Monday, January 2, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Letters From Louisburg (Part 1)

During a visit to the National Archives last year, while searching records from the North Carolina division of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned lands for any reference to my great-grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, I ran across a series of letters (on microfilm) between William A Eaton, a respected citizen of Franklin County, NC, and certain officials from the bureau.  Mr. Eaton was concerned about what was going to become of Franklin County's formerly enslaved population, once they were fully and completely on their own, following Emancipation.  Without adding my (perhaps) biased opinions/reactions to this line of correspondence (given my families roots in this county), I will present the three letters I chose to copy, beginning today, and then on each of the next two Mondays.

In this first letter, Mr. Eaton is writing to General Oliver Otis Howard, the first Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau. He had previously written a letter to the General, expressing his concerns, and the General had written him back.  What follows is Mr. Eaton's response.


Franklin County N.C. Aug 1865

Genl O O Howard

My Dear Sir

Your very kind letter 22 xxxx, was recd a few days past. And I hope you will pardon me for trespassing again with an other letter. The only excuse I can make General, is thae hope of getting something done for the poor colored widow & Orphans, many of wom must be left to starve unless you can be enlisted in their behalf. General you are the only hope they have on earth. It is generally believed they are committed to your care, and let me entreat you to try and get something done for them. Unfortunately a great many of the colored women have large families of children without a husband and a great many will be totally unable to feed and cloth themselves & children when they are given up by their former owners, which the former owners will be compelled to do, at the end of the present year. Nearly all the men will set up for themselves and leave the women & children to shift for themselves and many of them were formerly owned by widows......

pg. 2
and Orphans, who have no home. The negros are xxx hired, and the 1st day of Jany (January) coming will find them homeless & friendless, unless the government will ___ forward to their relief. You say in your letter General that Franklin County will have to take care of its own paupers. General if every white (probably citizen) in this county, was taxed to his full capacity ___ could not take proper care, of the pauper negros that will be turned on the county the frist (sp) Jany next But General I do not propose to make this altogether a county institution, the reason why I ask to have it under th especial care of the general goverment (sp) is that when ever the agent for freedmen for the state, finds a fit subject for his special patronage he may have a place to send him to where they can have proper care taken of them, and if we can get one such institution started in the South it will beget many others of like character. In the present crippled state of this country I fear it would be a hopeless job to raise money to establish an institution of any kind much less for such a one as I propose. Many persons think it best to keep the colored rase (sp) in

pg. 3
as much ignorance as posible. I beg leave to differ with them. I wold to God that every man woman & child in these United States were well educated, and piously instructed, and properly point the way to the Lamb of God, and how can that be done, unless Gods more enlightened children, will help to lift these poor people from the darkness that now surrounds them; I have written to Col Whittlesey* and invited him to visit me that I may lay my plan before him: I think it the cheapest plan that can be adopted to do any good. The land that I propose to get for the purpose belongs to 5 persons but all lying in one compact body, and if laid off and adjusted with skill, would accommodate a great many negroes, andif provisions are laid in at the begining of winter may be done to advantage If Col Whittlesey allows the negroes to remanin in and about Town the wood for them would cost quite as much as the home for them, here they can furnish their own wood, and by proper encouragement a great many may be enduced to support themselves. With one years start the place

*Col Whittlesey was the Commissioner for the State of North Carolina Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands

pg. 4
can be made to support itself. General would it be asking too much of you, to request you to speak to the highest powers that be, in behalf of this home for Negroes, in the name of God I beg that something be done for them. I hope General you will pardon my earnest entreeties for them, being here among them and knowing thir true situation I can not help being interested in their behalf seeing too as I do every day how unconcious they are of ther true Situation, for unless something is done many must perish the coming winter from cold. “let us not turn them away homelss necked hungry and cold” but do what we can for them. God prosper my petition for them is the earnest prayer of
                                                                                                                       Your Humble Servant

                                                                                                                      W A Eaton

P.S. There is one thing that we must not loose sight of, heretofore the Negro was taxed as property, now that is lost to state county and the general government, and I am sure they will not be able in their present situation to pay even a pole(poll) Tax -

                                                                                                                         ps cte   W.A.E..