1852: James Taylor Wade, Sr. to Walter Wade

This letter was written by James Taylor Wade, Sr. (1786-1853) of Lancaster, South Carolina—the son of Capt. George Wade (1747-1823) and Martha Taylor (1749-1816). James was married to Martha Rives (1792-1853) and the couple raised at least seven children.

James wrote the letter to his nephew, Dr. Walter Ross Wade (1810-1862) of Port Gibson, Claiborne county, Mississippi. Dr. Wood’s “Rosswood Plantation” diary (1834-1862), containing details of the operation of his cotton plantation, is housed at Mississippi State University.

He worked as a physician, treating patients in the Natchez District. He purchased the Rosswood Plantation, a 1,250-acre cotton plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi. He owned more than 100 slaves who picked cotton in the fields. In 1857, he hired architect David Schroeder to design the Greek Revival mansion that he had built as a gift for his second wife. The Wades entertained guests regularly and went fox-hunting on the grounds. During the Civil War, the mansion was offered up as a Confederate hospital.

The familial relationship between uncle and nephew was further cemented through Dr. Walter Wade’s marriage to his first cousin, Martha Taylor Wade, eldest daughter of James T. Wade. It seems that also James also sold slaves to his nephew in Mississippi. In a letter written in 1847 in the South Carolina Library, Univ. of South Carolina, James wrote his nephew that he was delighted Walter was pleased with “Beck and her family…as I never saw a family that I would prefer; they are of true African blood are healthy and as hardy as mules, if a little lazy, [but] that can be brought out as has to be done with most of them.” 

In this letter, James postulates that the birth of several male slaves on his plantation may be due to his feeding the slaves pork. Male slaves, of course, were preferred as they could command a much higher value in the marketplace.

Cotton Plantation painting by William Aiken Walker


Chestnut Ridge
April 3, 1852

I received your letter telling of the death of Mrs. Young and the copy of Mr. Johnson’s letter by Patrick. The death of Mrs. Young 1 took us quite on surprise. When we parted with her yesterday twelve months ago, she was the picture of health and to judge from appearances anyone would have supposed she would have survived Mr. Young, but alas! how uncertain is human life and how often are our fondest hopes and desires disappointed as in this case. Yet it behooves us to submit with humility to the dispensation of an all-wise Providence. I suppose in this the corpse of Mrs. Young has arrived and has been buried in the family burying ground at Prospect Hills. It did seem strange to me that one who seemed so devoted to his wife while living should leave her corpse to be brought across the ocean and even home without his personal protection and as you remarked it might come as safely yet it did not seem right it should be alone and for the life of me, I never could have done it. I would have been miserable until its arrival. But all men are not alike and it is best it should be so.

I have executed Titles to Thomas Lockhart and Samuel A. Sproles with your Aunt’s renunciation of dower on each which I hope will be satisfactory and that the amounts due by each of them will be paid on presentation of Title. They are enclosed in an envelope and sent with the letter. I hope Mr. Johnson will be able to sell the other quarter section he spoke of. In fact, if the whole of the balance could be sold so as to net me two thousand dollars cash, I would be satisfied. And when Patrick goes up, would like him to make an effort to sell it at that price but if he could get more by giving time and on interest as Mr. Johnson has done, he might do so. I leave it with you and him to do what you think best.

We have all been suffering with bad colds. The children have got pretty well over it. Your aunt and myself are now bad off with it & Charlotte not much better. It is just beginning to take hold at the plantation two or three cases. I fear it will go through all there will will be bad on us at the season of the year planting time. We have had an uncommon dry spring with the exception of two days in March which were rainy and cold at that. We have had but little rain since the winter broke in January. Vegetation is forwarder than I have ever seen it since I have lived up here and planters are generally forewarder than I have ever known them. Most my nearest neighbors have planted their corn and I understand Coln. Burns has planted nearly half his cotton crop. He has quit public life and is attending to his own business.

We have planted about 75 acres corn at the plantation and it is going up. Have about 30 acres in the lowest, wettest bottoms yet to plant, and our nice ground 30 acres. Want to begin to plant cotton on Thursday the 8th—the soonest we can planted here was the 6th and then had to plant over. I planted my corn crop here today. Have in all planted in corn 100 acres which I hope may do well. Have fifty acres in the island which I expect to manure and plant in cotton forty acres of new ground cleared but not planted last year and the balance to make up 200 acres shall cull from the gin house fields and others about 25 acres of which will be manured. I fear unless we have a very favorable year and good health, it will be full as much as we can manage as we have four suckling women and Harriet—one of our best hands—will be confined in May making the fifth. This will be a drawback. There must be something in feeding on pork as we have had seven boys born within a year all doing well and Harriet, who has not borne a child in eight years, can barely hope she may have a boy also and both may do well, which would make eight.

James’ family have all had the colds but have got better of it. Their unfortunate one, S. Agnes, continues to have convulsions. Their youngest seems to be a healthy and perfect child, and the little boy is fat and lively—runs all about. Maria Louisa goes to school with James T. and Martha Rives. She and Martha Rives, Mr. Croxton says, are doing very well but he can’t bring James T. to it yet. Sally is learning at home, is fond of her book, and says when Pa comes she is going to school too. And they all say you must be sure and come in May and that I must tell Pa and Uncle Pat howday. All the rest of the family unites in respects to you, Patrick, and all other friends and relations. your affectionate uncle, — James T. Wade

1 Jane Brown (Ross) Young (1824-1852) died on 29 January 1852 at the age of 27. She was the wife of Benjamin Farer Young (1799-1860)—25 years his junior. She died in Paris while on her wedding tour. She was the daughter of John Isaac Wayne Ross (1784-1832) who owned the Prospect Hill Plantation in Jefferson county, Mississippi.

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