Caroline County, November 16, 1828
I received yours of the 28th January last in sixteen or seventeen days after it was written, and, at the time, thought I should have answered it in a few days. But I kept waiting for something that I could write that might be an answer, until now.
In respect to Crapsters land, I can only say that nothing you could have written about could have been more pleasing, if it was in my power to meet the purchase. You may think strange, after the offer you made me, to hear such language, but the thing is easily explained. In the first place, my bodily health is such that for about thirty months last past, I have not been able to dress myself, and when I am dressed, I can do nothing; which I assure you, has deranged my pecuniary affairs. Added to that, prospects are so dull here at present that I could not sell my lands, etc., for near its value, poor as it is. I have offered to abate one dollar on the acres from what I could easily have gotten a little while past, but cannot get that; I have not acted wisely.
This is the fifth year I have had Pinkney, my second son, at a boarding school. I ought to have better counted the cost before I began. But then, I had my health, and did make money not withstanding my poor land and expensive family. But, for the last two years, taking in some reverses of fortune, met with, I have hardly made buckle and thong meet. Really, the principal resources I have had, at least the only sure money, is that which I have had from six Negroes I have had in Richmond for about $300 the year.
Henry and myself have had much conversation on the subject of moving, but it will I fear, amount to nothing; moving with a large family is a great undertaking under any circumstances, but in my situation double so. The two Johns arrived here the 14th or 15th of last month, and the three Johns made a trip to Richmond this last week. John Henry has, for the first time, gone on a visit to Harris Burruss'.
Since I wrote you last, there has been several deaths among our relations. On the night of the 14th of February last, old cousin David Bibb (Addition: David T. Cobb) died in the 72nd year of his age. On the 22nd of June, Agnes M. Hackett, the only daughter of our brother Pleasant, died in the 19th year of her age; a very afflicting circumstance to her parents. On the 13th of August last, old cousin Charles Terrell died in his 70th year of age. And on the night of the 8th instant, our old Aunt Suzanne Burruss, in the 77th year of her age. She was born March 30, 1752; Our mother was born Dec. 1749, and died Sunday, 17th Feb. 1787. Our father was born in 1745, but I do not know what month, and he died, the 8th of Aril 1778. Uncle William Burruss was born the 18th of Feb. 1747, and he is still in time. He had, since the death of his wife, advertised all his property to sell on the 2nd of next month - land included. I think he is perfectly right, as he would be incapable of keeping house, and I expect but few would be willing to undertake for him.
My daughter, Nancy was taken again last August; she had about gotten control of her nerves we thought, but she is back again, and is unusually depressed and gloomy. The Dr. threatens her with melancholia, unless she puts forth some exertion of her will, but she seems to make no effort to do so. It is very trying, I assure you, and all the more so, as he says she could do so much if she would. This is another obstacle to my moving. But there are others in favor of it more than to counterbalance.
1st. My wife, I believe would have no objection since talking to the boys.
2nd. I expect one of my daughters will be a part of the Dr's back load; he has asked her in marriage, but when it will take place I am unable to say. The thought of her marriage has always put my feelings on the rack, and I am afraid the worst cannot be imagined but, I will try to act the man, as well as seem. I expect it will be a source of much grief on more than one account. First, I have nothing to give her except a Negro or two or three - and I know well that she would not want them for they would have to be taken away from their mothers, brothers, and sisters, and that, added to what would naturally take place would make it very affecting; too much so, in fact, for her ever to cause, I know. I have no right or wish to oppose her in her choice, but I have mentioned all the above to her - not to oppose her, but to set her to thinking. She thinks all are minor considerations, and there I let the matter rest.
As respects our brothers, except Garrett, I can say nothing except hearsay. From all I can gather, our dear Brother Nelson is uncomfortably fixed at present of that, however, our cousin James Terrell could have better informed you than I can. I have not seen him since I saw you, though several of my family have, in and about Richmond within a year. He told the boys as they passed there that he would try and come down between then and Christmas and there about.
The last letter I received from Pleasant he was deeply distressed, as before mentioned, on account of the death of his beloved daughter - otherwise, he is comfortably fixed for this life.
Garrett lives very happily with his family and pretty much within his income, I believe, tho of that, I don't certainly know. He has a large and expensive family - a daughter full grown and two sons nearly so. He has six sons and three daughters.
Chiles widow and her children were up when the boys came, and never went down until they went with her to Mr. Raines' near Richmond. Her relations have been good to her, or I don't know what she would have done since the death of Chiles.
Henry was complaining a little after he first came; he got bled and took some simples which restored him and I have heard no complaint since; indeed, I think he has gained perceptible. About his or the doctor's arrangement, I know nothing.
We have had great agitation amongst the people regarding the next President, but the ferment will subside ere this reaches you. We that are in favor of the present administration look with anxiety to your state; we think it the pivot on which the election will turn.
I want you to write to me before the return of the boys that I may have a chance to express myself more fully on some topics. I wish you to give my respects to sister and the children and to Miss Rebecca Henderson, and to accept the same from your affectionate brother.
P. S. I quite forgot to say that my Bro Thos widow and children are as well as common
Address: Golansville, Virginia 19th Novr 1828 H. B.
