Miller C. Thompson Letters
Contributed by Chris Hanlin on 5 Aug 2006
Miller Chisolm Thompson was born in Lauderdale County, Alabama on 25 July 1868, the son of John Andrew Thompson and Mary Jane Gresham, who lived on Coxe’s Creek in the area which would soon be known as Mars Hill. In 1889, when Miller was 21, he entered into a partnership with C. D. Smith and opened a livery stable, “Smith & Thompson Livery, Feed, & Sale Stables” in Florence. But Miller's health was poor – he was eventually diagnosed with consumption – and in early 1890, he sold his interest in the stable. That autumn, he traveled to Texas hoping that the climate would do him good. He stayed in Bonham, where his brother Jim was working as a painter, until around the end of January 1891. He then visited Fort Worth with his cousins Dedie and Granville Larimore; and went on to San Antonio, where he stayed at least until mid-March 1891. Miller was back home in Mars Hill by June. But his consumption got worse and at the beginning of 1894, he died. He was twenty-six. He never married.
During his time in Texas, he corresponded with his sister-in-law “Gussie,” otherwise known as Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson. She was the wife of his brother Robert, and lived back at Mars Hill. Below are Miller’s surviving letters. Most of them are to Gussie, and one is to his brother Robert. Also included here, for reasons which will become clear, is a letter to Gussie from their cousin Granville Larimore.
1. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson. The postmark is from Texas, and the letter was probably written in Bonham. Some identities: “Romie” is Miller’s sister, Romelia (Thompson) Jones, who died a week after this letter was written. “Avery” is Gussie’s son Robert Avery Thompson. “Jim and Sallie” are Miller’s brother and sister-in-law James P. and Sallie (Henry) Thompson. “Sallie Joe Carlaton” is Sallie Joe Carlton, daughter of the evangelist Charles Carlton. “Irene” is Gussie’s daughter Irene Larimore Thompson. And some explanation is required about “Mr. Ott”: John Christian Ott had been the business partner of Miller’s brother, Robert H. Thompson, in a dry goods store in Hartselle. The store had failed the previous year, and some in the Thompson family blamed Ott for the firm's failure. This part of the family story was handed down orally to an aunt of mine, who wrote, “Mr. Ott…everyone called ‘Professor’ Ott … was Secretary-Treasurer, skipped out of town with the money and Robert was ruined.” But it is unfair to say that Ott “skipped out of town,” when all he did was to move to Mars Hill, only about 70 miles from Hartselle. And to this unflattering portrayal of “Professor” Ott, we should add that Ott was a war veteran (5th Virginia Infantry Stonewall Brigade); was honorably discharged after losing his left arm in battle in 1864; taught at Mars Hill College; served one term in the Alabama State legislature (1892 - '95); and is buried next to his wife, Belle Gresham, in the cemetery at Mars Hill.
Here is the letter:
Nov. 30, 1890
Your very much appreciated letter to hand and it done me more good than any letter I have received since I have been here (my wife one exception). Your letter seems like it was from home. Well I guess it is all for the best for poor Romie as her life was certainly no pleasure to her when she could be about and it is less now. I dont know what is to become of those children. I never expected to see her again when I left and I know I wont now. I could do no good by coming back so I think it best not to come.
I had a chill yesterday and have not been to church today. I dont know what gave it to me unless it was going to the Opera every night & being up in the cold till eleven or twelve o’clock. But I get so lonesome I am compelled to do something for amusement. You remember the Negro minstrel show I went to just before I left home. They are to be here Dec. 4. I did not know how much I thought of the children till I got away I want to see them awful bad.
Yes tell Avery that I am coming home & bring “Aunt Danie” & Topsy some day I hope.
O let me tell you Jim & Sallie went to church this morning and Miss Sallie Joe Carlaton (the preacher’s daughter) asked where I was and Sallie told her that I was sick and she went home after church and sent me the nicest diner you most ever saw. Wasent she good? She is one of the nicest ladies I ever saw if she wasent too old I might get smitten but she is on the old maid list about 28, I guess. But it does any one so much good when among strangers for them to show some kindness toward them. If I could I would go out and acquainted with the young people and have a nice time but being hoarse it is very embarrassing to try to talk to a young lady so I just stay at home and think of the time when I can go home and see “Aunt Danie.” But Lord knows when that will be.
