Submitted by: Jim Skelton
FROM 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) 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
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
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
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 Shaw's 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 gentleman's 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 man's 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.
This letter was written by Mary J. Wright ( Mary "Polly" 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
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 don't know which.
The Givens connection is scattered all through Texas. Brother Jesse had old Peter (the Negro boy left to John Givens in his father's "Samuel Givens" 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.'s grand-daughter
"Harriet Givens Chilton" - Grace Puryear's correspondent - didn't 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.)
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
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 Spencer's 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 Given's 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
The following is a letter written by John Stewart, husband of Nancy Givens Stewart, to Nancy's 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 "This was my husband's 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 died". Nancy Caroline "Jeffie" 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 don't 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) Wehave 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.
(When Linden, Cass County, Texas was first incorporated in 1858, John Stewart was its first Mayor.)
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 Wil's (James Wilson Givens) widow (Mary Mayo Givens) lives near me. She has four daughters (Mary Alice Givens, Ann Virginia "Jennie" Givens - ancestor of Logwood descendants, Frances "Fanny" Givens, Nancy Caroline "Jeffie" 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. Betty's life span was 4-14-1845 to 2-24-1930. The family always thought that Wils "W.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. Oliver's Co., Major Carter's Bat., C.S.A., 1863-1865.)
Sister Polly (Mary Jones Givens Wright) lives in Rusk. Co. Sister Asia's three daughters are living in Texas, two in Harrison Co. and one here in Linden. (Grace Puryear writes: "I don't know of them; Asia married Jackson Johnson." 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. Sentell's wife Mary Davison Johnson.) One of Sister Sarah Shaw's sons is here in Cass Co. (TomShaw, son of Sarah Jane Givens Shaw and Albert Shaw.) Mr. Stewart's 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. Can't 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.
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.
1882 TO 1884
WRITTEN BY TOM SHAW
The following letter was written May 13, 1882 from Pt. Pleasant, New Madrid
County, Missouri by Tom Shaw (born Feb. 23, 1845, and was a son of Sarah Jane
Givens Shaw and Albert Shaw) to Tom's uncle, William Thomas Givens Sr. (5 Feb
1806 - 20 April 1879) in Waverly, Morgan County, Illinois. Sarah Jane Givens
Shaw and William Thomas Givens Sr. were children of John Givens (3 Sept 1779
- 17 June 1843). Notations in italic were made by James E. Skelton when he
copied the letter in 1998. The original letter was given to Grace Hollis
Puryear (wife of Elmo Puryear who was a great-grandson of James Wilson
Givens and great-great-grandson of John Givens) by Harriet Givens Chilton
(granddaughter of William Thomas Givens Sr. and great-granddaughter of John
Givens) in 1935. Grace Puryear gave this letter to James Edward Skelton
(great-grandson of James Wilson Givens and great-great-grandson of John
Givens) in 1963. The original of this letter can be found in Archival
Pictures and Information - Vol. 1 - Skelton/Kasling Section.
Pt. Pleasant, Mo.
May 13, 1882
Dear Uncle and family,
At last have decided to write you after a lapse of many years without any
information of you or your whereabouts. Thought best to address you at your
old home. Perhaps I may be fortunate enough to secure the address of all. I
have been living in this state since June 21 1880. In this New Madrid, Scott
and Pemiscot counties, I am now engaged in teaching. But anticipate going
to N W Ark in the fall and if not pleased thence to N E Texas. My only
brother Orville Shaw is living in Texas. Has been there several years. My
only sister sister - Mrs. Laura Woods lives with her little family near
Spring Creek, West Tennessee - fourteen miles out of Jackson. My Pa died in
May 1869. My only Aunt sister of Pa lives near Jackson . Aunt Winnie
Johnson and husband (Winifred Hassell Givens Johnson and Harrison Johnson)
live in Jackson. I correspond with Mr. H. V. Sentell of Jefferson, Texas (
17 miles south of Linden, Texas) . He married a daughter of Uncle Jack
Johnson (Jackson Johnson was married to Asia Malinda Givens - daughter of
John and Lois Stubbs Givens). Uncle Jack died last year in Texas having
moved there since the war. I would be pleased to correspond with one or more
members of your family. Is cousin Jennie living if so where and if married?
State how many members are living, whether married or single and give Post
Office addresses plainly.
News - Weather unusually cold. Has been raining for two weeks - heavy
storms of wind, rain and hail. Farmers have the blues. Corn and cotton
coming up. Some corn has been worked. More would have been, had not the
heavy rains have fallen. This country suffered severely from the late
overflow and another failure of crops as we had last year would beggar this
entire section. Some families are still being supplied with rations and seed
Those who should receive this write me per return mail all the
information that you are able to give me.
