A Guide to James Hunter Terrell, Letters from former slaves of Terrell settled in Liberia, 1857-1866
A Collection in
The Special Collections Department
Accession Number 10460, 10460-a
Special Collections Department, University of Virginia LibraryContact Information:
Alderman Memorial Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4110
Phone: (434) 924-3025
Fax: (434) 924-4968
Processed by: Ervin L. Jordan, Jr.
Funding: Web version of the finding aid funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
© 2000 By the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. All rights reserved.
The collection is without restrictions.
There are no restrictions.
Letters from former slaves of Terrell settled in Liberia, 1857-1866, Accession # 10460, -a, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
Collection number 10460 is derived from a gift from Mrs. Alice
Goodwin Lenz of Stockton, CA, and Mrs. Caroline Goodwin Gwerder
or Walnut Grove, CA, 01 June 1981;
10460-a is a gift to the Library from Mrs. Richard P. Minor through Mr. William Minor of Ballico, CA, on 09 August 1982.
These letters are also available at the following website: http://etext.virginia.edu/subjects/liberia/.
This collection contains letters from Liberian settlers who were former slaves of Dr. James Hunter Terrell, 1783-1856 of "Music Hall," Albemarle County, Virginia, chiefly to his nephew, Dr. James Hunter Minor, 1818-1862?.
In his will Terrell directed that all of his slaves were to be freed after his death provided they would emigrate to Liberia. He also directed that one of his plantations, "Ducking Hole Place" in Louisa County, be sold to benefit the emancipated slaves. Terrell's nephew-who was his adopted son and also his executor-James H. Minor, carried out his uncle's instructions. The former slaves were transported to Liberia on the Mary Caroline Stevens, a ship specifically built to transport freed slaves and supplies to Africa.
Upon arriving in Liberia the emigrants settled chiefly in Careysburg but also in Clay Ashland, and in Monrovia. They soon began to correspond with Dr. Minor. A few of the letters are addressed to other individuals including Howell Lewis 1832-?, an Albemarle County teacher and farmer, and the Rev. W. Slaughter.
In their letters, the settlers request supplies, inquire after the health of family and friends, and describe life in Liberia. There is a very brief mention of conflicts with local African tribes. Several of the letters contain references to Saunders A. Campion, governor of Careysburg and an agent of the American Colonization Society; Dr. James H. Hall (?-1889), founder, and first agent of the State of Maryland in Liberia; and of Rev. John Seys 1799-1872, special agent and resident minister to Liberia.
This collection consists of ca. forty-nine items, 1857-1866, chiefly the letters of Hugh Walker, George Walker, and William Douglass, of Clay Ashland, Monrovia, and Careysburg, Liberia, written chiefly to Dr. James H. Minor, Terrell's nephew and the executor of his will; and also to Albemarle County residents including Howell Lewis and W. Slaughter.
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/, (7 August, 1998). --. "Maps of Liberia, 1830-1870." 1998. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/libhtml/libhome.html, (7 August,1998). Data and Program Library Service, University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Roll of Emigrants to Liberia, 1820-1843 and Liberian Census Data, 1843 Tom W. Shick, Principal Investigator." 1998. http://dpls.dacc.wisc.edu/Liberia/index.html, (7 August, 1998).
Mary Michie to Dr. James H. MinorALS, 4 p.Images:
Mary Michie tells of her family's safe arrival in Monrovia. She states that Monrovia is nearly as large as Charlottesville, the people are genteel and enlightened, and summer in Liberia is not as warm as summer in America. She plans to stay in Monrovia and would appreciate any means of assistance. She says that she has met a man named John Henry Paxton who came to Liberia from the Carr family and asks Minor to direct his letters to him as Postmaster General. She sends love from her and her family with special thanks to Minor's uncle [Dr. James Hunter Terrell].
William Douglass to Dr. James H. Minor February 5 1857ALS, 4 p.Images:
Letter from William Douglass Dr. Minor in which he records his first impressions of his new home in Liberia. He covers the health of his company during their crossing, the names of other former slaves who, like him, have immigrated to Careysburg, the general schedule of religious activities they follow through the week, and an assessment of the general beauty and productiveness of the land, especially the potential for cotton production. The letter is full of praise for the Colonization agents and optimistic about the future.
