The signature of the author of this letter is difficult to read. It appears to be “A. R. Hunt” and if it is, the only name in the Virginia census records that seems to match would be Abijah R. Hunt who eventually settled in Jackson, Virginia (now West Virginia). This Hunt does not appear to have been related to the Hannah family but we learn from the letter that he was an acquaintance with Grief Barksdale.
Hunt wrote the letter to Samuel Hannah (1792-1859), the son of Andrew Hannah (1766-1826) and Ann Cunningham (1761-?). Andrew was a revolutionary war soldier and the owner of extensive plantations in Virginia — “Gravel Hill” and “Cliffside” in Charlotte County. Samuel Hannah married Charlotte Ella Barksdale (1813-1886), the daughter of Grief Barksdale (1774-1850) and Mary Anne Elliott. The Hannah’s lived in Charlotte County, and Lynchburg, VA., and Kanawha County, VA. At the time this letter was written in 1843, Samuel was serving as a bank cashier in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia). He also traded in cotton, salt and tobacco. Charlotte’s sister, Arabella Barksdale (b. 1822) is mentioned in this letter.
Hunt’s letter describes the miserable performance of the tobacco crop in central Virginia and expresses his hope of finding a better opportunity for earning a living in western Virginia in any line of work in which he can utilize his twenty slaves.
Addressed to Samuel Hannah, Esqr., Charleston, Kanawha County, Virginia
August 21, 1843
Some two years since I sold out my farm in Halifax and bought in this neighborhood. I have lately been induced to sell out here and now I wish to buy again, but I do not wish to buy perceptibly. I should prefer going to some of the Western States where I would get land at a low price if my wife was willing but she says she can’t go yet awhile. But she is willing to go anywhere in Virginia. I conclude to drop in a line to ask if you think I could employ about twenty hands in your county profitably, either in the way of farming or otherwise. Yours is a section in which I should not hesitate to live, yet I should not be willing to buy land at random. If I could rent a good farm for a year or two at a reasonable price, I should be willing to try it, I think. Write me on this subject if there is any chance to do pretty well at anything in which slave labor is employed. I would try it for indeed it does seem that we shall come out at the little end of the horn here. Our farmers are sinking weary every day in consequence of the failure in the tobacco crop so repeatedly. The growing crop can do but little. In the first place, there was a _____ stand of the plants, then the dry weather which retarded its growth, then the flood of rain which has caused it to fi___ to what extent as yet I am not able to say. But under no circumstances can there be more than half a crop made ____ _____, and the must depend on the seasons from this time. Half crops are not what we want now. It will take some two or three whole ones at big prices to put things straight.
Farmville, I suppose, is as near run aground as any place can well be. There is scarcely a man in the place that’s worth anything. The Venables, the great financiers & so on, I believe, are _____ broke. Say to Mrs. Hannah I heard from her Pa’s a few days ago. Her sister Arabella has gotten much better. The rest of the family well. Miss Lucy Jane is carrying a broad row among the young men.
My wife sends her best love to all your way. Write me immediately, if you please, if you say anything thats flattering, I will at least visit you.
Truly yours, — A. R. Hunt