Archive for October 14th, 2009

Letter from Elizabeth “Libbie” Gamble Cochran to sister Martha “Mattie” Gamble Rhea, Sept. 5th, 1880

October 14, 2009
The letter begins on the right side

The letter begins on the right side

Pages 2 & 3.  Scroll back up to the first image for page 4 - it is next to page 1 on the first image.

Pages 2 & 3. Scroll back up to the first image for page 4 - it is next to page 1 on the first image.

Continuation of the letter, one week later

Continuation of the letter, one week later

Conclusion of the letter

Conclusion of the letter

My great-great-grandmother was Ruth Gamble Collins.  This letter is from her sister “Libbie” Gamble Cochran in Knoxville, Tennessee, to another sister, “Mattie” Gamble Rhea.  Transcription follows – comments welcome.


Knoxville, Tenn

Sept. 5th, 1880

My Dear Brother and Sister,

Your long, long looked for letter reached me this morning and I was so glad to hear from you.  I hope you are liking the place better every day.  My health is very much the same as when you last heard from me.  Jim and Minnie is well.  Mother is in with us now.  She seems as well as usual.  She received a letter from L.B. a few days ago, but has not answered it yet.  I wonder why he did not write to me – I can excuse you better than I can him for he has no little ones to think about or care for.  I heard last week that his son Lark was married but don’t know the particulars.  Dave & Sallie is living here in our house.  They are well.  What do you think about them coming to that country?  They talk about it sometimes.  Just say what you think about it.  I heard that Jo Rhea is getting ready to go some place in the west.  I suppose you heard about Grandma Johnson’s death.  Yes, and Dave’s mother died last March too.  Mollie was up there a while this summer.  Emma has been quite sick since I last wrote, but is better now.  It is her lungs that is troubling her.  I don’t think she will live long, although she seems to be improving rappidly now.  I stayed a week with her when she was so sick in June.  I have not been out at Knoxville since you was here.  I did think of going to doyls(?) Springs this summer.  But have not gone yet.  I have been lame with Rheumatism a great deal this summer.  You mus not let the children forget their old Aunt Lib.  By the way, Babies little red ball is here.  After you was gone several weeks I swept it from behind a trunk in the room where you packed your trunk.  It is put carefully away.  I will send it to him one of these days.  I forgot to send you some snuff in your letter.  I guess I will not get to see Ruth before I send this but will attend to it at my earliest convenience if Jo is coming where you are I might send (remainder of line is off the copied page) that there are several families going to start west from Loyal old Blount.  By the way Dock, don’t fail to vote for Hancock in November and get every vote for him you can.  It is high time we have a democratic President.  The Rads been in power long enough don’t you think?  So I think nearly every honest man about Knoxville is going for Hancock this fall.  I don’t know whether I will get to come to see you next fall or not.  Jim is trying another invention, but he will just about finish it in time to be too late to get a pattent on it as before.  I have just asked him but he is reading a novel and I just can’t get a word out of him.


Sunday Sept. 12th

One week since I wrote the other.  I did not intend to wait so long to finish it, but I have not been feeling well.  We have had cloudy cool weather.  So cool we made a fire.  I have wrote to Ruth but will not wait to hear from her, but when I do I will write to you immediately.  Mother says she has not drawn any money this year, but there is some due her now so it may be that I will succeed in getting it right away.  If so I will not delay in sending it.  Mother is still here yet she wants you to write to her and so do it, for she is just like a child.  She is sitting here now while I write.  She wants to go to Mags before she goes home.  Maggie is not well at all.  Sallie has your white rooster.  He is about as tall as Minnie.  We had to keep them penned up all summer.  There has been a good corn crop raised this year, and the finest sweet potatoes I have ever staw.  I think corn will sell cheap here.  I want to get me a cow for I am tired of buying milk and butter.  There is nothing like having your own milk and butter.  Minnie still has ??? book yet.  She knows all the alphabet and can spell small words.  (missing parts apparently referring to school) town ten months out of a year.  Charlie and Mollie are going.  This is their second week.  Don’t fail to send your children to school.  Educate them if you don’t have a nickel left for them when they are 21 years old.  Don’t raise them up in ignorance.  Tell Cale and Susie that I would love to shake their old hands one time more.  They know I always did love them and I have not forgotten how to love them yet.  I wish they could come to see me this fall.  Has Susie got so fat she can’t write?  I bet she would not know me now for I am nothing but a bag of bones, but Sallie is as lame as Mother used to be.  But, Mother gets less every day.  It is so cool that I have a fire this Tuesday the 14th.  Jim saw frost on the bridge this morning.  I recon I had better stop.  I have run out of anything to talk about (illegible) as I could see you.  Then I guess I could hatch up something to say.  I will try to put you in a dip of snuff the next time.  I will send a piece of my new calico frock.  Love to all.

I think Caroline ought to name no: 11 Libbie.  Write soon.


I use a lot.  When I apply the records on ancestry to old letters, I have a better appreciation of the correspondence.

In one of those too-good-to-be-true coincidences, the census was taken on the 16th day of June, 1880, just a few months before the letter was written. 

If I understand the census correctly, they lived in the 5th Ward, 1st District, on West Nelson Street, Knoxville, TN.

On 1880 census, the head of the household is James Cochran.  James is 40, Elizabeth Cochran is 37, and Minnie is 3.  The census states that Minnie is an adopted daughter. 

James and his father were born in South Carolina, and James’s mother was born in Virginia.  Elizabeth was born in Tennessee, as were her parents.  Minnie and her parents were born in Georgia. 

D. R. Johnson is Dave Johnson, who is married to another Gamble sister, Sarah, also known as “Sallie”.  On the 1880 census, Dave Johnson is 41, and Sallie is 31.  They have two children, Charles E., age 14, and Mary E., age 11.  That family group is all born in Tennessee, including Dave and Sallie’s parents.

Elizabeth “Libbie” Gamble Cochran died later in the year, according to one source on, but the next letter transcribed here will refer to “Lizzie” as not very well.