William Douglass, Hugh Walker, and Samuel Carr to Dr. James H. Minor February 6 1857ALS, 4 p.Images:
This letter, apparently of collective authorship by William Douglass, Hugh Walker, and Samuel Carr, speaks wholly for items needed to live: clothes, tools, and food. The three "authors" of the letter seem to be the voice of a larger part of the community since requests for such goods are made for a variety of individuals. The tone of the letter conveys some impatience with Dr. Minor for his lack of organization and promptness in sending such items.
Young Barrett, Maria Barrett, and Isabella Johnson to Dr. James H. MinorALS, 4 p.Images:
Young Barrett, Maria Barrett, and Isabella Johnson write to Minor sending news of the health of a variety of colonists including Charles and Richard Barrett, William Douglass and his family, Charles and Philip Twine, George, Winslow and Hugh Walker, Washington, Allen, Wilson, and Martin Coleman, John and Washington Michie, and Thomas and David Scott. They are all at the Interior Settlement. They also list the deaths at the other locations. They request a variety of supplies, some for barter, including flour, calico, fish, 2 pairs of black garters, leather shoes, bleached and unbleached cotton, bedspreads, dress patterns, satin ribbon. They also request about 20 dollars in gold or silver. Some supplies included in a previous shipment were not received, evidently stolen. They request that these be sent by the Mary Caroline Stevens, a ship evidently set to arrive in the Spring. Postscripts request powder, shot, sugar, more flour and more calico. References to some individuals are unclear.
Hugh Walker to Dr. James H. Minor March 4 1857ALS, 2 p.Images:
Hugh Walker informs Dr. Minor that despite twelve deaths including those of Robinson Scott and his son, James; Patrick Michie, Buck Thompson, Richard Franklin, Jacob Twine and his grand child, and despite the illness of his own wife, he is doing quite well and is "much pleased with this place." However, Walker's optimism is mixed with a strange apocalyptic vision concerning the imminent death of those around him and his community. Such a vision is exemplified by statements such as the following: "While some are rejoicing at their friends going to a better house others are filled with grief at the thoughts of their future estate." The close of the letter, while conventional in its wish of wellness upon Dr. Minor, ends in a touch of sadness and loss at the separation of Walker from his parents and friends who are still in America.
Saunders A. Campion for George Walker, et al, to Dr. James H. Minor March 5 1857ALS, 4 p.Images:
Penned by the Superintendent of the Careysburg American Colonization Society, Saunders A. Campion, this letter describes the newcomers' joy at having travelled from America and into the Interior Settlement with only minor discomforts of sea-sickness. The "Liberia Project" is explicitly refered to as an "experiment" and the letter's signers blatantly state that they have, "as yet to regret" being induced by Doctor Hall to partake in this experiment. The rest of the letter is a grocery list of items each family needs. A request is made that the items be boxed safely and shipped on the spring return of the Mary Caroline Stevens with a Bill of Lading directed to William Douglass care of Mr. Saunders A. Campion.
William Douglass to Dr. James H. Minor and Frank Nelson March 8 1857ALS, 3 p.Images:
Having recently arrived to Liberia from Virginia, Douglass informs Dr. Minor and Frank Nelson of those who have died from the perilous acclimating fever. In order to protect his own health Douglass explains that he had to leave the coast for higher elevations because he thinks it "imprudent for persons raised on high lands to settle on the Coast." Douglass requests a series of items including money. He asks that all the goods be sent with "separate and different receipts" so that, unlike the previous shipment, each person will know exactly what is coming to them. Douglass thinks the country is delightful, and explains that with industry they have a good chance to survive and if they do not improve "it will be our own fault." He voices his community's determination to cultivate their new country with the foundations of God and education despite their hardships of sickness and insufficient tools.
