Martha Johnson letters, 1863-1871

This collection contains the letters, 1863-1871, from Martha Johnson, a teacher for the National Freedman’s Relief Association in the Beaufort/Port Royal area of South Carolina, to her family in Peacham, Vermont.  These letters cover the time of Union occupation of the South Carolina lowcountry, from the war through Reconstruction. There is a gap in Martha’s letters between 1865 and 1871. Her sister, Clarissa’s, account of Martha’s life states that she continued to teach in South Carolina.

Martha Johnson was born in Peacham, Vermont, on September 17, 1822.  She died in Beaufort, South Carolina, December 24, 1871.  She was the oldest of nine children.  She never married.  Martha received her education at the Peacham common school and the Franklin Academy in New Hampshire.  She was received in the Congregational church in 1842.  In 1855, Martha took a job as matron of the female department in the workhouse located on Blackwell’s Island, New York.  She returned home that same year due to her mother’s illness and subsequent death.  From 1859 to 1861, Martha taught at an industrial school somewhere in New York.  In 1863 she received a teaching commission from the National Freedman’s Relief Association to teach newly freed slaves in the Union occupied area of the South Carolina lowcountry.  She remained in this position until her death in 1871.  She is buried in the Episcopal church cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The Martha Johnson letters are part of a larger collection of family papers known as the Johnson Family of Peacham, Vt., Papers (MSA 185).