Vol. VIII, No. 3, 1995

Documents of Written Speech

Before universal education and McGuffey's spellers and readers narrowed the gap between standard spelling and common speech, writers with little education often tried to write the sounds they heard around them. Thus written language imitated spoken. Certain orthographic problems resulted. In spoken American English, any of the five vowels may be pronounced "uh." Letters and combinations of letters like "e," "r, .... p," "w," and "gh" are often silent. At other times, letters like "r" are sounded in words where they don't actually belong. Different letters and combinations are pronounced alike, as in "c," "k," and "ch"; at other times the same letters or combinations are pronounced different, as in plough, dough, and bought. Punctuation is never pronounced.
The following documents demonstrate the relationship between spoken and written language as Americans came from the east to the Ozarks or passed through it on their ways west.

The Aldridge Letter

Richard J. Aldridge addressed the following letter to his father and family at the Springfield, Missouri Post Office. William Turner then wrote his own letter on the outside of the letter to Bedford Aldridge. The letter furnishes a clear image of the relationship of common spoken and written language in the mid-nine-teenth-century Ozarks. The letter and permission to print was provided by Don and Becky Chandler Aldridge of Mesa, Arizona.

febuary the 17 1850

Calafornia Gold Mines

Honord farther and mother brothes

and sisters I now imbrace the optunity

to right to you. I Am well at the present

and hoping that those lins ma find you

All in Joying the same blesing

After A Jurney of seven months

And eleven day wee arived At the gold

mines on the amurca [America] river which is too hundred

miles south of sanfrancisco when wee

got hear wee found every thing very high

flour was worth one dollar pur poind

pork one dolar pur pound Coffey the same

Sugar the same the dried fruite was worth 200$ pur

pound the raney Seasons had cor menced

And wee cood not work in the minds

but wee have made exspences James Mullings

And gorge mullings are At work with

I And William wee have been at

work A bout twenty days And wee have made

About one ounce A day to the hand thar has been A

decovery of gold mad A bout sevnty miles

south of this wee do exspect to go thar in

A short time thare Are menny ways to

mak money heare bee sids diging it out of

the ground James mullings And my

self made one hundred An seventy five dollars

A day At packing with seve mules

wee have lade in our provisions for the

sumer our exspnces has been three dollars

A day since wee have ben heare but tha

are not so much now wee found gold Just

As plenty heare As wee exspected

when wee lefte new mexico struck for the

great Salt lake wee war forty seven days

making the trip Across the rockey

mountins which was A bout seven hundrd

miles wee though wee wood intersect the

northern rout At the great Salt lake but

when wee got thare wee of the destress theat

ware on that rode wee then turned And

went south And struck At the purbelaw [Pearlblossom?]

which is A bout 4 hundred miles south

of Sanfrancisco wee had some dezzerts to cross

which was 70 miles A cross wee had to cross

them in the night the day was so hot

they days ware so hot wee had to tavel in


the nigh About fifteen mules ware

left of Anight in the dezzerts wee lost

but one And when wee got to purbelow

wee found A butiful countrey thare are

men thare has twenty five to thirty

thousen head of stock horses ware ratin from

8 to 10 dollars thare rang thare is Clover

And oats the clove groes in the valleys and

the oats on the hills theare is A grat dal

of game in this cuntrey I have made fifty

dollars A day At hunting venzon is worth

from fifty to 70 cts pur pound

I have found Some of my connxcion

heare in the mines from texas A son

of bengermon pleasetn And Also A son

of walter muroughes tell Bedford I shal right

to him next Sundy So I Shall come to A

close I wont yough to right to

me As Soon As yo receve this leter

Direct your leters to Sanfrancisco

Give mi respect to All of my con nexcion

and in quireig frends So I ad more

onley nmaning yous and Co

Richard J Aldridge

On another day he continued...

