Letters To James Madison Massey
Of Lancaster Courthouse, South Carolina
From William H. Massey & His Brother-In-Law
J. M. Spratt Of Obion County, Tennessee

Note: Our thanks to Eleanore J. Crespo for permission to post this series of six letters to the Tate Co website. Three of these letters appeared in Tate Trails, Vol. XVII, No. 3, September 1999 and three letters appeared in Tate Trails, Vol. XVII, No. 3, December 1999.

This Massey Family settled in the Greenleaf community in Desoto now Tate County where they reared their families and are buried. Many of their descendants can be found in the Greenleaf area today.

Obion County Tenn, April 22nd, 1837


Dear Brothers and Sisters Madison, Hettie, Artimesia, Allen and Benjamin; this letter is to all:

We are at a great distance apart but have often thought about you all since I saw you last.

We had some misfortune on our trip in oversetting the wagon but the injury was very little and only fifty five cents worth broke. The turning over was due to Watt's getting drunk but I taught him a lesson.

After a journey of a month and two days we landed at Mr. Allen Hood's Obion County three miles from Troy. I should have written before this time but have been so busily engaged preparing to plant and we have land a plenty and on terms of 1 1/2 bbl of corn per acre and have it in view to cultivate one hundred acres in corn.

I am living on the plantation where Mr. John Dicky lived when you were in this country. William is living with me himself, but he has his Negroes about one half mile from where we live.

Corn and meat are plentiful here, we pay thirty five cents per bushel for corn, and from eight to nine cents per pound for bacon, and sugar very good at ten dollars per hundred and the best flour at nine dollars per barrel, coffee, good berry at eighteen cents and molasses sixty cents per gallon.

Elizabeth and children have had good health ever since we started, except Martha was sick one day, she and Nancy have frequently talked about you all and say that you will come to see them some day. I have made some trades since I landed, sold my blind horse for thirty dollars and took it out in hogs. Hogs is a cash article here. I have about twenty-five head of hogs but have not bought a cow yet, they are worth fifteen to twenty dollars.

The oldest settlers here are in a fix to make money. Mr. James Harper's boys sold to the amount of a thousand dollars worth of hogs apiece last fall. Willis Hoge sold thirteen hundred dollars and I have been told that one single man sold two thousand five hundred dollars worth and all without the expense of a bushel of corn, they make excellent bacon and are in that order now.

I cannot give you much satisfaction about the country, cannot tell whether I will like to live here or not, am not perfectly satisfied and it has not met my expectations but it is the best land this side of the Catawba but I expect to see a level country and find it very broken in places, though I find no objections to that as this means a great addition to health. 

The plurisy (pleurisy) has been very fatal here. Joseph Powell died on the 10th day of March.

I have been to Miller's Point, it is a place of great trade, they have fine springs and no mosquitoes yet.

Artimissa, you must not forget the little ones for they are frequently talking about you, Martha says that she has not anything that she wanted to bring with her but her harp player landed safely.

We are in a double long cabin, the people are very friendly. Hall Dickey is in sight of the house and John Dickey is one half a mile people are thickly settled here.

Accept this letter for the present and when I have more time I will give you an account of my views of this country.

I remain your loving friend

J. M. Spratt

This letter was mailed from Troy, Tenn 26th, April.

        25 cts.
                        Mr. Jas. M. Massey
                                    So. Carolina
                        Lancaster Court House

Obion County Tenn. June 14th, 1837

Dear Brother:

Agreeable to brother Ben's favor of the 21st Inst. Just received I will inform you that we are all well and entertain great hopes of making a good crop of corn, notwithstanding we had a backward spring. I planted about an acre of cotton but the frost killed nearly all of it.

We will have most of the corn laid by before the 4th of July, our largest corn is about shoulder high, though the general height is from knee to waist high.

I have not formed any particular notion about this country yet, though I can say that I would rather be here, than back in South Carolina, at the present prices which cotton now commands.

I am acting as County Surveyor, as Mr. Robert Harper the present County Surveyor is going to study medicine; he examined me on surveying and thinks that I understand it very well, he and I have spent three weeks on the other side of the lake meandering the Mississippi River and surveying cane brakes, latitude and departure is a new thing to him and he thinks it is a fine thing that I came here for I have surveyed lands which he always dreaded with but little trouble.

I have been from the county line to the state line on the Mississippi River and that  land or nearly all it overflows in high water through people live all along the river. Mr. Hall Dickey died. He was taken with a Bilious colic and he could not be relieved and it terminated in inflammation of the bowels. He lived ten or eleven days from the time that he was first taken. My Sorrell horse, Buck, died since we came here. I gave Bob and ten dollars for a grey horse which I have been offered sixty dollars for, but I think that he is worth seventy five dollars.