Jim has turned out his whiskers just on his chin I wish you could see it.
Has Avery & Irene started to school yet? If not start them immediately you know their Antie will take the best of care of them.
How is Mr. Ott’s mansion progressing? Is daughter going to school. I got a letter from Mr. Ott the other day, and he quoted more scripture and told me how to do. It gave me an appetite to spit up my dinner. Oh! my he is so good & religious. I guess he’ll soon have wings.
I am getting along the best in the world if I dont have any more chills. I think I am lots better than I was when I got here.
Well I will close write soon and all the news.
2. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson. Some identities: “Granville” is Miller’s cousin Granville Larimore, son of the evangelist T. B. Larimore. The unnamed girl who Miller cared for was Janie Lucas (about whom more below). “Mandus” is Amandus Henry, who was Miller’s brother-in-law twice over: he was the brother of Sallie (Henry) Thompson, and also the husband of Miller’s sister Florence Thompson. And “D” is Granville’s sister Mary Delilah “Dedie” Larimore.
Dec. 20th 1890
Your welcome letter received yesterday and as I am always very prompt in answering will answer by return mail.
Well I am getting fat now I dont expect you would know me. I am so fat that if it were not for the enormous size of my feet this wind would blow me away. My clothes are all to small for me, you know it’s an old saying nevertheless that one expense always brings on another. Now I got so fat my clothes dont fit anymore “I am going to have to get them cut down to fit a fat man.”
Granville has not written me a word about coming out here, where is he coming to? Bonham?
No I cant go to see the girls for I dont care three straws for all the girls in the world (one exception) and if I had any sense I would not care for her, for she is undoubtedly the crazyest girl I ever saw. She will write me the sweetest letters and tell me she loves me better than all the world, and then she will write me about how much she loves Granville. I have not heard from her in some time guess she has given me the shake.
You are mistaken I am not treated like a baby here more like a dog by that lovely sister-in-law of mine. She thinks she is smarter and prettier than any body. She has gone to Greenville to spend Xmas and I am glad of it. I like Mandus & Bob very well but the rest of the family I actually despize. I say a good cook she hasent the first principles of cooking. And if she thinks I like anything cooked a certain way she will cook it every way she can except that way, for instance beefstake you know I despize rare beefstake and she won’t cook it dun. But dont say anything to Florence about it as it will come straight back to Sallie and then I would have a fight on my hands.
I am awful sorry for Irene. I know how a [?ising ?] hurts.
That Son is a daisy. Loves Keels better than “Aunt Danie,” eh. Well I expect he told the truth.
I want to see those kids worse than anyone else if I could just hear old son talk a while I believe I would be better.
Yes, Gussie I guess there is no danger of me living with Florence & Mandus. I am very well content with mine and your furniture combined and I dont think they will outshine me much. And for the kids, I’ll just picture myself to you. I think I will be bald headed by spring with just a fringe like Johnson only that will be white and I will be an old man with Son on one knee and Dotter on the other telling the storys of the ups & downs in my past life.
Now just such as that I sit and picture in my mind for hours untill I realy wish I was an old man.
You bet I would be glad to eat Xmas dinner with you for I know it will be good. I brag on your cooking till Sallie gets red hot.
Where in the mischief is Uncle Larimore I have been trying to find out for a month.
How is Crissy Dodburn you never any of you tell me how Pa Crissy is getting on. Is the little prayer meeting still going on. “How is Hunke & the red eyed devil” (Charles David).
I haven’t been in a buggy or on a horse since I left home. Oh I wish I had dear little Topsy I would enjoy a ride.
Well I will close write me when D[edie] & Granville are coming & all the news.
Tell Granville if he comes to Texas with a derby hat on he will be murdered sure.
3. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson. “D” and “G” are Dedie and Granville Larimore. I have inserted ther names in square brackets for ease of reading. “The Mars Hill Belle” is Miss Janie Lucas. “Jim” is Miller’s brother James Philemon Thompson; and “Irene” is Gussie’s daughter Irene Larimore Thompson.
Jan. 8, 1891
Your letter just received and I always like to answer my letters immediately will write to you tonight.
Well we are having some rainy weather and it worries me awfully as I have a nice saddle horse and I like to take my morning ride every morning “oh there”! The horse belongs to Miss Sallie Joe Caralton but she insists on my riding him every morning and of course it is very acceptable.
Mississ Grace & Sallie Joe are the only girls I have ever met in Bonham. They are both kinder old but are just as nice to me as they can be. They are both school teachers, their father runs a big school here & also preaches for us. You see I am sollid with school teachers.
No I have no notion of going home any ways soon I am in a long sight better health than I was when I came here and I firmly believe this old Dr. here would cure me if I would stick to him but it is anything else but pleasant the way I am living here and I am going to leave just as soon as I can get some money but seems like I am not going to get any but as soon as I do I am going to [Nualde?]with the intention of making it my home. I think it best to get away from my kindfolks as I dont think any of them care very much for me any way. Mars Hill people have gone back on me I think.
Well the Mars Hill Belle need not trouble herself about thinking of me one way or the other as I am done with her forever certain no joking this time. Dont you think she was cheeky to except that present and write to me in the same letter & tell me she loved G[ranville] devotedly. It just beat anything I ever heard tell of in a civilized country. I wrote her immediately and I gave her a scorcher & dont you forget it. I told her to send my ring & she could do just what she wanted to with the presents I had given her. But I have not got it yet. I dont know whether she will send it or not.
Jim has plenty of work now & I hope he will keep in work all the time.
Well I guess Granville & D[edie] are some where in Texas by this time. People back there think when you get to Texas you can see all over the State. It is just about 100 miles from here to Dallas of course I'll go twice a week to see D[edie] & G[ranville] it dont cost anything.
John Cutter is running an auction house here I had not seen him in ten years but I knew him the minute I saw him & heard him auctioneering, his home is Fort Smith Ark. once lived in Florence.
You must try and console the madam when you see her if G[ranville] has gone. I wonder if George will be next. It is a wonder George didn't go with G[ranville] to Texas as he seems to be so thick with him.
I would give any thing I could to see the children. I love those children better than any thing on earth. I often think of Irene sitting on the floor crying and she would think I was going to take her up she would stop & the great big tears would stand in her eyes. I can see it all just as plain & if I could just pick her up now & kiss her I would appreciate it more. But we never appreciate the water till the well runs dry.
Well I will close write soon to
I wish … [the paper is torn here].
4. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson. “George” may be George W. Jones, husband of Miller’s sister Romelia:
Jan. 28 1891
Well I am not so prompt in writing this time as usual but as I have no news of interest guess it doesn't make any difference.
Well, I have a very bad case of the “Gripp” and the worst cough I ever had in my life and every thing else is the matter looks like, I am almost in the notion of coming home where I can have somebody to do something for me. I thought last night if I just had you to bathe my feet and rub my chest for me I would feel so much better. But I never even get a word of sympathy much less any thing done for me.
I am going to Dallas as soon as old Dr. Reedy can go with me to see a eminent specialist there about my case and if they can fix it so I can go to San Antonia am going there right away.
I wrote Geo. A letter a few days ago and I know he will be furious when he gets it. I told him not to get any more wood than what I layed off for him out on the forty acres. I also gave it to him strait about making brags about seeing that his children got all that was coming to them, like we were trying to beat them out of anything. I told him that he had gotten $2. out of the estate now to every $1- I had gotton & still he was not satisfied, and several things of the kind which he is always talking & kicking about.
