This letter was written by Eli C. Bishop (1819-18xx) of Lancaster District, South Carolina. Eli was a slave-holding farmer and was very active in the Free Mason Society in South Carolina. From the letter, it is clear that Eli has recently returned from a visit with George W. Blethen who had a plantation at near Woodville, Mississippi. Perhaps he sold and delivered slaves to Blethen or one of the other gentlemen mentioned in this letter.
I found an advertisement in the 18 March 1847 issue of the Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, GA) placed by Lewis L. Shelton of Hamburg, S.C. offering a $50 reward for the apprehension of a runaway slave named “Dick.” The advertisement stattes that the slave was purchased from Eli Bishop and Shelton conjectures that Dick might be headed to Woodville. I can only guess that “Dick’s” relatives were sold and taken to Mississippi. Why else would a runaway slave run deeper into the cotton kingdom?
One of the names in the letter was Seth Loomis Carpenter (1825-1885). Seth came to Woodville, Mississippi, from Maine around 1845 and lived there for a short time before serving three months with the volunteers who served in the War with Mexico. After the war, he returned to Maine where he was married to Lucinda Ham and, in 1848, he went to Wisconsin where he became a lawyer. He eventually settled in Alpena, Michigan.
Addressed to G. W. Blethen, Esqr., Woodville, Mississippi
Lancaster District, South Carolina
May 7th 1846
I at last lifting pen to inform you that myself and family is well excepting father-in-law’s family is several of them unwell & the old gentleman died while I was in Woodville which I fear will make me later than I expected in getting back to your village as the estate will be troublesome to settle up. But my present calculation is to be there by the 1st of October if all things works right. I find the times very hard in old Carolina but for all property keeps up remarkably — negroes I mean. I wish you & our mutual friend Seth L. Carpenter to write to me all about the times in your fine little village — a place in which I feel such a deep interest for its welfare & prosperity. Tell friend Carpenter & Capt. McMurtry that I have watched the Post Office daily for a letter from each of them. I did not write to friend Carpenter right off because I hate to write to all hands at once. Write to each of my friends at different times & you could all hear of me. And now I have not much to write.
I have been as busy as a bee in a tar bucket ever since I came home with my farm &c. My free masons magazine was here by the time I was so I am obliged to write to you. Write shure soon. Give my love to all the good citizens of Woodville as they were all kind to me.
Most respectfully, — Eli C. Bishop
P.S. Present my best love to P. Smith, Esqr. particularly, — ECB