I brought my dogs all safe to Obion and two new ones that I traded for on the road.

I have not had much time for hunting since I came here. I was out one day and the dogs started a wild cat and I led the way (amongst old hunters) until a hard rain stopped us, when I found that both my saddle girths were off, though found them later. Deer is very plentiful here. I have been planning to kill one for a ling time, but this is the first time since I came that I have had leisure to hunt and I think that the next letter will tell of my killing a deer. My dogs are running them every day and they have traced several foxes in the new ground through John could not catch them.

I will add nothing more at present only that I hope that I will be able to write a more satisfactory letter in a few weeks. Give my respects to all enquiring friends and relations.

Your sincere loving brother.

W. H. Massey

To brother (on the outside of fold)
                                                        25 cts.
Troy, Tenn
17th June                                                Mr. James M. Massey
                                                                        Lancaster C. H.
                                                                                                S. C.

Obion, Tenn July 20, 1837

Dear Brother:

Sister Artimisa's letter and yours we did not receive until two weeks after brother Ben's, although they had the same dates.

I have felt much uneasiness at not having answered it sooner, but as John Spratt promised to write, I thought one letter would be sufficient, but finding that he has not written yet, I avail myself by the present opportunity of writing to you.

This will show you that we are well and hope that you and family are in like condition.

John's Negro family have had some sickness though none bad except Tim. He was worked very much like your Pembo was, while living at John's. Tim says his originated from the headache which he had two days previous.

We have a good crop, though we need rain at this time. I have bought forty odd head of hogs and bargained for as many more. I think that I got mine considerable cheaper than John did his. I got by Mr. James Harper's and John Polk's advice they told me not to buy hogs until about August and I acted by their instructions and found it to my advantage.

Mr. James Harper recollects the note that you told us to inquire about but does not recollect how it was settled. This place called Obion I believe is a better place to make money than Old Lancaster, though there is not one-half the people here making it, the reason is that they will not try, just so they make plenty to eat, is all they care for, and I believe that a person may play two-thirds of his time and then make a support, the fact is it is too good a place for lazy people.

A description of this place is unnecessary to you, for you know the quality of the land as well as I do, but I think the land hardly as rich, as some do, that is where we live, but the other side of the lake, there is as good land as any one would want, though I fear that it would be sickly there, though they have been very healthy as yet, the people who live on this edge of the lade are sickly, I believe this is all the sickness in the country, I would recommend this place to large families that have few to work and make corn and raise hogs is the principal object, some few have tried raising cows, some horses and mules, but they do not do well neither do sheep as the wolves are too plentiful for them, so as I said before hogs seem to be the best to invest in.

Land rates from three to four dollars per acre unimproved but improved choice land is five, we have not bought any yet, nor do I expect to buy soon.

The prices of necessaries are some higher here than there, except good choice sugar is ten cents only, molasses sixty cents per gallon, iron I am unable to say. We brought our ploughs ready made with us.

Game is plentiful here, John and I have each killed a deer and I have caught nineteen raccoons around the edge of my field, they gathered to cut the young shoots on my corn, but I soon routed them. I have caught several foxes and one ground hog.

We have our crops all laid by now and we intend killing a deer every day to two now.

As for the girls I recon you will have to speak a good word for me at all events give my love to Miss Nancy & J. W. Spratt and I will conclude by saying give my respects to all enquiring friends and be very particular and tell Mr. A. Dunlap and sister Jane I wish them a great deal of happiness for I respect Mr. Dunlap very much.

Your affectionate and loving brother,

Wm. H. Massey

P. S. What things that I have in your charge I wish you to act with as if they were your own and I will be satisfied, I know that it is trouble to you and you must satisfy yourself well....(unreadable)

Obion County, Tenn. Oct 16th, 1837

Dear Brother:

This leaves our family and friends generally "all well" except Uncle John Hood's family. They have the ague in their family, and Jackey has a wen or something growing on his arm that will soon end his life if he does not have his arm cut off, it will weight about twenty five pounds and it has reduced him to about a skeleton, the doctor has proffered to cut it off, if he will just give them his arm (cut it off and cure it) he dreads the operation and appears willing too, I fear that he will put the time off too long, for I do think that he cannot live longer than two or three months if something is not done.

Our crops are very good, I have gathered twenty loads of corn off of twelve acres of ground and I think it about an average.

