1864: Malcom McNeill to Thomas Henry McNeill

Malcom McNeill (ca. 1864)

Malcom McNeill (ca. 1864)

This remarkable letter was written by Malcom McNeill (1796-1875) was born in Person Co., North Carolina.He married first Mary Branch. He married Anna Branch, sister of his first wife, on 29 Jul 1817. He married third Martha Rivers on 12 Oct 1820. He married fourth Eliza D. Lynch on 29 Nov 1829. He married fifth Catherine Boddie, daughter of George Boddie and Lucy Williams, on 4 May 1846. He was buried in the Boddie Family Cemetery, Lafayette, Christian Co., Kentucky. He died on 21 Feb 1875 in “Hemphill”, Kentucky, at age 79.

McNeill began accumulating property in Kentucky where he relocated in 1817, and later bought thousands of acres in Mississippi and within the city of Natchez, which greatly increased in value. An 1884 history of Christian and Trigg counties as “perhaps the richest man in the county, with a large estate and many negroes both there and in Mississippi.”

McNeill wrote this letter to his only surviving son, Thomas Henry McNeill (1821-1866), whose mother was Martha Rivers. Thomas married first Rebecca Ann Tuck, daughter of Davis Green Tuck and Elizabeth M. Toot, on 26 October 1842 in Christian County, Kentucky. He married second Ann Eliza Arthur, daughter of William Arthur and Susannah Hill Peters on 11 June 1861 in Marshall County, Mississippi. He died at his plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi at age 45.

Thomas’ sister, Martha Rivers McNeil (1827-1887) was married to Willie Perry Boddie.

Malcom and his fifth wife Catherine appeared on the 1860 Federal Census of Hopkinsville, Christian Co., Kentucky, reporting real estate valued at $240,000, and personal estate of $36,000, including 46 slaves in 10 slave houses. In this letter, Malcom informs his son that the war has financially ruined him and that most of his slaves have left his “Hemphill” plantation.


At Doct. Thomas’
March 6th 1864

My Dear Son

I have hoped until now to be able to go south with the doctor, but such opinion to be my situation at home that to leave at this time. What little I have would all go or be destroyed. You will learn from the doctor my peculiar situation. It is true I am very anxious to see you and family and your sister and family. If please God, I could only be restored to all your companies, I feel that I should be happy once more. I care not for the losses that has befallen me, which has been great, but thank God we will be able to live, with which we should be contented. I have no idea that as I had have been at Lake Charles, or at your house, that I could have changed anything that has taken place.

I would not have you to be uneasy. I think you have managed as well as any of us could, and perhaps a great deal better. So let no uneasiness rest on your mind for a moment. The poor negroes — they ruin themselves by leaving comfortable homes and perishing in camp from cold, hunger, and disease. Poor creatures, they are greatly to be pitied. It is true I had warm sympathy and family feeling for many of them and would like to see them do well. They injure themselves a great deal more than they do me. I can do very well without them. I fear they cannot do so well without me. Make your sons businessmen and they will be able to go through this world.

the doctor goes down on some business of his. Should you need on my account some funds, or on your own account so far as he can, he will furnish and take an order on me. I know not your situation nor condition. I hope it is good but if otherwise, I name the above as a relief. So soon as I can consistently leave home, I feel resolved to go down and see you all, but when I cannot now say.

I have no local news. We have passed through a very disagreeable winter. Some of the coldest weather that we have ever experienced with all of which we have had rather a healthy winter. I am greatly pleased to hear from Gen. Grant ¹ and family and that they are well. Remember me affectionately to him and every member of his family. I should be glad to see them all, and hope we will all meet again in time. Also to Col. Burke,¹ when you see him, my best respects.

Your mother is in fine health and in good spirits as to losses — feels rather relieved than otherwise. If course I cannot write much under the circumstances so I must refer you to the doctor for any local news that I have omitted.

My warmest love to all your family. Your father, — Malcom McNeill

¹ “Gen. Grant” was probably Pryor McNeill Grant (b. @1815 in North Carolina), who had a plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi. Pryor named one of his son Malcom.

² “Col. Burke” is probably John MCNeill Burke (1800-1875) who owned Black Lake Plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi.

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