Trusting that I may receive an early reply, I remain your nephew.
Tom Wm. Shaw
New Madrid County,
c/o Box 17
Pt. Pleasant, Mo.
The following letter was written March 7, 1884 from Howe, Grayson County,
Texas by Tom Shaw (born Feb. 23, 1845, and was a son of Sarah Jane Givens
Shaw and Albert Shaw) to Tom's first cousin, Amanda Jane (Jennie) Givens
(1836 - ?) in Waverly, Morgan County, Illinois. Jennie Givens never married
and was a school teacher in Waverly, Illinois. Tom Shaw and Jennie Givens
were first cousins of Wilson Dudley Givens (grandfather of Elmo Puryear) and
Nancy Caroline (Jeffie) Givens Kasling (grandmother of James E. Skelton).
Tom's mother Sarah Jane Givens Shaw and Jennie's father William Thomas Givens
Sr. were children of John Givens
(3 Sept 1779 - 17 June 1843). Notations in italic were made by James E.
Skelton when he copied this letter in 1998. The original letter was given to
Grace Hollis Puryear (wife of Elmo Puryear who was a great-grandson of James
Wilson Givens and great-great-grandson of John Givens) by Harriet Givens
Chilton (who was a niece of Jennie Givens, grand-daughter of William Thomas
Givens Sr. and great-grand-daughter of John Givens) in 1935. Grace Puryear
gave a copy of this letter to James Edward Skelton (great-grandson of James
Wilson Givens and great-great-grandson of John Givens) in 1963. The copy of
the original of this letter can be found in Archival Pictures and Information
- Vol. 1 - Skelton/Kasling Section.
March 7, 1884
Miss Jennie Givens
For several days I have been thinking of you, and will write you
tonight. I don't
think I have heard from you since I left Missouri. I became unhealthy there
and came to Arkansas in December 1882. I spent only a few weeks there with a
friend, then came to Texas, January 18, 1883. Stopped in Harrison County
with one of our cousins, until September. Then spent several weeks visiting
relations in Cass, Wood and Hopkins Counties. October 8 ____(illegible) - I
left Hopkins County for Ellis County an a visit to my only Brother. Met him
at Dallas - after a separation of nearly fourteen years. We have been living
together since. He and I are anxious to hear fro you. Please favor us with
an early reply. Give us all the information you can in regard to your Papa's
family. Buddie (Tom's brother - Orville) is not well - yet able to attend
to business. I have been very sick - was confined to both bedrooms - for
We have been stopping in this county since October 21 ____ (illegible).
Expect to go to Austin in a few weeks. I anticipate spending July and August
in East Texas with relations. Not pleased with this section. The weather
too cold and subject to sudden changes.
Our love and best wishes to all of our relatives. Please accept a large
share for your own dear self.
Your loving cousin
Thomas W. Shaw
__(illegible) Am expecting a letter from Aunt Winnie Johnson of West
Tennessee. In my next - will tell you of our Texas relatives. Bye Bye
"Please give your age - also ages of your Brother and Sisters living.
State when Uncle William died - at what age. Is Auntie living - if so
The following letter was written May 21, 1884 from Dallas, Dallas County,
Texas by Tom Shaw (born Feb. 23, 1845 and was a son of Sarah Jane Givens
Shaw and Albert Shaw) to Tom's first cousin, Amanda Jane (Jennie) Givens
(1836 - ?) in Waverly, Morgan County, Illinois. Jennie never married and was
a school teacher in Waverly, Illinois. Tom Shaw and Jennie Givens were first
cousins of Wilson Dudley Givens (grandfather of Elmo Puryear) and Nancy
Caroline (Jeffie) Givens Kasling (grandmother of James E. Skelton). Tom's
mother Sarah Jane Givens Shaw and Jennie's father William Thomas Givens Sr.
were children of John Givens (3 Sept 1779 - 17 June 1843). The original
letter was loaned to Grace Hollis Puryear (wife of Elmo Puryear who was a
great-grandson of James Wilson Givens and great-great-grandson of John
Givens) by Harriet Givens Chilton (who was a niece of Jennie Givens,
grand-daughter of William Thomas Givens Sr. and great-granddaughter of John
Givens) in 1935. This letter was copied from the original by Grace Puryear
June 24, 1935 and the original was returned to Harriet Givens Chilton. Grace
Puryear shared her copy of this letter with James Edward Skelton
(great-grandson of James Wilson Givens and great-great-grandson of John
Givens) in 1963. Notations in italic were made by Grace Puryear when she
copied this letter in 1935 and by James Edward Skelton when he recopied this
letter in 1998. See Genealogy Chart preceding these letters as to how
Harriet Givens Chilton, Elmo Puryear and James Edward Skelton are related to
John Givens. See Grace Puryears observations about Tom Shaw at the
conclusion of this letter.