William Douglass to Reverend W. Slaughter April 24 1857ALS, 3 p.Images:
William Douglass informs Reverend Slaughter that despite a few members who have had the acclimating fever, the high elevation of the mountain has been very good for his family's and community's health. The rest of the letter discusses the process of building the community: building houses, the Union Church. Douglass asks the Reverend to tell Dr. Minor to place the provisions he had asked for in the previous letter in barrels and to direct them to Careysburg under the care of Reverend John Seys.
William Douglass to Dr. James H. Minor August 19 1857ALS, 4 p.Images:
Douglass gives notice to Dr. Minor that the Mary Caroline Stevens has completed her route to Liberia and now waits in the port of Monrovia for her return trip home. Douglass says that all are doing tolerably well, although Robinson Scott's family, who have remained in Clay Ashland, are "much reduced." Log cabins have been built and provide comfortable living. The land has been well-planted with "potatoes, cassavas, eddoes, tomatoes, lima beans," and some "coffee trees." Douglass tells Minor of their past due accounts on lumber and gives him a list of moneys due to each member. Douglass sends thanks for the recently received articles which he had asked for in a previous letter. He also regrets to mention recent deaths at Clay Ashland: Mollie Michie, Patty Walker and Syphon Terrell. The letter ends with Douglass sending his love to "all the Colored folks and to his dear old aunt Rachel who, he says, is "too old to scuffle to make a living here."
Ralph Randolph Gurley to Dr. James H. Minor November 4 1857ALS, 3 p.Images:
In this letter R.R. Gurley replys to Dr. Minor of his earlier letter. Gurley inquires about the availability of the financial support from Virginians to further implement colonization of the former slaves in Liberia.
Tibby Scott to Dr. James H. Minor January 8 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
This letter describes the writer's general health. She also describes the types of vegetables and fruits grown in Clay Ashland. Since she has not received groceries except for a barrel of flour, and meat is scarce, she requests that she be sent the following staples: pork, fish, sugar, soap, butter, and additional flour. She also requests to be sent calico and gingham fabric with which to make her sons some clothing.
Judy Harden to Mr. Howell Lewis January 21 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
Tells of her new job with an immigrant family at Careysburg, Liberia after her husband's death. She requests news from both Mr. and Mrs. Lewis as well as news of other slaves remaining in Virginia and sends word to "federick" that his sister-in-law died; to an aunt and uncle that their children have not forgotten them; and to other slaves to not forget her and write soon. At the end she states that she has purchased a town lot and another thirty acres which she is renting out.
Mary Scott to Dr. James H. Minor January 21 1858ALS, 1 p.Images:
Mary inquires as to the health of Minor and states her own good health. She sends greetings to Minor's wife, Mary, and children and to friends (unnamed). Mary continues with an itemized listing of foodstuffs, clothing and fabric which she asks Dr. Minor to send her.
George Walker to Dr. James H. Minor January 27 1858ALS, 3 p.Images:
Wilson thanks Minor for sending supplies, but complains that various types of cloth were not received. Wilson makes a new request that includes cloth, nails, "one Dr Book ... four Baptis hym Book ... one box of tobacc." He also requests items on behalf of Sister Betty, who wants a white dress and other items. Wilson tells of receiving land, which he intends to plant in rice, and inquires after other mutual acquaintances, especially "Ant Rachel" at "Musik hall." He writes about preaching "the Gospel ... the best way I no how" and ends with a further request for supplies and news.
Henry Franklin and Milly Franklin to Dr. James H. Minor January 27 1858ALS, 1 p.Images:
The Franklins offer greetings and small family news, but devote the majority of the letter to a request for food, clothing, tools, and other supplies, their allotments from the American Colonization Society apparently having been lost in transit at sea.
Charles Twine to Dr. James H. Minor January 28 18585ALS, 2 p.Images:
Charles Twine requests a variety of tools, clothing, and foodstuffs be sent to him. Among the items requested are axes, saws, hoes, nails, a gun and ammunition, plates and cutlery, bacon, herring, cheese, sugar, butter, syrup, calico, bleached and unbleached cotton, thread, bedding, hats, shoes, handkerchiefs, socks, soap, castor oil, and vinegar. As a postscript he adds that Lucy would like a bedstead, bedspread, counterpane, and blankets.
