1850: Nathaniel Bowe Davis to Judge Nathaniel Hart Davis

This letter was transcribed directly from the internet where I found it offered for sale on e-bay in October 2011.

The letter was written by Nathaniel Bowe Davis (1784-1857) from his home in Desoto County, Mississippi (just across the state line from Memphis, TN) to his son, Judge Nathaniel Hart Davis (1815-1893) in Montgomery, Texas.  According to the Texas State Historical Association, “Nathaniel Hart Davis, pioneer and county official, … was born in Fayette County, Kentucky… In 1817 his family moved to Alabama, where he received his early education. He attended Transylvania University and later taught at Marion Military Academy. He received a license to practice law in Alabama in 1837. In 1840 he moved to Montgomery, Texas. He served as county attorney, commissioner, and chief justice of Montgomery County, and as judge of the Thirteenth Judicial District from 1867 to 1870. As a member of the Somervell expedition he served under Col. Joseph L. Bennett, in whose home he had lived during his first years in Texas. In 1851 Davis married Sarah Elizabeth White, a native of South Carolina; they had seven children…”


[Addressed to Nat Hart Davis, Esq., Montgomery Court House, Texas]

At home, June 30th 1850
Dear Nat,

I received your letter since Mr. Streck was with you. Yesterday I saw him & lady at Capt. [Ben] Powell’s. His health has been bad since his return. He will go on North again shortly. He extols Texas more than any man I have ever conversed with. By his information, I came home & wrote to Dr. [John H.] Pointer near Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee. He as well as Sam Key had recently seen this Dr. Pointer down in search of an 800 acre farm. Mine and Fayalle’s just makes the amount & a more choice tract can not be found in Desoto [County, Mississippi].

Last Tuesday I was in Memphis & saw some of [our] n’bours on their way to Texas. Mr. Joe Boom will perhaps _____. I wish you could come in with him.

Your Ma’s health has been on the decline again for several months but she is now in better spirits. Mr. Petters, Maria & children all arrived from Mobile a few days ago. [Your brother] Felix is gone up today (Sunday) to see them. They will remain, of course, until Xmas where a division & sale must be had. Their crop of cotton is quite indifferent. Many people lately have placed part of their cotton fields in corn. Finley Holmes, the largest planter in the county, cannot make more than half a crop. Mr. Wimbly do & many, very many others also. Thanks for once to my good fortune, my stand & prospect is long over an average with any of my n’bours or any of the rich fields between here & Memphis. If the future season should be favourable, I expect to make 25 percent over my last half crop but in no event can there be all around in this vicinity a bloom before the 10th of July if even that soon.

The last No. of the Mercantile Advertiser 31st May I received & the two preceding Nos. These with the 23rd February are the only 4 I ever received. Let Albert hear this. In his last [letter], he promised to send the Legrange Monument. Do you think he will do it & will it touch politics? I suspect he is a little toched with Freesoilism. If Texas is smart, that is the sure way to enhance the price of all her soil as well as the great staple. The Nashville farce is below ridicule. You have never said whether you received my obituary letter &c.

I have lately written to James Terisby to know if his grandmother had received her pension having seen in a paper that a great deal of pension money had recently been drawn at Washington by agents to be forwarded & that the names & locations would be published. If this be true, you must have seen the list in the Intelligencer.

The clouds are letting down showers now of which there has been no stop. A large portion of folks are awfully in the grass, our Cousin Dr. Nat amongst them. His overseer got his ear bit off by one of his niggers & then had to leave. It would be rather difficult to fill his place. I went in with Clay Davis. He paid 85 cents for meal & 75 for corn. Many planters are coming 60 & 70 miles to Memphis for corn. [Your brother] Rufus says meal is selling in Hernando at 110 cents per bushel. My lone null toll [?] makes about our bread & by this I hope to keep out of the corn market. I fear next year will not be much better. Grassy cotton always makes mean corn. My bottom field now in the same rains presents corn from 12 feet to six inches high owing to excessive rains, blackbirds, &c. Still I feel confident I shall make enough to supply the farm next year. Not myself, for I hope & expect to get my supply next year in Texas if life should last [and] my health is no worse.

In some 2 or 3 weeks, I expect to start on Bob, Felix’s poney, & reach John Cunningham’s the first day, then zig zag along to Darling Allens, George Smith’s, George A. Smith’s, Daby’s, &c. amongst all your venerated old school mates. The news I shall gather amongst them will furnish you a letter of 2 or 3 sheets. Then I shall pass up to N. Alabama, visit my dear old sister near the White Sulphur Springs in Lewiston County & try the waters a short time, visit _______ & Mr. Blackburn & return home with much pleasure. I hope after having been here buried alive for 10 years before which from 3 years old I had enjoyed the pleasure of long & oft repeated travels with more ____ pride & gratification than all the gold in California.

Mr. H. Douglass came in very wet & has just gone with Rufus’ shirt on. He came from church to certify to my sale. He is a whole souled fellow, a preacher’s son & an infidel. He has lately loaned Mr. Gibbon works & has ______ since he was here. Write me & the family often, & believe me your affectionate father, — Nathaniel Davis.

N.B. Your Ma & ____ send love to you & to Mr. Gilliam & lady.


In the letter, Davis references the Nashville Convention held earlier the same month (June 1850) and labeled it a “farce.” This was the same conclusion held by most pro-slavery Southerners who felt that the delegates moderate position toward succession accomplished little.

The Alabama White Sulphur Springs is located in DeKalb County, near the Tennessee and Georgia state lines.

3 responses to “1850: Nathaniel Bowe Davis to Judge Nathaniel Hart Davis

  • Sedric Roberts

    Is there any thing in the letters written to Judge Nat Hart Davis of Montgomery that mention his slaves by name. My great-great-great grandmother was one of his slaves. I believe her name was Fannie Davis.

    • Griff

      Dear Sedric. Maybe someone who is a descendant of Judge Davis who finds this post can answer your question.

    • Terrence A. Garnett

      Sedric I have some information concerning your ancestors. You share the same ancestors as my cousin B.J. Tucker who descends from Walker Byrd the brother of your ancestor Hattie Byrd Roberts. They were the children of Fountain Byrd & Fannie Davis Bryant (Fountain & Fannie divorced and both later remarried).

      I have information on both Fountain & Fannie’s parents email me at tgarnett”@”gmail.com (remove the parenthesis around the @ symbol).

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