1819: Matthew Hannah to John Hannah

This letter was written by Matthew Hannah (1788-1849), the son of John Hannah (1760-1820) and Elizabeth Young (1780-Aft1819) of Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England.  Matthew was twice married. His first wife was Sarah Putnam (1779-1823) of North Carolina and we learn from this letter they were married on 19 August 1819. His second wife was Florensa Paula Roberta Vidal (1808-1885); they married in 1826.

Matthew wrote the letter to his older brother, Rev. John Hannah (b. 1786) of Lincoln, England. John died at sea while on a voyage to the West Indies.

Newspaper notices reveal that Matthew served as the City Collector of Pensacola in 1823.



Pensacola, [Florida]
1st November 1819

My dearest brother,

With a heart overflowing with gratitude & affection toward you, I rejoice that the long interval of time during which all intercourse between us has been suspended, seems now to terminate, & the fears or suggestions of my mind respecting my nearest friends gives place to security, and the exhilarating thought of a renewed & uninterrupted correspondence with you.

I received your inestimable favor of the 10th February ult. on the 28th September while on my way from the interior to this place, & understood that it had remained in Pensacola since some time in July previous to receiving it. I had understood by a friend from New Orleans something of its contents, but was considerably affected when I actually held a letter from my brother when I considered the tenderness & affection displayed in it towards me. When I learned the loss of a brother & a father, separated beyond the reach of friendship or gratitude — a father who had every claim to my most solicitous affection, but who had been left, not only destitute of any solace of his age from me, but to feel anxiety on my account. The succession of ideas, alternately, cheered and agonized my heart.

The long interruption of an intercourse between us has no doubt appeared to you ver extraordinary & it would be difficult on my part to form an excuse. I will merely observe it has been principally owing to the state of my mind since I left you. Before I left England, I had tasted the happiness which results from a well grounded hope of future bliss, but from excessive reserve of disposition, neglected to avail myself of the means for maintaining the good work; the consequence was a decline & a loss of the evidence in my conscience. I found myself involved in a perplexing labyrinth of sorrow from which I could not extricate myself.

After I came to America the same state of mind prevailed with me, was aggravated by some exterior troubles, & gradually increased to complete wretchedness — a wretchedness to which even the idea of annihilation would have been a comfort. Thus having nothing to inform you of which I thought would give you satisfaction, I was unwilling to hurt your feelings with recitals of my distress & would still entertain hopes of having, after some time, something to impart which might afford you satisfaction. Your letter via Cincinnati I never received.

In this manner several years passed away, my faculties seemed to sustain injury from my perplexity of mind, & melancholy became strongly marked in my countenance. I was alike incapable of relishing the amusements of society or the comforts of Religion. In this situation I endeavored to occupy my mind with useful studies & from the period of my first coming to Pensacola in November 1811, I spent a great part of my spare time. Accordingly, by these means, I have obtained a considerable knowledge of the French & Spanish languages, have otherwise informed myself by reading, & tho’ not enjoying much advantage from religious associations, I have derived comfort from religious books. My desire has always been to return to my native country & I hoped before this to have accomplished my purpose, but failing thro’ disappointments. I once wrote you and afterwards got my friend Mr. George Sheate to have enquiry made after you, the latter plan has happily succeeded.

Feeling the want of a sincere friend who might share with me in the concerns of life & futurity, I have lately, while in Territory belonging to the United States, say on the 19th August last, become united in marriage to a young woman equal to my wishes. Her name was Miss Sarah Putney. She is a native of North Carolina, of amiable dispositions & a Methodist. I promise myself great satisfaction from her society & already seem to experience a dawn of happiness.

I cannot refrain from expressing the pleasure I feel in learning that Providence has chosen you for so high a calling as that of dispensing the good word of God; that you are connected with so valuable companion, & that you are happy. O may God perpetuate & increase your happiness & may you never feel any of those storms which have pierced your brother’s heart.

