These three letters were written by Malcom McNeill (1796-1875), a native of Person County, North Carolina, who moved to Christian Co., Kentucky — one mile south of the Sinking Fork bridge on the road from Hopkinsville to Princeton, in 1817. He took the oath of citizenship there on 28 Feb 1817. He began accumulating property at an early age, first near his home in Kentucky, but later he bought thousands of acres in Mississippi and within the city of Natchez, which greatly increased in value. He made his first investments in Chicago in 1842, at a time when travel there required carriages or horseback. He became a man of great wealth, described in 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.”
Malcom and Catherine Boddie (his fifth wife) appeared on the 1850 Federal Census of Christian Co., Kentucky, enumerated 7 Aug 1850, reporting real estate valued at $60,500 and 57 slaves. Their son Malcolm was listed as living with them, as was Malcolm Carothers. He reported an additional 72 slaves on his plantation in Coahoma Co. Alabama.
Malcom and Catherine appeared on the 1860 Federal Census of Hopkinsville, Christian Co., Kentucky, enumerated 9 Apr 1860, reporting real estate valued at $240,000, and personal estate of $36,000, including 46 slaves houses in 10 slave houses. Malcom Caruthers, age 12, whose relationship is not known, is listed as living with them.
Malcom and Catherine appeared on the 1870 Federal Census of Hopkinsville, Christian Co., Kentucky, enumerated 30 Aug 1870, reporting real estate valued at $29,700 and personal estate of $5,000. His widowed daughter Martha, by his third wife, and her children Elizabeth, Lucy, George, Malcolm, John, Willie and Nicholas were listed as living with them. Also listed were Benjamin, Rivers and William, three of the younger sons of his late son Thomas, and Lula Musgrove, age 20, a school teacher.
Malcolm wrote the letter to his nephew, Lemuel Smith McNeill of Natchez, Mississippi — the son of Angus McNeill (1776-1809) and Agnes Wilson Smith.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 1
Addressed to Lemuel S. McNeill, Esquire, Natchez, Mississippi
March 9th 1826
Port Gibson, [Mississippi]
We have at length reached this place, although I do assure you it has been with considerable difficulty. Angus’s mare completely give out. We sent him back before we reached this place. I give him $10.50 to pay his Deck Passage up the river — think he will have enough. Mr. McWatters is now a trying to swap his gray colt. Has completely given up. It cannot proceed. He says he would not give $10 for it and if he can get that much allowed in swap, he will swap. The black must be traded as ____ those Spanish Horses as you call them can’t perform.
We were deceived in these bottoms. I never in all my life saw Mr. McWatters so completely outdone. I called at Mr. Hughes’ store. He is gone to [New] Orleans. His young man produced the note on which no payment is made. He promises to attend to the collection. You will please collect it and bring it to Kentucky. I hope it will be collected in a few weeks. No money received from Horton. Angus Grant can come up with Mr. Miller or by himself. As for that O_, if you think best, send him and Easter off as I expect they will be in your way.
Mr. McWatters is yet hard on a trying to swap the gray. He wished to have sent him back to Mr. Miskill by Angus but Angus would not take him. He, I believe, had rather purchase out and out. Moses was afraid to return least you and Mr. Miskill might keep him. He appeared to argue while off that he had best keep off. I am much out of heart agitating on, but I know what you will say — that it is all for the best — and recommend resignation &c. but you must recollect that at all times we cannot be as resigned as we should.
I am dear Lemuel, your affectionate uncle, — Malcom McNeill
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 2
Addressed to Lemuel S. McNeil, Esquire, Natchez, Mississippi
Christian County, Kentucky
April 6th 1826
By last mail I received your favor of the 21st ulto. in which you acknowledge the receipt of mine dated the 9th unto. from [Port] Gibson P.O. On my way home I wrote you also from some little place on this side of the Nation. Soon after closing my letter, a Mr. William O. Perkins living near Florence overtook me. I had left the plantation (Springfield) on the 8th . He left Natchez on the 9th. Hearing each other’s names, we soon became acquainted. We rode nearly two days in company. He gave me a history of his own life and that of the most of his connections. To sum the whole, he thinks the Perkin’s family are a friendly family of people until their purse is touched; then you are gone. Let their treasure alone and all ir right. More of his amusing anecdotes when I see you. I reached home on the 23rd, found your Aunt Martha very low, believed her to be dangerous, sent for Doct. Dabney of Tennessee and Mrs. Rivers. She is yet very weak but much mended. She can sit up in her bed.
A few days after my arrival home, I was taken with the complaint that is very prevalent and fatal in these parts [smudged] with which many die. I expected at one time never to be able to write again. Thank God he is yet merciful to me by sparing me yet longer, and enabling me to get about the house.
After thus informing you my reasons for not writing you earlier after reaching home, I shall now notice your letter in order. The groceries I have received. Also Jenny Easter & two children like all very well but the Capt. charged me about $20 more than such things ware brought from Orleans to the same landing for. No bargain being made, he charged me out of the question. Boyd’s instructions was to pay charges and had done so before I was apprised of it. Otherwise I would not have paid the bill.
