1847 Stampless Letter, Lexington Ky Sensational Murder, Slaves
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1847 Stampless Letter, Lexington Ky Sensational Murder, Slaves:
Traveling the Paper Trails of American History
"Remember me to my poor servants and yours and get on as well as you can...Oh how I want to see you all white and black. I feel very much like an exile from my home."
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Remarkable 3 page stampless letter written by Hester Edwards on November 9, 1847, at Lexington, KY, to her son George T. Edwards at Russellville, Logan County, KY. Letter measures approx. 8" x 10".
Historic letter that describes how Hester Edwards felt compelled, in the face of strong community sentiment, to flee Russellville after her nephew Dr. William B. Whitaker became a suspect in the sensational murder of another nephew, Dr. James Whitaker Wilson. She also expresses concern for her slaves that she left behind in the care of her son George T. Edwards.
After leaving Russellville, Hester had stayed for a time in Louisville and is now visiting her sister Elizabeth Hall in Lexington. Elizabeth's husband Rev. Nathan H. Hall, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Lexington, had recently accepted a call to a church in MO. Hester misses her home at Russellville and writes, "Wherever I have been my reception has been most cordial, but I assure you there is no place half so sweet to me as my own fireside, when all is at peace It is our duty and interest to cultivate the affections of our own immediate family black as well as white and to be found mostly at home..." George would like her to settle permanently in Louisville, but Hester has her doubts: "I would gladly do it if I could without ruin, but a comfortable residence in town cannot be procured for less than four thousand dollars, and then the expence of living would be immense. The lands in the neighbourhood is from a hundred to one hundred and fifty or thereabouts to the acre. My fund would not enable me to live there."
Hester then expresses her feelings about Russellville society and pleads with George to have his wife Margaret leave town with a locked trunk full of their family papers. She writes that she wants her nephew, attorney Benjamin E. Gray, "to remain in Russellville untill the fate of his cousin William is decided, do tell him not to leave. It is his duty to stay there." She begs George: "If there is any excitement take your family away. Would it not be best to get a small trunk and lock your papers and mine up in and let Margarett take them with her enjoining it upon her not to let the contents be know[n]. I have a horrid opinion of the society there and think many would be glad to settle thier debts to me in a more convenient way than paying them in money...Be very prudent. William's own relatives have shown but little interest for him or you. You owe them nothing and however much my sympathies are awakened for him and laboured for his interest let me beg you not to sacrafice yourself for family for any of them. If you see Ben Gray tell him what I say to him. I will again say be very prudent and avoid all excitement at home and abroad. Do let me hear from you as soon as you can. I want to hear what is done. If an indictment is found I will not return untill everything is settled."
Hester expresses her concern for her slaves: "Remember me to my poor servants and yours and get on as well as you can. If mine do not so well let me beg of you not to have any interruption with them. Tell Hetty that I want her to get a mill bag full of the bloom of life everlasting to put in a mattrass. How is her child and how is Harriet. Do haver [sic] well taken care of she is not very stout. Tell George to feed my pigs well and make the most of them, I would like to have my calfs fatted and killed." She closes, "Oh how I want to see you all white and black. I feel very much like an exile from my home."
The Murder of Dr. James Whitaker Wilson: Dr. Wilson was brutally murdered in his office at Russellville on April 4, 1847. A vigilante committee was formed, but was initially unsuccessful in finding the murderer. Suspicion eventually fell on his cousin Dr. William B. Whitaker, of Woodford County, KY. Public sentiment against Hester's family forced her to flee Russellville. Dr. Whitaker was indicted in Russellville on November 11, 1847, and released on $6,000 bail on condition that he appear at the May 1848 term of the Logan County Circuit Court. On February 18, 1848, the Kentucky General Assembly approved a change of venue from Logan County to Butler County. Dr. Whitaker died in Woodford County on March 8, 1848. See Cincinnati Herald (April 7, 1847), Lexington Observer & Reporter (April 21, 1847, and March 18, 1848), Louisville Examiner (November 27, 1847), and Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky (1848).
Hester Pope (1788-1868) was the daughter of Kentucky pioneer Col. William Pope (1746-1825) and Penelope Edwards (1748-1825) of Louisville. Hester married her first cousin, the prominent Russellville lawyer Presley Edwards (1784-1833), at Lexington in 1810. Hester left Russellville in 1847 after the murder. She moved back to Russellville by 1850. She owned 5 slaves in 1850 and 3 slaves in 1860. Her son George T. Edwards (1816-1895) was a noted lawyer in Russellville. He owned 8 slaves in 1850. He married Margaret Connelly (1824-1861). See The Kentucky Law Journal, Vol. 2 (1882).
Hester's siblings mentioned in the letter include: Elizabeth Pope (1786-1850), who married Rev. Nathan H. Hall (1782-1858). He was a noted Presbyterian minister and was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Lexington 1823-1846. Rev. Hall then accepted a pastorate in MO.
Presley Edwards' Siblings: Penelope Edwards (?-1845) married William W. Whitaker (1770-1846). Their son Dr. William Beall Whitaker (1804-1848) lived in Woodford County and married Emily V. Stevenson (1812-1881). He is buried in Pisgah Presbyterian Cemetery in Woodford County. Elizabeth Edwards (1786-1833) married John Gray. Their son Benjamin E. Gray was a noted attorney in Russellville. Ninian Edwards (1775-1833) became Governor of Illinois.
William W. Whitaker's sister Margaret Whitaker (1768-1849) married James Wilson (?-1847). Dr. James Whitaker Wilson (1805-1847) was their son.
Postal History: 33mm blue CDS, LEXINGTON Ky., with matching 5 cents rate mark.
Condition: edge tear and tear where seal removed repaired with archival tape, ink smears, hole where seal removed (affecting 2 words), holes in folds, wrinkles, age toning.
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