Givens Letters


GIVENS LETTERS (1843 - 1875)

These nineteenth century letters were written during the years 1843 to 1875 to William Thomas Givens Sr. (5 Feb 1806 - 20 April 1879) in Morgan County, Illinois from his siblings and in-laws who were in Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas. These siblings were children of John Givens (3 Sept 1779 - 17 June 1843). Notations in italic were made first by Grace Puryear in 1935 and James E. Skelton in 1998. These letters and excerpts of letters were copied from the originals by Grace Puryear in 1935 when the original letters were loaned to Grace Hollis Puryear (wife of Elmo Puryear who was a great-grandson of James Wilson Givens and a great-great-grandson of John Givens) by Harriet Givens Chilton (granddaughter of William Thomas Givens Sr. and great-granddaughter of John Givens). Grace Puryear shared her copies of these letters with James Edward Skelton (great-grandson of James Wilson Givens and great-great-grandson of John Givens) in 1963. See Genealogy Chart preceeding these letters for how Harriet Givens Chilton, Elmo Puryear and James Edward Skelton are related to John Givens.

This letter was written by Robert H. Givens but signed R. H. & Lucinda Givens. It was written from one to the other of the two living sons of John Givens (1779-1843) & wife Jane Holt (1781-1809). This letter was written by the two oldest half brothers of James Wilson Givens who lived in the Linden area of Cass County, Texas from 1850 to his death in March of 1866.

Nov. 6, 1843 Medon, Tennessee

Capt. Wm. T. Givens
Apple Creek Post Office
Morgan County, Illinois
Dear Brother,

I have to say to you that Father (John Givens 1779 - 1843) is no more. He departed this life the 17th of June at sundown, in his right mind, perfectly resigned to die, with the full assurance of meeting his God in peace which is a great thing, sure to meet two companions and two children, to live with them forever. (The two children already dead were Caroline Davison Brown - died 1836 and Samuel Washington Givens - 1837.)

He was sick a long time. Had some lingering disease of the stomach and bowels. (A descendant said cancer.) He was reduced to a mere skeleton. (He had been a very fat man.) They said that Wilson (James Wilson Givens - son of John Givens and Lois Stubbs Givens) could pick him up and carry him from one bed to another. He made a Will. I understand he left his property to his last children (children of his marriage to Lois Stubbs).

Jackson Johnson (husband of Asia Givens and son-in-law of John Givens) moved down there (Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi) last winter to attend to his business. They had all been sick. They moved Asia up about the first of October. She had been laying at the point of death for some time. She is at my house at this time, barely able to walk across the house. They are going to move back. He is down there now agathering of the crop.

Have fine crops except cotton is not as good as it was last year. I will make about 10 bales, 120 bushels of wheat, 300 barrels of corn, and have made 40,000 brick; finished burning them last night. Property of every description is low except Negroes and fine saddle horses. I have 8 head of horses and mules and a jack one year old last spring, and good wagon and 6 steers and aplenty to live on, and am out of debt.

Stewart's family (sister Nancy Givens Stewart and husband John Stewart of Cass County, Texas and half-sister of James Wilson Givens) were all well about two months ago. I have never been there (Cass County, Texas) yet. I never saw Father but one time while he was sick. I can't eat nothing that other people eat hardly and have to stay about home.

Jesse (son of John and Lois Stubbs Givens) is living in Arkansas and doing better than he has been. Uncle Samuel's (brother of John Givens) family were all well the last account. Uncle Sam has joined the Temperance Pledge and is an elder in the church.

Your brother and sister-in-law,
R. H. and Lucinda Givens

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This letter was written by William A. Wright (husband of Mary Jones Givens, eldest daughter of John and Lois Stubbs Givens) to his brother-in-law William T. Givens of Morgan County, Illinois.

Marshall County, State of Mississippi     July 11, 1844

Dear Brother,

It becomes my painful duty to confirm the account you want of the deaths of your parents (father - John and stepmother - Lois Stubbs). The old lady died 15th of November, 1842 and the old gentleman died 17th of June, 1843.

You stated you wished to know who kept house and whether Wilson (James Wilson Givens) was married. He is not married and he, Amanda and Winney keep house and all are well and doing pretty well. Sarah Jane was married on the 11th day of May to Mr. Albert Shaw (Tom Shawıs parents) and they are living in Bolivar, Hardman County, Tennessee.

