1846: Elizabeth Sappington to Olive Hubbard

This letter was written by Elizabeth [Hubbard] Sappington (1796 — >1860) to her mother Olive [Wilson] Hubbard (1762-1847) in 1846.  Olive Hubbard was the widow of Dr. John Richard Hubbard (1759-1838) of Readfield, Maine. At the time the letter was written, Olive Hubbard was living in the household of her son, Dr. John Hubbard, who would later become the 22nd Governor of Maine.

A Cotton Planter, ca. 1850

On 14 April 1844, Elizabeth became the second or third wife of Alexis Sappington, a cotton planter from the Bayou Macon region of northeast Louisiana. They were married in Arkansas County, Arkansas. Elizabeth appears to have taken Dr. William Case of Readfield, Maine, as her first husband but he apparently died and the couple had no children. Alexis’ first wife was Phebe McCormick whom he married on 1 December 1829 in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana.

Transcription

Columbia, Arkansas, Feb 8, [1846]
Mesrs: Olive Hubbard
Care of Dr. John Hubbard
Hallowell, Maine

Bayou Macon, La.
January 27th 1846

It is so long since I received a letter from you that I do not recollect when it was, but think it was answered soon after it came. Since that time many changes have passed over us here, as might be expected. You have doubtless heard of the most important one relating to myself – that of my marriage and removal to this state. I have now been living in this place rather more than a year, and do not yet feel so much at home as I did in Arkansas. I had been so long with the family in which I was teaching there, and had received from them so much kindness and attention, that I had become much attached to them and felt a separation from them as much as if they were relatives. Their children, who were so small when I first went there, are now grown and one of them married. Mr. [Alexis] Sappington was connected with the family, having married a cousin of Mrs. Douglass’s, who had been raised by her, and as she was living there when I commenced teaching among them, and I was not married until five years after, I lived during that time with her, and was present at her marriage. She died more than three years since, leaving two children – a son six years old last August, and a daughter five last October. Their names are John and Mary [Sappington]. They are amiable and affectionate, and as they are so young and knew so little of their own mother, I think I may expect to live happily with them. It will please you, I have no doubt, to be made acquainted with our situation here and manner of living and I will gratify you as far as I am able by a description.

We live in the northern part of the state, bordering upon Arkansas. This part is comparatively new, not yet being enough settled to afford good society. In consequence we have few religious persons among us, but little preaching, no Sunday school, and no good week day school, or not of the best kind. But there is good society to be found at and in the vicinity of Providence – a small town on the Mississippi river 18 miles from us —  and pretty good schools. We live in the Bayou Macon, a stream communicating with the Mississippi, which gives its name to this part of the county.

Our place is pleasantly situated, consisting partly of high lands affording a good place for buildings, garden, orchard &c. and low land on the bayou which is here called bottom land. The land, both hill and bottom, is perhaps as rich as can be found in the U. States – the bottom especially, and produces everything suited to the climate in abundance and the labor of cultivating is much less than in Maine.

Mr. [Alexis] Sappington’s plantation consists of about six hundred acres, but there are not quite 100 cleared for cultivation. This is not large for this country. Many plantations have some thousand acres. Our principal crop is cotton – this being always sure to command money. We raise large crops of corn, some hundred bushels, which we keep for our own use to feed horses, oxen, &c. Our cattle here are never housed and fed as with you, but get their living in the woods, which they range for many miles, and only require salting, with the exception of the working oxen. The same may be said of hogs. For this reason you will see we can afford to keep large numbers of them.

Our house is very indifferent, being built of logs, as most country houses are here, and the logs covered with boards, and chimneys of mud. Little attention is paid to making good houses with us, and they are far less neat and comfortable than in N. England – the climate being so mild as to make it unnecessary to have them very warm. Ours is very comfortable for our little family and I do not need a better. I have my own little room with a fireplace where I sew and teach the children without interruption from persons who come in to do business with Mr. Sappington.

I find much to do and every moment employed more fully than I ever did, although I have been much favored as I have had so little experience in housekeeping, by having a good servant to do the cooking, washing, milking, and all the most laborious work. Mr. Sappington has but few servants, having had many misfortunes, but will be able to buy a few more in addition shortly, which he is obliged to do, to have enough force to make a crop. Last year he depended on hiring and had a great deal of trouble in consequence.

Our kitchen, like almost all others in this country, is separated from the house and a little distance from it. Then we have a large building in which the cotton is ginned for market – not only our own, but for most of our neighbors – and in which is a mill for grinding corn. We have no apple trees. They are not much raised in this country but we have peaches in abundance, plums, quinees and figs. But with all our advantages, we have not a healthy climate and have more or less sickness throughout the year and deaths are frequently very sudden. I would much prefer, were it left to my choice, the good society, good school, and healthy climate of N.E. to this, but could not now endure your cold winters. We wish to remove to a more healthy place and where we can find good society and schools, and if Mr. Sappington can sell, he intends doing so.