I have better corn and I have some not so good, generally speaking-crops are very good, but people say that corn will be high next summer owing to being no mast to fatten the hogs and it is worth from one dollar to a dollar and fifty cents per barrel at this time, flour can be had at Mills Point for five dollars per barrel, coffee is twelve and a half cents per pound, sugar eight cents per pound, molasses from forty to sixty two and a half cents per gallon, iron-there is a great opening for a blacksmith here, they charge double for work here that you can get done there and nothing but cobblers either.

I won't be in this fall, I start next week for Mississippi, I will write you as quickly as I return, perhaps before, my business is to look at the country.

John Spratt expects to settle here, he is well pleased with this country, though has not bought land yet, as for my part I would rather be in Obion County than Lancaster, but I think there is a better place than Obion. Mr. Samuel Craig is going with me.

My present opinion of this country is that it will be a money making place before long, in fact people who are settled here and fixed and try are doing well, for instance James Harper's two sons sold thirteen hundred dollars worth of pork last year which cost them nothing but keeping their hogs gentle, which they do by riding them in the woods and salting them, and feeding when they will eat, I never knew that hogs preferred acorns to corn before I came here.

I received  a letter from brother Madison last week which tells me that you have some sickness there. The letter was very satisfactory, except that he charges me for not writing, and I'll just say to him that I will do my part, if the mail will do its part, I write about five letters for every one that I get.

Mr. James White arrived here yesterday. Nothing more at present from your affectionate brother.

W. H. Masssey

P. S. Sister Besty is going to write to sister Artimesia in a day or two. She has a son named John James. Old man John Polk died night before last with the fever.

To Jos. B. Massey Brothers and Sisters and Uncle Hugh Hood.

(On outside of the fold)

Troy Tenn.
                18 Oct.                                                        25
                                                    Joseph B. Massey
                                                                Lancaster C. H.
                                                                            So. Carolina

        W. H. M.

State of Tennessee, Obion County, Dec. 4th, 1837

Dear Brother:

I received your letter a few days ago, it found us all well and glad to hear that you and family are enjoying good health.

I was not at home when your letter came, was down on a trip in Mississippi to see the Chickasaw lands. The company that went was William Massey, James Harper, Harper Linn, James Wright and wife.

We gave the country a good examination and found it to be a beautiful country.

William Massey, Linn and I have bought a section of land supposed to be as good as any in the nation-We paid $7 per acre. I do not expect to move my small family until next fall, I intend to take charge of William's hogs attend to the selling of our corn next season and William will take his hands and mine and will move-in a few days.

I have seen so much about this western Dist. being a fine place that if I were to give you a fair description I could not expect you to believe all that I should be found to say in credit to the Chickasaw Purchase, the land that promises to reward the laborer. I must make my letter short for I am in the town of Troy and my company is waiting on me to start home but I must not close until I give you a hints about my plantation, on the section there is about 400 acres of the best land that I ever put my eyes on, it is lightly timbered but sufficient to keep up a farm as long as any man could expect to live, on the same there is a hundred acres of broken lands on the west of this bumpy land, there is a valley and a beautiful little creek that runs through the valley, this valley land is as rich as earth can be, perfectly dry valley, and cane is so thick that you cannot see a man ten steps in it, the cane I think is from fifteen to twenty feet high.

William intends to put in a hundred acres in cultivation of corn. Our plantation is in Desoto County, about twenty five miles from the Mississippi River, thirty five miles from Memphis and thirty miles from Holly Springs and about thirty five miles from the Houston Settlement. I saw Robert Houston at the Holly Springs races, he told me that he intended to run his last race on the day after I saw him.

William is going to write in a few days and will give you a full account and will advise with you and Allen and Benjamin.

I remain your loving brother,

J. M. Spratt

Mr. J. M. Massey

(On the outside fold)

Troy Tenn.
6th Dec                                                                    25 cts.

                                                            Mr. James Massey
                                                                        Lancaster Dist. South Carolina
                                                                                    Lancaster D. House
J. M. S.

Obion County, Tennessee, January 1838

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

I received your letter on yesterday stating that you were all well and making preparations to move which I am glad to hear that you have concluded that Carolina is too old a country for young people to settle in.

Your letter found us all in tolerable hearth, I came very near losing Silvey with the putrid sore throat  but I pursued my old practice and she has gotten on foot again, and I have been confined to bed a few days with a bad cold.

I heard of unfortunate brother James in a letter from Mr. Steele, Benton, Ala.