As I have not had a optunity to male

this letter As Son As I exspcted I shal

ad somthing more thare Are A great

menny men in the mines And

A great menny of them making money

And a great menny of them Are not

making exspencs And some of them sez

if tha thought tha cood get to work thy

pasig hom they wood go to Sanfrancisco

An get Abord of A ship an leave And

Calafornia might go forthem gold And All

thare Are As much frendship ixsisting in

those mines as enny place as I ever was in

thar has not ben but one or too furses

this winter hear And they ware by some of the

the irish thare has ben some three or fore

men eat up by the grisley bare this winter

tell lilley Hensly And Albert And munrow

melton I wont them to right to me

William Turner sends his resects to you

All so I Ad no more At the present

only remanig yours & Co

Richard J Aldridge

Another P.S....

thare is one thing the helth of

this Countrey is good As I ever saw enny


Letter is folded in such a way as to allow the following to be added without interfering with address:

Mr. Bedford Aldrig I nowpresent myself to you, in

niorder to let you now that I havet forgoten you

and that I am yet alve and have goten where

Gold is plenty but is hard to git that is to

take hard work to git it. some days we make eight

dollars others we make two hundred and fifty but it is

avry unsecertain bisness there is acompany of fore of

us had made somethi

-g over a thousand dollars I told yo that I woud right

to yo and Brothe Nathan when I got here whthere it

bee advsable for you to Come to Calafornia ore not

I hardley now whther to say Corn ore not it is not evry

won that Comes to Calafornia that will mak a fortune

but if you dad Brothe Nathan want to Come and

Comes and cant mak money enofe to git back I will

give you enofe to git back tell Brother Nathan tha

I writ to him that I would bee at hom next

fall I do not now at this time whethere I will or not

but I will right to him in afew day Yours Respectful

Wm Turner

addressed thus:

St of Missouri

Green County
Mr Richard Aldridge Post office

residue of wax seal apparent on original


The Connelly Letter

Rebecca Chandler Aldridge describes this letter as "written from Lovelady, North Carolina, by Rebecca Connelly, my great-great-great-grandmother, in 1840, to her sons, Alfred and George Connelly. At the time the letter was written, we understand Alfred, my great-great-grandfather, and George to have already been in southwest Missouri or northwest Arkansas. At any rate, Alfred did teach school eventually at Elm Spring, northeast of Springfield [Missouri]." The letter demonstrates many of the relationships between common spoken and written language. However, the letters differ dramatically in the content. Both Richard Aldridge and William Turner devote their space to realistic description of new land. Rebecca Connelly, on the other hand laments her sons' movement west and her own desperate loneliness-and almost as an afterthought throws in bits of news. Her conventional language is, in many ways, still conventional today.

Love lady No Ca March the 8th 1840

My very dear sons i never heard from you from The twentieth of September to the nineteenth of January and we thought you was gone from

There but thank god we receivd your letters

The twenty eighth day of february nine o'clock At night

wich gave us great satisfaction to hear that you was well i desire to thankful to the good lord for his mersies to you and us while we are about he takes care of us but my dear children i see a power of trouble on account of your absence i want george to come home in And live with me or else i will go and live with him for ther is no sense in my living with out him now i won't do it if i can help it

I have been porely all winter and strange

all winter up of nights all the __ part

of the night i thought if george was here

that i wood not been so bad if i could hear

him sleeping i have seen enough truble to kill me the way that susan has done and george being

from home you must come home as soon

as you receive this and stay with me while

I live for it don't seem like it will be long the

way i am and alfred you must come hom

as soon as you can to see if you can git any

thing among us i thought a heap about dividing our living you must __ me and see about it i want you if it suited you to sell your store and buy you a farm and if we could all sell here and all go westward an be together it wold suit me

Wesley has got A house built up the creek caroline has got a son jacob crider departted this life yesterday i have got a janes peace in the loom a suit for gorge and som for alfred i was at lewises this week the are all as usual mrs moon is thine she is not well the children grows and caroline and william has been to school and has leamd smartly we have two preachers in our surcuit the apear like men george must come home and live he has land here and many other things Liddy has a child it is a gal Jacob ant well he got throwd of a mule my very dear sons you are very dear to me while i am writing to you i thank god for my good parents that sent me to school so that i can scrabble to my children now in my sisty fith year since November my O dear sons let me escort you to improve your your learning read and take care of your youth read the scriptures live for god and he will take care of thee susan has a fine child she calls it george henry we have a butiful forid spring there is a heap of flowers in our yard alfred i think long of the time that i have not seen you you ought to have come see us and you should not a lost by it i want see you to talk with you about our affairs in this world wesly dont live here he lives at mistrs kinkades mother Connell has moved up to the cove

This with Respect

Rebecca Connelly

Alfred C. Connelly

George A. Connelly

Susan sends her Respects to you Alfred and George


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