I got a card from M— is the reason I wrote Geo. As he said he thought Geo. was getting wood any where he wanted to out there. I think Mandus is trying to take to much authority not to have been in the family no longer than he has. He says Geo. Is charging him and Bob as much for wood as any one else. I told him if Geo. got the wood off that acre that I let him have why of course he ought to charge he and Bob as much for it as any one else. But I want to know if Bob has gone crazy what in the world is he buying wood from Geo. for and all that wood there. I just put it down this way that Mandus had lied or Bob was crazy.
How is Son getting on with the whooping cough hope he is well by this time. By the way how is the madam getting on. Do you recon she ever thinks of me. Granville has never mentioned her name to me in any of his letters. Jim is working every day now.
Well I will close.
Write all the news.
[The same envelope contains a note to Gussie’s son, Robert Avery Thompson:]
Mr. Rob Avery Thompson
Well how are you getting along. Your Aunt Florence requested me drop all the girls a line I thought she meant every thing that wore dresses and you come under that head. I have no news to write you hope you know “Come thou fount,” and have a good nurse that will raise you up all right so you can sell shirts for Sam some day.
I guess I remain your uncle,
M. C. Thompson
5. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson:
Fort Worth Tex.
Feby. 3 1891
Well I guess you will be supprised to hear from me at this place but I got so tired at Bonham I could stand it no longer. I went to Dallas Thursday last and came over here on Sat. with Dedie & G[ranville] We are stopping with Aunt Ellen, Uncle L[arimore's ?] sister. I was going to stop at the hotel but Aunt Ellen would not let me & I saw it would hurt her feeling if I did so I came here. I have been having a splended time since I left Bonham.
I will be here a week I guess and then am going south. I have been having a time with the Gripp but I feel better now.
I send you a check for $10.00 to buy you that dress I have been promising you so long.
You need not write me here as I won't be here long enough to get it. Will write you again some day & tell you where to write.
We are at 517 West Peter Smith Street
6. Letter from Granville Larimore to Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson. Miller’s pursuit of Miss Janie Lucas was never successful, but neither did Miss Janie succeed in capturing Granville Larimore. Janie apparently made the mistake of telling Erin Thompson something along the lines of “Granville says that you have been saying bad things about me.” Erin wrote to Miller to protest her innocence. Miller passed this intelligence on to Granville. And Granville wrote the following letter to Erin Augusta Thompson:
Fort Worth Texas
Feb 6 1891
Miller received a letter from you this morning and you said that Miss Janie said that I told her that you had been talking about her Now I just want to tell you that "upon my honour as a gentleman" I never told her anything of the kind if she means that I told her you had been saying anything bad about her for if I have ever heard you say anything bad about her I don’t remember and if you had I am sure I would not have told her anything about it.
I hope you don’t think that I have so little principle about me as to go and tell any thing that had been told me confidentially.
I guess I will get home the last day of next week and I will see the lady about the matter.
I know you are a great deal better friend of mine than she is and it would be very poor policy in me to either do or say anything about you that would make you think any less of me just because I thought it would please her.
Miller has been here with us all the week and is going to leave for San Antonio Monday.
Well I hope that you are all getting along all right and that the kids are all O.K.
Hoping to see you soon, I am
7. With the above letter, in the same envelope, was a letter from Miller C. Thompson to his brother Robert and sister-in-law Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson:
Feby. 6 1891
Dear Bob & Gussie,
I received a letter from each of you yesterday. Jim forwarded them here to me. I have been having a very pleasant time since I left Bonham. I have laughed till I cant laugh at every thing almost but one thing especially is this old man here, Mr. Thacker, he is almost as hard looking as our uncle Johnny Wesson but an awful good old man but has some very puculiar ideas like our other uncle Billy Gresham.
If nothing happens to prevent I will leave here next Monday evening for San Antonia will get there Tuesday about 10 a.m. will write you immediately and let you know where to write me.
I think it will be some time before I visit my sister Sallie again. You asked if I payed them any board. I wanted to pay them board but they would not listen to it at all but I had Jim’s note for $25.00 & I gave him that & I expect I spent on them & gave them more than that much more so you can call it what you like.
