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Title: Letter from Elisha Mitchell to Maria North, February 11, 1818: Electronic Edition.
Author: Mitchell, Elisha, 1793-1857
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Sarah Ficke
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 29K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-03-15, Sarah Ficke finished TEI/XML encoding.
Part of a series:
This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Title of collection: Elisha Mitchell Papers (#518), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Elisha Mitchell to Maria North, February 11, 1818
Author: Elisha Mitchell
Description: 3 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 518 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Chapel Hill and Vicinity
Education/UNC Faculty, Staff, and Servants
Writings by Non-Students
Personal Relationships/With Adults (Excluding Family Members)
Editorial practices
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 5 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Transcript of the personal correspondence. Originals are in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
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Letters, words and passages marked as deleted or added in originals have been encoded accordingly.
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All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as ".
All single right and left quotation marks are encoded as '.
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For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

Prof. Mitchell, having just arrived in Chapel Hill, NC, describes the town and surrounding countryside to his fiancée.
Letter from Elisha Mitchell to Maria North, February 11, 18181
Mitchell, Elisha, 1793-1857

Page 1
Chapel Hill Feby 1818.—

My M.

It is 4 weeks this evening since I arrived in N. London to make you a very short visit. I have spent the evening in finishing a letter to Mr. Olmstead detailing the various adventures of my journey in three sheets closely written. That you will receive in due time—He will send it first to Washington or New London as may be most convenient. I have just sealed it alt and altho it is past eleven—my bed time I cannot deny myself the pleasure of just commencing a letter which I must finish to morrow. 4 weeks will have elapsed to morrow-morning since you I bade you farewell and 5 or 6 will have elapsed previous to your recieving any thing from me—How many times [shall] you have thought of me during that period? I am seated by the fire in a chamber of the house which if our lives are spared and I am enabled to succeed as a teacher of the Mathematics in this college—which you are one day to occupy as your residence—I have finished what I had to say respecting the various persons whom I saw and conversed with and the various things which I did said and thought for a fortnight previous to the first of February—I am now able to call home all my thoughts and to occupy myself with you alone. And what my love do you wish me to say to you? That I thought of you much and often during my long journey and that a removal of some hundred miles has produced no diminution of that affection which I have promised to feel and which I shall feel till my heart becomes a clod of the valley? These things are certainly true but I trust you have to much confidence in me and too thorough a knowledge of the state of my heart to need repeated assurances of my love. The letter which I send by this mail to Mr. Olmstead contains a history of my movements down to the time of my arrival at Chapel Hill. You have hinted to me once or twice that your curiosity is pretty strong of course you will feel some little wish to know what kind of country it is in which the University is placed and what kind of people they are with whom you are hereafter to associate. Of the people I do not yet know a great deal. A fortnights residence of t in a place; spent mostly in studies about triangles and ratios will not enable one to make any profound observations upon the inhabitants. You know from the map where Chapel Hill is situated—near the center of N. Carolina, west and N. west of Raleigh. The country in the neighbourhood is not mountainous, nor when I tell you that it is hilly must you imagine that it resembles some parts of Connecticut which you have visited. There are no precipices—no great rocks but all the swellings are gradual—The Country is much covered with wood—oak and pine—In travelling you are surprised at the length of wilderness which intervenes between the houses of the inhabitants and when you have found a dwelling there is only a small improvement around it. The truth is that the settlements are chiefly on the banks of the rivers where the ground is fertile whilst the roads run along the high grounds. Nor is the state nearly as thickly settled as Connecticut. There whenever you ascend an eminence the whole face of the country appears cut up like a chequer board into regular fields—here cultivated land there a pasture and there a meadow—the woodlands forming

