivative works; to make commercial use of the work. Under the following conditions: By Attribution. You must give the original author credit. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.”
Digitization: Page images of the original document are included. Images exist as archived TIFF files, JPEG versions for general use, and thumbnail GIFs.
Provenance: This collection was given as a permanent loan from Charles McBrayer of the DePelchin Faith Home in 1973.
Description: 11 handwritten pages, leaving Senatobia, traveled with Mrs. Dickey to Colliersville, she stayed and DePelchin went on, traveled through Alabama to Sewanee, seeing old friends
Source(s): DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Sewanee to her sister, Sallie Payne, November 23, 1878 (November 23, 1878)
Source Identifier: Kezia Payne DePelchin letters, MS 201, Box 1, letter 19, p. 151-162, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
Description of the project: This digitized text is part of the Our Americas Archive Partnership (OAAP) project.
Editorial practices
This text has been encoded based on recommendations from Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Any comments on editorial decisions for this document are included in footnotes within the document with the author of the note indicated. All digitized texts have been verified against the original document. Quotation marks have been retained. For printed documents: Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved. No corrections or normalizations have been made, except that hyphenated, non-compound words that appear at the end of lines have been closed up to facilitate searching and retrieval. For manuscript documents: Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved. We have recorded normalizations using the reg element to facilitate searchability, but these normalizations may not be visible in the reading version of this electronic text
Languages used in the text: English
Text classification
Keywords: Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  • Correspondence
Keywords: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Yellow fever--Mississippi River Valley--History--19th century
  • Yellow fever--History--United States
  • Disease outbreaks--History--United States
  • Sewanee (Tenn.)
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • Sewanee (inhabited place)
  • Tennessee (state)



Dear Sister

Here I am amid the delights of a mountain
home, how I got here, my adventures, escapes, mishaps,
good luck on the way, would of themselves, make
a respectable story; if I was only young, goodlooking Regularized:good-looking
and romantic, but I am not. The first I may have
been, but when I look back, over my life, it seems
to me, I must have been like Adam and Eve
born grown up. The second I never was. The third
that's just how one takes it. I never did througlythoroughly,
understand the meaning of that word, in fact
it has a mystified meaning, that each one unravels,


to suit themselves. As Mrs [Jake] Cross once said to me,
some write romantic stories, some act them;
My last letter was written on Saturday night, our trunks were sent
to the depôt; and then some few neighbors came and sat in the front
room. I know they were all sorry for Mrs Dickey, but they were afraid
of the house, I cannot blame them, although no house has been
more thoroughly fumigated than that house.— On Sunday morn-
ing I went to church, had a violent nervous headache. I told
this to a lady and I could see her turn pale. "Are you taking
on the fever,? she asked, in evident alarm; "No" I explained, I was
subject to headaches; after my excitement, and what an
exciting life I had led, then we felt as isolated, everyone
so afraid of us. I often times, felt as lonely as Robinson
Crusoe, minus the being monarch of all I survey! On Sunday
afternoon, Mr C Saunders, came up and went with Mrs
Dickey to the graveyard. I nursed my head, which got
better by night, but I had such a strange feeling of
oppression, all night I suffered from it. We arose early
in the morning. I as usual made the coffee first thing
took a cup. In a few minutes Mrs Dickey afterwards
told me, I poured out another one. I have no recollec
of it, nor anything else, until I found Mrs D.Dickey
bathing my face and calling me. I had fainted away


I do not know if it was the overjoy at leaving this
fever laden atmosphere, though I did not feel so very
ecstatic; or was it something peculiar in the air that
stifled me; I am now inclined to this latter opinion, as on
that day NovNovember 18, a slight shock of earthquake was felt in
this region. It did not jar things S in Senatobia until eleven
A.M. it is said it was felt in Memphis, but I was there all
day and did not perceive it, have only heard of it since
when it has occurred to me, it may have been the state
of the atmosphere that occasioned the stifling sensation
I experienced which caused me to faint. Mrs Dickey
was distressed, she said she felt as if her last friend was
gone when she saw me fall over, and did not know
if I would ever come to. She wanted me to wait till
Tuesday but I would not, we started to the depôt, a
neighbor came over and wished to get a carriage
but I was able to walk, and we got up to Memphis
very well. I had our trunks taken over to the Charleston
depôt as we wentwere to go on that train. I then returned and
went to the Howard Office; I only had $2 left, so it was
necessary for me to draw some. money I wished only to take
sufficient for expenses; as I must remain until
DecDecember 1, already stories were told of how the nurses in return—