I got a letter from [sister] Joan a few days since, but have had none from [brother] John for a long time, and have not heard from [brother] Cyrus for at least 3 years. He was then married and had a son named Thomas. I hope you will write soon and let me know how you are. I wish much to hear from you. There is no probability of my seeing you again as I am now circumstanced – a family to attend to. A visit from me would be almost impossible. I would most gladly meet once more my relatives here on earth but I do not allow myself to think of it. Providence has cast my lot here and had kindly provided everything necessary for my comfort and happiness – more, far more, than I deserve and never since I left Maine have I lacked friends or any good thing which I needed. But I have been provided far better than I would have been there and that I may be enabled rightly to perform the duties belonging to my present situation is my chief care.

Remember me kindly to the members of the Hoyt family in your neighborhood. I wrote to Sister Carleton a few days since but forgot to give our direction. I wish you to send it to her. Direct to Alexis Sappington, Lake Providence, Louisiana.

Your daughter, — E. Sappington

Footnotes:

  • There is a certain irony in Elizabeth Hubbard’s becoming the wife of Alexis Sappington — a cotton planter in Louisiana. Clearly her husband relied upon the labor of slaves that he either owned or hired to bring in his cotton crop, and even Elizabeth herself was relieved from the hardship of domestic duties by a slave (though she preferred to refer to her and the other field hands as “servants”). But this transplanted New England woman was the sister of Dr. John Hubbard who was reported to have generally shared the anti-slavery sentiments of his fellow countrymen living in Maine, while respecting the constitutional rights of Americans to protect their “property” in the States where slavery was considered a legal institution. During the Civil War, one of Dr. John Hubbard’s sons would die serving the Union in the 1863 assault on the Confederate stronghold of Port Hudson on the Mississippi River, not far from his Aunt Elizabeth and her husband’s former cotton plantation in Louisiana.
  • It has not yet been established when Elizabeth Sappington died but it seems certain that she was still living in 1860 in Planters Township, Chicot County, Arkansas when the census was taken. An Eliza Sappington appears as a slave holder there in 1860 with five slaves; to wit:
  1. One Black male, age 40.
  2. One Mulatto Female, age 30.
  3. One Mulatto Male, age 20.
  4. One Black Female, age 18.
  5. One Mulatto Male, age 1.
  • Dr. John Hubbard, the author’s brother, would become the 22nd Governor of Maine in 1849. While in office, he promoted the cause of education and temperance, even going so far as to sign into law the first prohibition on the sale of liquors by any state in the Union — widely referred to as the Maine Liquor Law at the time.
  • Dr. John Davis and Olivia Wilson had 12 children. Those mentioned in this letter are highlighted in bold font:
  1. Olivia (1786-1838)
  2. Sophia (1788-1872)
  3. Mary (1790-1871)
  4. Nancy (1792-1856)
  5. John (1794-1869)
  6. Thomas (1795-1827)
  7. Elizabeth, born 11 October 1796 in Readfield, Kennebec, Maine
  8. Velina (1798-1804)
  9. Cyrus (1800- ??)
  10. Greenleaf (1801-1885)
  11. Joan (1802-1890)
  12. Sara (1805-1805)
  • Alexis Sappington’s daughter, Mary Sappington, born October 1840 in Louisiana, may have become the wife of Daniel Battle Scarborough (1833-1908). This couple were married in Lake Village, Chicot County, Arkansas on 24 January 1856 — just a few miles up the Bayou Macon River across the state line from where Alexis Sappington’s plantation was located. Daniel Scarborough joined the confederacy in 1862 and was captured at the Battle of Port Hudson in Louisiana. He survived the war but lost an arm and later moved the family to Texas.
  • Alexis Sappington’s son, John Sappington, born August 1839 in Louisiana, may be the 21-year old male of the same name residing in the household of slave-owner Warren J. Phillips in Planters, Chicot County, Arkansas in the 1860 census. The census indicates this John Sappington was born in Louisiana. It seems certain that this is the same John Sappington who also served in Co. A of the First Mounted Arkansas (Confederate) Cavalry. According to company muster roll records, this John Sappington enlisted 15 June 1861 at Fort Smith, Arkansas; was born 1840 in Louisiana, was 21 and a resident of Chicot County, Arkansas prior to his enlistment. He died of disease in 1862.
  • According to Arkansas marriage records, Elizabeth Hubbard and Alexis Sappington were married in Arkansas County, Arkansas. It is assumed that the Douglas family she refers to in this letter is the family with which she lived and labored as a tutor. There were several Douglas families living in the County and even a town named Douglas.
  • Tax records indicate that a William Case, possibly the first husband of Elizabeth Hubbard, resided in Arkansas County, Arkansas in 1828, 1830, and 1832.
  • The 1850 Census (8 September 1850) has an Alexander Sappington residing in Western District, Carroll Parish, Louisiana. He owned 13 slaves at that time. Land records show Alex Sappington purchasing 160 acres in West Carroll Parish on 28 October 1848 (Conveyance Old Book, page 136).

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