1832: James Clay to John Henry Clay

This letter was written by James Clay (1787-1847), the son of Edward (or Edwin) C. Clay (1744-1820) and Magdalene Trabue (1748-1815) of Person County, North Carolina. Edward C. Clay was an uncle of Senator Henry C. Clay of Kentucky. James Clay married first, Lucy Rogers (1790-1860) in 1810. He married second, Phoebe Johnston (1790-1866) in 1819. There is some dispute as to James Henry’s death date and location. Some family records say North Carolina, others Missouri. As James had a brother-in-law named John Miller who started the town of Millersburg, Missouri, I think it’s likely he died in Missouri in 1847 as some sources record.

James wrote the letter to John Henry Clay (1812-1849), a son by his first wife, Lucy Rogers. Lucy Roger’s brother was Byrd Rogers (b. 1790), referred to an “Uncle Byrd” in this letter. The grandfather, who by his Last Will and Testament gave John H. Clay some property in the form of slaves, was John Rogers III of Person County, N.C. – the father of Lucy and Byrd Rogers.

Family records suggest that John Henry Clay’s mother did not die until 1860. If true, then it seems likely James Clay and his first wife Lucy were divorced prior to his marrying again in 1819. It appears from this letter that Byrd Rogers was considered John Henry Clay’s legal guardian until he reached the age of 21. In this letter, James Clay gives fatherly advice to his son with respect to the hiring out of slaves that were given to John Henry Clay by the terms of his grandfather’s Will.

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[Addressed to Mr. John H. Clay, Rockingham Court House, North Carolina]

Milton, Caswell County, N. C.
October 7th 1832

Dear son,

I received your letter and was glad to hear that you was well, and myself and family is well and I was at your uncle Burds about three weeks ago as I return from the North and he and his family was all well.

You state to me respecting your settlement between you and our unkle Byrd you had better come down as soon as you become of age or by the last of this month and see him, and make a settlement with him, wheather he has got the money or not to pay you. You can take his note and wate untill I come home or take your unkle John Richmond’s & William’s that they gave him for the money that they borrowed from him and take your negros in your possession. If you have to hire them out again or let them remain where they are, but you take there notes in your name and then it will be considered as your property. But you can give him a receipt for the money that you received from him or his note and the negros as he, being your guardian, you will have to give him a receipt for what you receive. But don’t give him a receipt to give up your property. If you should die without a lawful heir, your grandfather’s will won’t bind you to give up your property after you become to the age of twenty one years old, wheather you have an heir or not. I should been veary glad that you could have come down before I went to the South. But I will try and come by if I can when I start. I have nothing more to write at present but remain yours untill death.

James Clay


2 responses to “1832: James Clay to John Henry Clay

  • caroline quintarelli

    Can you tell me anything about how you came by this letter? I am a descendant of James and J H Clay.

  • Griff

    This was one of the many letters made available to me by an acquaintance who offered it for sale on e-bay after I transcribed it for him. If you can add any family information related to the letter that might help family members doing research on the Clays, please do so. Also, please let me know if I have stated anything in error regarding the Clays or my transcription of the letter.

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