This letter was signed by the postmaster at Barksdale, a small village in the southwest corner of Halifax County, Virginia. My interpretation of the signature is John A. M. Crav but I have not been able to confirm that name with local records.
The letter was written to Lewis Williams Wimbish (1815-1851), the son of John Hunt Wimbish (1784-1844) and Rebecca Lanier Williams (1788-1832). Lewis married Mary Jane Townes in 1842 in Mecklenburg, Virginia.
Contained within the letter is an excellent description of the dinner hosted by the Whigs in Danville, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in July 1840. An article describing that same event was posted in the Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.) on 8 August 1840:
The Dinner given by the Whigs of Pittsylvania to Gen. Waddy Thompson, of South Carolina, distinguished by them “as the Representative of the true chivalry of South Carolina,” took place on Tuesday week. Gen. Thompson was met on Monday evening about five miles from Danville, and escorted into that town. The gathering of the People on the day following is estimated to have numbered from six to eight thousand, including a body of three hundred Whigs from the adjoining county of Rockingham, (North Carolina). The most perfect order prevailed throughout this vast assemblage, not only in the day, but by night. There was no irregularity or confusion, and the only noise which was heard was that which burst forth in shouts and huzzas to Thompson, Harrison, Tyler, and Morehead. Of the speech of Gen. Thompson on the occasion, the Danville Reporter speaks as follows: “We will only say that exalted as was the conception which we had formed of his powers as an orator, we had no adequate idea of the vigor of thought, brilliancy of conception, and melody of utterance with which he encharmed his vast audience for two hours and a half.”
Addressed to Mr. Lewis W. Wimbish, Somerville, Tennessee
Barksdale, Halifax County, Virginia
August 26th 1840
Mr. John Elder ¹ received a letter from you some three or four months ago and informed me that he wished me to answer it for him but did not say when and I took it for granted that when he got in the notion to write he would come up to the store and let me know. So nothing more passed between us until a few days ago when he received another letter from you informing him very much to his surprise that you had received no answer to your first letter. He now requests me to write to you informing you that having engaged with Mr. Pond____ on butter urns than you offer and I must add — bye the bye — having married too, he declines your offer.
I had hoped and expected to receive a line or two from you before this, but it seems I have hoped and expected in vain. And when now I have attempted to write to you, I am fearful my letters will not reach you. But if it should, I hope you will not longer delay to write in return. For really I think I am entitled to a line from you occasionally, which would at all times afford me much pleasure. As Harrison says with regard to slavery, “It has long been an object near my heart to” travel all thro’ the West and South, but my pecuniary situation being such as debars me of that pleasure, I must content myself with descriptions which I can only get thro’ the medium of letters received from my friends.
How are politicks in your country? How will Old Tip & Tyler run in your country? I feel a good deal of unrest in the contest now going on between the two political parties and hope most sincerely that the Whig Party will prevail. The citizens of Danville [Virginia] had a tremendous Whig dinner in that place the last of July. The estimation of the number present varies from 5 to 7,000. Several log cabins were erected for the occasion, and one of them drawn by six ____ gray horses was ushered into town in the evening of the day on which the dinner took place. In the cabin were three old Hes[sion] soldiers seated by the fireside, the smoke of which rushed out at the chimney of the cabin passed along the street. Behind the cabin was a barrel of cider with a gourd hung up over it. Gen. [Waddy] Thompson of South Carolina and many other distinguished men from different parts of the U.S. were present.
Week before last, I attended a political barbecue & a barn dance at Rock Spring Meeting House in Campbell which was attended by a great many lassies from the Counties of Halifax, Pittsylvania, Charlotte, as well as the locals from Campbell. Speakers of both parties were expected to attend but when the day came, no Democratic speaker appeared. So the Whigs had the say to themselves and they made use of it. Messrs. James C. Bruce ² & Toler spoke to great effect tho’ Campbell is Whig to the backbone anyhow. We confidently expect to carry this electoral district and even the state for Old Tip. I am highly delighted at the result of the elections in North Carolina and hope that the other states to vote will follow their example.
Arrangements are now making for a Whig dinner at this place to take place sometime in September. We intend to have all of the good speakers in ____ discourse. They are also making to get up one at Republican Grove — or so the thing goes. I have been in a hurry and confusion ever since I commenced and must close by requesting you to write to me without further delay.
Yours sincerely, — John A. M. Crav
P.S. I heard from cousin Jack H____ Rebecca (who are at the Springs) last Monday. They are both improving. Your other relations are generally well. Capt. Wimbish lost another of his children (I think the youngest) last Saturday. — J. A. M. C.
¹ This may be John Matthew Elder (1815-1899). He married Martha Crews on 4 April 1840 in Halifax County, Virginia.
² James Coles Bruce (1806-1865) “was elected to the House of Delegates in 1831 and reelected in 1832 and 1833. He served on the Committee of Schools and Colleges during all three sessions and on the Committee of Finance during the first two. In 1833 he chaired the Committee to Examine the First Auditor’s Office. During his first assembly term, a few months after Nat Turner’s Rebellion in Southampton County, the members engaged in an extended debate about the future of slavery in Virginia. Even then Bruce owned probably more slaves than any other legislator, although not nearly so many as he owned later. His major speech on the subject, delivered on 13 January 1832, began by characterizing slavery as an evil, but he justified the practice as a necessity, denounced all proposals for its abolition, and opposed further discussion of the subject as likely to stimulate more slave revolts. The other major issue discussed while Bruce was in the assembly was South Carolina’s attempt to nullify the operation of the tariff and President Andrew Jackson’s proclamation condemning nullification. Bruce strongly supported the states’ rights position and vindicated the action of South Carolina.” [Source: University of Virginia]