1844: Presley Thornton Hannah to Samuel Hannah

The following letter was offered for sale on e-bay in February 2011. I transcribed it from the internet.

The letter was written by 22 year-old Presley T. Hannah to his Uncle Samuel Hannah, then serving as a bank cashier in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia). He also traded in cotton, salt and tobacco. Samuel Hannah (1792-1859) was the son of Andrew Hannah (1766-1826) and Ann Cunningham Hannah (1761-?). Andrew was a revolutionary war soldier and the owner of extensive plantations in Virginia — “Gravel Hill” and “Cliffside” in Charlotte County. Samuel Hannah married Charlotte Ella Barksdale (1813-1886), the daughter of Grief Barksdale (1774-1850) and Mary Anne Elliott. The Hannah’s lived in Charlotte County, and Lynchburg, VA., and Kanawha County, VA. Two of the Hannah’s children are mentioned in this letter; “Little Mary” was born in 1837, and Andrew was born in 1840. Andrew was killed in 1863 during the Civil War fighting with the 14th Virginia Cavalry.

Not much is known about Presley Hannah, the author of this letter. He was the eldest child of William C. Hannah (1790-1850) and Jane Clack Thornton (1798-1863). William was an older brother of Samuel Hannah. Besides Presley, William and Jane had two other children; Ann, born in 1825; and William Samuel (“Sam”), born in 1828. Presley appears to have died in Lynchburg, VA in 1850, unmarried, at age 28. Sam Hannah fought under Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War and died in a hospital in Richmond from wounds received at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Presley’s second cousin and business partner, mentioned in this letter, was Pembroke Edward Waugh, born 17 July 1816, and died in November, 1885 in Amherst County, Virginia. He attended Washington College in Lexington, VA in 1835-6. By 1850, he is enumerated in the U.S. Census as an Amherst County farmer and slave holder. Pembroke’s parents were Edward Waugh (died 1820) and Isabella McCulloch (1784-1860).

The Thomas N. Eubank mentioned in the first paragraph was a justice of the peace in Amherst County in the 1830’s.


Postmarked: Balcony Falls, Virginia

Amherst County
18th January 1844

My Dear Uncle [Samuel Hannah]
[Charleston, Kanawha County, Virginia]

I regret that I was disappointed in seeing my friend Capt. Thomas N. Eubank when he passed our house on his way to the South a week or so past. As I had written a letter to you, which I ought to send by him, without putting you to that expense, any production of mine is so poorly calculated to repay.

The Natural Bridge, Virginia

But having to take an early start in order to meet the stage at the Natural Bridge, he past our house in the night. Consequently I did not see him as I anticipated.

I was glad to understand by Mr. N. Tinsley about a month ago that you were well though he stated he saw you but a very few moments.

I doubt not from the kind solicitude you have ever manifested in my situation and prospects, you will be pleased to learn that I have a prospect of being employed rather more profitably that I have had it in my power to be for some time past.

On the first day of the present month and year I formed a copartnership with my cousin Mr. Pembroke E. Waugh – a young man of standing, enterprise & wealth for the purpose of conducting a store and lumber house at a point on James River known as Snead’s Landing. It is in a wealthy neighborhood and there is no other outlet to the river for the __________ and timber coming from it. We are running 2 boats and have engaged lading sufficient to give their employment throughout the year. We do not intend crediting, but expect to barter our goods for produce. Indeed, the capitol investment would not admit our doury a credit business. Besides, [with] these hard times, whoever wants money to pay for goods when he buys them will be apt to want it more when the days of grace are over.

We expected the store house to be so far completed that we can occupy it by the first of March, and I hope to be able to start for goods about that time. I have not yet determined whether I shall go to N. York or no farther than Richmond. I rather expect my Mother, sister & brother will go to Lynchburg in the spring that she may send Sam to school. Should the James River & Kanawha Canal go on (which it is thought will be the case), we can rent out our houses here very advantageously.

My mother talks of purchasing a house and lot in town and settling there permanently, which I have advised her to do. A very comfortable house and lot may be had in Lynchburg at the present time for from $1500 to $2000. Now we could purchase such an one, if Uncle R[obert] H[orsley] Thornton will arrange to discharge the balance he is due us in the course of a month. I confess I was surprised to learn from your last letter to my Mother that he had not yet settled off his bond. It has been owing now almost 2 years and he cannot complain that its payment is urged. He is well acquainted with our circumstances – our need of it – and ought to recollect that a part of it would be of very little service to us without the whole. Therefore, I indulge the hope he will make a shift to pay us very shortly. I must request you to drop him a line on the subject, and if you fail in getting all of it, be so good as to send us whatever amount you can get in hand, as, if Ma declines buying a house and lot in Lynchburg, she purposes letting me have it and as I have already stated, I expect to start after goods about the first of March.

Accompanying this letter you will receive 2 newspapers – The Virginian (I believe you do not take that paper) which I send you, and The Saturday Courier, which Sister desires you will hand Aunt Charlotte for her. I hope you will find something worth reading in them.

I wish I had matter to make this a more interesting sheetful, but I have nothing which I could flatter myself would interest in the way of news. Let us hear from you soon. Our fireside joins with me in love to you, Aunt Charlotte, little Mary & Andrew. I have only to add now that I remain,

Truly yours, — P. T. Hannah

P.S. Your last letter to Ma enclosing check for ($20) came to hand safe. Will you be so kind as to send me occasionally a Charleston or some other western paper?


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