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but a small part of the whole. Here you are presented with a vast ocean of forest with here and there a little island amid the waste.– Chapel Hill rises so as to overlook a pretty extensive large extent of country to the eastward but in other directions it the prospect is not very extensive. The ground descends however on all sides into some vallies in which are streams discolored by the clay of the soil.– Remember that the upper part of the paper is north here as in a Map and I will endeavor to give you some idea of the plan. The road runs south of west. None of the houses in this part of the country are as well built as our houses in Newengland—The chimneys are almost without an exception out of doors—My house, however, is different. There is a grove of oaks about the college extending quite to my house, this is of this form—2
There are now residing in the house Capt Hogg3 an old Revolutionary officer and his wife and her niece—a tolerably pretty little lady who is a great belle among the students. She has had all the young damsels of the village to see her since I have been here and they have chattered like so many magpies. At this very moment—1/4 past eleven at night they have commenced a serenade to Miss Sneed 4 for that is her name. I am esteemed an odd sort of a philosophical genius here who takes no more notice of the ladies than if they were so many statues. They dont yet know the reason. There is indeed a Miss Henderson;5 now away; respecting whom there are some sly looks intimating that she will bring me to my senses when she arrives.– I am sure they are pretty much out of their reckoning. You will not find much society here (which is a new reason why you should endeavor to be so well satisfied with that which you will find in your own house as not to feel the want of any from abroad) but I will let you know what you are to expect.– Dr Caldwell is the son of a physician in New Jersey. He passed with reputation thro' Princeton College of which he was a member during the Presidency of Dr Witherspoon . He was afterwards a tutor there with Bishop Hobart and came here when he was 22. He is now 45. He is about the size of Mr Olmsted —is as I shall be some 8 or 10 years hence—that is perfectly bald—He has an eye like an eagles and is a pleasant and agreeable man He was once married some years ago but lost his wife and child. He has with[in] 7 or 8 years married Mrs Hooper a widow lady and one of the pleasantest ladies that I have ever seen. Mrs Hooper had 3 sons and one of whom is the professor of languages also a pleasant man. He had the misfortune while young in his youth to kill his sister whilst playing with a gun and this event has given a colouring to his character.6 I am told that he is subjects to seasons of melancholy and depression. He is a year older than I am—Is married to a very pretty woman [Frances Pollock Jones] and has one son [William Wilberforce Hooper ], a fine bold boy, a year and an half old—These two families are the only ones which are strictly

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speaking connected with the University. Mr Clopton is the instructor in the preparatory school—A young man who has been once married and divorced—I find it difficult to learn any particulars of his history He is a kind of Jack at all Trades—A Baptist in religion—a preacher a Doctor and an Instructor—He is a very clever sort of a man but I do not think you will be much pleased with him. There is a Major Henderson formerly the steward of college (but the office is now abolished and the students board in the families in town) who is a very worthy old gentleman of 63. He is much respected and has been the representative in the assembly for the County of Orange for a number of years. His children are mostly married and settled away. You can hardly imagine how much he and his wife love each other. He takes boarders like most of the other families in the village.7 The rest of the people here are very worthy and clever without—much of the bon ton8 nor are they much given to books. There are some 8 or ten young ladies but I have not seen many of them nor do I remember the names of those whom I have seen. There are 4 stores but they are very small and contain but few goods—This you will believe when I tell you when I came to furnish my room it was impossible to obtain either andirons or shovel and tongs. The former I borrowed from the library room in college and I am still destitute of the latter and pick up the brands with my fingers. I could procure only walnut chairs with [unrecovered] splint bottoms and the largest looking glass for sale in the village was not more than a quarter as large as the page on which I am writing. The houses are not well furnished. I presume there are not more than 3 or 4 carpets in the place. At the place where I board we have cof[fee whea]t biscuit and bacon either cold or warm—at noon bacon, fowls corn bread and hominy– also cab[bage]—The Irish potatoe will not grow well here—for supper we have wheat biscuit and coffee. The labour is done almost exclusively by servants—The business of the ladies of course is to scold.– The young men in the college are studious and far more regular than I expected to find them. I am pleased at present with the situation—How long I shall continue here God only knows. I enclose my profile taken in Peale's-Museum in Philadelphia. I do not believe it very much resembles me but it may chance sometimes to call me to remembrance when I should otherwise be forgotten. I intended to have sent this last week but I learnt in the course of Friday evening last that altho the mails did not go out till Saturday.-morning it had already closed at 4 oclock in the afternoon. Shall I say that I am glad if the disappointment of your expectations of hearing from me last week has made you anxious—No I am not glad of your anxiety itself but I am glad if you feel such a desire of hearing from me as will make you anxious when disappointed—and in that view—as a proof of your love even your anxiety would be agreable. Is Mr. Taber in Waterford. Be now my M. a good and jewtiful girl and not def to the request which I make that the very first moment you are at leisure you will write me all the news—For that is the way that they talk here M.

