This letter written by Richard Stanford Stith to his half-aunt Cornelia Adeline Stanford. <Mrs. Alexander D. Webb> Copy on file in State Library at Raleigh, N.C.
Holly Springs, Miss.,
June 26, 1888.
My Dear Aunt:
You will doubtless be surprised to receive a letter from me, as you perhaps do not know that there is such a human being as I am upon the earth. I knew that I once had such an Aunt, for I remember to have often heard my mother speak of you most affectionately, and I believe my oldest sister was named for you; but I did not know where you lived, and had supposed for many years that you had passed from earth. But I learned a few days ago, from Dr. Webb, of Tallahatohie County, in this State, that you were still living, and wished to know something of my mothers branch of the family; and I promised to write to you, and he gave me your address. He was the nephew of your husband, as he informs me.
You cannot imagine what strange feelings of pleasure and sadness came over me on learning that one so near and dear to my ever lovely and beloved mother was still alive. When my father left North Carolina for west Tennessee I was the baby boy, the youngest of the children. My brother George died near Nashville, on the way out. They reached West Tennessee with four living children, viz: Adeline, Sophronia, Abner and myself. One daughter was born after they settled there, but a short time before my fathers death, whom they named Minerva Andrewetta. The full names of the others were Ariana Adeline, Sophronia Livingston, and Abner Aurelius. My full name is Richard Stanford. But I am taking it for granted that you know who my father and mother were. My father was Andrew Stith, of Brunswick County, Va., and my mother was Mary Mebane Stanford (your half sister), daughter of Richard Stanford of N. Carolina, who represented the Crange district in Congress for about 20 years, and died at Washington and was buried in the Congressional burying grounds. The five children of my father and mother above named, including myself, all
grew up and married, and had families. Sister Adeline married Edward L. Travis, of Henry County, Tennessee, formerly form Brunswick County, Virginia. He afterwards removed to North Mississippi when it was a wilderness and the Indians were here, and in 1845 went back to Brunswick County, Va., where an Uncle of Mr. Travis, who had no children, left him a fortune of two or three hundred thousand dollars. She died several years ago, and Mr. Travis lived until last Winter. They left four children, Edward, Lucy, Joseph and Clara. They are all married, and living in Brunswick Co., Va. Lucy married Mr. Joseph Harrison, and Clara a Mr. Drummond.
My Sister Sophronia married Mr. Thos. A. Falconer of Fayette County, Tennessee, who was raised in Raleigh, N.C., a son of Dr. Falconer of that City. He was in fine circumstance when she married him, but in the financial panic that swept over the South-West a few years later, and partly through injudicious speculations, he lost his property, and afterwards became editor and publisher, first, of the Holly Springs Banner, afterwards changed to the Holly Spring Gazette, which were very successful papers. After the war, he was elected Probate Judge of this County, which he held until removed by the military authority under the reconstruction acts. They had four children that lived to be grown, Howard, Kinloch, Sophronia, (generally called Fonie,) and Henry. Sophronia married a Mr. Barrett, of this Co., had two children, (one of which survived her), and died. Her husband and other child soon followed her to the grave. Howard and Kinloch both graduated at the University of Mississippi, the former in 1859, and the latter in 1860. Both, with their father, entered the Confederate service in the first company that left here for the War, in March 1861; and the two boys served during the War, but their fathers health failed and he was discharged, and entered the service again in 1862 with the same result. After the war both of the
boys became lawyers, and Howard became my partner in the practice, together with Col. E. W. Upshaw, the father of the present Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington. The style of the firm was Stith, Upshaw and Falconer. Both of my partners died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1878; but the firm was dissolved several years before that. Kinloch, after practicing law a year or two, united with his brother-in-law, Mr. Barrett, in the publication of a Democratic newspaper, Kinloch being the editor. (I omitted to state, that both of the boys were dangerously wounded during the war, and that Kinloch was Asst. Adjt. Genl. In the Army of Tenn., from the time it was at Pensacola, Fla., until its surrender in May 1865, and there was no better Asst. Adjt. Genl. In the Army.) When the Democrats were restored to power in 1876, Kinloch was appointed private secretary to the Governor; and in 1877 was elected Secretary of State; and had he lived until the next State election, he would undoubtedly have been the next Governor. The soldiers were all for him, and he was universally popular with the people. But fate decreed it otherwise. He and Howard and their father died in the epidemic of 1878. Their mother had died about three years before. Neither of the older brothers ever married. Henry, the youngest, married when about 19 years old. Being the youngest, he was not controlled, but allowed to grow up on the streets, and became dissipated and of little account, although he had naturally the finest mind of all three. He had two very good little fortunes to begin with; one he got by his wife, and the other from the estates of his brothers; but he soon spent them. He then got employment on the Railroads, and was accidentally run over and killed by the cars at this place last November. He left a widow and two children, a girl and a boy, the girl aged about 13 and the boy 10. She and the children live with her brother, in Alabama.
But I have been long and tedious on this branch of the
family. I must hurry on.
My brother Abner studied law in this place, then went to Choctaw County in this State, and begun the practice. There he married a Miss Medley, and soon after, in 1845, removed to Camden, Ark., and became the leading lawyer of South Arkansas in a very few years. He was great as a public speaker, and had he lived, would doubtless have been the foremost man in that State. But he died in 1857 at the age of 38 years, leaving a widow and three children, all girls. He was Circuit Judge at his death. All grew up and married. Two of them now live in Arkansas, one at Little Rock, and one at Pine Bluff. The other lives in Arizona. The widow married again, becoming the wife of Judge Bearden, Abners successor as Circuit Judge, by whom she had three children, and he and his family now reside in Los Angeles, California.
