February 21, 1866 Letter James Shaw To a Brother

I recently found this letter that my mother transcribe years ago. I believe that the original is in the possession of one of our cousins, but don’t bet me on that. James, one of my great Uncles, is writing to a brother, (whom is not named), less than a year after the American Civil War ended. The letter also has him using the language of the time in reference to African Americans. I have left the gist of the word where it is found, because I am not going to ‘rewrite’ his words, but I will not spell them out.

I have included my own commentary, and snarky comments because I was in a mood.


Austin Texas
Feb 21 1866

Dear Brother

Our Texas State Convention met here on the 7th inst. I am a delegate from the counties of Burleson and Robertson. I have been absent at home a week and have just returned. Nancy came very near dying and sent after me but her symptoms change for the better before I got home. I staid[sp] a week and left her improving. The balance of my family and ____ are all well at our _____ _____. Our convention has as yet done but little except the Introduction of Resolutions which have generally been refered[sp] to the appropriate Standing Committees on the different functions of our State Constitution most of which will respond in a day or two. A great majority of our delegates are in favor of giving up all issues which have been decided by the late disastrous war and standing on the reconstruction policy of Andy Johnson as our last and only hope.

The poor n**** is in a worse fix than he was before the war, but that is a matter, not for us now to grieve over [he is grieving that he can no longer legally own slaves], but I hope the extremists [those who were against slavery, and didn’t like traitors who attack their fellow citizens] of both sections who are responsible for his nominal freedom will have his future comforts and happiness attended to. [James was not a big fan of people of color and their rights as human beings, see Slave Schedule below. In this letter he almost appears to show compassion for their plight after the war, he must have been drinking, or out late and was tired when he wrote this.]

There is now a great opening for industrious white men here who can be depended on to labor as but few people here have any confidence in free n***** labor. [You mean you miss slavery? Yeah great Uncle, you and your ilk started a ‘disastrous’ war over slavery. Remember? And now it’s over. You lost. No more slavery.]

Travis & Trump [really hated typing that word!] have hired 8 or 10 at from five to eight dollars per month and are going to try to make considerable cotton, as well as, corn on my place this year. How they will succeed under the new system of n**** labor time alone can determine. [Yeah, that must really suck that you have to pay your laborers now and they have rights.]

So far they are doing admirable, but I fear when hot weather sets in the n**** will fag [tire]. [No shit Uncle, no one likes working long hours in the hot effin’ sun. Not even industrious white men.]

Our Convention is a compound of different elements, Secessionists, Unionists, Confederate and Federal Generals in the late war. I think however they will harmonize as well as could be expected under the current circumstance.

I am boarding at my brother-in-law’s at 6 Raymond they are all well. Write me a long letter and direct to my usual place Texington, Burleson Co[unty] as I expect we will adjourn in two or three weeks. Your note on my letter to John telling him that “if he had looked ahead of him on Sunday or behind him on Monday evening he might have seen his brother George in the 5th Ohio Cavalry” plagues him considerably. He say he’ll be damned if he _____on Monday evening.

Give my best love to all especially to my good old mother. [His mother is Nancy Morin Shaw, wife of John Shaw.]

Old Uncle Jeminy Shaw [possibly James Joseph Shaw] is still living and as wicked as ever. He was very much opposed to the late war and says that the _____ _____ or their descendants of the Old Revolution brought it on.

Yours affection
James Shaw


As promised here are the US Federal Slave Schedule entries for James.

James in the 1850 Slave Schedule for Texas. Here he owns 11 slaves. The information has been water damaged, so I can’t read the details, just his name.

Here he is in the 1860 Texas Slave Schedule. He owns 4 slaves:
2 males 1-36 years old and 1-12 years old
2 females 1-36 years old and 1-25 years old (she is Mulatto)
1 slave house.

James was a Confederate sympathizer, and one of his sons died as a Confederate soldier during the war. To be honest I am not a fan of James. I believe in none of the thing that he did, and do not respect his decision to back the Confederate traitors’ cause.

I guess that this makes the point that folks in the same family can have totally different beliefs from each other. No one in my Shaw family ever owned slaves. Of course, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t racists, but at least they didn’t own people.

Land records and slavery

I have in my family tree an ancestor by the name of Alexander Clegg. He was possibly born around the 1750s, (using his first child’s birth), and was married to Margaret Farmer or Palmer (online trees are not really in agreement regarding her surname). Their daughter Susannah married Samuel Minor, whose daughter Margret married Alexander Lantz (the Lance mentioned below). This Lantz family is found on the Hays side of the family with Susannah Lantz marrying Edmund Hays. So now you have the background tree.

