The Tennessee Letters

We are fortunate enough to have preserved nine letters dating from the 1880's which were written from the US branch of the family to the English branch. Most of the letters are from the young Bridget Brennan writing to her cousin Michael (my great-grandfather).They have a poignancy which transcends the the great gulf in years which separates us from the writer.

Bridget married Nicholas Stephany, an immigrant from Alsace Lorraine, on 28th December 1893. They had only one child, Margaret, born circa 1906. It would appear that Bridget and Nicholas separated, as she remained in McEwen whereas Nicholas became a well-known furniture retailer in Greenville, Mississippi. When their daughter Margaret married Daniel B. Donahue from New Orleans on 14th February 1926 it was her uncle, Michael J Brennan, who signed the marriage bond rather than her father. Margaret settled in Covington, Louisiana, near New Orleans, Bridget's death on 6th February 1947 was recorded in New Orleans, so it is probable that she spent her last days at her daughter's home.


Bridget Brennan to Michael Brennan 20th September 1880

McEwen station
Sept 20th 1880

My Dear Cousin,
I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know we received your kind and welcome letter and was glad to hear from you. We are all well at present and hope to find you enjoying the same blessing thanks be to God for it. Well Dear Cousin I suppose you will be surprised to hear from me but my father was buisy and I wanted to write to you and he let me.

Well Dear Cousin we had a very dry season this year all the corn or nearly all was burnt up it is very hard on the poor farmers. Well Dear Cousin we are going to school every day so you must excuse all my mistakes as I have not written many letters but I hope you will answer this letter and I will write to you again. I would like to hear from some more of my cousins pleas give them my love I would to see you all but I suppose that is nearly impossible but still I suppose we can see one anothers pictures. I would like to hear from my Uncle or Aunt.

Dear Cousin I must tell you what kind of place we live in it is a very nice little village just 7 miles from the capital of the state of Tenn. This is such a nice place in the summer so cool it is just a big country cool green all around. You must forgive all my mistakes my sister Mary Ann and another girl is cutting up and hollering so I cannot spell half my words right. Dear Cousin Mike we are very lonesome now for my mother is gone on a visit to my married sister who lives about 200 miles from hear we got a letter from her today. Sisters Ellens husband is a superintendant of a rail road but mother wont stay long away.

I suppose I must stop for the present so goodbye dear Cousin give my love to all be shure to write soon to your affectionate Cousin

Bridget Brennan

to Mike Brennan

give our love to all yourself included.


footnote to above letter from Bridget's father

I have nothing in Particular to say at present we are all well thank god for it wishing you all the same blessing Maggie our youngest Girl is in Kentucky with Ellen our oldest Girl she married a Mr Wilkie a good man he has control over a R.R. line there I never seen it he makes $125-00 one hundred & twenty five dollars a month the ??? wages he gets he superintends the track & Trestles both he is a very good man.

I can say nothing for myself more than that I am safe not beholding to anybody I have plenty land but it is a drought (?) at Present yet the time is coming When there will be demand for every acre there is seven or eight hundred acres that is mine for ever some as good as ever a crow flew over so no more at present from your Uncle until death.

M Brennan

You will Please let me know how my brother Martin is & how many in family they have I do wish he would leave that place & come out here at once I would attend to him.

M Brennan

Direct M Brennan
McEwen Sta Humphreys
County Tennessee


Bridget Brennan to Michael Brennan 20th November 1881

McEwen station Nov 20th 1881

My Dear Cousin
I received your kind and ever welcome letter and was glad to hear from you I would have written to you but when I got your letter we were preparing for my sister Mary Annís wedding she got married last Tuesday the 15th we had a very nice time she was married a Nuptial mass and had four attendants she married a man by the name of Thomas Dannahir you know by his name he is an Irishman and a Catholic which Mr Wilkie is not but he does not interfere with Ellen he is a good man he let he have her little girl baptized but she died I hope with the help of god he will be a catholic before long

We did not have a very big crowd at the wedding they were married at 10 o' clock in the morning as I told you at a Nuptial mass we had a band of music and danced all night and after daylight Mary Ann has not left home yet as my Ma is out in Kentucky where my little sister Maggie has been sick She has the typhoid fever and cannot come home till the last of this month and sister Ellen and Mr Wilkie is coming to spend the Christmas with US.