John Burruss, Middleton, Jefferson County, Kentucky
Caroline County, Dec 20, 1831
It has been a long time since I heard from you directly or indirectly. And it came into my mind to make some communication with you in the hope that you would answer mine in some short time and thus revive the correspondence between us that has been dormant so long. I shall begin by informing you that my health is as good as it has been for the last five years and I think, somewhat better tho, I have not in that time been able to dress or undress one single time nor am I now able to do it.
The rest of my family are at this time enjoying tolerable good health tho we have had a great deal of sickness in the course this fall, but one death, and that was an old negro man from a disease of long standing. Our family, the same in numbers as when John H. Burruss, your son left here. Pinckney has been living in Louisa and teaching school at his Uncle Pleasant Hackett's for the last eighteen months and will continue the next year I expect; my son Elliott, I sent last May to Richmond to work with a carriage maker, but he enjoyed his health so badly, that he was obliged to return in three or four months. He was taken the 1st of Sept 1823 with the ague and fever, and he was diseased with it )except a few short intervals) until late this last October and then, I began to be apprehensive of his life. But the doctor charged his system with mercury, and by that means, relieved him so, that I apprehend he will have no return. I intend if he continues well, to put him at the same trade at the Bowling Green in this month. My two married daughters live convenient, the one 1 ½ miles off, and the other about 6 miles off, so that I expect now, in a few days to have all my children with me. John is at this time on a visit to his Uncle Pleasant Hackett's. He being very much afflicted in mind from the death of his wife. She died four weeks ago tomorrow after a long and distressing illness and left him four sons, their name I do not know, as I have not seen Pleasant since I saw him on my return from your home. He had taken charge of two of our Brother Thomas' children, Frances and Samuel Harris , his youngest son, by his first wife. I expect he will keep but what will be done with Frances, I am unable to say. Pinckney states that his Uncle Pleasant said he should come to Caroline about Christmas, but I do not expect he will. I have not seen Nelson since 1822. My Brother Thomas' children are very much scattered so that I could not give you a detail of their homes that would be the least interesting. They generally enjoy health and seem to have that little phantom in front (I mean hope) which keeps them as well satisfied as other people. Garrett and his family are at this time in tolerable health, tho his wife has been weakly for several years past, from the remains of the measles. He has a houseful of his own family, six sons and three daughters. He is what we may call a home body, silent, peaceable man, in his own family, but a bad managing one. Sells his negroes once in a while. But he still has more of that property than he ought to keep. Chiles' children are all in good keeping. His son James Hunter Terrell, is with me, his eldest daughter, Sarah Jane is with her Uncle Richard Wortham in Richmond City, his youngest daughter Mary Chiles is with her Uncle Richard Raines, about one mile out of Richmond. They are three as likely looking children as to be found well grown and handsome.
Our old Uncle Wm Burruss' death you have no doubt heard of. He died the 16th of October in the 84th year of his age leaving, as I am told, about 39 thousand dollars. Many dollars of which is already scattered. Perhaps few man even left, a set of children of less service to themselves and the community, than he did. The only one that possesses any good qualities of all his children is Harris, and he is, and has been, closely confined to his bed for several years. His son William, a perfect sot. Pleasant is esteemed to be as mean a man as any in Caroline County. Jacob shot out his own brains, and Patsey often afflicted with the croup. No two can agree except Harris and Patsey and they often not on very familiar terms.
I hired one of my negroes last year to the James River Company to work on the canal. He ran away in the month of February last year, and I have not seen him since. The last I heard of him, he was in Fredericksburg, which was in June 1830, from what he told a negro of his acquaintance that saw him after he ran away, I should not be surprised to hear that he was employed on the Ohio River. I wish you would appraise you son Henry of the circumstances. Perhaps, if he still lives in Louisville, it might so happen that he might make some discovery as he was his favorite amongst my negroes. His name is Peter. If he remembers him well enough to describe him I wish him to set up some advertisements in town offering $100 dollars reward if taken out of this state, and $40 dollars if taken in this state. It might lead to a discovery, and should he be so fortunate as to get him, tell him to sell him for the best price he can get, pay damages, and let me have the balance.