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 10.55.34 AM
The Clegg and Lantz families lived on the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia at this time, so owned land in both states. Sometimes the same piece of property was also in both states.

Last year’s research at the Family History Library included the goal of finding land records for the Lantz and Clegg families in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Which I did. And recently I began transcribing them.

Here was an interesting entry:

Know all men by these presents that I Alexander Clegg [<–my 7x great grandparent] of Monongalia County, [Virginia at the time, later West Virginia], for and in consideration of the sum of money that I am due and owing Alexander Lance and Margaret his wife [<–my 5x great grandparents] and for the further consideration of one Dollar lawful money of Virginia to me in hand paid the Receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge, I have freely given, granted, bargained, sold and Delivered unto them the said Alexander Lance and Margaret his wife, all the following property to wit:

one negro woman named (Susanna) and
her two Daughters Ann
and Malin[d]a them and their after increase

upwards of two hundred acres of Land in Monongalia County on Dunkard Creek being the whole tract of Land whereon I now live called Stradlers Town [now known as Pentress],
four head of horses,
eight head of cattle,
and six feather beds and beding
said furniture to the said Beds belonging 

all the aforesaid property to the said Alexander Lance and his wife Margaret for and during their natural lives or the life of the survivor of them, and at the decease of both of them then to go to the children of the said Margaret that she now has or may hereafter have. To have and to Hold all the aforesaid property forever. In witness whereof the said Alexander Clegg doth hereunto set his hand and seal this 29th day of May in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred and Twenty Six.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered in the presence of us
Wm Thomas  Jacob Lantz  Peter [hisXmark] Yager                                                                               

Alexander Clegg  [SEAL]1

It appears that Alexander Clegg was in debt to his granddaughter Margret and her husband, and figured the best way to pay it off was to give them property, which included three slaves. He must have owed them a lot of money. Or a dowry? Or, maybe he was just giving away part of the estate they would inherit anyway.

Two of the above mentioned African American ladies are later found mentioned in the estate inventory of Alexander Clegg from 1829:

Than is in the said bill charged two Negro girls [Anne & Malinda] amt $230 – not sold at the public vand..[??] but has been since sold by said Lantz to John Brookover for $280 as I have been informed…

So, here is clear evidence that the Shepard side of the family was owning slaves as late as the 1820s. I have to say this was a surprising find.

But, here is something else interesting — in the 1830 federal census for Greene County, Pennsylvania we find Alex and Margaret Lantz living with one FREE female African American child who was less than 10 years old. Was she the daughter of one of the two girls they earlier sold to John Brookover? Or a daughter of the older woman Susanna? I haven’t found out what happened to Susanna, maybe she had died.

Looking further into the land records regarding the Lantz family, in 1812 Alexander Lantz’s brother*, George Lantz, freed three slaves: Esther, who was 26, Jacob, a mulatto child of 11, and Nancy (also called Ann), a mulatto child of 8. Did he free them because they were his children?

Well George’s probate2 clears that up, I think:

probate_lantzgeo_1818PA copy

Jacob is listed in his will as “my yellow boy” which seems to mean his son, who had a half sister Nancy. Jacob was 17 or 18 when he inherited George’s estate. Jacob’s mother is not named, but the probate states she was living with a George Ridge; who we find was a freed slave according to the 1820 federal census for Greene County, Pennsylvania. And, in 1840 an Esther Ridge was living single, with one young child, (George having died/left), both freed slaves. Esther herself probably died about 1844 as there is an estate entry for her in Pennsylvania probate, but no details regarding a will.

George Lantz doesn’t appear to have married or had any legitimate children so was leaving all his property to Jacob whom he appears to accept as his son, or at least his heir. Nancy isn’t acknowledged to be his daughter, which possibly means she wasn’t. There is no reason to believe that he would acknowledge one and not the other. Either way, he must have had some affection for her, because she was to receive some money from the estate when she reached 18.

See the interesting things you can learn from land records.

*George is believed to be Alexander Lantz’s brother because he is the only George Lantz found online who died at the same time as the one in my post, so it is speculation at this time, but, there are a few sources that give it some credibility.  Alex’s Uncle George died at a later date and was married, with lots of kids.


Sources:
1. Land deeds, 1826 Monongalia County, West Virginia, FHL Film #840576; Digital: 8219285vOS10 p350.

2. George Lantz probate, 1818; Will Books, 1796-1918, Green County, Pennsylvania. Online digital images 129-130 – Ancestry.com.

3. Ancestry.com 1820 and 1840 Federal Census records Greene County, Pennsylvania.