I would like to give you some advice in regard to your moving if I thought that I could do justice to you and Allen but so far as I am able I will give you my views on the subject, I think that you would be better pleased with Mississippi than you would be with Obion County, and to come here and make a crop and sell out in the fall, probably not get more than a dollar per barrel for you corn and I am certain that you could not make as much as you could in Mississippi, if you had to hire out your hands, they hire them for twelve to fifteen dollars per month.

This day I have closed the letter that you sent to me with advice to William Massey, Desoto County, Mississippi. For information, inquire at Mrs. Thompson's five miles from Holly Springs and they will direct you to where William is settled.

I have advised him to write immediately to Knoxville so that you can get his letter as you come on your way.

I think there will probably be some chance for your letting lands but you will have to pay higher, than you do for lands here, but upon the whole it is lower there, than it has been since the settling of that country, and corn can be bought for fifty or sixty cents per bushel, and on your way had better provide yourselves with some twisted shovels for smith work is very high there, we paid thirteen dollars for four plows and cutters, the plow cutters you need not go to the expense of getting, as we will be through with ours, by the time you arrive, so if you have to go into the woods you can let us have your twisters and use our cutters, and you can go to work on our land until you buy land of your own and we can replace the work when you do.

Land is not hard to clear, you can with your force clear up to 10 or 15 acres a week, the hardest is to brake up the grass turf, but I am certain that you can put in under cultivation thirty or forty acres by joining fences with William's farm, my advise upon the whole is left entire to your better judgment, perhaps when you get William's letter it will give you more satisfaction than I am able to do at this time.

Brother Dunlap and sister Artimesia we send our love to you all, we should like to hear of your fixing to leave old Lancaster and come to the west so that we could all be together once more.

Martha and Nancy are frequently talking of you, she says that you will come after a while, should it be the case I would be glad to receive the news, I will write you a letter shortly, our youngest son weighed twenty pounds when he was four months old.

Nothing more at present but remain your loving brother until death separates us.

J. M. Spratt

P. S. I neglected my son Joseph M. Spratt, he is a fine big fat son running and capering chattering and playing all over the hill.

J. M. S.

Miranda Davis's Letter to William Anderson Davis

Note: Our thanks to Bob Davis for permission to post this series of two letters to the Tate Co website.

Miranda Greer Davis was the daughter of James and Elizabeth Morgan Greer. William Anderson Davis was the son of Nathan Davis. William Anderson Davis was a Methodist Minister and preached for a time at Palestine. Miranda Greer Davis is buried at Greenleaf Cemetery and William Anderson Davis is buried at Olive Branch at Blocker Cemetery.

Feb. 11, 1865
My Dear William, I have a chance to send you a letter by A. M. Harwell, so I will do so knowing you will be glad to get one from me since you left home & I expect you think I have forgotten you; but I haven't. I wrote two in January. I have not received one from you since the 10th. of January, dated the 20th of December but I know you wrote since then. I will tell you how I am getting along. I am doing very well, plenty of meat, bread & plenty to do me if I can keep it, I have not been troubled by any of the cavalry yet. One of Dennis Men come over to see if I had any tax corn. I told I had none, & nobody to make any tax corn but two little boys & I thought it was bad enough for you to be carried away from home, and I think if they get any they have to steal it, for I am determined if they come to press it to use the shotgun. I have sold my cotton and bought me half bar. of salt $6.50 cts. and 60 lbs. sugar at 50 cents., lb, I got 50 cts. per lb for cotton on the lines & I am going to send down quick as the conscripters get out of the country & get me some coffee & flour & you a pair of boots & I have paid Levi & I am going to pay Dr. Thomson & I will have plenty of money to get what things I need. Mrs. Hoshal has paid $20., Bob Phillips said he pay what he owed quick as he got the chance. The pony and colt is doing very well, old Kit looks as well as ever & mean as ever. Hogs is doing very well, the spotted sow has seven nice pigs. Cows looks very bad owing to the hard winter & nothing to feed on but shucks, sheep is doing very well, what left, that only seven. Murphy told Henry this morning he saw four up at the ford & he thought they was mine. I started him off in a hurry to see if he could find them; while Jo was gone down to make some plough lines at A. A. Massey; so you see I am going to fix for farming. I bought four bushel of oats & I want to sow them next week, if the weather is fit, I can't tell you anything about the wheat for I am afraid to go out to look at it. The general opinion is that it froze out. If wheat falls this year, it looks like people will be ruined for corn is very scarce. William, Jo Baly wants the middle field & I want you to write to me & let me know whether I must let him have it or not. Give me all the advice about farming for you know I don't know anything about it. Henry & Jo say you must send them some powder. I expect Jo will kill something when he gets his little gun Dr. Brown give him. He does very well; sometimes I have to take him through a course of sprouts. William I heard, Jo Baly did not want the field I spoke about. Henry found three of my sheep at Mrs. Pounders. Mr. Pounders is dead. I will send up there in the morning & get them.