My children present the respects to Henry, and say he must remember his promise. Three out of the five years past, and he promised to see us again after the lapse of five years. We have had a good crop year and the severest winter this far that I remember. There has been great excitement in these parts since August last on account of the insurrection of the blacks in Southampton, but has nearly subsided. Our legislature convened the first Monday in this month, and I see from the public prints, that petitions have been presented from various counties supplicating the aid of that body to make some arrangements for the better governing of the slaves, and to provide means to send away the free negroes to Liberia, but I think it will pretty much end in smoke. The politicians in these parts are looking with intense anxiety to the conclusion of the Baltimore convention. I see by my last paper that they have nominated Mr. Clay a candidate for the next president. 149 votes for and 1 against the nomination. I wish him God speed and altho I know that a majority in this county are of different sentiments, yet, I know if the majority, minority would speak out, the majority would be small and we are daily gaining. I should like very well to know why the Kentuckians are not more unanimous in his favor. You have your share of wisdom in your state, but I fear it is not always directed in the right channel. Your Rowans, Tom Moores, etc., have no charms for me. Remember me to Cousin C.....? Terrell and family and when you write me, let me hear from him. When you write, direct your letter to Oxford, Caroline County. We had two of the Mr. Upshaws as candidates for our congressional district and three others, and out of the five elected, the worst character amongst them, Jno. Roane, Jr. Mr. Edwin Upshaw informed me that he was at your house some time past but had no time to make any inquiry about you or family. Give my respect to your wife and children, and accept the same from your affectionate
Brother, Henry Burruss
Caroline County, April 23, 1833
Next Tuesday will be a year since you wrote me last, and I do not know that I have heard one word from you or any of yours since I received that letter which came to hand in due time. Since writing you last, we have had a great deal of sickness in my family but no deaths. Early last winter before the one just past we were attacked with the measles, a disease that never was in my family before. We had many cases and some very desperate. Early the present year we were attacked with the scarlet fever and had some very severe cases. The scarlet fever has been very prevalent in this and the adjoining counties for several months past. My Brother Nelson's son Clevis and but two children, they both died in the same night, of that disease, and were put in one coffin; one in its sixth year and the other in its eighth year. Charles Burruss our nephew, lost one of his children and was very near losing another with the same disorder. Indeed there has been a number within a few miles of us that died with it, and some almost as sudden as if it had been the cholera. Garland Hargrave, a relation of ours had a daughter taken the 6th of March about 11 o'clock, and died at 9 o'clock the 7th. There has been several of your old acquaintances died in the few months past. Matthew Campbell a few days past, Henry Coleman and Burbige, two sons of Daniel and James Gatewood that was raised near us. Since I wrote you last, Doctor Burruss has purchased a neat little farm, say 160 acres about one mile northeast of the fall mills, where Augustine Harris moved from. Both my married daughters live about the same distance from me, say four miles. As to myself, I am fixed upon one of the poorest spots on earth almost, and there scarcely passes a day but my mind is traversing the western states. I know my error in remaining where I am, but whether I ever shall correct it or not, I cannot tell. For myself to move for gain would be preposterous, but for the benefit of my children I think it would be commendable even now. But I have said so much formerly that subject I will forbear for present.
My prospects I think brighten some. I am done with my childrens' education and my negroes hire very well. Last year I was obliged to take those I had in Richmond home on account of the cholera that prevailed there and, of course had to deduct the time from their hire. This year I hired seven men there and one woman for $545 dollars and tobacco has taken a considerable rise to what it has been selling for the last two or three years. I tended last year between fifteen and sixteen thousand hills in tobacco and carried it down the first of this month. I had set down my crop at 120 dollars before I went and I got $211 dollars clear of warehouse expenses, about 90 dollars more than I expected. My son John is still with me, Pinckney is keeping school in the edge of Richmond, two men give him $300, his board, washing and lodging for the present year. Elliott is at the Bowling Green at the carriage making business. As I wrote you I believe, my daughter Sally has had the scarlet fever lately and has not entirely recovered. My family are at this time enjoying good health and both my sons-in-law's families with the exception of Sally already mentioned are all well. Brother Pleasant has been to see us lately for the first time since I saw you, talks a great deal about marrying etc. The health of his eldest son is very bad and I think it is highly probable that he will raise none of his children to middle age or even to 21 years. Nelson's son James has been at work in Caroline and has been to see us twice lately, so I have had an opportunity of hearing from Nelson oftener than formerly. I was to see him and Pleasant a little more than twelve months ago for the first time in my life, and Nelson has been down to see us twice in that time. I most ardently wish it was in my power to see my Brothers oftener than I do. Garretts' wife and eldest daughter enjoy bad health, the rest as well as usual. Write to me as soon as you can make it convenient. Give my kindest regards to your wife, sons, and daughter and accept the same from your affectionate Brother
April 18, 1833
At our congressional election in 1831, there was some charges of a very serious nature preferred against Mr. John T. Roane by a Mr. John Hill Gwathney, respecting Roanes conduct towards a Miss Martha C. Westbay now an inhabitant of Louisville. Mr. R denied the charges and pledged himself as I understood to prove them false. Roane notwithstanding the charges proved the successful candidate. Mr. Gwathney I expect suspected he would be as good as his word this election, to the trouble last fall to ride through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and down to Louisville in pursuit of the Westbays, to get such information as would enable him to substantiate the charges he had made against Mr. Roane this election. He got a mass of affidavits, certificates, and letters, and had them printed and circulated through the congressional district. On the 8th inst. At court instead of his son and there did say, that this Martha C. Westbay was a woman of bad fame etc. And one of the citizens at the Bowling Green says he has recently received a letter from Louisville from a highly respectable source wherein the writer states that Mr. Westbay keeps a house of very bad fame, indeed he said a "brothel". Now the object of writing on this subject is surely to come at the truth if possible, and in order that there may be no mistake I will state that Henry Westbay is the father of Martha C. Westbay, and should there be two Henry Westbays, John C. Bucklis your mayor can point you to the Henry Westbay that I allude to, as he was the man that took the father's and daughter's affidavits for the use of Gwathney the third of October 1832. John T. Roane had a son by the woman we are thinking about, which old Mr. Roane kept some years, but his mother had written for him and in a letter addressed to Mr. Gwathney of the 11th December last, she says he was at Guiandot on his way to Louisville. He is called Augustus Jones Roane. Please to make strict inquiry whether the boy has arrived in Louisville, more particularly whether the Westbays are of good or bad fame (except Martha's slip with Roane) I wish you to write me directly on that subject and try to associate Samuel Dickenson, Chiles Terrel, your father and any other respectable person that is known in Caroline as you can get. Give my respect to Samuel D. and tell him that his cousin Festus earnestly requests that he would assist in obtaining the correct information on that subject that can be had. If it turns out that they are of bad fame, your say so will answer my purpose. Write as early as you possibly can on any subject and if it be necessary to certify, write the certificate on the same sheet with the letter. Remember that next fall is the time we expect to see you agreeable to your arrangement of coming once in five years.
