I cannot positively determine the identity of the Natchez merchant who wrote this letter. If you know, please comment in the space provided at the end of this letter.
The recipient of the letter was Henry Kingsley Hutton, born about 1816 in Maryland — possibly near Port Tobacco. He appears to have relocated to Mississippi in the early 1840′s and in 1847 he married Rebecca Petitt Turpin (1826-1851). She was the daughter of White Turpin (1777-1842) and Lavinia Magruder (1786-?). White Turpin’s plantation in Washington, Mississippi was called Oakland.
In this letter, it appears that Henry K. Hutton had intentions of starting up a mercantile of some sort in Natchez. After he came to Natchez, however, he became an Adams County planter and owned many slaves. He and Rebecca had two children — Joseph and Laura — before Rebecca died in 1851. Henry was still residing in Adams County, Mississippi at the time of the 1880 U.S. Census.
[Addressed to Mr. H. K. Hutton, Port Tobacco, Charles Co., Maryland]
23 July 1843
Not wishing to disappoint you, I this day (Sunday) seat myself for the purpose of answering your much esteemed letter of the 30th Ultimo which came to hand on the 19th inst. I had returned the day previous from a week’s visit to Woodville – a hot ride, a hot visit, and a hot return home. You don’t find me again going to Woodville in July with a horse and carriage when the thermometer is up to boiling heat. It was my intention during my stay in Woodville to have written you a letter but finally concluded to wait untill my return home, which turned out to be a favourable procrastination, as your letter arrived in the meantime, and further, Monday I received a letter from [Henry] Crampton dated New Haven the 6th inst. He left here in company with Billy Lassby on the 19th June. He staid two days in Baltimore, and arrived home on the 2 inst. Your letter directed to him at Woodville was taken out of the office by Seymour on the 17th and forwarded on the same day by private conveyance to Natchez to my care but was not received by me untill the 20th day after Crampton left. I redirected it to him at New Haven. Crampton writes me that his father died on the 29th of May.
If you have received a letter from Capt. Scott, you must have learnt from him all the news of the place as the Capt. is very good at description. Especially he must have told you all about the Ladies. However, I will rake up something at all events. I will restate all that I can recollect which, by the by, is just nothing at all. I will commence with that never fading topic, i.e., the weather, which has been exceedingly hot from the 1st of June with showers most every day to this time. During the month of May, it was dry and dusty. The Planters were complaining for the want of rain. And now the complaint is having to much. The grass is growing very fast amongst the cotton and keeps them busily engaged in keeping it down.
The health of the City has been very good so far though at present the influenza, or as some call it – the “Tyler grip” – is prevailing to some extent but not attended with any fatal effects except amongst children. The River is now falling and considerable sickness is anticipated in consequence. It has been rumored that the Yellow fever had made its appearance in New Orleans. I should think it rather to early for it. Should the weather prove dry for four or six weeks to come, it undoubtedly would cause the Yellow fever to appear here, as it is now as hot, I think, as I have ever known it to be at this season.
It is as dull here as you would wish to see it. We have had nothing out of the common course of things since the 4th [of July] and that was a very good day – at least so far as myself was concerned – as the greater part of the day was occupied by me in washing and cleaning and oiling my carriage harness. The Military agreed to split and celebrate the day as each company saw fit. Certain it is that they could not agree. The Fencibles choose to go alone as they wish – to have everything their own way. Therefore, they selected a reader and an orator from their own ranks. They proceeded from the Armory to the Bluff, fired a salute, [went] thence to the Methodist Church where the Declaration [of Independence] was read by Sergeant Lyle, and then oration was pronounced by Private Giles – said to be one of surpassing eloquence. At the close, the Company took up the line of march for their Armory where a cold collation was spread of which they partook, & then dismissed.
The Natchez Guards and the Adams St. Guards sent their tents to “Minor’s Grove” early in the morning. Each Corps assembled at their Armories at an early hour and proceeded to the Bluff with their forces united and there fired a grand Salute in honor of the day, and then proceeded in company to Minor’s Grove where they pitch[ed] their tents in a Soldier-like manner [and] where they spent the day much to their mutual satisfaction. Lieut. McGray of the Adams St.’s read the Declaration preface with a few brief and stirring remarks, and good feeling and soldierly fellowship was the order of the day. At any rate, they returned to town in fine spirits. All seemed pleased with the day’s recreation. Thus ended the fourth of July.
