1842: William S. Theus to John Graham Ponder

How William Theus might have looked

How William Theus might have looked

This letter was written by William S. Theus (1817-1846), believed to be the son of Simon Theus (1790-1866). William married (1842) Rachel Ann Ponder (1821-1885), the daughter of Hezekiah Ponder (1770-1833) and Ann (Nancy) Graham of Leon County, Florida. Hezekiah and Ann Ponder lived in Camden County, Georgia until 1824 when they bought land in Leon County, Florida, near the Georgia line. The Ponder plantation was called “Inochee.”

William wrote the letter to his brother-in-law,  John Graham Ponder (1824-1849). In the fall of 1849, John was killed by highwaymen at a camp near Hawkinsville, Georgia, while he was bringing a drove of blacks from Virginia for sale at his brother Ephraim Ponder’s plantation in Leon County. The Spectator (New York) issue of 1 November 1849 carried the following description of the murder:

Hawkinsville [Georgia], October 23 [1849]

I drop you these few lines to inform you of one of the most atrocious murders ever committed in this country; it was on the person of Mr. John G. Ponder, a speculator. He passed through this place on Saturday night, on his way from Richmond, Va., to Florida, with a drove of negroes, and camped about 10 miles below, and during Sunday night two men were seen by a negro girl; she supposing they were some of their own people, as the fire had burnt down and could not distinctly see them, she paid no attention to them. They killed him by a blow with an axe, which the girl heard.

His head was completely split open, and he never spoke or made the least noise after the blow. They carried his trunk off half a mike and broke it open, and got 50 dollars and a cloth coat; his paper money was under his head and they did not find it. It is not thought that his negroes committed the murder, as they show no signs of guilt.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to John G. Ponder, Esqr., Jefferson County, New Market, Tennessee

Florida
June 8th 1842

Dear Brother,

The opportunity have now arrived that I take my pen in hand to inform you that we are all well, hoping this may reach you and find you blessed with the same. Ephraim is little complaining though about. Ephraim James and two of the Ramboughs will start for Tennessee in about ten or fifteen days. Young Rambaugh is agoing to school at New Market. Mother, Mr. Forbes’ sister Betsey and James are all gone to the springs but James will be back in a few days. Capt. Johnson is in bad health. He was to have started on last Monday to Tampa Bay for his health and to pick him out a preemption. His family are all well. The two old Burneys are dead.

Florida is generally healthy at present. Crops are very sorry in consequence of the drouth. We have had a very fine camp meeting. About seventy joined and it is still going on in Tallahassee still. The connections I believe generally are healthy. You must excuse my bad writing for this is the worst paper I have ever wrote upon.

I have given you a detail of the health and the times. I will come to the matrimonial part. No weddings has taken place since you left. Capt. Covington went so far as to bake his cake and then the old lady backed him out. It is reported that Henry Caplan is engaged to be married to Miss Simpson. Hinton Saunders is living at your brother William’s in the place of Mr. Hadly. As soon as you get news from the springs, I will write you again. We have not heard from you since you left. Give my respects to Mr. Colwell and particularly to Mr. Routh. Pay good attention to your ladies and don’t court more than your satisfaction.

Brother James wrote to you before he started to the springs. I must now come to a close for I have nothing more at present. Only, I remain yours until death, — William S. Theus


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