April 23, 1833
You will find a part of this paper is intended for your son John H. Burruss. The contents you will see before he does, and altho the contents may appear trifling at the distance, you are yet it has produced in the congressional district a very considerable excitement, and that amongst the most respectable persons. And altho the most respectable part are opposed to Roane, yet, he has some very respectable person among his supporters. He is opposed this year by two candidates Mr. Edwin Upshaw and William P. Taylor, son of Col John Taylor and I have heard from two counties this and King and Queen, he had a majority over Roane of about 300. Mr Upshaw will stand no chance. If you will give yourself the trouble to investigate the matter, you will confer a singular favor. If it should turn out that the woman is of bad fame, the simple say so of Henry, or any of my acquaintance will answer every purpose, but if on the contrary she should have conducted well since the affair with Roane, I should like very well to have that matter clearly certified, for be her virtuous or vicious she has been badly treated. I do not suppose that anything of the kind ever did produce more excitement. Miss Westbay has been to the elder Raones and he promised to do all in his power to bring about a union between his son and the injured girl, but thought the girl would have the worse of the bargain. I have seen Roanes' letter to her on the subject. Pray attend to it as soon as you can and have the remarks in answer to what I have written and the certificate put on one sheet and forwarded as early as possible. I shall start out in the morning to Shenandoah and Page counties, over the Blue Ridge Mountains on business and shall put this in at some convenient post office on the way. Let your address be as formerly.
You will find Gwathneys' Publications, Certificates, etc., sent from Stevensburg by this mail respecting Miss Westbays case. H. B.
Louisa. 10th Sept. 1835
It has been a long time since I wrote or received a letter from you, - so long that I scarcely know how to begin to renew our correspondence. In your last letter to me, which I was reading the other day, you asked me to write and tell you of my children - what was their conduct in life, etc. As to their conduct, I have nothing of which to complain, at present. All are gifted with good plain, common sense, respected and kindly received in any company they choose to mingle with, but I have nothing solacing to say on a pecuniary point of view. None of them has acquired any property or saved aught of consequence of their labors, for age to repose upon when its effects have taken away the power or exertion.
My son Cleavis, from early life has been a great sufferer, was because of his sufferings, disposed to hypochondria, and finally for relief, had recourse to the bottle; this produced such a state of mind that I was compelled to take him with me, and I claim that, the most trying occurrence of my whole life. Yet I did persist, because I saw no other remedy whereby a restoration of reason could be had. This happened two or three years ago, since which time he has forborne all together - is much patronized in his profession, a tanner, and notwithstanding all his frailties his customers always awarded him the most correct distribution of what was due from each of them. He is married, has had six children, lost all but the last two which are twin daughters.
My eldest son, John, I bred a saddler, a respectable young man, gets good wages, dresses himself neatly, says he never intends to marry, and cares not to husband his labors. He resides in Lynchburg.
My third son, Richard, resides in the county of Nottoway, one hundred miles from me. He too, I bred a tanner; he is well qualified in all respects to do well, but he is extravagant, and I am sorry to add, to me refractory and ever disrespectful. He has however, lately married and was to see me about a month ago, is getting good wages and I hope will yet do well.
My fourth son Chiles, you have been told, died in his fourteenth year.
James my fifth son, I bred a carpenter. He has been engaged with one who resides in this neighborhood and really carries on the business largely, and gets at his age $200 a year. His employer is highly pleased with him, says he is a splendid workman and he is extravagant and wasteful, and reckless as far as relates to gambling. At least it seems so to me, though to him it does not seem so.
Nelson, my 6th son is with me, helping about our farming. He is discrete and sober, although of no mechanical turn, or otherwise handy with tools of any sort. I hope what he lacks in qualifications he will make up by prudence and discretion.
My children by my last marriage consist of four; the eldest, Lucy Jane, is seventeen years of age, the next son William, fourteen - the next, a daughter, Louisa Ann, and the next, a son, Sir Roger de Coverly, in this ninth year - a pert, smart boy. We had another daughter that died a few hours after her birth. They are all with me and under my control. Can form no idea what may be their future course or destiny - a circumstance that fills me with much anxiety and solicitude, more especially for my daughters, the weaker. At the best, their matrimonial connections, if entered into at all, is but a ticket in a lottery - if a lucky spoke turns up, cares and disappointments await; if an unlucky one, misery and grief are its constant companions throughout, these reflections often fill me with shuddering horror.