Miranda Davis' Letter to William Anderson Davis

Feb. 12th
Dearest one, I'll now tell you my & Nancy Levi rounds today. She stayd with me last night. We started early this morning to see Aunt Clarissa & found nobody at home, so we went down and spent the day with aunt Hetty, then back home and received a letter from you which was great relief to me to hear from you, for its a great pleasure to me to read one from you. If I could not hear from you it looks like that would be more than I could bear. I never knew how dear you was to me till since you left home. I often think that if you ever get home I never could bear to see you leave me again. No wife ever loved a husband any better than I do. I sometimes think I never treated you as kind as I ought, but if you get home again I will do all in my power to render you happy. My Darling, pray for me that I may bear up under all my trials for they are many, but I try to bear them the best I can, God being my helper. I pray for you & that God may give you grace to bear you up & spare you to get home again for would be the happiest day of my life to be with you. William, you must try to get a furlough in the spring & come home for it seems like I can't do without seeing you any longer than that time. My dear I must tell you how I am getting along, my health is very good. I had the blues yesterday but Nancy stayed with me last night & getting your letter today has cured me. The children are all in good health. Little Lu look better than I ever saw her, she says I must write to you that she is learning her A.B.C. Molly says tell papa; she is as sweet as ever, and she is, she sings happy day when papa comes back. Her & Lu spends their time visiting each other. Emma has been knitting some & helping me to spin. I think I shall start her to school in the morning up to the Duncan house to Oliver Stevens. Well I must tell you what sweet Little Willy employs herself at. She sets down before the fire and plays with her little playthings. O she's a sweet little black eyed babe & fat as a pig. William I could not hire no Negro to suit me but sister Judy has given me Jane for her victuals & clothes & I think she can earn them & more too. She is a great help to me for we have to carry all the water from the branch for one piece of curbing has fell in & I am afraid to draw out of the well till I get it fix, if I ever do, it looks like I can't get anybody to get out the curbing, they promise to do it but that all. William I will send you a fine shirt by Abb as it is the first chance I had since you wrote to me to send one, Well Darling it getting late & all the children asleep. I must quit, may God bless & protect you is the prayer of your devoted wife.
M.T. Davis to
W.A. Davis

(The above was typed from a typed copy of the original. Marian Lisman has the original. Written below the typed copy is the script: [This letter was written by Miranda T. Greer Davis to William A. Davis. Molly was the nickname of Mary Lee Davis.]

(Robert  Winton Davis, 1993)
Our thanks to Bob Davis for allowing these letters to be posted to this site.

Letter From J. A. Harrison
To Relatives in Wake Co., NC

Note: Our thanks to Doris E Burnett Morehead City, NC for sharing these letters with us. These two letters were published in Tate Trails Vol I, Number 2 June 1983. The letters were typed trying to keep the punctuation and spelling the way it was written. Lauthy Ann Harrison (Ms. Burnetts great grandmother) was wed to Almira Harrison who died in Maryland in 1863 following being wounded and captured during Gettysburg PA civil war battles. According to Ms. Burnette J. A. Harrison's wife was named Sarah, their children named Joe, Henry and Daughter. Henry's wife named Hattie, their children were Lillie May, Lester and Markus. Henry died Aug 3, 1883 and Hattie later married a Mr. Gossett. Daughter died following delivery of twins (a boy and a girl) - These babies are not mentioned again in Mrs. Burnetts records. The J. A. Harrisons lived at Independence, Tate Co., MS at least from 1875 to 1885 when these two letters were written to the family back in Wake Co North Carolina. It is not known whether there are descendents of this family still in Tate Co. 

** Note: William Albert Ferguson married M. Satella Harrison on March 19, 1884 in Tate Co, MS. Their twins grave marker in Mt Zion Cemetery Tate Co, MS reads "Infants of WA & MS Ferguson", Dec 12, 1884. W. A. Ferguson (Aug 10, 1857 - Jan 4, 1893) and M Satella Ferguson (Nov 1, 1851 - Dec 16, 1884) are buried in Greenleaf Cemetery in Tate Co. Inscription on M Satella Ferguson's grave marker is "wife of W. A. Ferguson, daughter of SE & JA Harrison". There were no other known children.