You wished to know how the old man left his property. The tract of land he lived on was divided between Wilson (James Wilson Givens) and John. (Wilson is the Major Wils Givens, later of Cass County, Texas, and whatever became of John we don't know. John was only 5 years old when his father died. Evidently, John died young.) Also gave Wilson one Negro boy and John three, ______ , Lawson and Seeky, and the girls one apiece, and the remainder, after the youngest child becomes of age is to be sold and all the other property to be equally divided between John and the girls, and he left you, Jesse, Robert and Polly five dollars each. Left Nancy 60 dollars and Asia is not mentioned in the Will. James Wilson Givens and James Mooring are left as administrators. I presented your account to them and they say they are willing to do what is right about it.

Jane Stewart was married last spring. I understand she married very well. I do not recollect the gentlemanıs name. Mr. Stewart lives in Tishamingo Co., Miss. Jesse Givens lives and owns where River _____ Little Rock, Ark. part. I do not know his post office. There has been three deaths among the (several lines that are illegible) of the old manıs estate, Reuben and two children. Will Stewart (a son of Nancy Givens Stewart and John Stewart) requested me to say to you if you would come this fall he would go home with you. He is living with Wilson Givens.

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This letter was written by Mary J. Wright ( Mary ³Polly² Jones Givens - wife of William A. Wright) to her brother William Thomas Givens Sr. of Morgan County, Illinois.

Rusk County, State of Texas     March 13, 1852

Dear Brother,

Mr. Wright died the 6th day of last August. The doctors said it was called pressure on the brain. He was only sick one day and a half. My little daughter died the 25th of last June; her death caused by the whooping cough. She was sick four weeks.

Nothing of interest to write to you. Times are hard, provisions are high and money is scarce. Corn is worth from 80 cents to one dollar per bushel. Bacon is 15 cents. Land is worth from $1.50 to $2.00 in the woods and improved land from $3.50 to $5.00 per acre.

Brother Jesse Givens lives in Texas. He moved in January. He said he was going out on Brazos River. We have settled on Sabine River - 4 miles from it. Jesse is gathering property. Dr. Evans and family are well. Old Aunt Rebecca Givens and Aunt Esther Givens (sister and sister-in-law of John Givens) are coming to Texas this fall. Nancy (wife of John Stewart) Eliza Givens live in Texas. Brother Wilson (James Wilson Givens) lives in Cass County, Texas, about one day and a half's ride from us. One of Nancy Stewart's sons (Will) is living with Brother Wilson but I donıt know which.

The Givens connection is scattered all through Texas. Brother Jesse had old Peter (the Negro boy left to John Givens in his fatherıs ³Samuel Givens² Will of 1813) with him and he looked as young as ever. We have a settlement of old Mississippians here. We have old Mr. Carson Wilson for a neighbor and he is a good one too. Elick Hutchings is living in Texas and all your old acquaintances, and doing well. (This sounds as though William Thomas Givens Sr. had formerly lived in Mississippi although William T.ıs grand-daughter ³Harriet Givens Chilton² - Grace Puryearıs correspondent - didnıt know of it. It could be that one or all of the three oldest sons of John and Jane Holt Givens went to Miss. awhile before John and Lois moved their younger family to Madison Co., Tenn. in 1826. Having been born in 1802, 1806 and 1808, they were old enough to have been out on their own by that time. Then in 1828, William Thomas Givens and Samuel Washington Givens went to Illinois.) I want you to come to Texas as soon as you can and I want you to move. I have no doubt but what you will like this country. It is the prettiest country that I ever saw in my life. We have a very forward spring. We planted corn the 14th of February and are fixing to plant cotton. Grass is ankle high in the woods. It is a very pleasant country to live in. There is a very pleasant breeze stirring all summer. The country is steeling up very fast and if you ever intend to come, this fall is your time. Come and get land for your children. Write without fail.

Mary J. Wright

P.S. We have bought 100 acres of first rate land in the woods. We paid $1.50 per acre. We have been here about 15 months. We got here the 25th of December, 1850 and we cleared 100 acres and got it planted by the 10th of March. We did not make much owing to the drouth, but I believe that was a general thing, so far as I can learn. Old settlers that have been here 8 or 10 years say they generally raise from 1800 to 2000 pounds of cotton to the acre and from 35 to 40 bushels of corn to the acre, and I think that will do tolerable well.

Mr. Nelson (probably Amanda Johnsons husband - Amanda was a daughter of Jackson Johnson and Asia Malinda Givens Johnson who was a daughter of John and Lois Stubbs Givens.) and Mr. Cox said you was living on a poor place and why will you live on those poor hills when there is good land not far from you? And they also said you was a good old Methodist. Well, Texas will suit you in that respect for there are some good old shouting ones here.

