This 1838 letter was written by Edward Smith Brown (1818-1908) while he was attending Randolph Macon College in Boydton, Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Edward became an “eminent” lawyer and a member of the Virginia Legislature. Edward wrote the letter to his parents Daniel Brown (1776-1863) and Nancy Hobson Walton (1779-1880). Edward married Jane Margaret Winfree (1821-1910) in 1845, and resided in Lynchburg, Campbell County, Virginia in later life (after 1865). Edward’s father was a planter in Cumberland County, Virginia though he later relocated to Powhatan County and resided at a place called Somerset.
Several of Edward’s siblings are mentioned in this letter. They include: Henry James Brown (1811-1855), Robert Walton Brown (1813-18xx); Thomas Compton Brown (1815-1883), Mary Christina Brown (1819-1891), Elizabeth Bettie Brown (1822-1888), and Daniel Hobson Brown (1828-1916). On-line genealogy records also show Martha Ann Brown (1825-1886) as Daniel and Nancy’s daughter but this letter mentions “cousin Martha.” The reference to “Charles” in this letter is probably a family slave.
The University of Virginia houses a collection of 28 letters written by Edward Brown during the years 1838-1842 while a student at Randolph Macon College. A summary of those letters states:
“Letters, 1838-1843, from Edward S. Brown while a student at Randolph Macon College in Boydton, Virginia, to his mother, Nancy H. Brown, and siblings, Elizabeth A., Daniel, Mary C., and Thomas C. Brown, chiefly concern his personal and educational life at college. On February 18, 1838, Brown writes that he expects to stand his examination on Virgil, he dislikes the prospect of facing both Latin and Greek, a new grammar was introduced in the school, and the preparatory school is much larger this year. On April 14, 1838, Brown mentions brothers Henry and Robert planning to go to Missouri, the effects of the current revival of religion on the college, and reading Virgil. As the end of the spring session nears, he writes on June 4, 1839, requesting the family to send Charles to him as well as a small amount of money and a horse by the 19th of the month. A letter of September 27, 1841, discusses the health of his brother, Thomas, and his recovery at sea. On October 16, 1841, Brown writes that his professor suggests he stand an examination on some of his studies prior to leaving for the session; suggests plans for sending Charles to him; suggests Thomas go to Texas or Cuba instead of Rio for his health; and, mentions Texas favorably “as it is generally inhabited by our own countrymen…” A letter of January 30, 1842, discusses the effects of “neuro electric fluid” or “mesmeric fluid” on the human body; and refers to studying law along with regular duties and mentions the high cost of law books. On January 30, 1842, Brown mentions his brother Thomas’ health and relates a secondhand account of the wedding of “Miss Harriet.” A letter of May 15, 1842, mentions commencement, plans to send Charles to him, and news of the Randolph Macon College faculty, including Sims who went to Tuscaloosa to teach at the University of Alabama. The letter also mentions that the temperance reformation speeches given by Mr. Cary of Baltimore, Maryland are usually followed by a revival. On August 29, 1843, Brown is looking forward to completing his studies; he also discusses the Campbellites and other religions in Hopewell, Virginia. There is also a letter, March 25, 1844, from A. Clarke at Randolph Macon College to Edward S. Brown, giving his impressions of the study of astronomy, mental philosophy, and French; revealing that they are engaged in the calculation of the eclipse; expressing his mixed feelings toward commencement and revealing his plans following commencement. Clarke also mentions Governor [James] McDowell and details personal characteristics of his intended, a Miss Louise C. J. of Mecklenburg, Virginia.”
Addressed to Mr. Daniel Brown, Cartersville P.O., Cumberland County, Virginia
Randolph Macon College
December 1st 1838
I have postponed writing to you longer than I should have done on account of the pressing of my studies, which for the last two or three weeks has been very great. But I hope that you will get this in time.
Our examination will commence on next Monday week, and the session will close on the 20th of this month which will be next Thursday fortnight. I wish you to send for me time enough for Charles to get here on Thursday night as I should like to start home on Friday morning. I shall also be very thankful to you (if your convenience will allow it) to send me money — enough to carry me home. On account of my having to purchase a bed and some other articles and paying all my board at the commencement of the session, I am entirely out of money.
My health at this time is as good as usual though I have not enjoyed very good health this session. I am sometimes very much troubled with an aching in my ears so much so that the least noise is quite painful to me.
I received sister Elizabeth’s letter in due time and as that excused me from writing home on condition that I would write to brother Henry and brother Robert, I accordingly wrote to them, but should also have written home if time had permitted. I hardly think it is worth while for me to write much as I am coming home in a few days and can tell you all of the news when I get there.
Please excuse the shortness of this letter, mistakes, blunders, bad spelling, &c.
Give my love to mother, Daniel, & my sisters and also to brother Thomas & cousin Martha. Do not forget to send the saddle bags.
Farewell, dear father. Your affectionate son, — Edward S. Brown