Washington Michie to Dr. James H. Minor January 28 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
Washington Michie explains that, although many people have written to James Minor, he is writing to keep Dr. Minor from thinking badly of him. He then requests supplies: a barrel of corn meal, a barrel of pork, a box of men's shoes, a box of leaf tobacco, some fabric for pants, four umbrellas, and a barrel of fish. A calligraphic ornament separates this from the next section, in which he tells of receiving his land, which he hopes to improve, and reports that the others have also received theirs, 30 acres each and a town lot. They intend to raise cotton, he continues, and requests that his best respects be relayed to Aunt Rachel (he asks her to pray for him and assures her that he will try to do the same), to A. Johnson, to Ri Reply, and to others who may enquire.
Martin Coleman to Dr. James H. Minor January 28 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
After briefly inquiring about Dr. Minor's health, Martin Coleman starts a long list of items he would like Dr. Minor to send him. It is a mix of food items (flour, sugar, salt, pork, bacon), tools (axes, grubbing hoes, nails), and daily life items (soap, umbrellas, shoes, fabrics and eating utensils).
Richard Barrett to Elizabeth Lewis January 28 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
Richard Barrett reports that he and his children are well, that Careysburg is "a fine place," and that the natives are "docile and friendly people." He requests a number of items, including different kinds of cloth, nails, shoes, pork, axes, grubbing hoes, soap, knives and forks, and water pails. He mentions that they have meetings every Sunday and that the Baptist Association has sent F. Roberts from Grand Bassa to teach both adults and children. He sends greetings to sister Jinny and complains about the difficulty of obtaining goods in Liberia. He asks Ms. Lewis to pray for them. In a postscript, he requests her to ask J. H. Minor for a gun, specifying that it be an "American musket." A short note follows in a separate hand requesting that someone "send me this tomorrow," signed J.H.M. (probably James H. Minor).
David Scott to Dr. James H. Minor January 28 1858ALS, 3 p.Images:
David Scott describes the houses his neighbors are building, requests supplies for himself, and sends his love to friends. After a postscript asking for two more items, Scott adds a note to his wife, whom he tells about his house and coffee trees.
Mariah Barrett to Dr. James H. Minor January 28 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
This letter conveys information concerning the health of the author and her family, and includes a list of requested articles: black gaiters, shoes, boots, soap, whip, and some cloth. Refers to "all my friends both white and colored." In a postscript, Mariah requests a barrel of leaf tobacco.
William Douglass to his aunt January 28 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
Douglass tells how he and his daughter have had a slight fever. Thomas is dead and Douglass blames it on his waywardness. Mary is well and the rest are living as well as they can. At the close of the letter Douglass laments the distance that separates him from his aunt.
Washington Coleman to Dr. James H. Minor January 28 1858ALS, 2 p.Images:
Washington sends greetings to Dr. Minor and his family and wishes them well. He writes that he himself is not well but is steadily improving in health. The rest of the letter is a list of needed articles among which are the following: Barrel of Pork, Sugar, Flour, Soap, clothing, cloth, guns, and powder. He sends love to Uncle William and Joseph and ends with a wish for a Barrel of tobacco.
Lucy Twine to [Dr. James H. Minor] January 28 1858ALS, 1 p.Images:
Lucy Twine's letter is likely addressed to Dr. Minor since the majority of the letter is a list of needed articles such as bacon, tobacco, cloth, etc. Lucy also mentions an "unexpended portion of money" that is due to her and the rest of the colonists. At the end of this very short letter she sends love to Aunt Rachel and Martha.
Tarins Walker and Hugh Walker to Dr. James H. January 29 1858ALS, 1 p.Images:
Tells of items received and requests more supplies: farming tools, cloth, soap, nails, pork, etc. The Walkers mention they are in good health. The letter contains two separate lists: one from Tarins and one from Hugh. The majority of items Hugh requests are for cooking.
