This letter was written by Col. John M. Hanson (1799-Aft1870), a native of Maine, who appears to have relocated to Florida Territory in the 1820s. He is enumerated as a planter in St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida in the 1850 census. He was also, apparently, the Collector Customs in St. Augustine. It seems that Hanson grew sugar cane on a plantation called Casacola about five miles north of St. Augustine on the west side of the North River which is now part of the North Florida Regional Airport.
William Cullen Bryant, poet and editor of the New York Evening Post, visited Hanson’s sugar plantation in 1843 and wrote about it in his 1850 book, “Letters of a Traveller; or Notes of Things Seen in Europe and America.”
“In one [of the buildings] was the mill where the cane was crushed with iron rollers, in another stood the huge cauldrons, one after another in which the juice was boiled down to proper consistence.”
Nearby Bryant saw that “in the open air lay a pile of sugarcane of the ribbon variety, striped with red and white.”
Immediately after the Civil War, John Hanson declared bankruptcy and made a list of his assets. Among this sugar equipment were a copper still “with tub and necessary apparatus,” sugar boilers, copper skimmers, a set of blacksmith’s tolls, 35 weeding hoes, 15 chopping axes, 3 cross cut saws, 16 mules, 6 horses, 2 pair of oxen, and more. But without the plantation’s enslaved workers, who had been freed, Hanson could not continue.” [Source: The St. Augustine Record, 18 November 2012]
Addressed to Mrs. Frances Hunter, Richmond, Virginia
St. Augustine [Florida]
June 30, 1844
Your letter of the 4th June was received a few days since and should have answered it last week but Margaret was sick. I am truly sorry that you have not been paid your interest money before this. I did expect to make the arrangement with Mr. Lawton to pay you. I offered to give him good security for the amount and ship my crop to him, but from some cause or the other he declined. I have since tried to sell property at a sacrifice to raise this money for you, but it is impossible to sell here now for money.
I shall endeavor to make arrangements with Mr. John Peck of New York who is concerned in business out here. I have a very large and promising crop on the ground and could make the arrangement with Mr. Peck, if it was a little later in the season, but it is so long between this and November when the crop is gathered in, the merchants dislike to advance.
I shall write however to Mr. Peck and endeavor to make the arrangement and I shall also make every exertion by other means to raise the required money. If I should fail, I see no other alternative that that you should, if you are so inclined, to take the Negroes and sell them for your own benefit this fall or winter.
Yours respectfully, — J. N. Hanson
I sent you $100 last fall after I returned home. You have not yet sent me a receipt.