1844: Ellen H. Coswell to Henry Kingsley Hutton

This letter was transcribed directly from the internet where I found it for sale on e-bay. It was written by Ellen H. Coswell.

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 and is mentioned in this letter. Henry K. Hutton 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.

In her letter, Ellen mentions the Whig Barbecue in Pine Ridge, a plantation district outside Natchez. In the 1844 election, Democrat James K. Polk defeated Henry Clay, drawing heavily from western voters who favored the annexation of Texas. Ellen also comments humorously on the theft of Henry’s watch and chain aboard the steamboat “Grey Eagle.”


[Addressed to Mr. Henry Kingsley Hutton, Port Tobacco, Maryland]

Natchez, [Mississippi]
July 22, 1844

The very welcome and most interesting letter of my dear and estimable friend, dated July 8th, was received on Saturday last, and I assure you afforded me much pleasure. I had anticipated its arrival for several days as the ____ told me that you were _______ your intention of writing me, in a short time after the arrival of a communication from yourself to our mutual friend. To day being Monday, I hasten to reply to your kind epistle, as quickly as possible acquiesce to your desire and request. We received yours of May 31st written on board the [steamboat] “Grey Eagle,” which was very satisfying to both mother, and myself, as we felt extremely anxious to hear how you succeeded in getting off on that eventful night. Was it not fortunate that we did not accompany you to the [Natchez] Bluff the evening of your departure, for had we done so, disappointment would have greeted you, and you might probably have been kept in suspense a number of days waiting for a boat. The captain desires me to say that he would have answered your letter to him some time since, “But since Ellen, just tell Henry for me that the heat has been very oppressive and I have been so much occupied, that I have not been able or felt like writing.”

So you had a secret for the Capt. with which he made me acquainted. I have one for your friend at ______. I must say that I observed a slight coldness between yourself, and friend, even after the night of the wedding. Let me beg of you, not to allow these circumstance which then occurred which was merely a misunderstanding on all sides, and therefore ought to be forgotten by both of us to make any difference in regard to the friendship which previously existed between you and your friend.

The ladies from Oakland [Plantation] have not been here since you left as the Cpt. rode out to Mrs. Tompkins on Saturday. I wrote Rebecca [Turpin] a note and delivered all your messages. I purposed going up to Mrs. Hunt’s with the two girls there was _________ commented, but Mrs. Hunt wrote that the two youngest children were very sick, consequently I anticipate being at Oakland the 1st of August to attend the examination. However, as Miss Bondurant has been so kind as to offer me a seat in her carriage…..

Natchez Steamboat on Mississippi

I was pleased to hear that you had rather a pleasant trip up the river, for on a crowded boat, one can scarcely expect to have even a comfortable passage. What a great misfortune you had not _______ to call to call on the lovely Henrietta. We do look through different optics, tis true. The differences of opinion with us in regard to the fair flower of C___________ is that you believe her beautiful, and I think her pretty. In this instance, you may carry the point, considering it is a lady in question. It is said that we ladies are so very jealous of each other that if we think one of our sex a beauty, we will not admit it. The gentlemen are neither envious or jealous of each other, I presume.

How exceedingly indebted you must have been to the “feathers fingered gentleman” who had the kindness and consideration to relive you of your watch and chain. He must have been a very observing character, and might probably have seen that you were too much oppressed with the care of such articles resting upon your mind; and merely relieved you out of compassion. Thank you my friend for the kind terms in which you speak of the ______ of the little guard.

Your garden and bees, I hope, are succeeding as well as when you last wrote in visiting you will find pleasant, and fishing ______. Both will enable you to pass away your leisure time agreeably.

You mention your purposed trip to the [Virginia] Springs. I hope you will take Aldie in your route, as I feel confident it will be very gratifying to our friend Hutchison to receive a visit from you. How much pleasure it would afford mother, and myself, as well as some other friends to be of the party to the Virginia Springs. You ask why I did not accompany you as we bargained. How could I?  Was I not waiting for Rebecca [Turpin], and of course as we agreed to go together, one could not go without the other. But our best plans are oft times frustrated you know, and as all is for the best, we have only to _____.

My parent visited New Orleans last month on business. She did not succeed in procuring a house as she anticipated. But a number of her friends in that place have been so kind as to promise to endeavor to procure a house for us by Fall and if they are successful in their endeavors, we will remove to the Crescent City in November.

1844 Polk-Dallas Campaign Ribbon

Our city is almost deserted to day, as there is a Whig Barbecue in Pine Ridge [a community near Natchez] and of course almost every one, and every one will be there. I will not attend as I suffer still very much with my head. I am fearful of the heat exposure to the sun, and there is another consideration — I am a Democrat, you are aware, and it would not answer for me to be there among so many Whigs. I am for Polk and Dallas as well as for [the annexation of] Texas and Liberty forever.

With many kind wishes from ma and myself, believe me to be affectionately yours, — Ellen. (E.H.C.)

P.S. Your friends, as far as I can judge, are all in good health and send many kind wishes to you. So you are not forgotten by us Mississippians.


There appears to have been several steamboats named “Grey Eagle.” This letter suggests that Henry took passage up the Mississippi River aboard the Grey Eagle in 1844. Yet one source claims the Grey Eagle steamboat, a side-wheeler, was built in Cincinnati in 1847 — three years later. This steamboat was sunk in 1851 and was followed by another of the same name.

See also: http://www.whiteturpinhouse.com/msbranch.html

See: http://www.whiteturpinhouse.com/homehistory.html for information about the White Turpin House in Natchez.

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