Well my Dear Cousin 1 was very glad to get those pictures we have no good pictures of ourselves but as soon as we can get some taken we will send them we have germs (?) but they will rub off

You must tell my Cousin Pat for me and also my cousin Mary to write to me I have some grown cousins here their names is Curly they are my Aunt Honor's sons and Daughters she has one married daughter my cousin Mike is about 24 or 25 years old he is off at work so is my Cousin Pat he is 22 or 23 yrs and Thomas he is 21 yrs. They are all working on the railroad bridges and trestles there is a good deal of work going on here on the railroads.

I am very sorry we have no good pictures I have one of myself but it don't favor me one bit it looks 4 times older than I am.

Well my dear Cousin I have not much time to spare as Papa wants to write some and it is near train time so good bye. write soon to your affectionate Cousin Bridget A. Brennan


Michael Brennan (US) to his nephew Michael 20th November 1881

Nov 20th 1881

From your Uncle
Michael Brennan
My dear nephew I was Exceedingly Glad to See your likeness for it is a Gratifying thing to me to see it as I never seen any of my kindred in this Country but one I suppose he died or got killed in the war he was Tom Joyce My aunts Son I was talking to Anthony Walsh of (indecipherable) the other day he looks well he is a Son to Martin Blacksmith.

This has been and still is a good Country if a man will do Right the best in the world Wright Soon and let us hear from you from your affectionate uncle until death
Michael Brennan


Bridget Brennan to Michael Brennan February 12th 1882

McEwen Feb 12 1882

My Dear Cousin,
I recieved your kind and welcome letter and was right glad to hear from you that you were all well as the departure of this leaves us all at present thanks be to God. Well dear Cousin we did not know what to think when you did not write I thought there must be something the matter but I am glad there was not. I suppose you had a good time Christmas we had a very pleasant one we have a midnight high mass every Christmas eve.

We just recieved a letter from my sister Ellen & her husband they are all very well my sister Mary Ann is living with her husbands mother now Dear Cousin. I will send you some of the brides cake but it will be a very little bit Mary Ann was sorry she forgot to send you some before now. I want you to dream on it and tell me what you dream if you come here we will get you pretty sweet heart that is if you have not given some other girl your heart. Dear Cousin if you resemble your picture much you are the image of my Papa. I think my cousin Pat resembles my cousin Tom Curley Aunt Honors son. I have a forehead like you I have brown hair by your picture I think you have the same. My Papa's hair is very gray he is very fleshy though not as much a he used to be. Dear Cousin we had a good deal of frost but not much snow though enough to play snowballs & wash one anothers face.

Dear Cousin since I wrote to you last we had another wedding this time my cousin Mary Ann Curley she married another Irish man by the name of Patrick Martin a very nice young fellow about 24 years old he owns a very big farm and always has abundance. Dear Cousin the 4th of last December was my birthday I am now 16 sixteen and an awful size for my age if I could get any pictures to send I would be only too glad to send them. Tell your brother Pat I send him a kiss to write to me and my Cousin Mary also and Pat Brennan tell him to write to me tell him I have not forgotten him if he writes and sends his directions I will write remember me to Uncle Joseph and family tell them to write to us and if you be writing to Uncle Martin remember us to him.

Dear Cousin if you let us know what kind of work you generaly do we can tell you more about the wages if you work in the gas works plummers we call them you can get work most anywhere if you do not like working on the railway tell us how much you get a month or a day or whatever very you get paid or if you would like to work on a farm we have two or three tracts of land some of it fenced and some of it wild in your next letter if you can send me a little piece of turf I have often heard Papa and Ma talk a bout it but I never seen any thing like it we burn wood entirely. I have some mortar from Nock Chaple in Irland Father Coughlin our parish priest gave it to me and also a little bottle of holy water from Lourds in France.

Well Dear Cousin I had better stop as you will be tired reading before you get through. All join in send love to all.

Give a kiss to my cousins your brother Pat & Mary and Pat Brennan not forgetting you self & Uncle Joseph's daughter tell her to write to me. Papa is not at home just now so I will have to write his share but don't you forget to write some to him in your answer.