Address me at Dallas, Dallas County, Texas
c/o Sergt. A. O. Shaw, H. & T. C. R. R. (Houston & Texas Central Rail Road)
May 21, 1884
Miss Jennie Givens,
My Dear Cousin,
You can't imagine just how glad I was to read another letter from you. I
feared something seriously had occurred to you, perhaps had launched your
barge on the sea of matrimony and had forgotten Cousin Tom. Therefore being
the more anxious to hear from you and family, I wrote to Cousin Tom Givens.
I will excuse you for failing to reply. Know you had many cares of mind.
But thank you for writing when you did. Cousin Jennie, how old are you?
When we used to correspond, you wrote me very interesting letters, and I was
more anxious to receive letters from you than from other relatives, since I
had met none of Uncle William's family but you and him. I regret very much
that our lot has been cast so far away. I should be so very glad to visit
all of you. No one loves dear relatives more than I, and the name of Givens
is very dear to me because my mother was a Givens.
I do not correspond with any of our Givens relatives beside Aunt Winnie (W
inefred Hassel Givens Johnson - wife of Harrison Johnson). She is now
indebted to me a letter. Several weeks since I heard from her. I will here
give you all the information I am in possession of in regard to the
relatives. When I heard from them last, Aunt Winnie and Uncle Harry were
still living on the same old farm, though one mile west of where they were
living when you visited them. They afterwards built a nice farm house.
Uncle Harry is getting gray and quite old, never goes anywhere, smokes as
much as ever, walks about the farm. Johnnie married a Miss Jennie Neil - a
very homely girl. They have one little boy. They live with Uncle and
Auntie. Uncle Robert (Robert Givens of Medon, Tenn. who was a brother of
John Givens) has been dead several years. His widow, and third wife I
believe, still lives near Medon. Cousin Sallie Smith (Robert's daughter)
and family live near Little Rock, Ark. John Givens (son of Robert Givens)
lost his second wife and is keeping house with his two elder children. His
mother-in-law, Mrs. Murchison, has his baby, a little girl. Cousin Jimmie
Givens (son of Robert Givens) married a Miss Pope. He lives at Brownsville,
Tennessee. He is in ill health. I know nothing of Cousin Callie Eddings (dau
ghter of Robert Givens).
Charlie G. (son of Robert Givens) is a bachelor and is engaged in the
mercantile business at Medon. Cousin Nannie (daughter of Robert Givens) marr
ied John Harrison, he died. She is the mother of eight children, four are
dead. She is a dashing widow with good property left her.
George G. (son of Robert Givens) married a Miss McGlow. Poor George is
a bad manager and is very poor, rents land. His wife knew nothing of work.
they have two children. Cousin Sallie Manley (daughter of John Givens) marri
ed Pleas Davis and resides at Ft. Smith, Ark. I learn that Davis is sick.
Sallie and her grown daughter who is said to be a beauty, visited Tennessee
relatives. Aunt Winnie (Winefred Hassel Givens Johnson) said Sallie was
the finest looking lady she ever met.
I came to Texas January 18 of 1883 from S. E. Missouri after visiting
with a friend a few weeks in Craighead County, Arkansas. I had been in ill
health for several months. I stopped in Hardman County, Tenn. with H. V.
Sentell, who married Cousin Mary Davison Johnson (daughter of Aunt Asia
Malvina Givens and Jackson Johnson). You recollect she was staying with
Aunt Winnie (Winefred Hassel Givens Johnson) when you was there. They (the
Sentells) had no children and adopted a boy and girl, the girl Lily is now
15 years old and Willie 10 years old. Cousin Mary is foolish about them.
She and Lily correspond with me.
Last September, I visited Cass County relatives. Aunt Nancy Stewart died
at an advanced age (1803-1883 - her husband was John Stewart - 1798-1883)
where ____(illegible) I had an opportunity of meeting her. She has two or
more children living near Linden. Cousin Amanda Nelson, sister of Cousin
Mary Sentell (daughters of Asia Malvina Givens and Jackson Johnson) resides
in Linden. She is a widow,
four boys at home with her, her only daughter, Mollie, married a Lawyer, H.