Well I will close as we are going to see Uncle L—
I will write you all at San Antonia
8. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to his brother Robert Henry Thompson. When the Thompson siblings are referred to by their first initials, “F. B.” is Florence Belle Thompson and “J. A.” is John Andrew Thompson, Jr. “The home place” is the house and property previously owned by their father, John Andrew Thompson, Sr.:
Fort Worth Tex.
Feby. 9, 1891
Yours of recent date received & will answer today.
Dont you remember you went & got the money from old Mc. & gave me and I paid the Taxas on every thing for 89 except my lots that I sold to McC & Young & they was over looked in some way & I have not paid it yet. You know the home place is given in mine & Florence’s names. You will find receipts of M C & F B Thompson that is the home place & F B Thompson lots & J A Thompson lots.
I think you will find the recepts in my dresser up stairs or some where in my old cloths. Dont you pay it over any more I paid Bill Mitchell himself & he certainly remembers asking me a time or two for the taxas on my old lots which I never happened to have. He is not so forgetful as all that. I guess I had better send you as check to help you out. I have just received a letter from T. H. Allen about the taxas on the Riverton property our part is $1.40 & I owe him $5.22 back tax making in all $6.62 so you can pay that & be certain to take receipt. Will send you ck for $15.00. I hope we will get things in shape some day. I spoke to Allen about having Florence made of age tell him he can just drop that as she will be of age soon.
When she does become of age I want me & you to buy the old home place as I will make your house home as long as Gussie & me dont fight. So if you can just lay up a few dollars & I will lay up a few we can buy it without any trouble & as I never expect to marry, you[r] kids shall have every dime I have although they are few. Sallie’s kid (he will be to ill) shan’t have any of my money & Jones shan’t & I guess Florence’s will be so rich they won’t need it.
Well I am in a fix. The smallpox is so bad in San Antonia & I dont hardly know what to do. There is some wells 59 miles west of here the most wonderful on earth for lung trouble they are like those wonderful springs in Germany. I am thinking of trying them. The papers are full of the wonders of these waters every day, & they are prepareing to build a &20,000.00 hotel & I guess it will be a lovely place when they get it fixed.
It is at Sunset, Tex. & I guess about the size of Germantown, but dont know. I intended going to the president’s of the co.’s office & find out all about it today (as it is here) but we have a norther and I would freeze I do believe if I was to go. It will be warm enough to go in my shirt sleeves by tomorrow. Then I will go and find out all about it & if I dont go to the wells I guess I will come home for I dont see any use in staying here.
I am going to send you a Kansas City paper the most popular paper west of the Miss. & see what you think of it as reading matter for ladies. I will also send you a paper about those wells as soon as I can go to town.
G[ranville] & Dedie are talking of coming home this week but have not fully decided.
I dont know where I will be so cant tell you where to write but if any thing should happen you can write Uncle L. he will know where I am. I will write you every two or three days.
M. C. T.
9. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to his sister-in-law Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson:
Feby. 12, 91
Well I came here to try these wonderful wells but I wish I was at home for the first time I am home sick. This little old place almost a country and dull oh! my. I dont how I am to stand it but am going to try if the water does me any good.
The company are grading and working building parks & drives & fixing to build two Hotels & working like they ment business & I hope they will make a success & I believe they will for there is no doubt but what this water is just wonderful but whether it will cure me or not I dont know, have almost lost hope in any thing ever helping me.
I guess one thing that makes me so lonesome is being with D[edie] & Granville & having such a good time & being in a crowd & then coming up here where I did not know a soul, it will make any body homesick, dont you think so.
Granville is as bad gone on Miss Janie as ever I think if not a little worse.
I guess they started home today. They were fixing to go when I left. Tell Granville to write to me when he gets home so I will know when they get there.
Did George say anything about the letter I wrote him?
As I have to get this off now I will close. Write me at once as I might accidentally leave here. Tell Bud to write also.
M. C. Thompson
10. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to his sister-in-law Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson, on the stationery of the Menger Hotel (which still exists), San Antonio, Texas:
Feby. 27, 1891
Well I Guess you like to hear often how I am getting along and as it is not much trouble to write I will write again but if I write to often & you get tired reading them just let me know & I will stop.