Mildred Carr to Dr. James H. Minor January 29 1858ALS, 3 p.Images:
Mildred Carr informs Dr. Minor that the ship, presumably the Mary Caroline Stevens, is about to return to Virginia. The writer is upset that other women received more cloth and clothing than she did in the last shipment. She asks for more cloth and clothing for herself and children. She asks the Dr. to send her love to Aunt Rachel, Brother Billy, and Joe since she does not have the time to write them due to her washing and ironing for the society. In a postscript she mentions the newly dead: Sister Rachel and Thomas Scott.
Judy Hardon to Howell Lewis, Dr. James H. Minor, and Frank Nelson February 27 1858ALS, 1 p.Images:
Judy Hardon requests supplies, including utensils, fabric, clothing and foodstuffs. She mentions the death of her husband and plans to continue farming in Liberia.
Mary Scott to Elizabeth Minor December 1858ALS, 3 p.Images:
Mary affirms that she is "well satisfied" that Africa is the country "for the colored race." She spends her time going to school and waiting on immigrants in the Receptacle. And although her brother has recently died she is assured he died happy.
William Douglass to Dr. James H. Minor January 26 1859ALS, 4 p.Images:
Douglass speaks of Dr. Minor's letter he has recently received. Although Douglass has had fever and chills, he can still work and the rest of his family is fine. He has been selling potatoes and other crops, including coffee and tobacco. He asks that "White Stem Seed tobacco" be sent in the next shipment. He mentions that the population is now 150. In his closing, Douglass tells of his journey to Monrovia and writes that "they do things up like you White People." He ends by telling Dr. Minor he is now Justice of the Peace and is learning to write but as of yet is unable to send a letter by his own hand.
Henry Franklin to Dr. James H. Minor February 17 1859ALS, 1 p.Images:
Requests that additional cloth be sent in the next shipment. He writes that he is learning lumber and farming and closes with the wish that the Dr. remember him to all his friends back in Virginia.
Adeline Southall to Dr. James H. Minor February 17 1859ALS, 2 p.Images:
Adeline thanks Dr. Minor for various goods (calico, flannel, shoes, stockings) received and shared with Sister Lucy and asks for tools and supplies to use in building a house on her cleared lot. She requests other supplies (chiefly textiles: bedticking, blue cotton, muslin, bleached and unbleached, cotton and linen handkerchief, calico) and articles (hat, shoes) for her son. She also asks for soap, which is scarce, leaf tobacco, and locks. Her son is well and goes to school every day. She sends love to her husband Henry and sister Susan. She likes the Country, and asks that Henry be told she is not yet married, that she misses him and would like him to come.
Margaret Coleman, Martin Coleman, Alan Coleman, and Washington Coleman to Dr. James H. Minor August 23 1859ALS, 3 p.Images:
Within this letter are four separate notes with lists of items needed and lists of items received from each of the four authors. Most of the materials are for building, clothes mending, and cooking--basically your everyday items needed for survival and for building a new civilization.
Wilson Coleman to Dr. James H. Minor August 23 1859ALS, 3 p.Images:
Wilson complains of aches in his back, side, and chest, then lists the items he has received from the doctor since he has been in Liberia. He follows with a list of things needed and ends with the information that Granvil and James Hunter Coleman are living with him. He closes by sending love to his own wife and explains he will write her next time.
Margaret Coleman to Dr. James H. Minor January 19 1860ALS, 2 p.Images:
Margaret Coleman requests James Minor to send various household items to her in Careysburg, Liberia, including soap, shoes, cotton, and calico. She explains to Minor that these items are especially needed as she has "all the children with me & this country [Liberia] is hard."
Adeline Southall to Dr. James H. Minor January 19 1860ALS, 2 p.Images:
Adeline Southall writes that she has received one pair of shoes and asks for more shoes, calico, soap, and cotton. She also includes a request from Lucy Twine for shoes, calico, cotton, and tobacco.
Charles Twine to Dr. James H. Minor January 19 1860ALS, 2 p.Images:
Charles says he is well and promises to write Susan in the next shipment and promises also to send money. He asks Dr. Minor whether there is anything left to ship him and if there is if he could please do so. In the closing, Charles mentions Aunt Rachel, Uncle John, Sadey, Caroline Brackston, and Noley Sharps.