I am happy to hear of your planting cotton so early. Think you acted perfectly right with mis___ both as respects the dispute and also the unloading the wagon. I have no doubt you have done well in the purchase of the corn. Do expect that pork will be very low with you, and that that ungrateful fellow Miller got more for his pork that he should have expected. A man never finds another man out until he has business with him. I have known that man 7 or 8 years and have always thought him a different man. This shows how few are genuine. A man tried and proved to be genuine should always be esteemed. On the contrary, the others should be marked. I join you in hoping that we may never be troubled with such ___ again.
Miller I did not write. Bishop I hardly know. On my return I find such talk by Mary Grant and Miller marrying. Perhaps he felt like it was all right. From that circumstance, they certainly will pay the corn their horses eat. Should you give him the order, it shall be attended to , paid on sight, in all my ____, I have kept my paper equal to cash knowing that no man can trade with his paper under par or the least dull. It should be taken as cash on sight by any person, then a man can do something trading.
You say write you about Joshua Grant’s family. I suppose you mean the family generally and H. M. Grant particularly. I have not yet seen the unfortunate youth but hear that he dresses very extravagantly, is very flu of money, and deals it out at a ____ hand, has purchased him a fine horse, saddle, and bridle, has not only supplied the immediate wants od his Father and family, but has put them all at a little on the dandy order, have planted their standard of independence, and appear even to the smallest, resolved to support it. While they have such a leader, their leader knows everything and fears nothing, is greatly slandered but is as spotless as a sheet of white paper.
Before I arrived, it appeared that he called several times to know when I would be at home. On my arrival, or a few days after, his father called and I gave him his son’s corrector, advised him to put him to hard labour, and informed him that I never wished to see his son unless under the circumstances that I wrote him. They all appeared too keep at a distance, but so soon as his money gives out, I will again have the friendship of the family. So I shall know soon after he runs aground.
I have not been yet from home. Will try and see the administrator of my father’s estate & write you on that subject in a few days. A mail or two ago I received a letter from Hector McNeill of Lexington for which I am under obligations to him for. Will write him in a few days. Will write Alexander McNeill of Natchez by this mail in answer to his favor of the 17th ulto.
I am, dear Lemuel, your affectionate uncle, — Malcom McNeill
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER 3
Addressed to Lemuel S. McNeill, Esquire, Natchez, Mississippi
Christian County, Kentucky
April 14th 1826
I received your kind favor of the 22 ulto. post marked 24th and am truly pleased that the Executors are reconciled to the steps taken by me. I say pleased because on every view I can take of the subject, I can view it in no other light than justice. I can see no injury resulting from it, either to them or to any of the legatees.
This will no doubt enable us to act as were a speaking of a coming from Natchez. Should Montgomery & McNeill dissolve, I cannot believe that Alex. would be pleased to form a co-partnership with those two young men. Too long indulgence should not be promised, as all young men need something to stimulate them. They should expect to refund it earlier than was intended for it to be exacted. You have omitted as yet to say the amount that probably would be needed. we should certainly try and put them into business believing that they would use economy and industry in business.
I am truly sorry to hear that you have been sick. Would advise your leaving Springfield earlier than the 1st of May on account of your health.
Nothing has transpired worthy of notice since I wrote you last. Only your Aunt Martha’s health, I think, is improving. She is able to set up several hours in the day and with assistance to walk across the house.
If in my former letters I have omitted to say, I now inform you that Mr. McDalton and Moses hang on — as he the old man calls it — to the black colt and got him home. He is very poor.
I have offered to take Angus Grant and send him to school this summer or even until he receives a good english education. He has not yet come but I am informed that he will so soon as he helps his Father to plant his corn. I know nothing of H. M. Grant further than I hear that he dresses very fine and does nothing and tells his acquaintances that he had to leave Natchez on account of his fighting a duel. What will become of him, the Lord above knows. I feel anxious yet to help him and see him do better but can’t do it until I see a change. It has given me no little uneasiness and pain to act towards him as I have — forbidding him to visit me or see me until a visible change. It is painful, although I think I have done right. I have not seen him yet. I have heard of nothing he has said against us down there that would be worthy of notice. Perhaps he has been more particular or liberal than we expected.
I received a letter of some importance to my Father’s Estate the other day from Mr. N. Norf____ expecting you shortly. Will show it to you on your arrival as it is a private letter. Shall not show it to any person until you arrive. Have not been able yet to see the administrators of this estate. Understand the sales will take place in May. Will have time enough given so that you can get here.
Please add to my Bill of groceries one barrel of sugar and send it up, for all which I can pay on demand.
Try, if you please, to get Henry Burk’s money as well as Mr. Cooper’s. Do not bring it in Mississippi money as it will not answer here.
I wrote Alexander a few days ago. Will write Hector by this mail.
My overseer here appears to do very well. My negroes had done very badly while I was gone. They had rebelled against hi, declared they were not to be shipped, and he says they all expected their freedom. As my poor mother used to say, I have turned over a new leaf. Of course they think I have not that good religion that they expected and I doubt it myself. So we are even.
I amm dear Lemuel, your affectionate uncle, — Malcom McNeill