I have lately heard from Caroline. The accounts left our bro. Henry in very bad health, - so much so that he was confined to his bed by his old complaint, rheumatism. His daughter, Margaret was said to be in a dangerous way. Her last birth, which happened more than a year ago, had to be taken away by the doctors owing to a preternatural enlargement of the head of the fetus. The account now is that the child she is pregnant with is dead. Whether she was in labour, or near her time, our cousin Robert Hargrave, who brought the account, could not say.
Our crop of corn is as abundant this year as it has been for the last twenty, a lucky circumstance, for it has been short for the four preceding. Our crop of wheat is very short - not more than half throughout Virginia. The tobacco crop has been largely aimed at, but will be greatly shortened in quantity and injured in quality by too much rain.
What has become of my nephew, John Henry? He promised when he left us to renew his visit in about five years. This time has considerably elapsed and he has not yet appeared. Tell him we all hear, as well as in Caroline, are anxious that he should fulfill his promise.
I paid a visit to Caroline a little while before last Christmas, because of the bad health of our brother - was absent eleven days. The weather was cold, the nights long, and we had much chat - chiefly upon other times. The tales seemed to beguile his hours of confinement, and it did me good. During my stay, I visited several of our relatives, amongst whom was Medley Therus Harris. He is more helpless than our brother, but of a more healthful countenance. He was very chatty, and although not intelligent, was amusing. I also visited our cousin, Martha Reynolds. She resides at the old mansion of our uncle William. After leaving her, I took my way back to my brother's by Burruss Mill, Quaker Meeting House, Burruss Meeting House, etc. This afforded me an opportunity of revisiting the principal scenes of our juvenile sports, and produced a pleasing melancholy. As I passed along I could see, and well recognize the remaining part of the orchard, and the site of the dwelling where we were born - that has been moved near the Quaker Meeting House, and although it has been added to, I knew it well.
I must bring my epistle to a close. As I grow old, the task of composing and writing has become more difficult, whether from a decay of faculty or estranged by others causes, I don't know - perhaps a little of both, but of one thing I am very sensible, and that is of want of memory.
My wife and children unite in tendering our affectionate regards to you and every member of your family, - more especially to my sister. Tell John Henry how glad he will make us if he will make good his promise and visit us again. And we think it would be no great matter for him to do so, as we have never heard of his marrying or forming other connections making it inconvenient for him to do so.
Write soon dear brother, and believe me to be affectionately
Address Louisa Court House Mr John Burruss near Middleton, Kentucky
Sept 12 - D. N. B.
Caroline County, Sept 17, 1835
I once more commence writing you another letter, and it has been so long since I received one from you that I will write without any reference to what you last wrote.
To begin with what lies most in my mind, I have to inform you that my daughter that married Doctor Burruss, died on the 18th instant, leaving to our charge, two children, a son and a daughter. The latter delivered of a child just one week before she died, but she died of a liver complaint. The infant died before she did. She had one child she lost a year ago and the one last spoken of were buried beside Peggy's mother, who had a solitary grave for upwards of thirty years - a very remarkable circumstance in so large a family.
She has so lately died that I cannot inform you of any arrangements, except that Robert Terrell and my daughter Sally have taken her daughter, and the son will live with me as long as I live I expect. The children will be well-taken care of, if the father does not interfere. Robert Terrell takes the daughter under the expectation that the child is not to be taken from him, until something should make it absolutely necessary. There should be this separation, I think, and the Doctor will have it in his power to see either or both of them whenever he chooses. He could do better without them, than with them, and should he conclude to remove out of these parts, the children would be better off with us than they would be with him, until they could take care of themselves.
The last letter I sent to any of you was mailed at Stevensberg in Culpepper County, on my way to Page and Shenandoah Counties on some business. The case has very much altered since, as regards myself. I enjoyed very poor health last year, worse than this, but I could get on my horse with very little assistance and ride as far as ten miles, whenever my health would admit of it, and so it continued with me until about two months past. I had been riding around the plantation, and when I returned in the evening, my wife and the girls were sitting at the east end of the house, and to be in company, I ordered some bed clothing to be spread on the grass, and some pillows brought, and I laid me down where I lay until my daughter Rachel reminded me that the dew was falling. I was instantly taken up and taken into the house, but the next morning when I got up, my knees were very stiff and very swollen. I commenced rubbing them with spirits of turpentine and discovered they grew worse, and discontinued it, but my knees have ever since almost entirely failed me. I cannot walk one step without assistance yet, I am comfortable. I enjoyed the society of my family and friends as well as formerly, and my diet and sleep if as well relished as most people of my age. I have good digestion and almost everything I eat agrees very well with me. And too, when lying still or sitting at ease, I feel no kind of pain, nor am I pained very much at any time, to speak the absolute truth. My complaint consists more of stiffness and soreness than of acute pain.