Since you left, Natchez has been deserted by several of her citizens. For instance, Dr. Duncan, William [John] Minor, Dr. Mooney, & Dr. [Ayer P.] Merrill with their families. Also Mr. Denton have left for the North. “Venegarhilt” has got married and is now on a Tour to Virginia to spend the “Hony Moon.” Massey has gone home & Turner has taken a trip to Kentucky to look after his lands or something else. Of the merchants that have gone North, all that I know of is [John] Liddell & John Knight, Keys & Wm K. Henry have gone to Europe. Liddell has removed to the corner building formerly occupied by Sona as an auction store but more recently as a grog-shop. The Planter’s Bank has made an assignment. The assignees are Walworth, old Mandeville, & Eli Montgomery.
Lambelin has withdrawn from the firm of Lambelin Ferriday & Co. and gone to planting. Lambelin failed in bidding his note given for a plantation to the Bank of the U.S. which Nate, you know, was attached amongst others in New Oreans by the U.S. Govt and recently sold at public auction. This will make it a hard bargain to him as he expected to take it up at fifty cents on the dollar as that is all the U.S. Bank Notes are worth.
John Quiglies has bought our Julienne and it is currently reported that he is soon to unite his fate with that of one of the Misses McGreens. George A. Peck has left Watts and located himself in Vicksburg, in company with Hugh Watt in the commission business. They also will act as agents for Burke Watt & Co. of New Orleans. It is strongly suspected that [John] Fleming is very particular in his attentions to a daughter of J. R. Stockman, and that his partner Badwin is ditto to Miss Baker, P. P.’s daughter. So you perceive that there are weddings in prospective, how many more, I know not. To judge from you’re your descriptions of the “beautiful Garden” which you visited in your route that there was some danger of your losing, or in other words, leaving a portion of your heart’s best affections to luxuriate and ripen into the most holy, earthly affection amongst the not instead of the artificial beauties which made the garden appear so delightful to your senses. When I go North, I will endeavour to visit it and see for myself whether it is adorned with that grace and eligance in which you described it, or whether you did not fancy all its beauties through the medium of the living flower.
As to business in the prospective, I know not what to say. In fact, you can judge (having so recently left here) as well if not better than myself. I believe that no new stores have been opened since you left and business has been as good as it generally is during the summer months. If you intend to bring out a stock of goods to Natchez, I would advise you to purchase a small inv[entor]y and well selected stock, and depend upon New Orleans for filling up as occasion should require. It is the safest and I believe by pursuing such a course, you would in the end make the most money. At all events, you would not have so much difficulty in meeting your engagements. Crampton – if he follows my directions – will not purchase very largely as I do not wish to go much beyond my immediate means. Crampton is for launching out into a great business.
…I should go to Woodville. At any rate, it is more than probable that I shall resign my situation by the 1st of October. I believe that I have given you all the news, or all that I know of. Therefore, will sign off by requesting you to write upon receipt.
Friend, – W. W. Noble
- I’m pretty confident the “Crampton” referred to in this letter was Henry Crampton from East Guilford, New Haven, CT. His father was Jonathan Crampton and he did, indeed, die on 29 May 1843 as stated in the letter. There is also a H. Crampton identified on the Mississippi State Census for 1845 in Wilkinson County which is just south of Natchez and Woodville is a principal village in that County. I presume from the content of this letter that the author and Crampton were business partners.
During the administration of Vice-President Tyler, 1841-1845, there was a prevailing form of influenza known as the “Tyler Grip” which was particular bad. It is mentioned in the Diary of Thomas Robbins 1796-1854. It was also know as “lightning catarrh.”
- John Liddell (1809-1956), born in Scotland, who had been a dry goods merchant in Natchez since 1838.
- October 28, 1843: Died at Vicksburg, on the evening of the 17th, Mr. Hugh Watt, in the 34th year of his age. Mr. Watt was a native of Scotland, but in early life emigrated to this country.
- John R. Stockman was a merchant & a prominent member of the middleclass in Nachez. He was the mayor of Natchez from 1844 to 1850.
- When Andrew Jackson visited Natchez in 1840, it was reported that: “Jackson’s brief pause at the Natchez Landing was noted in the Natchez Free Trader, January 7, 1840. Three militia organizations — the Natchez Fencibles, the Natchez Guards, and the Adams County Light Guards — had boarded the steamboat Edward Shippen at Natchez and ascended the river to a point some eight miles distant where they met the Vicksburg and the Clarksville, the two boats which carried the Jackson party. Jackson assured the people of Natchez that he would spend a day with them on his return trip. He was en route to New Orleans to visit the scene of his victory over the British in 1815.”
- For A good link for history of the Natchez Fencibles, organized in 1824, a volunteer militia company in Natchez, click here.