Mr. Wyatt Harrison            Neuse    NC     Wake Co        3 cent stamp
Independence                    Jany 13th        1875

Dear Wyatt & Henry

I again drop you a few lines as, I, have been looking for a letter from you for a long time and have not received it as yet, I, must think something is to matter what is it why is that you have not written to me before now--Say-- this leaves us all well and doing as well as could be expected under the present crices of the of the times--there is great excitement as yet in the way of money--matters. Everything is cheap in the way of stock of all kinds, such as horses and mules cows & hogs, also all dry goods is low, produce is as heretofore, as follows, corn from 60 to 75 cents per bushl meat from 7 1/4 to 10 1/2 c flour from 5 to $6.50 coffee from 20 to 23 c molasses, from 50 to 60c sugar from 9 to 11c and so on--Domestic Brown 9c Bleached 10c callico 9c. Everything in perportion, well Wyatt when did you hear from your uncle Peyton? He has quit writing to me have not heard from him in a long time, and behold you have quite also. What has become of Sarah as she has stopped writing to me. Tell her she had better write to me for, I, have not quit that way of slipping up on folks. Oh yes Henry he has quit also--well if you are all going to stop tell your Ma to commence writing to me, or some of the rest of the girls, Wyatt do you recklect the request I, made of you in regard to the land matter. You wrote to me that you would attend to it as soon as you could get the time, if you have, I, have not received it the way, I, suggested is the proper way to proceed I would like to hear from all soon give me all the news of Old NC, write to me how you all are getting along and what you are all doing. I will tell you what I am doing--I am doing nothing, I have been trying to collect some money for several days but have not collected a dollar, but have the promise of some in a few days. I bought a mule the other day for $14.25. So you see that mules is cheap, this mule that, I, bought, is a very good mule, I, have seen such sell for $75.00. So you see by this that mules are low. Well Wyatt I have not said anything about Christmas, we had a nice time everything went off quiet, Joe has not stopped going to parties yet, he is gone to one tonight-Henry and Hattie is well, or was a few days ago, tell your maw and the girls they will find some pieces of Sarah & Daughters new dresses in this letter. Tell them to send them some of theirs. We can not afford anything but callico, we are all Grangers, I was in Memphis a few days ago have been 2 or 3 trips with my wagon this fall, it is only 35 miles from my house.

Well Wyatt, I, must close my imperfect letter as, I, am writing by a bad lamp and can not see well no how I, shall expect an answer soon from you or Henry or some of the family, I, saw James Fason not long since all was well, direct as before to Independence.

                    Your Uncal
                                                                                     J. A. Harrison

Top of this letter has written: my wifes brother G. W. Winston landed at my house last night all is well.

Mrs. Lauthy A. Harrison                Neuse    NC    Wake Co.
Independence Miss        Mar. 17, 1885        2 cent stamp

Dear Sister Lauthy

I received your letter last night which dated Feb 22 and its contents carefully noticed I was more than glad to hear from you all. Yours found us all well - you stated to me that Wyatt was with you - and that Ellie was married but did not say anything about the other children-where are they all and how are they getting along, I, love them all dearly Sister Lauthy-I know that you have dranked of the bitter cup of sorrow to its very draugs but while, I, know that to be so.-and while, I, have many friends to drop a sympathizing tear-yet after all that is has its thrilling pressure-and why so-because the Idol of our hearts are no more-Daughter was nearer our hearts than anything on Earth-and when she was dying, I, would kiss her clammy cheeks-and clasping her cold hands in mine and would kiss them She would say Oh Pa don't pittey me so much-, I, would say to her Daughter, I, can't help it, I, love you so dearly. Sister Lauthy-there was at least 15 or 20 persons in the house when she died, and Every one standing over her bed crying out Lord have mercy, (She died very easy), I, never saw the like there is a consolation attending this melancholy subject. She left undoubted evidence of her reward in heaven and stated when dieing, that she was not afraid to die but regretted (or in her words), I, hate to leave you all these words fell like a death nell on my ear. Daughter had started out in life with bright anticipations in the future, Mr. Ferguson had a good home to move to when they were married. Good stock of all kind and some money besides, he had 2 mules one horse 2 cows and calfs hogs sheep, besides what, I, give them. They had nothing to buy to go to house keeping, but one cooking stove and a few things to go on the table.

Daughter had, I think, about 25 of the finest bed quilts you ever saw, besides what stock he had, I, gave Daughter everything that, I, could to make them comfortable.