I have got all the children going to school. Steam boats are running our river finely. I must come to a close. Direct your letters to Cotton Plant Post, Rusk County, Texas. Give my love to all the family and accept a good portion for yourself. Write without fail as soon as you get this.

Your sister until death,
Mary J. Wright

(Mary Jones Givens Wright died May 8, 1884, so she was a widow nearly 33 years. Wm. A. Wright having died Aug. 6, 1851.)

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William T. Givens did answer that letter from his half-sister real soon and here is her reply, containing the names of her children.

State of Texas, Rusk Co.    June 29, 1852

Dear Brother,

I received yours of May 18, 1852 which affords me much pleasure to hear from youall. You must excuse me for not writing to you oftener. We are all well at present and hope that when these few lines come to hand they may find you and your family enjoying the same help of God.

I have nothing strange to write to you. The health of this part is good. I can hear of no sickness in the neighborhood. Crops are very fine here. They are as fine as I ever saw in any country. We have rosten years (roasting ears of corn) in our field the first days of this month, June, and we have very fine cotton waist high, and I think if you was to see our country now you would certainly move here. You said you had an idea of going to look at Western Texas. I would be glad you would go. If you do go, I want you to come to my house, for I want to go with you, although I am well satisfied to live here for this is a good country and if seasons continue as they have, we will make 2500 bushels of corn and about 15 bales (cotton). We have some of our hands hired out now and they will all be hired out next Christmas.

You wrote to me to give you my children's education. I have them all going to school except two. We have three fine schools in our neighborhood and one of them is a female school. I am sending my oldest daughter to it.

You wanted to know the names of my children. I give them to you: Massa, Loueaser (dead), John G., Lenora, Ransom B., Mary A., Blackburn, Robert G., Sarah Jane (dead), and Ruth. I have commenced at the oldest and give their names in rotation. Loueaser married a man by the name of Edward H. Miller, and she died when her child was 7 month old, and its name is John. He was a fine child when we left Mississippi.

I got a letter from Brother Robert not long since. He said they were all well and were getting along very well. None of his children are married, yet. Dr. Evans said he received your letter you wrote him last winter and answered it but never heard from you again. He lives in the town of Marshall, Harrison Co., Texas.

If you ever intend to come to Texas, come this fall for there are powerful crops raising this year, everywhere as far as I can hear. I can engage corn at 25 cents per bushel but I would advise you to come and look before you move. Solomon Awalt lives 12 miles from us. He is still preaching. There is a son of Clark Spencerıs here and he is a splendid preacher. His name is Ben. We have good preaching here every Sunday and we have all denominations - Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Camolites.

Tell Lydia (William Thomas Givenıs wife) I would like to see her and tell her to write to me. Nothing more at present but remain your sister until death. Give my love to all your family and accept the same for yourself. Write soon and often.

Mary J. Wright

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The following is a letter written by John Stewart, husband of Nancy Givens Stewart, to Nancyıs brother, William Thomas Givens of Waverly, Morgan County, Illinois.

Linden, Cass Co., Texas    June the 3rd, 1873

Mr. W. T. Givens:

I received your letter a few days since. I was glad to hear from you and to know that you were still living. We had a letter from Robert Givens a few months back. (This was Robert H. Givens, a full brother to Wm. T. Givens and Nancy Givens Stewart.) He sent his likeness. He looks old and very gray. There are three of you, the first children (William Thomas Givens Sr., Nancy Givens Stewart, and Robert H. Givens), yet living. The last set of your Father's children are all dead except two, Polly Wright (Mary Jones Givens Wright) and Winney (Winifred Hassell Givens Johnson). Wilson Givens has been dead three years. (Grace Puryear writes ³This was my husbandıs great-grandfather, Major Wils Givens - James Wilson Givens. Going by this letter I had placed his death year as 1870, then in the Cass Co. records I recently found that Mary Mayo Givens, his widow, was given authority to prove up on his estate in May of 1868, I knew it must have been in March of that year that he had died². Nancy Caroline ³Jeffie² Givens Kasling (daughter of James Wilson Givens) had told Grace in 1934 that March was an important month in the lives and deaths of her parents family.) His family lives in a mile of me. Jesse was killed on the Brazos River in Texas. Old Pete (the Negro boy left to John Givens in his Father's - Samuel Givens' Will of 1813 and the same Negro slave mentioned in Mary Wright's letter in 1852 ) is still living with the family of Jesse the last I heard.