too soon, were guaranteed just as I entered the Office
an order was sent out that no more nurses tickets would
be received; so it was providential I came that day. —
The treasurer, told me to take the money, do as I pleased
with it. I knew there were plenty needing it in the
city, and as I was obliged to stay till Dec.December I might
as well go to Sewanee. — I took Mrs Dickey up to a
ladies restaurant; we had lunch, then I started to look
for my first patients, although they had not answered
my letters. I very fortunately met with one of the ladies
of the Christian Association. She went with me. The
red auction flag was at the door. — A colored woman
told us the inmates were gone, directed me where
I could find one of the women. I went with
fear and trembling; the woman of the house was
polite, said Linda had received my letter. Could
say no more. She was then out. Myra I did not
find, perhaps I was too easily discouraged, but
I was a stranger, and now that people were
well they looked with different eyes on those
who came to help. It only shows one how power—
we are. Even with good motives we cannot
turn the heart that is for God alone. How I hope


and pray they may yet be saved. The world may frown
on their efforts but angels rejoice. I did not have time
to go and look for Arthur as the Leath asylum is some
distance out and I began to feel very weak. I did not want
to faint again. We took a walk to the river; this time it
presented a much livelier appearance than before. We went
then to the depot and waited; quite a number of persons
were there. Some on their way to Texas would not go into
the city knowing they would be quarantined if they
did. We ate the lunch we had brought, and bought
tea at the stand near the depot. I feel sure the fever
is not over yet. Some papers dey deny it, but the Ledger
gave the names of fifteen deaths that last week from
yellow fever. — We started on our trip 12 midnight, by two
in the morning we would reach Collierville; a short time
before a Mr Stratton, brother to one of the Senatobia Ander—
came and spoke to Mrs Dickey. he was going
to Collierville and would take charge of her. She came
and sat with me, bid me goodbye, said she could not
bear to part with me, especially as I was not well, but
the hope of seeing her sisters cheered her up. The train
stopped, the Conductor called out Collierville, 5 sec—
to get off. She left and I looked in vain out


into the darkness to see her on the platform, but I know
she too looked after the train that took me from her. —

The cars were not crowded therefore I slept some until
daylight, then the country we passed through was
interesting enough to keep me awake. As we came
through Northern Alabama, it looked almost desert
. The large farm houses built in the Southern
style. Wide open hall rooms on each side instead
of the hospitable look of welcome a farm house
usually bears, were blackened with storms. The
cabins around were dingy. It struck me the great
want of North Alabama was white wash.—
At Tus-Cumbria we took breakfast,— a very
good table was spread. — Opposite to me sat a young
gentleman. He came in late but would not begin
to eat as he had no napkin at his plate. The wait—
were running helping the guests who only had
twenty minutes to take breakfast in. Somehow
the napkin at his plate was pushed away. —
He fussed, his companion urged him to eat his
breakfast, not without a napkin. To be sure he was


very nicely dressed and his hair parted in middle of course.
Poor little fellow. How I wanted to pick him up with a
pair of sugar tongs and set him out on a rose
leaf. Still his particularity reminds me of the thousand
and one unconventional things I have said and
done in the last few weeks. I think We stopped some
minutes at Decatur. This is quite a pretty place.
By three o'clock we came to Stevenson. Here is a
good hotel and a very small town at the foot of the
mountains. Not far distant is a fort or rather what was a
fort in the war time. Now the buildings are devoted to
the more peaceful occupation of ginning cotton. — thus
turning the spears into pruning hooks. A dark line
of forest trees marks the line track of the Tennessee
river, so curved as to bring forcibly to mind
the word spoon bowl. The yellow fever reached
here. There were five cases in the hotel. I am told
that they were all as well cared for as possible.
Three recovered. One man was sick in a box
car; it is said that no one but the hotel proprietor
would go near him; but one cannot tell the


