This letter was written by Thomas Henry Bayly (1810-1856) who was a student at the University of Virginia when he wrote this letter. Bayly attended the common schools as a child and went on to study law at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1829. Admitted to the bar in 1830, he practiced law in Accomac County, Virginia and engaged in agricultural pursuits. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1836 to 1842 and was appointed brigadier general of the 21st Brigade in the Virginia Militia in 1837 which he served as until 1846. Bayly was elected judge of the Superior Court of Law and Chancery in 1842.
In 1844, he left that post when he was elected as a Democrat to fill a vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served in the House until his death in 1856, acting as chairman of the House Committee on Ways and from 1849 to 1851 and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1851 to 1855. He died on June 23, 1856 at his estate, Mount Custis, near Drummondstown, and was interned in the family cemetery there.
Bayly wrote the letter to his cousin, Thomas Bayly Cropper (1808-1855), a sea captain and participant in the Gold Rush of the 1850s, was the son of Gen. John Cropper (1755-1821) and his second wife, Catharine Bayly (1772-18xx) of Accomack County, Virginia. Cropper commanded a number of transatlantic merchant ships. Between 1832 and 1838 he sailed out of Philadelphia on the Montezuma, the Algonquin, and the Susquehanna. From the spring of 1838 through 1848, he sailed out of New York on the Columbus, the New York, and the West Point. At least after 1838, and perhaps earlier, he was employed by Charles H. Marshall of New York.
In 1843, Cropper married Rosina Mix, and together they had three children: Catharine, called Kitty (b. 1844); Rose (b. 1846); and John (b. 1848).
Thomas Bayly Cropper had two sisters, Elizabeth (Eliza) and Ann. Eliza married a schoolteacher, Joseph Gibb, and lived with him in several Accomack County locations, including Drummond Town, Pungoteague, and Metompkin Island. The Gibbs had six children: Elizabeth (Lizzy), Ann, Catharine T., John J., William J., and Tom. Ann first married George Arbuckle, then, in 1838, Major John Savage. The Savages lived in Gargotha, in Accomack County, and had at least one daughter, Lizzie.
Cropper had two brothers, P. W. of Assawamaw, and Coventon (C. H.), who farmed on Thomas Bayly Cropper’s farm, Edgehill, in Accomack County. Coventon, called Covey, married a woman named Leah, who died in 1838, soon after the birth of their daughter, Isabella. He then married a woman named Sarah. Coventon possibly had another daughter, Kate.
Thomas Henry Bayly, superior court judge between 1842 and 1844 and U.S. congressman from 1844 until his death in 1856, was a cousin to Thomas Cropper. U.S. Congressman, Henry A. Wise, was also a cousin.
Addressed to Mr. Thomas Bayly Cropper, Modest Town, Accomack County, E. Shore of Virginia
University of Virginia
January 16th 1828
Never was I more agreeably surprised than I was upon the reception of your letter. I received a letter from my father about 2 weeks ago where he informed me that you had shipped on board the ship Talma at New York for New Orleans & I had thought of writing to you there. But time passes so agreeably here that before I thought a week had passed, I received your welcomed letter.
I cannot describe the great pleasures we have here. There are about 140 students, about 30 of whom are law students & about 20 are medical students, both of which departments are in a flourishing condition. There are three professors of Medicine – one of whom – viz: [Robley] Dunglison – is perhaps the greatest in the U.S. & Dr. [John P. Emmet is a great chemist & [Thomas] Johnson is an excellent surgeon. There are 7 other professors. My pleasures here would be greatly augmented if you were here. But alas! how unjust has fortune been in the distributing of her favours & how often do we see the unworthy loaded with her gifts.
The University has been for the last week in a compleat uproar. About 20 of the students _____ had before the faculty & they made a great noise, but in them was verified Randolf’s saying, “that barking dogs do not bite” for out of the _____ of who a great number confessed that they were guilty, only 2 were dismissed & they wrote to the parents of 2 more. But the affair is altogether subsided & we are again restored to tranquility. On the 22 of February, the students are to have one of the greatest balls that ever was in the state of Virginia. Then we shall be graced with the presence of the great belles of all the state.
About a week after I first arrived here, the races commenced upon the Albemarle _____ at which time I saw the greatest running that I ever saw. The first day, 4 horses ran the mile heats for a purse of $4.00. 2d day, the 2 mile heats were run, then various ¼ and ½ mile races were run. 3d day the 4 mile heats were run by Blenheim ___ won the race & immediately sold for $3,000, Lady Greensville & Longs Mare.
The first 4 miles was taken by Blenheim by 10 feet but Lady Greensville was not struck a lick. In the 2d heat was taken by Blenheim again. The second heat was the prettiest I ever saw from the first jump until they came out. The two riders stood in their stirrups & whipped every jump & no one could tell until they came out which would beat, but Blenheim beat about 2 feet. I was upon my tiptoes the whole 4 miles. At one time, Lady Greensville would be about 1 foot ahead & then Blenheim would be about the same distance ahead of her, The third mare, Mr. Songs, was distanced the first heat & did not attempt to run the second.
In your next, you must write me how Elitia & you ____ are. I was astonished to not see her name in your letter. When you see ____ ______ to Elitia, & I would give it to her in an epistle had I ___ leave. Write me how ______ is & tell him to write to me. Give my love to all friends, more especially to your mother & family, to Mrs. Morton, Mr. West, & Coz. Nancy. Answer this immediately & let no one see it for it is not fit to come from a student at college.