1846: William Lewis Lambeth to John D. Anderson

What Mississippi Planter William L. Lambeth might have looked like

This letter was written by William Lewis Lambeth (1800-1849), the son of Meredith Lambeth (1766-1836) and Elizabeth Price (1786-1843). He was married to Susan Harrison (1810-1853).

Lambeth’s Mississippi plantation was on Silver Creek near the town of Louise in an area that was flooded every year by the Mississippi River. He purchased it in 1842 when it was part of Issaquena County (later Yazoo County, then Humphreys County). It was known by locals as “the Swamp” and was invested “with fevers and agues.” Lambeth died here in 1849, it is said, from “Yellow Fever.”

Lambeth wrote the letter to Gonzalez, Texas, attorney, John D. Anderson (1819-1849). The following biography for him on the Texas State Historical Association website:

John D. Anderson, early settler, soldier, and politician, the son of Dr. Thomas Anderson, was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on June 21, 1819. He arrived with his father and brother, Washington Anderson, at Port Lavaca, Texas, in February 1835 and afterward settled in Benjamin R. Milam’s colony. He was a member of Jesse Billingsley’s company but missed seeing action at the battle of San Jacinto because he had been assigned to the detail left at Harrisburg to guard the baggage. Anderson studied law at Webber’s Prairie in the office of Barrie Gillespie, and on February 5, 1844, President Sam Houston appointed him district attorney for the Fourth Judicial District, an act that automatically rendered Anderson a member of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas. He served as a Gonzales delegate to the Convention of 1845 and fought in the Mexican War in 1846. In 1847 he was a member of the Second Legislature from Gonzales County. Anderson was twice married. Little is known about the first Mrs. Anderson. The second, Ellen P. Erskine, was the daughter of Michael H. Erskine. Anderson apparently died in Guadalupe County on April 10, 1849, and was buried in the Erskine family cemetery near Capote Ranch, a few miles from Seguin. [Source: Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845]

We learn from this letter that Ralph Campbell (1811-18xx) of Madison County, Mississippi, suffered some financial embarrassment in the early 1840s and to escape his creditors, relocated his family to the vicinity of Gonzalez in Texas, which was still an Independent Republic, making him — as Lambeth called him — a “fugitive” from justice. Ralph Campbell was married to Mary Bailey in Madison County, Mississippi in December 1831. Nothing more was found on him.

Lambeth mentions Judge William E. Jones in this letter. Jones was serving a six-year term as judge of the Second Judicial District and residing in Guadalupe, Texas, at the time.

Stampless Letter

TRANSCRIPTION

Addressed to John D. Anderson, Esqr., Attorney at Law, Gonzalez, Texas

Silver Creek P.O.
Issaquena County, Mississippi
2nd March 1846

John D. Anderson, Esqr., Atto. at Law, Gonazalez, Texas
Dear Sir

Your esteemed favor of the 9th of December last (directed to me at Lynchburg, Virginia, where I live, but spend the winters here on a plantation) was duly received. Your letter was in answer to mine dated in October enclosing a bond on Ralph Campbell to Judge William E. Jones, who has placed it in your hands for collection, and you desire to know what sort of property to take for it in the event that Campbell should be willing to compromise it. I will leave this, and all other negotiation about it to your good judgement. Take whatever you may suppose best to take for it, & settle as you may consider best under all the circumstances.

I would suggest for your consideration, whether the “lex loci contractors,” — “the lex domicile,” — the laws of the place where the contract was made, should not prevail, as to limitation in such cases. If so, the statute of limitation existing in this state, Mississippi would be the rule. Campbell bought land of me in Madison County, Mississippi, became embarrassed & fled to Texas. You can procure the laws, the acts of limitations of Mississippi & see what they are. I think they are longer than they are in Virginia or Texas; 6 years bars actions on notes without seal & of a/c. Those of sealed, longer. The other bonds of Campbell are in the hands of a lawyer at Raymonf in this state. I will endeavor to get them. In the meantime, we can see what you are likely to make of the one sent. If you succeed in getting anything, we can then try the rest. If nothing, it will, of course, not be advisable to spend good for bad.

Write to me at Lynchburg, Virginia & let me know what success you have had. But can any act of limitation be pleaded by a fugitive from all law & the service of regular process? Unquestionably not, in all countries that I know of, where justice is administer & laws prevail. I beg you to consider this general principle, which I have just mentioned — i.e. — “That no debtor shall avail himself of his own wrong act.” Were it otherwise, how easy could any man pay his debts by his seerated absence. Whatever Texas may have been heretofore, it is now expected of her that she will place herself on the platform of other civil states, and maintain the established principle of justice, equity, & honor.

In the old states, you know, if a debtor flee & hide so that the ordinary process of law cannot be served on him, the acts of limitations runs not as to him, until he returns, or until his whereabouts is known to his creditors. But you must manage the case. I herein enclose a letter to Campbell; direct it him & receive his answer, if he will make one, & use it. But I think he is wary. Without throwing the nature of your statutes of limitations, I am sure that the law as to fugitives, of all nations, who boast of any civil code, is as I have stated it.

Respectfully, your obedient servant, — William L. Lambeth

If Campbell writes to me & answers the letter, break it, and see what he has said.

P.S. My thanks & respects to Judge Jones.

Mississippi
Silver Creek
Issaquena County [Mississippi]

Mr. Ralph Campbell, Gonzalez, Texas
2nd March 1846

Sir,

I was in your old neighborhood in Madison County, in this state, a few weeks ago, & heard of you. I expected that you would have written to me about the debts you are owing for the land & negroes I sold you for the Bailey’s. I understand that you are unable to pay, and I hope you will not hesitate, after as much indulgence, to do so. This letter I send to Mr. John R. Anderson of Gonzalez, to whom you may reply & he will forward your letter to me.

Let me know what you intend to do about those debts. I do not wish to harass & worry you with expensive law suits.It were better to settle them without so much cost & trouble.

Write immediately & deliver the letter to Mr. Anderson for me.

Yours respectfully, — Wm. L. Lambeth

P.S. I have not moved to this place from Lynchburg, Virginia, but stay here on a plantation that I settled the year you left the state, or the year before perhaps, and remain here from October until May every year. Come and see me whould you visit Madison County. Give my respects to your good lady, & daughter. I hope they enjoy health in Texas. When you write, let me know how you are pleased with Texas. Mr. Curtis told me he thought you were dissatisfied. I wish to visit Texas myself after awhile. If I do, I will call on you. Yours &c. Wm. L. L.

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