Ferguson is a high toned gentleman a young man of high morals and good standing,-therefore they set out in life with bright prospects ahead and in the future Daughter would often say, Pa, you and, Ma, come and stay all night with us, you don't know how much, I, appreciate a visit from you and Ma, - since this sad event Ab as we call him, his name is Albert has broke up house keeping and moved to his mothers who is a Widow Lady of advanced age, I, will now drop this subject which is of so much sadness, there is a great deal of sickness in this neighborhood at this time such as nephomonia. Will now close by saying write soon.

Give my love to all the children-tell them all to write to me (pray for us)

                                                                                Sarah E., and J. A. Harrison


In 1915 The Senatobia Democrat announced an Old Folk's Contest where they asked for letters from the Oldest Inhabitants in Tate County.  Only five letters appeared in The Senatobia Democrat. The letters were very interesting because they gave insight as to the living conditions of Tate County in the past. These letters were published in Tate Trails Vol. XII, No 2, June 1994.

Four of the five letters were submitted and published in "The Heritage Of Tate County" by Rebecca Haas Smith. "We in Tate County are indeed fortunate in that part of our history was preserved in these old letters which range in age from 76 to 145 years old. They give us a firsthand account of the way things were."

The Senatobia Democrat, April 8, 1915

First Letter Received in Old Folk's Contest
Senatobia Miss., April 5, 1915

Editor of the Democrat:

Dear Sir: The communication below submitted to you under your request for statements from "The Oldest inhabitants" of Tate County.

J. M. Dean and D. L. Dean brothers, moved to Tate, then Desoto County, Mississippi, in January 1840, and settled with their father, T. W. Dean, four miles north of what is now Independence, just south of the present line between Tate And Desoto Counties.

At that time the County was a wilderness, full of Indians and all kinds of wild animals. Their oldest brother assisted in moving the Indians when they left this county for the Indian Territory.

In 1840 there was no railroad in the County. The old Memphis and Charleston, now the Southern, was the only railroad then touching Memphis. Soon afterwards, the Mississippi Central, now the Illinois Central was built through Holly Springs and in 1855, the Mississippi and Tennessee railroad now the Illinois Central, was completed as far South as Coldwater and in 1856 to Senatobia.

In 1840, when they came to Desoto, now Tate County, there were but three Schools in the entire county. One was at Hernando, one at Old Tatesville, just west of Senatobia and one at Looxahoma. The nearest School was at Hernando, 12 miles away, so they had no school opportunities at all.

There were but two churches in the county (then Desoto) one at Hernando and one at Cockrum, a little log cabin used for a church.

In 1844, the first public roads were surveyed and laid out, one being the old Panola road which runs north and south through the county and the other the Memphis Oxford road, through the eastern part of the county.

In 1845, another public road was opened from Holly Springs to Helena, which passed through the county and was and is still, known as the Peyton road.

Mr. D. L. Dean was in active service in the Confederate Army in 1862 until the end of the war and was seriously wounded at the battle of the Wilderness. Mr. J. M. Dean, was on detached duty, not being physically able for active duty.

J. M. Dean had lived on his farm in the County, until Nov 1913 when he moved to Senatobia.

D. L. Dean moved to Senatobia in 1856 and has lived here continuously since. Both have been residents of this County for 75 years.

J. M. Dean is now nearly 87 years old and D. L. Dean is 84 years old.

Mr. J. M. Dean and wife recently celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary.

Very Respectfully,
J. M. Dean
D. L. Dean

John Marion Dean, born August 21, 1828 died April 27, 1915, nineteen days after this letter was written, at the home of his son, John Franklin Dean. He was buried beside his wife Martha Crawford Dean, whom he married in Desoto County Mississippi Feb 14, 1855, in the Dean Crawford Cemetery in Tate County, MS. He was 87 years of age.

The Senatobia Democrat, April 15, 1915
Second letter from the "Oldest Citizen Contest."

To the Hon. Editor of the Senatobia Democrat, Senatobia, Miss.

To whom this may concern:

I will say to you that I was born in Panola Co., Miss. My parents moved to what was at that time Desoto County when I was one year old, later on that County was changed to the name of Tate County. Father bought the NW1/4 of Section 15 T6 R9. I was reared on that quarter section of land, and when I became a man I bought father's interest. I lived there in Tate County until 1904 then moved to Crenshaw, Miss., but still own the old homestead. I was born Nov. 30th,1843. I was married to Miss Fannie Vaughter, July 6th 1865, and if we both live until the 6th day of next July, we will have been married 50 years. Has not God been good to me?

