1842: Col. William Purnell Dickinson to Samuel Hannah

This letter was written by Col. William Purnell Dickinson (1810-1874), the son of Robert Dickinson (1767-1818) and Mary Purnell Dupuy (1786-1872). He was married to Eliza Lavalette Barksdale (1818-18xx), the younger sister of Charlotte (Barksdale) Hannah. The Dickinson’s lived in the vicinity of Rough Creek in Charlotte County, Virginia.

Dickinson wrote the letter to Samuel Hannah (1792-1859), the son of William C. Hannah (1790-1850) and Jane Clack Thornton (1798-1863). When this letter was written, Samuel was serving as a bank cashier in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia). He also traded in cotton, salt and tobacco. Samuel Hannah was the son of Andrew Hannah (1766-1826) and Ann Cunningham Hannah (1761-?). Andrew was a revolutionary war soldier and the owner of extensive plantations in Virginia — “Gravel Hill” and “Cliffside” in Charlotte County. Samuel Hannah married Charlotte Ella Barksdale (1813-1886), the daughter of Grief Barksdale (1774-1850) and Mary Anne Elliott. The Hannah’s lived in Charlotte County, and Lynchburg, VA., and Kanawha County, VA. Two of the Hannah’s children are mentioned in this letter; Mary, born in 1837, and Andrew, born in 1840. Andrew was killed in 1863 during the Civil War fighting with the 14th Virginia Cavalry.

There are a couple of reference to Claiborne in this letter. This was Claiborne Grief Barksdale (1816-1883) of Rough Creek who married Anne Lewis Bouldin (1822-1900). Their oldest child was Joanna Bouldin Barksdale, born 24 July 1842, and is mentioned in this letter as an infant of “eight weeks.”

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Samuel Hannah, Kanawha Co., Charleston, Virginia

Charlotte Court House, [Virginia]
September 25th 1842

Mr. Samuel Hannah
Dear Sir,

I received sister Charlotte’s letter about a week ago which I determined to answer the next day but as usual I find time passing off and the same old habit of putting off what I intended to have done today until tomorrow pressing upon me. We was somewhat uneasy about sister Charlotte’s health after reading a letter of hers to the girls but as she said nothing about it in her letter to me, I hope she has entirely recovered. She must be a devoted mother even to a fault for it appears her love for her children is such that she forgets herself very often and I fear fatigues herself unnecessarily in order to render them happy. The children, she says, has grown very much. Mary goes to Sabbath School & Andrew rides a stick horse but makes a poor hand at talking. Never mind, the delicate little thing will come out after awhile. Mary, I doubt not, will be pretty but unless Andrew’s body grows to his mouth, the disproportion will be so great that he will never run the fair sex crazy.

Claiborne’s little one — Joannah, eight weeks old — looks so old and very small. It would hurt your feelings to look at it but Hanna thinks it very pretty and smart. Did you ever observe whenever they were small they were pretty & whenever likely they are large and ugly — at least the mother’s think so. But sister Charlotte need not get mad; she knows it is the case.

Times are very hard and money unusually scarce. The very best men are unable to meet their engagements and I fear the worst times have not been felt. The unusual number of freshes togethers with the fire or back rot has destroyed about 2/3 or 3/4 of the present crop of Tobacco that together with the low price must affect us very seriously. The height of the water on Cid Creek & Roanoke and indeed every stream has surpassed any heretofore known. The largest fresh came when the wheat and oat crop was shocked and almost all on the flat land was carried off. The corn crop looks better since the fodder is pulled; but that at one time was thought to be not more than half a crop. I suppose it will sell for $3 from the stack.

The court docket in Prince Edward, Buckingham, and many other counties show very great distress. There is certainly more cause for suits in Charlotte than at any other period yet the number does not exceed those of last year. I saw a letter from Lewis Webb a few days since who thought the banks would be able to sustain themselves which would restore confidence and money matters become easier. This is a mere opinion and I would rely upon yours sooner than his.

Anabella & Lucy Jane ¹ are with me and will remain all this week. They appear to enjoy themselves very much. They spend a portion of their time with the young ladies in the village but make this headquarters. Nannie & Emmet are very well — studies much better. N. will soon be a young lady. Little Tommie is yet at Claiborne’s. The little feller is very much attached to his Uncles and Aunts but never sees them unless they go to see him for they will not suffer him to go to Rough Creek or come over here. We had the whooping cough here which prevented his coming here but there has been none at Rough Creek. He is a very smart child and well may anyone be proud that the child loves him.

All of your friends are well. I saw your brother today. George Hannah ² is to be married to Miss Ann S. in November. David Morton is very sick with hemerage from the lungs. It is thought he will not recover.

Give my love to sister Charlotte & the children & let me hear from you soon. The girls send their love.

Yours very truly, — Wm. P. Dickinson

Annexed you will find a recipe for making a pudding which sister Charlotte desired I would send her. I have purchased Claiborne’s interest in the store. He expects to go to Fuqua’s old star. I will look out for a partner as I am not able to carry on a business alone.

To make Lemon Pudding

Beat six eggs very light, the whites & yellow separate. Put in the juice & peal of two lemons. The peal may be either grated or cut in small pieces. Add one cup of milk, 4 ounces of butter, & 2 table spoon full of flour. Mix the ingredients and bake them in a thin paste. This quantity will suffice for 2 deep plates.


¹ Arabella Barksdale (b. 1822) and Lucy Jane Barksdale (b. 1825) were younger sisters of William P. Dickinson’s wife, Lavalette.

² George Cunningham Hannah (1817-1888) of “Gravel Hill” plantation, Charlotte Co. was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, a planter, and maintained in his home before and during the Civil War a school for his own and his neighbors’ daughters which was broken up by the war. Dr. Eggleston has copies of letters showing Mr. Hannah’s efforts to prove that a certain Negro boy was free when he was taken to Arkansas, including the securing of depositions from Charlotte County officials. Mr. Hannah married 18 November 1842 Ann Eliza Spragins (born 24 May 1824, Buckingham County, Va., died 16 June 1873), daughter of John Diggs Spragins and his wife Almira Baldwin, and granddaughter of Thomas Spragins and Nancy Bumpass. George Cunningham Hanna married secondly Margaret Venable, whom he predeceased.


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