Since I commenced writing this, I have received a letter from my son Pinkney. He informed me that he had written a long letter to your son, John Henry. And also that he had come to the conclusion to remove to one of the new states north of the Ohio River - which resolution or conclusion would very much depend on the answer he should receive from John Henry. If Henry knows of any opening that Pinckney could go right into business that would be profitable, it might be well for him to say so, - otherwise, I think he had as well remain where he is favorably known as a teacher.
We have heard some source that you had a thought of moving from where you live to somewhere north of the Ohio River, but I do not know who was the author of the news. My son, John is doing good business in the mercantile line at the Falls Mills. My son Elliott is one of the contractors on the Richmond and Potomac Railroad that passes through the east part of my land, about three hundred yards distant from the house. How he will come out, I am unable to say. The contract worth from five to six thousand dollars when finished but they but lately commenced and have done but little as yet. He has John Hackett for a partner - a man of business and mature age, son of tinkering Tom Hackett upon Long Creek.
We have heard that your daughter Barbara's health was delicate. Suppose you let one of your sons bring her to old Virginia and let her survey the land of her ancestors. If the air does her no good, perhaps the ride might. She could come in the fall and return in the spring, if she could stay no longer. Though I don't think she would tire in twelve months as she would have such a large number of relations to visit, that by the time she got twice around, the year would be gone. I should be very glad to see her, indeed. My wife's health is very poor at present. The rest seem to enjoy a tolerable share of good health.
We have had two very bad crops years previous to this, and the year 1836 will ever be memorable for the gusts and tornadoes that took place in it. We had no tornado but five gusts were had that prostrated crops, trees, etc. But tornadoes passed the east side of us eight or nine miles distant, prostrating trees, houses, and everything that came in the way of it. No doubt you have seen Virginia newspapers on that subject, and other information also. We had a very bad crop year this year, as far as it respects wheat and rye. I heard one of my neighbors say that he sowed, last fall, twelve bushels of nice seed, and that he had reaped seven or eight, I don't remember which of very indifferent. The crops are not generally as bad, but not more than the double of seed on the common way.
Tobacco and Negroes are the things that will flood these parts with money. Numbers of Negroes have changed masters in the course of this year and a tolerable Negro man will sell from 850 to 1000 dollars and in some instances for 1250 dollars. That and your man or the Kentucky man, R. M. Johnson, has put the people hereabouts in a terrible fever. We have very fine crops of corn which will do away with a great deal of misery that existed amongst the poor for want of bread. You have no idea of the poor that are amongst us.
Give my respects to Jno. Henry and tell him that it would give great satisfaction if he could come out and see us. I name him, because he has been with us - I should be glad to see any. If you have not heard it, I can inform you that Frances, the youngest daughter of my deceased bro Thomas married at Pleasant Hackett's - where she had been for several years living - to a ward of Pleasant's by the name of Richardson Henley, worth they said, when Pleasant settled with him at least 4700. They have removed to one of the northern states.
You will be able to make out the letter I hope. The omissions must be laid to my crippled hand that cannot keep time with my mind. Bro Nelson spent one week with me a little before last Christmas, which was a feast to me. Write me as early as you can after receiving this, as I am very anxious to hear from you. My family joins me in tendering their respects to your family.
Yr Bro. Henry Burruss
P.S. It would surprise you to see the hand that wrote this.
Addressed: "Verndon V" Sept 23 H. B. (On back: "Verndon" P.O. Hanover County is most convenient to me) Mr. John Burruss Middleton, Jefferson County, Kentucky
Louisville, Nov 20th 1835
I have desired to write to you for some time, but not till now have had the leisure to do so. A week ago, I saw Mr. Mahoney on his return from Illinois, who informed me you had reached your place of destination, your new home, which he had passed, but did not know it till too late, or he had certainly called upon you.
I was on a visit of examination the other day, of the turnpike road and of the bridge, which is not yet up. Such weather for bridge building, man has never seen. It has rained til now raining, every third day, I think, since you left, and God knows when it is not to rain; nevertheless, I have not despaired of completing the bridge this fall or winter.
In passing your place, the house, the porch, the locusts, the cedars, and everything, sensibly and forcibly recalled you and the family with who I spent such pleasant hours, to my remembrance. I stopped my horse for a moment, and then walked slowly, indulging the scenes of by gone days, which are never more to return. Year after year, I have witnessed the fall or the departure to distant parts of many of my best friends, till now, there are but few remaining of those with whom I had early formed an attachment. This depravation to one situated as I am, whose summer of life has passed and is now in the yellow leaf of autumn, solitary and alone, is the worse to be regretted - enough! These are melancholy reflections, yet there is a pleasing sorrow in the contemplation of them.
Mr. Hall a short time since, paid me a note for $360. I have been looking out for a safe opportunity to send it to you, but have known of none. I could send it in a bank check on St. Louis, subject to a charge of a half percent, which probably would be the safest way for you to get your money, but will wait till you write to me advising me as to the mode of remitting you money at any time.
We are getting along in our usual way. Remember me to your family and to Mr. Tunstall and Cousin Jane. Tell Henry Merewether that Major Hughes and myself have compromised the suit with James Merewether's heirs for $2750; his portion of the one half will be something more than $130 and that as soon as I can collect all the bills of cost, I will write to him.