Well I joined the Confederate Army in 1861, I belonged to Co. A, First Mississippi Battalion Sharp Shooters, Featherston's Brigade, Lowrine's Division. We numbered in our Company 100 men. I now can name but five of them living, but bless the Lord, I am still in the land among the living. I served in the Army until the tenth day of August 1864 for which I was wounded through the left arm at Atlanta, Ga., was sent from there to Macon, Ga., and there stayed in the hospital for forty-five days. I carried that arm thirty years in pain and misery, and in 1897, I had to give it up. But bless God, I yet live; I joined the M. E. Church South in 1877 and have been living for God in Heaven ever since. Though I fully realize that the end is drawing near, my days, weeks and months, and at least years will soon come to an end. May God bless the editor of the Democrat, and all my friends and people of Tate County. If we never meet on earth again, I hope to meet you in a better world, where sickness and sorrow, pain nor death will never be felt no more for we will never say good-bye in Heaven.

Your Friend
J. Bell Moon

The Senatobia Democrat, April 22, 1915
Third letter from the "Oldest Citizen Contest"

To the Editor of the Senatobia Democrat

Dear Editor:

I hereby enter your Tate County Resident Contest.

Born in Gibson County, Tenn., Feb. 20th, 1836. I moved with my father to Panola County in 1844 and lived there until after the war. Settled after the war near Strayhorn, then a part of Desoto County, but afterwards a part of Tate County. Here I lived until 1908 when I moved to Senatobia where I have lived since.

Entered Confederate Army April 1861 in Artillery Service, Capt. Hudson's Battery, Bowen's Brigade in which I, as Sergeant, served two years. While in this service, I was in Mo., Ken., Ala., Tenn., and La., most important battles occurring at Shiloh, Port Hudson, went to Vicksburg before siege, thence to Jackson. When I was commissioned as Lieut., in my brother's, J. J. Floyd's Company of Independent State Troops. Here I served one year. Was commissioned by War Department as Leiut. of thirty Independent Scouts of Polk's Company. Served mostly Captain of this Company.

Was married to Mary Watson in 1863 of which marriage one son R. E. Floyd of Strayhorn, Miss. survives. Was married in 1892 to Mrs. Holder, daughter of W. R. Miller of Abbeville, Miss. only two children survive, Robbie Earle and T. D., who is serving in English Army.

T. D. Floyd, Sr.

The Senatobia Democrat, April 22, 1915
Sarah, Miss April 20, 1915

Fourth letter from the "Old Folk's Contest"

To the Editor of The Senatobia Democrat:

I will say to you that I was born March 15, 1824 in Ga. My father moved to Panola County in 1833 and I have lived in that and Tate County ever since. I was married to John P. Whitsel, when I was 24 years old. I joined the Baptist Church in 1848 and have been serving God ever since. I have not got many more days to live on earth, I know. I hope to meet my friends in Heaven, where there will be no passing, but where we can all praise God forever. So you see my friends that I am 91 years old.

Bettie Whitsel,
R.F.D. No1 Sarah, Miss.

The fifth and last letter published in The Senatobia Democrat appeared May 6, 1915.

Dear Editor and Friends:

I was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia in 1833 and moved to this county in July 1849. I made my home eight miles west of Senatobia, where I lived for five years. I went back to Virginia for two years; married and returned to Mississippi. When I first moved here all this part of the country was divided into large plantations. There were only a few settlements between my home and Helena. Neither were there any roads or cleared land west of Arkabutla. The vast forest were full of all kinds of animals and game such as wolves, deer, turkeys, bear, etc.

All traveling had to be done by horseback and wagon as we had no autos in those days and roads were almost impassable.

As this county was then a part of Desoto County, we had to go to Hernando to court. So you see we had many inconveniences in those early days.

At this time the mail was carried by stagecoach. There was only one post office in this section. Old Tatesville, 3 miles west of Senatobia.

We had to haul all our groceries and lumber from Memphis by wagon and carry our cotton back the same way. We ground our corn with mills and horse mills.

The churches were few and far between. It was a common occurrence to ride eight or ten miles to preaching. I professed religion and joined the Old Salem Baptist Church in October 1851 and tried to live a Christian life ever since.

When war broke out, I enlisted but after three months service, was forced to hire a substitute and retire on account of bad health. This country was comparatively quiet during the war, though we were frightened pretty much at times.

I moved to my place just west of Senatobia in 1869 and since 1907 have been living here in town.

May God's richest blessings rest upon the people of Tate County, is the sincere prayer of your friend.

J. W. Echols

Updated February 27, 2012


County Coordinators: Syble Embrey & Marie Carlton

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