Well I just got so I could not talk at all & you bet I was scared & I began to hunt a Dr. and I went to the proprietor of the Hotel & he told me to see Dr. Kenady which I did and found him to be an awful nice man. He had me to strip and he layed me out on a table & spent an hour examining me from head to foot. He told me all my troubles without my saying a word he said their was a small place in my right lung that was efected but that otherwise they were in good condition. I says Dr. why do I keep losing flesh then He says well sir you have fevors every day and have had for some time. I says I think you are mistaken my face is always flushed. He says I am not judgeing from your face. you have fevor right now. he examined found my temperature was 101. He says when I get that fevor broke you will go to mending. He worked on my throat a little & I went to talking I am greatly impressed with him & he says his charges will be reasonable but I dont know what reasonable is.
It seems as if $15.00 per week is big board but I dont see how they can board at that as the expenses of this Hotel must be enormous I have any thing to eat on earth I want & cooked any way, then once each week the hotel gives us an entertainment, have a fine band & free bar to guests. You can drink till you cant go & they will furnish a man to put you to bed, so you see it is emmense. If I dont get well here I think I had as well throw up the sponge.
There are many curiositys here. They have curiosity stores where you can buy more funny things that the different races of people make. I wish you could see them. I went out for a short walk & I walked along looking at the sights & I asked a man how far I was from the Menger Hotel he says 2 ½ Miles sir. I did not think I was ½ a mile I took a car back. If Granville & Dedie come home tell Granville to write to me & tell me all the news, as you all dont write news. You never write me of the death of Alph & Leana & I would not have none it if Dedie had not told me.
Well I will close.
11. Letter from Miller C. Thompson to his sister-in-law Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson:
San Antonio Texas
Mar. 7, 1891
Your letter was received yesterday also two from Bob (one sent from Sunset). One from Herschell, one from Florence & one from Jim, a card from Mandus also a letter from a friend at Bonham Every one at one time I guess you all tried to write at once.
It was ten days from the time I wrote till I heard from home so you see I am a long way from home & that is my greatest objection to San Antonia it is such an out of the way place it takes so long to go any where.
Now you are exactly right you stay there if you can. San A– is a nice place to visit for a couple of months but old Ala. with your friends beats the world – there’s no place like home – I believe Ala. is about as healthy as any where else any way.
Florence does not realize what she is doing when she is so anxious to come away out here. She will want to get back ten times as bad as when she came. You see I am not tied I can go home any day I want to & if I couldent I would go crazy now sure. But if they come they cant go like I can and of course M– will sell out his business there & if he should be dissatisfied he will be in a box, so my advice at present is to let well enough alone.
I am not one bit better that I can see since I came here and it seems like nothing will help me I would go home if it wasent so ever lasting cold there now & rainy. It rained a little here last night just enough to settle the dust the first for some time. There has not been much rain where I have been since Jan. I guess the old Tenn- River is up is it not. There is an old man here from Lousville Ky. & he is a rich old bugger too but old & childish & he has taken a fancy to me & he boares the life out of me nearly but I have to stand him as he has a carriage & takes me out driving nearly every day. His mind is not good & he will ask me the same question forty times a day.
Well I will be brim full of Texas too when I get home. D[edie] & G[ranville] missed it by not coming to San A– as there is more to see here than in all the rest of the state put together.
These old Missions built by the Catholics two centuries ago to convert the Indians, they are all stone & such fine architecture – how they ever built such palaces in a wilderness I cant see. See the back of this paper & you will see one built 200 years ago. You find them about from 4 to ten miles apart from here to the Gulf, a distance of 200 miles. Will talk you blind when I get home.
If anyone asks you about that bowl why just tell them all about it I dont care dont tell no stories for that girl for she isent worth it. I want ever body to know it that is interested.
Walter Henry’s office is just across the street but I have not been to see him yet & dont know that I will. I knew it was there ever since I have been here but dident let on. Well I will close as I have a number of letters to write.