A. O'Neal. He resides in Linden, is a prominent lawyer. They have three
Aunt Polly Givens (Mary Mayo Givens) and Cousin Jeffie, wife (widow)
and daughter of Uncle Wilson Givens (James Wilson Givens), were visiting in
Tennessee, and I failed to see them. Uncle Wilson and Aunt Polly had six
children, four girls, Alice (Mary Alice Givens), Jennie (Ann Virginia Givens),
Fannie (Frances) and Jeffie (Nancy Caroline Givens Kasling). Alice married
a Mr. Logwood (William T. Logwood) and died (in child birth) without
children. Jennie married a brother (Thomas Edward Logwood) and has two
beautiful children, the baby, a boy is named James Orville. Fannie married
William Latham, they have one child. Two boys (sons of "Uncle Wilson and
Aunt Polly") Willie and Jimmie. Willie (Wilson Dudley Givens -
great-grandfather of Elmo Puryear) married a Miss Smith (Elizabeth Cassandra
Smith ), he died leaving six children. Jimmie (James M. Givens), having
been a consumptive for several years, married a Miss. Latham. He died in
December last, they had two children. Jeffie (Nancy Caroline Givens) is a
fifteen year old Miss - very pretty I learned. Cousin Jennie is very much
like her Papa. Aunt Polly intends visiting Tennessee again. I think she
wants to marry again. (Jeffie Givens told her grandson, James E. Skelton
that her mother was looking for a rich husband but never found one.)
Cousin Lizzie Woodson (sister of Cousin Mary Sentell) resides in Hopkins
County. She has only one daughter, married a little more than a year, Mrs.
Asia Mays. With your letter I received one from Cousin Ruth Robertson, of
Kilgore, Gregg County, Texas. She is a daughter of Aunt Polly Wright (Mary
Jones Givens Wright - wife of Wm. A. Wright and daughter of John and Lois
Stubbs Givens) . She wrote that Aunt Polly died May 8, 1884 - of paralysis
of the heart, having been confined to her bed for two weeks. She was 73
years old. I hoped to obtain from her some valuable information concerning
Grandpa Givens (John Givens) and family. But all possible chance has fled.
None of the family are living now but Aunt Winnie (Winefred Hassell Givens
Sissy (no doubt "Sissy" was Tom Shaw's sister) married Mr. Wood and
resides in Madison County, Tennessee, near Spring Creek, 14 miles N. E. of
Jackson. Mr. Wood is a farmer, owns a good farm. They have three pretty,
sweet children living, one in Heaven. The eldest, a boy now ll years old,
took the premium at the Jackson Fair, a girl nearly 10 years named Lois for
Grandmother Givens, the third a boy died at the age of 15 months, the fourth
a girl - and a chatter box - named Mary Kit, 2 1/2 or 3 years old. Mrs.
Wood, a very old lady, lives with Sissy. Sissy is a strict member of the
Missionary Baptist Church and believes in much water.
Buddie is named Orville. He had been in this state a number of years and
has resided in Arkansas and Indian Territory, also. For more than ten years,
he has been engaged in the convict business. Col. O. M. Short, formerly from
Illinois who came to this state at an early day, is one of the Inspectors of
the Texas State Penitentiary. Says that Buddie is the best convict man in
the state. The best "Disciplinarian". After visiting relatives in Cass, Red
and Hopkins Counties last September and October, I came west to meet Buddie
after a separation of nearly 14 years. Oct. 9, 1883, we met in Dallas. We
then went to Waxahachie in Ellis County. Oct. 21, 1883, our train moved to
Grayson County near Sherman and with the exception of a few days spent in
Collin County, we remained in Grayson until last Sunday when the train came
to this place. Can't say how long we will remain here. I am not too pleased
with this business and will retire June 30 ultimo. Buddie has never married,
though he is regarded as one of the finest looking men in the state, and one
of the best business men. He is a splendid scribe, 31 years old; Sissy, 33
years; myself 39 Feb. 23, 1845.
No, no, Cousin Jennie, I have not decided to settle myself and marry.
Thank you for the good advice. But me-thinks I am too old to marry now. Am
not desirous of marrying now, and it is very fortunate for me, as I could not
if I desired to do so. I wish very often that I had been married in 76 or 77
when I had an opportunity. I tonight might have had an interesting family -
might have been a happy man, but I failed to take advantage of the proffered
opportunity - and tonight I am a miserable old Bach. My advice to all men
and women is to marry. If I could live this life over again, how different
would it be spent.
What is Auntie's (your Mama's) name? What was her maiden name, what year
did she and Uncle William marry? How many children were born to them? Was
not one of the girls named Hattie? I regret very much to hear of Auntie's
afflictions. Hope she may be spared many years yet.