My sister Minerva married Dr. Robert A. Cole, a fine physician. He was poor, but had no difficulty in getting a large practice wherever he located. But his great fault was a roving disposition, and he was never satisfied long in one place. She died in the fall of 1865, leaving six children, four boys and two girls. Soon after her death, Dr. Cole moved to Texas. One of the boys died when only three or four years old. Both the girls married, and some of the boys; by this time perhaps all of them. They are away out in North-western Texas, and I seldom hear from them now.
Now, my dear Aunt, you see that I am the only survivor of my mothers children, and it remains for me to give some account of myself and family. My father died when I was too young to remember much about him, and my mother before I was 15. Soon after I went into a printing office with my brother-in-law, Thos. A. Falconer. In that way, and by teaching some, I managed to acquire a pretty good classical education. I did not have the means to go to College, but I had very fine
teachers, and when I left school I was considered a better scholar than many graduates. I then prepared myself for the bar in the same way, and when I came to the bar in 1852, this was perhaps the ablest bar in the South-west. It would have been wise, no doubt, to have gone to some new or thriving place where there was less formidable competition; but I determined to make my struggle right here. As a lawyer I succeeded, and have made a great deal of money; but on account of the vicissitudes of the war and reconstruction in the South, I have not been able to retain much of it. I am merely in comfortable circumstances, that is all. I have never sought political preferment; but during the Spring just past, I was called on through the press here, and by many private friends, to permit my name to go before the Democratic Convention as a candidate for Congress from this district, but I declined. I send you a paper containing my letter declining to become a candidate. I thought then, and it has become quite evident since, that I could have gotten the nomination. I mention these things not out of any vanity, but to let you see that I am not altogether obscure, and that I have the respect and confidence of the people among whom I live. As a lawyer, I am known throughout the State. My wife was Miss Ariana Nedora Phillips, of Somerville, Tenn. Her father was Geo. S. Phillips, Esqr. A son of an Episcopal clergyman named John W. Phillips, well known in the Carolinas and in Virginia in the early part of this century. He was an Englishman by birth, and was with John Wesley in his efforts to give more life to the Church of England, and more zeal to its work; and was at Mr. Wesleys bedside at his death. His wife, (my wifes grand-mother), was raised by Mr. Wesley, and he was her Guardian. My wifes mother was a Stith, Miss Mary Manlove Stith, daughter of David Stith, my fathers brother; so that my wife and I are second cousins. Her maternal grand-mother was Ariana Manlove, daughter of Dr. Christopher Manlove, once a surgeon in the British Navy, who settled in
Virginia before the revolution. We have seven children, three boys and four girls, viz: Walter, Mary Sharlande, Medora, Emily Palmer, Minnie Mebane, Stanford and Percy Bertrand. My oldest son, Walter, is married and lives near Collierville, Tenn., and has three beautiful little girls. He is a farmer, although I trained him for a lawyer. The other children are still unmarried, and all are lovely, as we think. We have never lost any. The two youngest are school-boys yet, and Minnie is just grown. My wifes father died in Oct. 1885, at my house, in his 87th year. My wife and myself, and all the children, are very healthy, and have had but little serious sickness in our lives. In this respect, God has blessed us very much. We are all members of the Episcopal Church. I omitted to mention that I was also in the Southern Army, a member of Fanests cavalry.
I was in Texas in 1886 and there met some of our relatives, children of Mrs. Ariana Graves, (nee Ariana Stanford), my mothers only full sister. I met Cousin Julia Graves, the youngest daughter, and Cousin Ralph Graves, who, I believe, was the oldest son, in San Antonia. He is the city physician. Cousin Julia married a lawyer by the name of Leigh Judge Leigh who left her a widow without any children, but in fine circumstances. Cousin Ralph is a widower, and has one son, Everett, living also in San. Antonia, doing well. He is very active for a man of his age. Cousin Richard Stanford Graves died a few months ago, at the residence of his daughter in Luling, Texas. He was living in Austin when I was in Texas, and I called on him there. Cousin Henry Graves lives at Hempstead, Texas. Elisha died about the close of the war, leaving one child, who now lives in Washington County, Miss. Cousin Ariana (Mrs. Millon) and Cousin Anabella (Mrs. Graham) have been dead many years; both their husbands also. Cousin Anabella left no children; and one of Cousin Arianas, Mrs. Caylord, a widow with two daughters, lives with
Cousin Julia, in San. Antonia. Cousin Paisley, the youngest son, has also been dead some years. His family lives, I believe, in Fort Worth, Texas. I saw one of his daughters in San Antonia. One Cousin, the oldest daughter, I believe, still lives in North Carolina, or was living there when I was in Texas; and Cousin Cornelia was living in Texas, between San. Antonia and the coast.
Now, my dear Aunt, I have given about as full a history as I can of that part of the family that I know anything of. Having been brought to the west in my infancy, I know but little of my ancestry, on either side of the house. You must know a great deal about them, both from personal knowledge and from tradition, as you have lived a long life so near the location of the original stock in this country. I am anxious to have as complete a history of my family on both sides as possible. Please write me all you know about the Stiths and the Stanfords, and their connections. Especially do I wish a history of my grand-father Stanford, his birth, parentage and relations. Tell me all about your branch of the family, who is left of them, and where they are. I love every body connected with my noble, lovely and devoted mother. Few such women ever lived. And I remember to have heard her often speak of you with the deepest affection. How I wish we could meet in this life. Cant you make a trip to the West, and pay us a long visit? It would give us such great pleasure.
I hope you will not weary of my long and tedious letter. I hope to hear from you very soon. Please let this be as soon as possible. Write me first a short letter to let me know you received this, and give the family history afterwards. With much love, I am,
Richard Stanford Stith.