Your earnest desire for my return home much affects me & believe me, my dear brother, I equally long to see you. It is necessary, however, before I can come to arrange my little business here, as soon as I can dispose of some Town lots, & a Mortgage on some land which I hold, so as to obtain money for my expenses, I shall endeavor with divine aid to gratify my wish & come accompanied by my wife. It may be next spring or summer — or the year following.

Pensacola has long been in an uncertain & varying situation. Since my coming to it, it has been possessed once by the English, twice by the Americans, & has often been exposed to attacks from savages or insurgents. It is now in the possession of the Spaniards, but probably will soon belong to the United States. Should that be the case, the little property which I hold will be valuable. We have here a remarkable fine seaport, good water, & wholesome air. During the last summer while the adjacent towns of Blakely, Mobile, & New Orleans suffered much from contagious fevers, the inhabitants of Pensacola enjoyed an uniform good state of health. Since the war business has become miserably bad & the place is very much depopulated, the soil is poor. But part of the back country is good & is rapidly receiving a population from the United States. I have generally been in employ here in the mercantile line.

It gives me great pleasure to hear of the prosperous state of religion in Lincoln & that I have yet some friends there who remember me & feel interested in my behalf. Do, brother, assure them of my sincere & loving regard & tell them I hope yet to see them. Tell Mother I feel grateful to her for her attention to my dear Father. I entreat you to write me often & inform me of whatever you may deem interesting. You may direct your letters as before to the care of Colin Mitchel, ¹ Esqr., Havana, or to the care of Messrs. Beaty & Grieves, Merchants, New Orleans, or should you direct by the United States to the Post Office in Mobile, Alabama Territory, or to the care of James Innerantly, Esqr. of that place, I would probably receive them. The letter I have received from you reached this place via Havana & New Orleans.

And now, my dear John — farewell — may it go well with you & with your dear wife of whom I have some recollection. May you constantly realize a sense of the presence of that power who presides throughout all space and whose protection we both equally remain. And who, I trust, will yet bring us together with hearts swelled with gratitude & love towards him.

I remain, my affectionate brother, yours most sincerely, — Matthew Hannah

P. S. My wife desires her love to you. Tho’ she has never seen you, she feels a glowing affection towards you. We both beg an interest in your prayers. — M. H.

¹ “With the cooperation of Spain, a group of seven men living in Cuba was identified and three brothers named Carnochan and four brothers named Mitchel  (in some records misspelled with a double L) made an offer. In May of 1819 the group’s front man, Colin Mitchel met with company officials in Pensacola and paid $111,676.00 for the land. In 1821 Spain ceded West and East Florida to the United States, and Florida became slotted on the fast track for Statehood. John Forbes would die four years later in 1823.

Mitchel and his partners set about to survey and sell off parcels, while evicting squatters and others from their newly acquired land. Many challenges to the legitimacy of the Forbes Purchase were raised.

The US Land Commission was created to determine what land in Florida was in private hands. Land without valid owners would become property of the government. Mitchel filed his claim, but got no ruling for two years. When the commission disbanded and left it up to Congress to decide if the Forbes purchase should be recognized. Congress failed to act on this political football.

After being ignored for seven years, Mitchel filed suit in the territorial court, where a judge ruled against the validity of the Forbes purchase, citing a watermark on a document that had not been an issue at trial. Finally, in 1831 Mitchel filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Delay after delay hampered Mitchel as the US attorneys tried to get supporting documents from Cuba. Finally, after four years of delay, the court refused any further continuances, and heard arguments in January of 1835, and ruled in March. The ruling, the last involving Chief Justice John Marshall, held that since the Spanish rulers approved the transfer, it would violate US/Spanish treaty if the transaction were not recognized as valid by the US.

Mitchel’s purchase was validated, the company took on some additional investors, and Apalachicola Land Company went to work.” See — The Forbes purchase; Florida’s Biggest Land Grab

Matthew Hanna’s 2nd Marriage Record


Griff View All →

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

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