January 2, 1857

Transcribed by Mary Beth Moore and annotated by Scott Stegall

Jan 2d, 1857 

My dear Bess,

I was just sitting down to write this note, when I heard a thundering knock at the door, & running down, found Mary & the children. We were very glad to see them, your Father was saying to night he was getting tired making fires, feeding the cow & carrying water. We find living in this country, we must conform to the ways of the people and buy our own servants. I wish we could afford to buy a nurse now, but as your Father has to pay for William,1 that is not practicable. I hope however next year that he will do so; if they raise his salary, we certainly will.  He insists on my asking your


help in looking for a nurse for us. I had set my mind upon a little girl belonging to the Torrence estate about twelve or thirteen & thinking we could get her or some other one (as there were a great many to hire) I had no anxiety.2 Yesterday, though feeling very unwell, your father went out, seven miles, stood on the cold ground several hours & the girl was bid up to forty nine dollars & fifty cnts. He let her go. Another girl he had thought of, went for seventy five dollars, & she was a small girl about seventeen. Mrs Hunter went down to the hiring in Charlotte & says they went high there too, she gave sixty dollars for a woman with two small children.3 It seems scarcely useless to ask then.  If we can



get one in Charlotte, but your Father seemed to think may be you could hear of some child, (free) that we could have bound as you have Lizzie, rather older than she is; or may be there might be one to hire privately from ten to fifteen, that we might get on more reasonable terms. To satisfy him I ask, so please let us know if there is any prospect of getting one there. Mrs Hunter said, a smart young girl, who had been a nurse was hired yesterday for thirty three dollars, she would have done very well perhaps, but he thought we were going to get this other little girl until it was too late to send for the Charlotte hiring.4 I want to get you to send the enclosed note to




Dr. Taylor,5 & if possible get an answer to send up by Houstons carriage at night.6 At my earnest solicitation Mr Rockwell wrote for Dr Taylor to come up last Monday & has not heard a single word in reply.7 I think he might at least have sent word he could‘nt come. As it was by my recommendation & praise of Dr T. they sent for him. I feel somewhat responsible in the case & so at Mrs Rockwells request I write to know if he will come up & see her.8 You have not written me a line lately, I would like to hear from you sometimes. How did you like our servants? Mary says you have a pretty little baby. Send me the Home Journal. I hope Dru is enjoying himself. He must be sure & come tomorrow.

Yrs in haste M R L. Make Zack find Dr Taylor & give him this note. You can read it, if you choose, & then seal it.


  1. William Sterling was the fourth child of Drury Lacy by his first wife. He was approximately thirteen years old.
  2. The extended Torrence family owned property in Huntersville, which is located near Davidson. They amassed over over 3,000 acres of land, a store, and a mill. William Torrence was one of the first students to attend Davidson College. The only surviving inventory of Torrence plantation’s slave population indicates that James Torrence, the patriarch of the family during the mid-19th century, owned 125 slaves. On the Torrence estate, slaves primarily cultivated cotton.   For more information, see Dan L. Morrill, Dr. Frances Alexander, and Paula Stathakis, “Cedar Grove and Hugh Torrance House and Store,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commissionhttp://www.cmhpf.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/surveys&rcedargrove.htm (accessed October 19, 2017).
  3. She likely refers to Mary Hunter, married to Abner Hunter, who lived in the western division of Mecklenburg county. In 1857, she bought an older female slave and her two young sons.
  4. Lizzie Bethel was a girl, approximately seven years old in 1857, labeled as mulatto and listed in the household of Thomas W. Dewey in the 1860 census. She was likely not enslaved, but bound labor. 
  5. According to census records, Moses Brock Taylor was a physician who lived in the western division of Mecklenburg county, NC. He is buried in Greenville, Tennessee. For more information, see “Moses Brock Taylor,” Find a Gravehttps://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=59804330&ref=acom (accessed October 19, 2017).
  6. According to census records, George Houston owned a boarding house and labored as a farmer.
  7. Elijah Frink Rockwell (1809-1888) was born in Lebanon, Connecticut and initially attended Yale. In the following years, Rockwell studied at Princeton Theological Seminary and Columbia Seminary. Rockwell was ordained minister of the presbytery of Concord in 1841. He helped to raise money for Davidson College, and, in 1841, he was elected professor at Davidson. Over the next two decades, Rockwell taught chemistry, geology, Latin, and modern history. From 1868 to 1870, Rockwell served as President of the Concord Female Seminary. He pastored several churches until he died in 1888. For more information, see Neill R. McGeachy, “Elijah Fink Rockwell,” NCPedia,  https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/rockwell-elijah-frink (accessed October 20, 2017).
  8. Rockwell’s first wife was Margaret K. McNeill, of Fayetteville, North Carolina. The two were married on June 18, 1839. Margaret passed away in 1866. For more information, see Neill R. McGeachy, “Elijah Fink Rockwell,” NCPedia,  https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/rockwell-elijah-frink (accessed October 20, 2017).