With much respect, Your Friend,
George W. Merewether
P.S. Tell J. P. T his old friend, Ben Done, is dead and was buried today - he was a good man.
Address: Postmark, Louisville, Kentucky Nov 24 G. W. M
Mr. John Burruss, Carrollton, Green County, Illinois
Caroline County, September 7, 1836
Yours of the 30th of Dec last came safely to hand in about four weeks after its date. And as you had hardly been long enough in possession of your new home to ascertain whether it would prove as agreeable as was expected or not, made me anxious to hear from you again.
Sam Terrell's son James, has lately returned from Illinois, but I have not as yet seen him, as I expected that he could give me but little satisfaction respecting your concerns. I wish you, as soon as you conveniently can, to write me as fully as you can and let me know how you all are satisfied, and how France Henley is, and what are her prospects.
With regard to my concerns, I can only say they remain much as they were when I wrote you last, though I can walk but very little at present, and my limbs are distorted - that is, my hands and feet. I am in good flesh and quite heavy and ride out almost every good day. The only alternation made in my family since I wrote you last is the purchase of Negro Tom that formerly belonged to our Brother Thomas, and that was done for his accommodation.
Our corn crops look well but are three weeks later than common and an early frost would very much blast our prospects. We had a good crop of oats, but as to wheat and rye, they were hardly worth naming - I did not have grain in. Corn is now worth $3.50 pr bbl. And the failure in wheat and rye will keep up the price. The fever for internal improvements at present runs very high in Virginia, which will keep up the price of all products. Tobacco has been varying for the last two years for $2.30 to $2.50 according to quality. Corn, for the same time, from $3.50 to $4 pr bbl - wheat $1.30 to $1.50. Corn last fall sold at $8 per. Indeed, labor and almost everything else has taken a rise. Common carpenters get their dollar a day, common hands, fifty cents per day.
One of the James River Canal Contractors authorized my son, John, to hire him 100 Negroe men at $130 a year and he would give John $500 cash for his trouble - or $5 for every one he could hire for that price. A better man, black or white, never lived than George Hardin, the man that wants the Negroes mentioned. My brother Thos' son Thomas has now lived with him twelve months and he says he comes nearer the Golden Rule than any man he ever knew. He gives Thomas $300 a year and treats him like his child.
Doctor Burruss is keeper of the depot on the railroad near my house. He gets $300 the year - his services he renders are very light, but the confinement great. He goes home every night, and returns after breakfast or by 8 o'clock. Tell Frances I saw her two youngest sisters yesterday - both in good health. Virginia is as tall as my daughter, Mary Jane. She came up to Richmond ten or twelve days past on a visit. She expects to return shortly to live with her uncle Everett again. He has been better to her than any of her relations, though a Roman Catholic, and his wife treats her equally well, though no wise connected. Charles Burruss has an addition of another daughter to his family lately. My grandson stays most of his time with me, and my granddaughter is stationary with my daughter, Sally Terrell. Agnes Burruss lives with her brother Doctor Burruss. I heard from Sam'l H. Burruss a few days since - he is well. My Bro Nelsons' family are well also. Nelson has purchased the land whereon he has lived for the last five or six years. He has eight years to pay for it - $400 was the amount of the purchase. His crop of tobacco brought him near $700 and my son, John, was there a few weeks since and says he had upward of 100 barrels of last years crop of corn by him then.
Pleasant Hackett has sent his son William to the University to study medicine. I hope the adventure may comport with his finances. I believe I mentioned to you in my last that my sons, John and Elliott have taken a contract on the railroad that runs by home. They fulfilled their contract to their credit but made nothing of it. Elliott and a young man by the name of Atkinson have taken a contract on the south side of James River and have been at work for the contractors at $1.50 per day for each cart. He thinks he can do the safest business that way.
Pinckney was selected one of the teachers in the Richmond Academy a few day after I wrote you last, with a salary of $500 per year of 10 months - the term expired the first of last month and will commence the first of next. He gets $750 for next year, got the above-named salary the past year.
They have completed the railroad from Richmond to the road leading from my house to the Bowling Green, and are about moving the Tavern from where it now stands to that place. If you never have seen the cars moving, it would surprise you to see with what facility they move with a two storied house fixed on them. I have witnessed the sight twice myself - once when they were brought from Hanover to the depot near me, and when they were carried from there to where they now stand. They move as they finish the road, for the accommodation of stage passengers from the north. It really is a grand sight to see seventy tons go as swift as they go, without any visible cause. They have passed three times in my view since I begun to write this letter. I have a free ticket to ride anywhere the cars run until the 12th of July 1841, but I have not taken a ride yet.
It seems strange to see my children, Negroes, etc get from Richmond to my house before the breakfast table is cleared away. My family are all from home but Nancy and myself, but, notwithstanding all this, I could not collect my thought, but have written just as things have occurred to me. You will be glad to know that Nancy is entirely recovered. Harris Burruss died last April Give my regards to every branch of your family, And believe me to be your affectionate
Bro Henry Burruss
Address: Prather Glen, Virginia Sept 8 H. B.
