1866: Coleman C. Beckham to Sister

Coleman Beckham in 1870s

Coleman Beckham in 1870s

This post-war letter was written from “Ashland” — the Beckham family plantation — by Coleman C. Beckham (1798-Aft1880) of Culpeper County, Virginia.  Coleman was the son of Abner Beckham (1769-1811) and Frances Thomas (1775-1857). He was married to Mary C. Beckham (1804-18xx). They had at least four children: Frances (“Fannie”) Thomas Beckham (1833-1917) — the wife of Maj. James Barbour (1823-1895); Henry Clay Beckham (1836-1916); James (“Jimmie”) Minor Beckham (1842-1925) — whom we learn married Julia McCann Flannagan (1848-1903) in Charlottesville on 5 September 1866; and William (“Willie”) Armstead Beckham (1844-1912).

I have not been able to confirm the identity of the recipient of this letter though a former owner of the letter claimed it to have been a sister “Georgie” who lived in Shelby County, Kentucky and was a close relative to Nudigate Owsley whose brother William was a former Governor of Kentucky. I know that Coleman had a brother named William Thomas Beckham (1800-1879) who married Nancy Ann Netherton in Shelby County, Kentucky and resided there the remainder of his life.


Ashland, Culpepper County, Va.
July 7th 1866

Dear Sister George [Georgee],

I know I have delayed writing you much longer than I ought to have done, but then you know it is not that I have forgotten you, nor it it for any amount of affection. No, that can never be so long a reason — gratitude & love remains. I often think of you and your kind husband, and am more than grateful for the interest manifested in me and mine, & for the helping hand thrown forward to draw from the vortex of destruction your loving brother. But why am I writing thus? I am only repeating the oft told tale of my love and gratitude. I know you appreciate my feelings without being so often told of them.

I have nothing of great interest to write you but will write what little news we have. We are all well — my health is very good. I don’t give myself much time to get sick. I am pretty much occupied all the time. Have begun the battle of life a second time in earnest. Have put in 100 acres in corn which is looking very well, though my wheat crop is a failure. I will not make more than a quarter of a crop.

Fannie and the children are well. Henry ¹ is getting all the [medical] practice in his neighborhood but there is no money in it at present. He is quite popular in his vicinity, I understand. Willie is with me and at work. His health is better than it has been for some time. Jimmie returned from the University a few days ago where he has been the past 8 months. He expects to read some privately now and then get his license to practice law. He is to be married to a young lady in Charlottesville (a Miss Flannagan) on the 5th September next. Of course he says she is perfection.

Money is very scarce here now. You know we have a Stay Law ² which makes it impossible for me to collect one cent of what is owed me, but I am hoping to bridge across the gulf of my necessities manfully. I must hope and never despair. I know so such word as failure.

Love to William and family and Mary & Jimmie and to Robert and to all those so near and dear to me. Tell Colie [Collins] I was looking for him to visit us last winter as he promised to do. Tell Finch I am under many obligations for the deep interest he manifests in me, in being so careful in his recollection of the widow. I must try and come to see her when the times get easier. Make her hold on for me. But he must not say anything to Ann about my matrimonial projects.

James Beckham’s health has not improved. He is in a very bad condition mentally, pecuniarily, & physically. Hoping to hear from you soon & that you are all well.

I am your loving brother, — C. C. Beckham

¹ Henry Clay Beckham attended VMI for six months in 1857 but then attended the University of Virginia, Richmond Medical School, and the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia where he received his medical degree in 1861. He served with the 7th Virginia Infantry (as an infantryman) during the Civil War; then as a contract physician in hospitals in Lyunchburg and Richmond. He stood 5’11” tall, and had light hair and blue eyes.

² The Virginia “Stay Law” was enacted in March 1866 “to stay the collection of debts” for a limited period. It gave relief to the debtor class who were struggling to work their way out of poverty caused (primarily) by the Civil War.


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