It is unnecessary to assure you that I am Yours

E. Mitchell

Envelope page


1. Elisha Mitchell Papers, SHC. The letter is addressed "Miss Maria North/New London/Connecticut." The postage endorsement reads "Chapel Hill/February 16th} Paid 50 Double." At the left margin is written in another hand "About the Chapel Hill house." Below the fold making up the envelope another hand, probably Maria North's, has written "8 E. Mitchell receved/March 14th 1818—/answerd April 18th."

2. At this point in his letter, Mitchell has drawn two 3/4-inch squares and filled them in with a houseplan of the lower and upper stories of his four-room house. A diagonal line across the sheet of paper represents the main road, now called Franklin Street, through a "Village of about 12 or 16 Houses." Two roads intersect this diagonal line, one labeled "Road to Raleigh," the other unidentified but now known as Columbia Street. Below the diagonal line, Mitchell has drawn six buildings labeled A through G. A legend near the right margin identifies these structures as follows: A—Old College [Old East]; B—New College [South Building] "Much the largest with a cupola"; C—Chapel [Person Hall]; D and E—"My house with its kitchen apart together with the yard and gardens enclosed in one square"; F— Dr. Caldwell ; G— Mr. Hooper . Mitchell's map is bordered north and south by two lines parallel to the text of his letter. Underneath the legend Mitchell has written "The plan is very crude. I had no instruments to draw with and therefore took no pains. The whole span between the two parallel lines is intended for a plot of the village over which I have written wherever there was room—I acknowledge that the whole is very slovenly.—" For a description of Chapel Hill in 1818, as recalled in 1853 by a student William D. Moseley, see Battle 1:271-73. According to the Chapel Hill Bicentennial Commission, "By 1818 the village boasted thirteen residences, four stores, two hotels, and a blacksmith shop" ( Chapel Hill 4).

3. Probably James Hogg .

4. Mitchell wrote Sneed underneath Sneed, as if to make the characters below the line more legible than those on the line.

5. Possibly Eliza Henderson .

6. According to Hooper's own account of the tragedy, it was not a sister but rather his cousin Mary Alves whom he accidentally shot when he was thirteen or fourteen years old and living with his grandfather James Hogg of Hillsborough, Hogg's daughter Robina, and her husband William Norwood:
In the family room stood a press with glass doors, on the top shelf of which Mr. Norwood kept a pair of pocket-pistols which were visible from the outside. You know the curiosity of boys of that age to handle fire arms. All the grown folk were in the parlor, and only we children in the family room. I wanted to show the children the sparks, which flew in clusters from the snapping of flint and steel arms of that day. I took down one of the pistols, and while the group of children were around me, and supposing the weapon unloaded (from its being unprimed, as well as from a presumption of carefulness in Mr. N.) I began to snap it, to the great entertainment of the youthful circle. It was not, if I recollect right, till several experiments, and to my unspeakable amazement and horror, the piece exploded, and the next thing I recollect was the rush of the family into the room, and the little girl a few years younger than myself prostrate on the floor, with her father hanging over her. (Letter, October 28, 1875, John De Berniere Hooper Papers, SHC)

7. In 1819 thirty students lived in Old East, and fifty-one students lived in South Building. The remaining twenty-eight students roomed in thirteen different Chapel Hill homes, typically from one to four students per house (though Henderson accommodated seven students in his home) (Battle 1:273).

8. "bon ton": a good tone or fashionable manner.