Item description: Letter from John Kimberly, Chapel Hill, N.C., to his wife Bettie, in Nashville, Tenn. Kimberly reports on household matters, such as the note, “I am having shelves made for my old wardrobe to use for a cupboard.” He also updates his wife on mobilization of troops in Orange County and other war news, “Martin is raising a company … has nearly succeeded in getting up the requisite number.” And he comments on his servants, Milly and Spencer, for example, “with some pains and a few good whippings he [Spencer] would make a valuable servant.”
Chapel Hill, Aug. 11, 1861
My dear Bettie,
This has been the hottest, as well as, the dullest day of the season. I can manage to keep tolerably cool but how to keep from being stupid is a problem I have not yet solved. I try desperately hard to read, but everything [?] me, so I think, think, think, and get bluer, bluer, bluer every moment of the day. It was my expectation, as I wrote you, to leave next Thursday afternoon in your direction, but there is some trouble ahead which may mordify my determination. My last letter I mailed in Raleigh. I also sent you by Express the hundred fifty dolls., which you probably received several days in advance of my letter. I asked you to have the portrait finished up, framed, and sent by Express. Other little matters I wished you to attend to, I mentioned in my previous letters. Get some lamp wicks – you know what trouble we had about them. I bought in Raleigh all that we shall want for the present. The articles have not yet come up, but will be here, I presume, to-morrow. I could not get then a single article of furniture for which I would give house-room. I only wanted a table, a buffet, and a dozen dining room chairs. I ran all over the placed to get a safe, but could not find one. I brought some tin, and will have it made here. I brought china, knives, & forks, &c&c – had the prettiest molasses cup given me you ever saw. Don’t forget the salt cellars – have got a pretty caster. I am having shelves made for my old wardrobe to use for a cupboard. It will be very nice. I spoke to [Mrs. Morrow?] about the [?] at the head of the stairs. She has it as I expected crammed with her old plunder and cannot dispense with it. With the arrangements I have made, we can do very well without it. I yesterday had the well-house whitewashed and cleaned. Such a pigpen as it was. I have now the house thoroughly cleansed, except a little work yet to be done in our old parlor, which I now occupy – that has to be scoured once more. I have not been sparing of soap and water, have had the whole up stairs, every particle of wood work, scoured and rubbed over and over again – have cleaned up the passage below, and have had several cart loads of dirt and cobwebs out of the room we will have for the parlor. The house wears a new aspect.
I recd. a day or two since a letter from Annie saying you were not to leave before Christmas. And now for the trouble ahead.
Martin is raising a company and I learn has nearly succeeded in getting up up the requisite number. While he is absent his duties will devolve upon me. The duties of my own chair are as onerous now as if we had our full complement of students. So are his – should I take both, I should be occupied next session every moment of the time. Extra compensation for extra service is not to be [?] of. I will undertake it provided Martin’s salary be continued to him. I will not undertake it, provided the Trustees are to receive the benefit. I will resign first. While I was in Europe, Martin took a part of my duties, and for that I have always felt under an oppressive obligation. I offered several times to pay him in money, but he refused to accept it. I suppose there is some understanding between him and the “powers that be” in relation to his movements, but I have had no conversation with him about the matter. I know very well what arguments will be used to whip me into the [?] – that the number of students is small. Every man should put his shoulder to the wheel. The interests of the institution demand self-sacrifice, &c&c, the whole sum-total of it being, that they want to have the benefit of my services without paying for them. I was fooled so once before, and am not to be caught in that trap again. There was never the slightest acknowledgment of my services before mailing the letter in the morning. I will have an interview with Martin [?] lay down my platform. This matter may prevent my leaving this week as I intended . If I do not, I shall send you a telegram in the morning. I become perfectly furious whenever I think of the contemptible littleness which characterizes every step in the management of this institutin. Well, it is a good thing to have something to excite me a little, for I am having the dreariest time imaginable, and should stagnate bodily and mentally without some trouble on hand.
Milly washes and irons beautifully, fully as well as our washing was done last session. Spencer is a good cook and seems willing to do all he can, but he has been so long his own master, he requires watching. With some pains and a few good whippings he would make a valuable servant. My candles have come, reached here yesterday. Had given them up for lost. Tell Mr. Schon I recd. his dispatch. My object in inquiring about N.Y. exchange was with a view to send some to Nashville. You must bring Nanny with you, if possible.
I was obliged to vacate our old room, my darling, it made me feel so sad and melancholy to be there all alone by myself. I had the old bedstead put up in the front room, and there I read, and sleep, and smoke and think, think, think, day after day. No one but myself now even sets foot in our old room, and even I enter it with a feeling of reverence for its sacred associations. On the mantel piece is baby’s doll, and “the old man in the box,” while before your chair lie a pair of your old slippers, which it almost breaks my heart to look at. Good night, my darling, I will finish my letter in the morning.
Monday morning – I have just had a talk with Martin. He says, no position arrangements were made, but supposes, of course that I assume the duties of the chair, as no one else can do it. That he should feel unwilling to ask for a salary while absent. I stated that I would not undertake the duties, unless his salary was paid him. So you may listen for thunder.
Milly calls me to breakfast & Spencer must take this to the office. Good-bye. Love to all. Thousands of kisses for my little darlings. With all love, as ever.
More about John Kimberly: John Kimberly was a native of New Jersey and a descendant of Huguenots who settled in Long Island in the seventeenth century. He spent his adult life in North Carolina and was a staunch advocate of the Confederate cause. He received a degree in chemistry from Harvard University and taught chemistry in Hertford County, N.C., where he was married to Caroline Capehart of Hertford County. He later married Bettie Maney of Nashville, Tenn., and became a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 1857-1864. He was the chair of the agriculture department at the University, 1875-1876.