Mr. John Burruss (25 cents)
Green County, Illinois
Ruther Glen, Virginia
September 23, 1837
Dear Sister (Frances C. Hendley, Carrollton, Green County, Illinois)
After making and breaking repeated promises in relation to writing to you or Cousin Henry, I have concluded to spend a portion of this day to that object, and hope you will not attribute my delay in writing to the want of due regard for you, and the rest of my relations in Illinois. I received Cousin Henry's letter of the 7th of May last, which afforded me singular satisfaction, as it always does to hear from my relations at a distance, and more particularly to hear that you all were enjoying health and satisfaction which may be properly estimated, wealth. Sister Agnes has been speaking of writing you for several months and commenced once or twice, and thinking she had written was one reason I deferred it so long myself, and never knew to the contrary until she informed me a few evenings ago. She is as large as ever, and has enjoyed but little good health for the last year or two. Dr. Anderson has had her case in hand for about two months, and she is now in better health than usual, and I hope ere long, will be entirely restored. She has not been much confined to the bed, but at time was scarcely able to go from home. She is still living with me and consequently has rather a lonesome time, as neither of my children live at home. However Samuel Harris has been at my house and garden, and when he is not at work, he makes that his home, and I am sorry to say that he manifests the same carelessness to business as he did formerly to his education. However, he is a young man of steady habits and good morals, and I hope as he advances in age, he will become more thoughtful. Brother Thomas' son is still up on James River superintending hands on the canal. He has been engaged on public works upward of two years and I believe he has given to his employers entire satisfaction. I understand through a letter from him a few days ago that he and a Mr. Doggett have undertaken about two sections of the canal to commence work 1st of January next. He writes "that Mr. Harding thinks (his present employer) that they can work 30 hands and clear $4000 on the job and he, Thomas, is of the opinion that their prospect is good for at least $2000 without some great accident befall them". He is no part of a brag and from his experience in the business he must be a judge of such matters therefore, we have reason to hope he will do well, if he is blessed with health. Our relations are generally in possession of usual health with the exception of Cousin Robert Terrell, who was taken very ill on the 2nd or 3rd this month, and has been confined ever since, for a week or more thought his case is almost a hopeless one, but he is now on the mend, and with care and prudence, we hope and believe he will again be restored to health by his family and friends. James Taylor is staying at his grandfathers' and has been going to school since about the middle of April, and can now read quite smart. Elizabeth Johnson as you have before learned is with her Aunt Salley. She is very sprightly and perhaps one of the greatest talkers you ever knew of her age. She has several new books and is making some advances in study. Virginia Burruss and Eleanor Flippo are both with Agnes at this time. Virginia is quite large and likely more handsome than otherwise. Ellen has also much improved.
There was a three day meeting at Burruss, commencing on Saturday last, attended by ministers Jones, the pastor of the church, and John M. Waddy a member of the same who lately moved to the neighborhood and teaches school at old Mr. Thompson's place. Other preachers were expected though failed to come. The above named brethren labored faithfully without much visible success, but we still hope the seed sown may ere long spring up and bring forth a hundred fold. The church at Burruss are about building a new meeting house, one mile west of Chesterfield in the fork of the road where Cousin Robert Terrell had a blacksmith shop. One kiln of the brick are already burned and I expect they will commence erecting the walls in a few days. The size of the house is to be 40 by 50 and 15 feet pitch. There are about $1000 subscribed. The subscribers will add to their present subscriptions so as to insure a completion of the building. This has been an unusual dry year in old Virginia, notwithstanding in some neighborhoods, there are fine crops of corn. Our prospects in this region are not very encouraging. My crop is shorter than it has been since I lived where I now do, having heretofore made corn enough each year and a little to spare, and having a tolerable supply of old corn on hand, I may be able to make out. I am still in the employment of the Railroad Company as depot agent and believe I have given you the particulars in one of my former communications. I believe I have but little else which would interest you, and as Cousin Pinckney wishes to insert a few lines to Cousin Henry, I will close by requesting that you or some of you write to me soon after the reception of this. Agnes joins me in love to all of you.
(A note on this letter made my the transcriber says this is John H. Burruss. This is Dr. John Burruss, son of Thomas and Rachel Terrell Burruss, that married Margaret Burruss who died, and was the daughter of Henry Burruss and Elizabeth Johnson. This John Burruss went on to marry and have children with Priscilla Luck and Eliza P. Hargrave)
Dear Cousin Henry
My brother Elliott and myself wishing to leave Virginia and anxious to ascertain as far as we can which state hold forth the greatest inducement to young men engaged in our business, have addressed letters of inquiry to young men of our acquaintance in your state and Tennessee, and should be pleased also, to have your views. I have been engaged for several years in school keeping - Elliott is by trade a mechanic, but has engaged for two years as contractor on the Railroad. We are both hale and hearty and would abandon our present vocations if by so doing we could better our prospects. Let me hear from you as soon as possible, as we wish to leave before Christmas. My love to my unknown relations and for yourself, the warmest wishes of your cousin
Chas. C. P. Burruss