The Dall-Tardy letters are a collection
of a total of 33 letters, 19 in their original, hand-written
script dated from
1840 to 1854 mostly from James and Henrietta Dall in Baltimore
to their niece and foster daughter Clara Austin Tardy in
Mobile. Clara Honey Austin (1818-1858) was the youngest
of 8 children
born to Horace Austin and Elizabeth Richards Austin, and
she was less than 7 years old when both of her parents
She was taken in by her fathers sister, Henrietta
Austin Dall, and her husband, who became her foster parents,
and to whom Clara always referred as Mother and Father.
With the collection are 6 letters written in 1858 to Claras
son Alexis H. Tardy, then 14 years old, and to Claras
husband Balthazar Tardy, about Claras death in March,
1858, at the age of 39. There are two accounts, both thought
to be written by Alexis, of Claras dying words to
her husband, children and servants.
Also included in the collection are 3 letters to Henrietta
Cecilia Tardy, Claras daughter: one in 1860 from
a girlfriend after Henrietta had gone away from Mobile,
one in 1866 from
her father Balthazar about her getting married and leaving
home, and one in 1874 from her brother Alexis following
the death of her husband John Nathaniel Matthews at the
Included with the collection are three other letters: one
written in 1904 by Etta (thought to be Henrietta
Austin Matthews, double first cousin of Lucien Tardy Matthews)
to Luciens wife Clara about the death of Claras
father; one written in 1908 by Hallie Austin Aldrich (granddaughter
of James and Henrietta Dall) to her cousin (presumably Henrietta
Cecelia Tardy Matthews) in which she mentions the packet
of dear old letters (this very collection); and one
written in 1939 by Carrie Matthews to her brother Lucien
(both children of Henrietta Cecelia Tardy Matthews) in
which she also refers to this collection of letters.
Many of the letters are conversational in tone, express much
affection, offer bits of family news, and convey a flavor of
the personalities involved. Those following momentous and often
sad events express condolence and shared grief. The 1866 letter
is a tender, loving one from a busy, business man father who
misses his newly married daughter. Also prominent in these
letters is the strong Christian faith of the persons involved.
Clara Honey Austin Tardy and her descendants were apparently
good letter-savers. It is that trait we have
to thank for this treasure trove of letters offering such
window into this family.
The full collection has been transcribed and annotated (by
Harry Porter, Jr., MD, August, 2003).