1847: Susan Jane Billups to Joseph Pierce Billups

This letter was written by Susan Jane Billups (1832-1911) to her brother, Joseph Pierce Billups (1827-1887). Susan and Joseph were the children of Mississippi Planter, Thomas Carleton Billups (1804-1866) and his first wife, Sarah Ann Moore (1805-1845). At the time that Susan wrote this letter in 1847, her family apparently lived in Noxubee County. Five years later, Thomas C. Billups established the Billups Gate Plantation a few miles west of Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi. Billups continued to buy up surrounding plantations that became; The Billups Mims Place, The Billups Whitfield Place, The Billups Tuttle Place and the Billups Hearon Place.

In the letter, Susan asks her brother to give her love to the servants. These were the house slaves who waited upon the members of the household. To say that Billups was a large plantation owner would be an understatement. On the eve of the Civil War, Billups had well over 200 slaves working his multiple cotton plantations. His assets in 1860 included $217,000 in real estate and $267,000 in property (primarily slaves).

Susan married Charles Fox Sherrod (1827-1886) in 1851. It doesn’t appear that Joseph ever married, despite Susan’s pledge to find him a wife in Georgia.

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Addressed to Mr. Joseph P. Billups, Deerbrook, Noxubee County, Mississippi

Lexington [Georgia]
May 8, 1847

My Dear Brother,

I received your letter more than a week since and wold have answered it last Saturday but I went up to cousin Robert James’ in the morning and expected to return in a little while and thought I would write in the afternoon. But they insisted upon my staying so hard that I was obliged to stay and I thought it was such a long time before you answered mine that you could not think it was a long time for me to wait a week.

We have thirty three scholars and are getting along very well. Miss Johnson that was boarding with me has gone to stay at Mr. [William H.] DuPree with Mr. Landrum’s daughter [Elizabeth] that has come to go to school, and Mr. J. Phinizy’s daughter Martha has come to go to school and is boarding here with me.

Tom Harms is to be married next Tuesday week to Miss Emily Dowling — one of our school girls. She has been coming to school all this year and was in all of my classes and our seats were together and I think she is one of the best girls I ever saw.

When I came away, I promised you and Uncle Edd to get a wife for you. I have got one for you and she is a very smart and pretty girl. Tell Uncle Edd I have not one for him as yet bit I will get one for him as soon as I can.

Miss [L. S.] Bass gives us a report every month of how we have done all the month and I am going to send mine to Pa in your letter. Give my love to Pa and brother John and all the little boys, cousin Ann and sister Sarah, and tell them they must all write to me. Give my love to all the servants.

My pen is so bad and I have written this in such a hurry that I do not know whether you can read it. You must answer it soon and I will answer you and try to write better.

Your affectionate sister, — Susan Jane B.


Susan gives the name of her school teacher as “Miss Bass.” It is believed this was Miss L. S. Bass, born about 1820 in Connecticut, shown boarding with the William H. Dupree family in 1850.

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