This letter was written by John Graves (1762-18xx). John married Sarah Parham in Sussex County, Virginia. Their children were Nancy, Francis, Betsey, and Henry. Graves relocated to Davidson County, Tennessee, prior to 1802. One of his slaves, Uncle Moses, is reported to have died in Davidson Co., Tennessee, Oct. 13, 1860 in his 109th year. Moses was brought from Petersburg, Va. to Davidson Co. with the Grave family.
John wrote the letter to John Raines Mason (1770-1826), the son of John Mason (1741-1802) and Jane Parham Thweatt (1737-1803) of Sussex County — south of Petersburg, Virginia. Mason was married to Sarah H. Cargill (1771-1837) in 1799.
Capt. Howell Tatum (1753-1822) was a Revolutionary War veteran. He later served under General Andrew Jackson and fought against the Indians during the War of 1812, rising to the rank of major. After this service, he was military storekeeper at Nashville, Tennessee for a year or more. He was Judge of the Circuit court in Nashville District. He died at Nashville in October 1822. Apparently Tatum came to Tennessee to take possession of a Land Grant that he received for his service in the Revolutionary War. Land Warrant No. 341 awarded Capt. Howell Tatum 3840 acres
Addressed to Mr. John R. Mason, Near Petersburgh, Virginia
December 18th 1805
[Nashville] State of Tennessee
Your favor & mail of the 20th October came safe to hand and Captain Tatum came up on the 17th November and delivered it to me. And you may rest assured that when we came to see that it came from you, there was joy and gladness. And when we saw your intentions, we all held a council. Some thought you were making fun of us and our country. Some thought you meant to please us. For my part, I am at a loss to know my thoughts about it, but I give it as my opening that your mind must have changed very much almost as far as the East is from the West. But let these be as they may. If I had your property as I told you when you was in this country, I still say I would not stay there. As to your wife being not reconciled to the country, I shan’t think it strange. I very well know that she never was used to living in a log house chinked with mud and covered with oak puncheons like we are. I expect that by the time you have set to start, the first fever will be off and you will think you can live there if anybody can.
I shall be glad to see you and wife in this country. And as to Bacon, I expect if [paper torn] … we shall have aplenty if the newcomers don’t devour us. The like never was known of people coming in daily. People is moving and settling Duck and Elk River Lands fast and we have had another treaty since you went away and all the land in the wilderness is given up, some small reservations excepted — say 5 or 6 million of acres in the last treaty and yet land seems to be given in this neighborhood. Capt. Tatum and myself has chose a place for you in 2½ miles of Nashville. I don’t know the price certain but expect 12 or 15 dollars per acre. Capt. Tatum thinks very hard that you never wrote to him.
Our crops are tolerable good but not as good as we could wish. Cotton is the same price as it was when you was here. Corn is selling from 6 to 10 per barrel. Pork will be from 3 to 4 dollars per hundred. Please to send me a few of the red and white Bermuda Potatoes as I know of none in this country. I expect that our old friend Shangs has got of that sort. 3 or 4 of each sort will be aplenty to get in stock. Tell Mr. Cross to fetch some of the best fruit of apples that he can get if he starts soon enough and I will pay him.
I expect by the time you have read this far if you ain’t flat of your back, you are very weary and for fear, I’ll draw to a conclusion. My wife and children join with me in love to you and wife and all your children, and all our friends. And inform you that we are all in our common health and have had our health ever since you left us and hope that these will find you and all your dear family in good health and prosperity. Remember me to my old brother David and tell him I am very sorry I have offended him by writing so often. I have not got a letter from him since last December and want to hear from him very much. I must request you to write to me by every opportunity.
Your sincere friend, — John Graves