When you tell us all about what kind of work you would like to do we can tell you how much wages they are giving so good bye for a while from your affectionate Cousin

Until death B.A. Brennan
to M. Brennan
Write soon

Dear Cousin

Dear Cousin I cant send you a very big piece of my sisters cake just a taste. I hope you will be here to help eat mine


Michael J Brennan to Michael Brennan May 6th 1882

McEwen Station May 6th 82

My dear cousin
I thought 1 would write you a few lines to let you know that we are all well at present thank God for it

I don't know whether you can read my letter or not but I hope you can 1 go to school every day but don't have much time to write. I was fourteen last october.

I never wrote any letter to anyone but my sisters so you must excuse my Bad writing and selling. Bridgie is just after writing to Mary Ann I cant think of anything to write. We have not heard from Ellen these 2 weeks we are afraid that she is sick.

(later) we are just after getting a letter from Ellen and she is well. Write soon and let me know how you are from your affectionate cousin Michael Joseph Brennan Mc Ewens Station Humphreys Co. Tenn

PS Excuse my bad writing


Bridget Brennan to Michael Brennan May 14th 1882

McEwen Station
May 14th 1882

My Dear Cousin
I received you kind and ever welcome letter and was glad to hear you are all well as this leaves us all at present thanks to God for his kind mercies to us all.

Well Dear Cousin I suppose you thought I had forgotten you but I have not I was waiting to get a letter from my sisters but I had to wait so long I am going to school every day and hardly have time to write to my sisters My brother was going to write to you a week ago but did not send it. My Dear cousin my Grandma died five years ago. My Aunt Margaret never came to America but cousin Mary Walsh did Mary is now married but is not living near us we were sorry to hear Uncle Joseph being sick but we are glad he is well now

I am glad you got the cake I sent you I was afraid you would not get it I would like very much to know who that girl is and if she is in this part of America.

My Dear Cousin when you come to America you will find more than one nice girl they are all good natured girls. Dear Cousin if you are as slim as you say you will get fleshy here in six months you would not know it was the same person. I would not like any trouble to come out of what I sent for so if it is dangerous to send the turf do not mind it you can bring me a bit when you come.

Well Dear Cousin there is almost all kinds of going on wages from $1.60 one dollar and sixty cents to $1.85 one dollar and eighty five cents a day or farm laboring from $10 to $12 dollars a month. I do not know what price they get in the gas works there is none here but 57 fifty seven miles from here there is plenty of all kinds of work.

Well dear Cousin I cant find any thing else to say. we all join in send our love to you and our cousins and our aunt and uncle hoping to hear from you soon I remain as ever your affectionate Cousin Bridget A Brennan

I send my cousin Pat Brennan a kiss and you one two Goodbye tell my cousin Mary to write to me

Write soon


Bridget Brennan to Michael Brennan October 5th 1882

McEwen Station
Oct 5th 1882

My Dear Cousin
I received your kind and ever welcome letter and was glad to hear from you that you are all well as the departure of this leaves us at present

Well Dear Cousin I suppose you thought I had forgotten you but I had not when I received your letter we were going to have a big pic-nic and then sister Mary Ann was sick and Ellen came home on a visit but she is going back this week or next her husband is arriving after her.

sister Mary Ann has got a little daughter she is 3 weeks old and as cross as she can be She has got hair as black as a crow we have her so spoiled that we have to nurse her all the time but she is so much company in the we were sorry you could not be here at the christening they named her Mary Rose Dannaher

Well Dear cousin 1 have no more to say at present
so I must close
I want to write some to Mary
so good bye
Write soon to your affectionate
Cousin B Brennan


Bridget Brennan to Mary Brennan October 5th 1882

McEwen Station
Oct 5th 1882

Dear Cousin Mary
I received your letter and was right glad to hear from you

Well Dear Mary I suppose you think I am not going to answer your letter but I have and I hope you will forgive me for not writing sooner I had my hands full we had three men hired hauling wood for us to ship and they did board I suppose you have enough to do to help your ma

My Ma is a delicate sickly woman and is not able to help me much
it is near mail time and I have no more to say so good bye

Write soon to your
affectionate Cousin
Bridget A Brennan


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