These two letters were written by Malcom McNeill (1796-1875), a native of Person County, North Carolina, who moved to Christian Co., Kentucky — one mile south of the Sinking Fork bridge on the road from Hopkinsville to Princeton, in 1817. He took the oath of citizenship there on 28 February 1817. He began accumulating property at an early age, first near his home in Kentucky, but later he bought thousands of acres in Mississippi and within the city of Natchez, which greatly increased in value. He made his first investments in Chicago in 1842, at a time when travel there required carriages or horseback. He became a man of great wealth, described in an 1884 history of Christian and Trigg counties as “perhaps the richest man in the county, with a large estate and many negroes both there and in Mississippi.”
Malcom and Catherine Boddie (his fifth wife) appeared on the 1850 Federal Census of Christian Co., Kentucky, enumerated 7 Aug 1850, reporting real estate valued at $60,500 and 57 slaves. Their son Malcolm was listed as living with them, as was Malcolm Carothers. He reported an additional 72 slaves on his plantation in Coahoma Co. Alabama.
Malcom and Catherine appeared on the 1860 Federal Census of Hopkinsville, Christian Co., Kentucky, enumerated 9 Apr 1860, reporting real estate valued at $240,000, and personal estate of $36,000, including 46 slaves houses in 10 slave houses. Malcom Caruthers, age 12, whose relationship is not known, is listed as living with them.
Malcom and Catherine appeared on the 1870 Federal Census of Hopkinsville, Christian Co., Kentucky, enumerated 30 Aug 1870, reporting real estate valued at $29,700 and personal estate of $5,000. His widowed daughter Martha, by his third wife, and her children Elizabeth, Lucy, George, Malcolm, John, Willie and Nicholas were listed as living with them. Also listed were Benjamin, Rivers and William, three of the younger sons of his late son Thomas, and Lula Musgrove, age 20, a school teacher.
Addressed to Mrs. Malcom McNeill, Lafayette P. O., Christian County, Kentucky
Lake Charles, Mississippi
October 17th 1857
My Dear Wife,
We arrived here the day before yesterday and thank God, we found them all well, not a death this year, not one laid up. Yesterday Sissy laid up, with monthly courses which I think Overseer & Thomas Henry ¹ thought was owing to my getting here. They think they see in the negroes a disposition to take advantages, when Master just coming in glad to see them. I suppose she will be out Monday. Gen’l. Grant & Col. Perkins were here yesterday evening. All well with them. The Gen’l. was elected easy to the Legislature. The distressing times, I fear, has put a stop to the selling of lands. I did wish to have sold thirty or forty thousand dolls. worth this season while prices were up.
I find our corn crop tolerably good but we are making no cotton crop — the worst I have seen on the place for fifteen years. With good and favorable weather we may make 250 or 300 bales but if not very suitable weather, we will not even make near that much. I have been a little over Mr. Boddie’s ² & Thomas Henry’s cotton. I see but little difference in any of our crops. I am very much afraid Mr. Boddie & Martha will have great trouble in getting down the River — it is very low and but few boats running.
I learned when I got to Memphis that Jack Rivers was dead. Jacob — Milly’s grandson — it appears was sold to a man near Summerville, Western District of Tennessee. He runaway and came here some few weeks since. Thomas Henry wrote his owner & he came and took him away. Thomas Henry has been quite sick but was riding out when we got here. He says he is going after his family next week (this is Saturday). If so, he will likely trot this letter there, and as I shall write by him, you may hear from me by him sooner than this letter. I trust you are all well and that the good Lord will take care of us all.
Your affectionate husband, — Malcom McNeill
¹ Thomas Henry McNeill was a son of Malcom McNeill and his first wife, Martha Rivers (1800-1827) — the daughter of Elizabeth (Edmunds) and Thomas Rivers.
² Willie Perry Boddie was born in Nash County, North Carolina, July 22, 1822, and died at “Hemphill” farm in Christian County, Kentucky, February 9, 1870. He married Martha Rivers McNeill, daughter of Malcolm and Martha (Rivers) McNeil, December 11, 1848. She was born at the “White House” seven miles from Hopkinsville, February 27, 1827, and did at “Hemphill” July 29, 1887. Willie Perry Boddie was educated at Wake Forest College, and the University of North Carolina. He made several trips to Europe during his early manhood, and studied for some time in England. His children are enumerated in another paragraph, and the portraits of himself and wife appear on another page, also portrait of Mrs. Boddie’s mother, Martha Rivers, wife of Malcom Mc Neil.