Tibby Scott and Mary Scott to Dr. James H. Minor and Elizabeth Minor January 19 1860ALS, 2 p.Images:
Tibby sends respects to Joseph and William Terrell, Mr Thomas Estres's family, Liess Harris's family, and Julia Ann Haliaday and her servant. The "little town" is described as having improved with more immigrants. School and church, the pastor of which is from Richmond, are active institutions. She requests various household items be sent to her.In the note from Mary, she tells Elizabeth how glad she was to get her letter. She likes the country very much. The daily news is that none of the girls have been married yet and she is raising fowls and ducks.
Hugh Walker to Dr. James H. Minor January 20 1860ALS, 1 p.Images:
Hugh Walker writes of the ulcers on Sally's, Mary Jane's, Becky's, and Taylor's feet. He is short of time, food, and cloths and implies that some money owed could be used now. His children send love to Aunt Rachel, Rhoda, Nelly, Mr. and Mrs. Howell Lewis, and to Dr. Minor himself.
Julia Harden to Dr. James H. Minor January 20 1860ALS, 2 p.Images:
Julia Harden describes items she needs for her household: clothes for herself, her boys and girls, shoes, and bed ticking. She closes by sending respects to the Doctor and his family and to Aunt Rachel if she is still alive.
Maria Barrett to Dr. James H. Minor January 20 1860ALS, 1 p.Images:
Enclosed in this letter are two notes from Maria Barrett. She wishes Dr. Minor well and asks him to send her nails, linen, drill for pantaloons, and tobacco, among other minor requested items. She suggests that there is some urgent need for the listed goods. Maria informs Dr. Minor that she and her family are in good health and even though Charles and Richard Barrett have had ulcers on their feet for nearly two years, they are doing much better. Maria laments that she has not found anyone to suit her since the passing of her husband. She closes the letter by informing Dr. Minor that Mary has had twins, one of whom has died.
J.H. Paxton to Dr. James H. Minor February 15 1860ALS, 3 p.Images:
J. H. Paxton gives an extensive list of the types of cloth and yardage that have arrived, dividing his list by the families and individuals for whom the merchandise was intended; Maria Barrett, Judy Harden, Hugh Walker, Tibby Scott, Willy [unclear] Franklin, Richard Barrett and grandchild, the Coleman family, Adeline Southall, and Lucy Twine. Mr. Paxton is indebted to Dr. Minor for the shipped merchandise but reminds Dr. Minor that if an invoice is not included with a shipment of merchandise it is subject to opening by the Customs house. Mr. Paxton's letter concludes that the freight and duty bills have been produced to him for payment along with costs for transportation. He questions Dr. Minor concerning who should be responsible for these bills.
William Douglass to Dr. James H. Minor February 22 1861ALS, 1 p.Images:
William Douglass acknowledges the receipt of a letter from Dr. James H. Minor. Douglass sends $50 to Minor and asks Minor to divide the money among his children equally. Douglass also requests his family and friends to write to him about his children.
William Douglass to Dr. James H. Minor August 15 1865ALS, 4 p.Images:
Douglass informs Dr. Minor of his family's state of affairs and then wonders why it has been almost four years since Dr. Minor has written. Douglass admits he is over anxious about Minor's silence especially since the Civil War is now over. He explains that his farming of sugar cane is going very well but wishes he could enjoy this new country with his children who are still in Virginia. This separation, he explains, is one of the hardest afflictions to bear especially since he sent Dr. James Hall gold for the purchase of them and has never had a response. He states he is ready to receive his children since his house is now finished but he is impatient to know what has become of them.
William Douglass to Friend [probably Dr. James H. Minor] January 29 1866ALS, 3 p.Images:
Douglass reports the profitable sale of 8000 pounds of sugar which he produced in 1865, stating that he is too busy to travel to America as he had planned. He begs for news about his friend and about his own children to whom he has sent money and letters, but from whom he has heard nothing since the Civil War. He mentions that he had heard from a friend that two of his children had died and that he is saddened to have had no information whatsoever about his daughter, Julia.
- Dr. James H. Minor
- George Walker
- Howell Lewis
- Hugh Walker
- W. Slaughter
- William Douglass