Now Cousin Jennie, please tell me why you failed to marry. And don't you
intend yet to captivate some old Bach? Don't marry an "old warmed over
fellow", a "widower", as did Cousin Mollie (Mollie Nelson who married H. A. O
Neal). Visit Texas. There are a number of old Bachelors here. I don't like
Texas as well as Missouri, although I enjoy better health here than I did
there. The severe changes of weather, the northers, render this country very
disagreeable. Though the lands are very productive, and any man can make
more than a living by farming here, if he will only use a little industry.
There is no necessity for anyone in good health to suffer here, as there is a
great demand for labor all over the state.
Will you please give me the ages of all the children living, and ask
Cousin Lizzie (Jennie's sister - Elizabeth) if she will correspond with her
old and homely Cousin Tom. As you say you are growing old and neglectful, I
wish to have at least one member of the family to correspond with, as I do
not want to lose sight of any member. Tell Cousin Lizzie I will endeavor to
interest her though I am a dull old Bachelor. No, Cousin Jennie, I do not
think you do not love your relatives, if you did not, you would not inherit
any of the disposition of the Givens. I love all of my relatives, though
some of my Madison County, Tenn. relatives would not agree. (Perhaps those
Madison County, Tenn., relatives grew tired of Tom when he would come to
visit.) Yet, I entertained a kind of regard for them. I don't suppose that
anyone would love their near relatives more than myself. I love to receive
and read letters from relatives.
But I fear this will prove a burden to you. Really, I did not intend
writing so much when I began. But I was desirous of giving you all the
information concerning your relatives that I could, and supposed that you
would prefer that I do so in this letter. I rather expect you will be forced
to use your "Specs", in order to read this scribbling. I am a poor scribe,
since I had a severe attack of measles, which affected my nerves, besides I
do not exercise as much care in writing as I should. (Tom was probably a
As I wish to reply to cousin Tom's letter tonight, I will proceed to
close. My love to all of the relatives. Accept a large share for your self.
I still have the photo you gave me of yourself. It has begun to fade
some. Hoping you will not consign this to your wastebasket, but favor me
with an early reply.
I remain your Cousin,
Thomas W. Shaw
Despite his remarks , to the contrary, Thomas W. Shaw was an
excellent scribe and his letters were not consigned to Jennie's
wastebasket. Tom Shaw was a son of Sarah Jane Givens
(daughter of John and Lois Givens) and Albert Shaw. Thomas
W. Shaw was born Feb. 23, 1845 in Tennessee.
"Tom Shaw had a club-foot" so said Ozzie Belle DeMonbreun
(a granddaughter of Winefred Hassell Givens Johnson and a
great-granddaughter of John Givens) "and he was given a good
education, but was pampered, spoiled and lazy. Tom was a
school teacher but didn't work at it very much. He mostly
visited around among the kin." Tom was living with Ozzie Belle's
father's family, John Henderson Johnson (who was a son of
Winifred Hassell Givens and Harrison Johnson) when Tom
decided to get married. When he broke the news to Ozzie Belle's
parents, her mother told him he couldn't bring his bride there
to live; he called the wedding off.
I think he had the searching instincts of a family historian, but
didn't follow thru. Mother Puryear (Mollie Givens Puryear, a
daughter of Wilson Dudley Givens) remembered Cousin Tom
Shaw visiting their home twice. Of course, Mollie was one of the
six children that Cousin Tom mentioned, when he said that
William or "Willie" (Wilson Dudley Givens) married a Miss Smith,
and that he died and left six children. She says that during those
visits, she and her brothers and sisters were convinced that
Cousin Tom was quite wealthy, because he brought them a
half-dollar's worth of candy, and in those days that was a lot
of candy. Then, when he was preparing to leave, he bought
each of them a present, or perhaps he brought presents with him.
Cousin Tom Shaw and his brother, Orville, seem to have been
using convict labor in helping to build the Houston & Texas
Central Rail Road.
I certainly wish that Cousin Tom could have gotten that
valuable information concerning his Grandpa Givens and family
that he had hoped to obtain from his Aunt Polly (Mary Jones Givens)
Wright. No doubt, it was about their ancestry the was inquiring, and
if he had learned it, he would have passed the information on to
Cousin Jennie Givens, and we would now have it.
June 24, 1935
Not having that information did not stop Grace Hollis Puryear from
finding out about the Givens ancestors. Grace was persistent;
she searched and searched and was meticulous with her research
and eventually by 1963, she had traced the Givens lineage back to
Robert Givens (circa 1640) in County Antrim, Ireland.
James Edward Skelton
July 23, 1998