truth of anything unless we were there. The man died.—
as perhaps he might have done anywhere.— I was here until
the next day at one. There was a night train but this traveling
at night is bad enough, but to get on and off at night
is worse still; the rugged gray hills at the back
of the town looked dreary in the autumn day,
but I rambled over them for an hour or so. Then
wrote one or two letters; no doubt astonishing my Texas
friends at finding I was so far away; The ride
up to Cowan from Stevenson is beautiful: wild moun-
scenery, little farms nestled down in the nooks
and corners of the huge mountains. At a switch
we had to wait a long time. Then just before
we reached Cowan we passed through such a long
tunnel, the lamps were lighted! We reached Cowan
in time to find that the mountain train had
left. I was told there would be another coal train that
night. A car was ditched had delayed us. Coal trains
run from here to Tracy City in interest of the coal mines.
A passenger coach goes up and down once a day.
The hotel at Cowan was not inviting. I preferred a


night ride on the coal car. I sat awhile in the Telegraphers
office. Warmed my feet then propected round the Settlement.
A few houses, stores, and the hotel aforesaid kept by a
colored man. I took a cup of coffee and awaited the
train. The men blackened with smoke and coal dust came
in and out. Finally all was ready. I was put on the
locomotive, a small seat between the window and the
boiler.— a keen wind on one side, a hot boiler on
the other— I never had such a ride. I wondered all sorts
of things. Suppose the train should slip down the
mountains instead of up? But mostly I thought of those wonderful
geniuses who like Franklin George Stephenson Morse,
Watt study the works of God in nature, chain
the elements and forces of nature to their
triumphal car, and compel them like well
trained steeds to take them where they list. If there is
a fame I envy it is theirs. 'Sewanee Station' called
the Engineer thus putting a stop to my thoughts
and ride at once. I stepped off the car on to the
platform. The large lantern showed me the
little station, quite in the woods. Late as it was


no one expected me. The train passed on. The firemen
on and around the locomotive by the glare of the
lantern looked like sons of Vulcan truly. But
the sublime was gone, the ridiculous remained when
I found myself settingRegularized:sitting on my trunk, alone. I heard
the click of the telegraph, civilization was near. I will
go to the office I thought if I can grope my way in the
darkness and whoever heard of a telegrapher being
impolite? That moment an individual with a lantern
appeared. I asked him if he could tell me if I could
place my trunk in the baggage room, and get
some one to show me the way to Mrs C's.
He replied; he was not the baggage master,
but he would step round and call a porter
to take charge of it and would himself
show me the way to Mrs C's. Of course I gladly
followed him. It was somewhat circuitous,
over little bridges, through woods. Arrived
at my destination, the gentleman bid me
good evening. I was so excited at the idea of
seeing our old friend Mrs C, I do not think I


thanked him half enough in words, but I did thank
him in my heart, I assure you. It was accidental he
was at the depot, his family had I understand been
spending the summer up here. Perhaps you may think
I had better have remained and come up on the
passenger train in daylight. Perhaps so, but I have
been in so many peculiar positions lately, I don't
stop to think and if I do, I go wrong.

How can I tell you of the kindly loving welcome I received.
I still recognized the face of our teacher, but I was
changed. The family consist of Mrs C. and a relative,
a lady who stays with her and cares for her, how
like a sister. How cheerful the room was with
the bright coal fire. Then at the back but plain—
seen through the window was the conserva—
, thus bringing the seasons together. The kitten
purred on the hearth and the dog, the large New—
— fortunately for me he was out, had
gone with a servant girl to visit a friend, and was
at that moment toasting his nose and his toes by
some neighbors fire. Therefore we came in in peace.


It was about half past eight, but although I did not feel hun—
, I found appetite for the tempting repast prepared
for me; but I did ask for water to wash the coal dust
off. O what a black, queer looking object I was.—
It is now Saturday and as I look round and find myself
waited on, and petted I can hardly realize it is I or
that I am in the same world I have been in the last
few weeks. — I left my trunk out of doors some hours, opened it in the
cold air. I hope this refreshing cold air will take all the
yellow fever germ out of me and all I have with me. —
but I am feeling the reaction. I am so weak and tired
so nervous, but I hope I shall soon be well.

Your affectionate Sister,

Rice University
Date: 2010-06-07
Available through the Creative Commons Attribution license