My Father died during the War. My Mother died last November. She only lacked three months of being one hundred years old. I donıt think I shall ever leave Cass County. I am farming on a small scale. I am Tax Assessor in my precinct. In '70 I assessed the whole County. Under the new consolidation there are five justices in a county and each justice assesses his precinct and takes the scholastic census. The justice living in the County Seat is the presiding justice. I have been in office six years.

My three daughters are all living. (In 1875 only 2 daughters & 1 son) We have three sons dead. Rufus, the youngest, is living in 5 miles of us, doing well. My youngest daughter, Sally, is a widow; made so by that unrighteous war. Has one little boy 9 years old.

I was one of the first in the County that went dead out against secession. I had no sympathy for them that lost their Negroes that went for the war. You would hardly think that a man 72 years of age had not a gray hair in his head. My hair is as black as when you saw me last.

Write as soon as you can. Sallie has written to you. I will close and hope to hear from you again.

John Stewart

(When Linden, Cass County, Texas was first incorporated in 1858, John Stewart was its first Mayor.)

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Letter from Nancy Givens Stewart to her brother, Wm. T. Givens of Illinois

Linden, Texas     November the 16th, 1875

W. T. Givens

Dear Brother, this is to acknowledge the reception of your letter which was received a few days ago. Myself and family are well. I have had a severe spell of sickness this fall but have recovered my usual health. We have had more sickness in this County the present year than was ever known before. Crops sorry. Tolerable good corn but the cotton was cut short by the worms.

I will now tell you something of my family which is small. We had seven children - three girls, four boys, all lived to be grown. We now have but one son and two daughters living. One daughter in Kentucky (Mary Stewart Moore Pettus), my son (Rufus) lives near, my youngest daughter (Sally) lives with us, a widow with one child.

Brother Wilıs (James Wilson Givens) widow (Mary Mayo Givens) lives near me. She has four daughters (Mary Alice Givens, Ann Virginia ³Jennie² Givens - ancestor of Logwood descendants, Frances ³Fanny² Givens, Nancy Caroline ³Jeffie² Givens - ancestor of Kasling and Skelton descendants), two sons (James M. Givens and Wilson Dudley Givens). The oldest son married, lives in Arkansas. (Grace Puryear writes: "That was Wilson Dudley Givens who married Elizabeth Cassandra Smith, 2-15-1865 in Cass Co. They were the grandparents of my husband, Elmo C. Puryear (1889 - 1945). W. D. and Betty Givens lived in Ark. - several places, for short periods. He was a contractor, a stone mason and helped build many court houses there and in N. E. Texas. W. D. was born 4-25-1847 and died 3-9-1883. Bettyıs life span was 4-14-1845 to 2-24-1930. The family always thought that Wils ³W.D. and his twin, William Douglas, who died at birth, were born in 1845, but I think now that Wilson Dudley, the one who lived and married Betty Smith, raised his age a couple of years to enlist in the Civil War. He was in the Texas Reserve Corps, Capt. Wm. Oliverıs Co., Major Carterıs Bat., C.S.A., 1863-1865.)

Sister Polly (Mary Jones Givens Wright) lives in Rusk. Co. Sister Asiaıs three daughters are living in Texas, two in Harrison Co. and one here in Linden. (Grace Puryear writes: ³I donıt know of them; Asia married Jackson Johnson.² But because of Tom Shaws letters of 1884 to Jennie Givens - daughter of William Thomas Givens Sr. we now know that the daughter who lived in Linden , Cass Co., Texas was Amanda Johnson Nelson and one of the daughters who lived in Harrison County was H. V. Sentellıs wife Mary Davison Johnson.) One of Sister Sarah Shawıs sons is here in Cass Co. (Tom Shaw, son of Sarah Jane Givens Shaw and Albert Shaw.) Mr. Stewartıs health is good. He seldom has a pain, is as stout as most men of fifty (He was 74). My general health is good altho sometimes afflicted with rheumatic pains. I would like very much to see you. Canıt you pay us a visit this winter? You could come within 20 miles on the cars. (The trains had recently come to East Texas and there was a stop in Jefferson, Texas, south of Linden, Texas.) Mr. Stewart joins me in love to yourself and family. Write soon and often. Send me your photograph.

Your Sister,
Nancy Stewart

It is too bad that the letters that William Thomas Givens Sr. wrote to his brothers and sisters were not saved. If we had those letters, what a wonderful chronological sequence of correspondence we would have had between the children of John Givens (3 Sept 1779 - 17 June 1843) before and after the American Civil War.

James E. Skelton, 20 July 1998.

Submitted by: James Skelton



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