Hamer Family Papers, 1765-1907
| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
This collection of ninety-eight manuscript items includes legal documents and personal and business correspondence relating to several generations of the Hamer family of Anson County, North Carolina, and Marlboro and Marion Counties, South Carolina. Descendants of William Hamer, the family of Williamís son John Hicks Hamer (1765-1842) and grandson Robert Cochran Hamer (1801-1878) lived in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This large family was interconnected through marriage with the Betheas, Cochrans, Thomases, and a number of other surnames that are represented within the pages of these papers. | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Among the oldest items in the collection are receipts validating John Hamerís payment of his public and poor taxes for the years 1796 and 1799. These are part of a group of receipts dating from the years 1765-1810. There is also a bond dated 22 January 1785 that originated in Anson County and documents a business transaction between Richard Farr and Frances Curtis in which Farr assumes Curtisí debt to Ely Kershaw. Nineteenth-century items from the antebellum period include an account of receipts and expenditures, 1819-1820, for the estate of Thomas Cochran. John Hamer, his son-in-law, was executor of the estate. Account entries for monies received during 1819 reflect pur¨chases of corn, rent of a plantation identified as "the beauty spot," and "the hire of a Negroe woman Harriet" by Daniel Hamer and William Bristow.
Early letters include that of 24 May 1824 from Henry Hamer to his brother Robert, in Marlborough District, South Carolina, with its notation that "a man by the name of Woodburn from Gilford County" [N.C.] was in the process of establishing a school at "beauty spot," and a lengthy missive written by Thomas Hamer from Anson County to his father, John Hamer, in Marlborough, South Carolina, on 11 May 1826. Thomas informs his father that he and his family had returned home safely after visiting South Carolina. He had "lost a little negroe a few days ago"; however, the cause was unknown since "it was but forty eight hours old when died." He went on to write at length about the crops he planted and the fact that the dry weather did not bode well for the harvest.
Writing on 8 January 1835 from Lowndes County, Alabama, Tristram Bethea reported that the trip from Carolina took twenty-one days, yet he "and the negroes" continued in good health. He noted that he was unable to sell anything for a fair price on credit, "but for Cash there is not much difference between here and there."
A letter addressed by Methodist preacher Lewis M. Hamer to "Brother Robert" on 24 April 1856 conveys the writerís apology for not having written in some time because he had been busy with religious meetings, which were "usually very well attended." His appointment that day was "at a School House about two miles from where we live." A large school taught by David G. Wood was located there, and the combination of students and people from the community, Hamer suggested, "make a very respectable congregation." The community was building a church about one mile away that he expected to be completed in time for the third quarterly meeting which Lewis hoped Robert could attend. Lewis planned to go up to Cheraw, S.C., the following week to attend a four-day meeting and expected to travel with "Elizabeth and the children" as far as Society Hill, S.C., after which they would go on to Marlborough and he would travel by railroad.
Eight receipts, 1842-1844, document Robert C. Hamerís administra¨tion of the estate of his father, John H. Hamer, with references to the sale and hire of slaves as well as the making of a coffin and case. A letter to R.C. Hamer from Elias Townsend, Harlleesville, South Carolina, 1 March 1853, reports that two men had said "they were going to the neighborhood of Harlleesville [Harleyville, S.C.] after a Runaway Negro." Those involved in the pursuit, Townsend advised, believed the runaway belonged to Hamer.
Eight letters, 1856-1858, from H[iram] McLemore, Lowndesboro, Alabama, to Robert C. Hamer, Little Rock, Marion District, South Carolina, attest not only to the westward migration of families with South Carolina ties but also to the resulting problems of communication that the intervening distances often occasioned. The first is dated 13 April 1856 and advises that a Dallas County, Ala., court would soon be convened, at which the cases involving both men were to be heard, all of which appear to have been legal proceedings in conjunction with the settlement of the estate of their father-in-law, Tristram Bethea. McLemore hoped to see Hamer there because he did not want to shoulder all of the responsibilities alone. McLemoreís family, the letter notes, had recently added to their number a daughter. The hard winter had caused great losses in the potato crop, but the weather had improved enough to plant corn and cotton. Three men from that county, Y.W. Graves, Duncan McCall, and George Robbinson, had recently left for Texas to explore land prospects.
McLemoreís letter of 11 June 1856 expresses disappointment that he had neither heard from Hamer nor seen him at the court session in May. Thus far, he reported, "a trial of two of the cases that Phill had against the estate" had been held, "and we succeeded in casting him in both of them which cases if they had gone against the state would have cost it three or four thousand dollars." Writing again, on 21 November 1836, McLemore acknowledged Hamerís letter informing him that he would be unable to attend the court proceedings. McLemore lamented the fact that Hamerís absence forced him to assume "all the responsibility of settling our matters by compromises," which he thought best to do rather than going to trial because "we had some very hard witnesses against us and they were well trained and would have sworn anything the opposite party wished."
While "the proceeding in reference to the settlement of Captain Betheaís estate" presumably went on for some time, McLemoreís letter of 12 October 1857 informs Hamer that Mrs. Bethea "is living at the old homestead" and that her health had been "good as usual." The weather had been "very peculiar" throughout the year, with very little warm weather during the summer. As a result, the cotton in the area was very short, only comprising a half to two-thirds of the usual crop. Compound¨ing problems for planters, the market price had declined by about two cents per pound over the previous two or three weeks due "to the money market being in a deranged state, though no banks in our state has suspended." McLemore had bought an adjoining plantation "near the river" for $25 per acre, however, and was "well satisfied" with his purchase.
Five letters penned by John Hicks Hamer (1835-1916) while a student at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, were sent to Little Rock, South Carolina, between 1855 and 1856, three directed to Johnís father, Robert Cochran, and two to his brother, Robert Pickett. John wrote to his brother on 5 November 1855, noting that "some sickness" was going around the college and a student had died of typhoid fever. With only one month left in the session, John was looking forward to meeting his brother around the second Monday in December. A postscript notes that he had not yet heard from their father, to whom he had written the previous week requesting money to pay for his room rent, bed, washing, and servant.
The first of Johnís college letters to his father is dated 21 August 1856. Young Hamer notes that he has been very well, although in recent days he had endured a slight attack of diarrhea. Despite that, there had been very little sickness at the college during the session except for "some few cases of measels." The election for governor had caused great excitement at the college and in the surrounding community, Hamer wrote. He predicted that Thomas Bragg would defeat John Adams Gilmer. Democrats had been elected in all of the counties with "a very few exceptions," and John thought that the election results would "Bring the knownothings to a stand for a while."
John asked his father to inform him who was elected from Marion to the South Carolina legislature. And he told the elder Hamer that many candidates had made speeches in Chapel Hill, N.C., and that a "Mr. Everet," possibly famed orator Edward Everett, was expected to speak in the fall on the character and life of Washington, "which will be very interesting." The session, Hamer wrote, had been a quiet one until the preceding few days, when "some of the boys got out in the campus and was showing some fire balls" and accidentally set fire to a belfry. By the time they could get assistance, the fire caused approximately $3000 in damage to the structure and the bell. He concluded by asking his father to send him $75 to pay for food "and some other things I will want."
The collection contains two receipts for the purchase of slaves by R.P. Hamer from E.M. McCall. One, dated 1 January 1862, was for $1200 "for the negro man Arthur." The second, bearing no date, occurred in Darlington District, South Carolina, and was for $2000 "for two Negroes, Julia and her daughter Jane."
The sole Civil War letter, dated 16 August 1864, was written by Lewis M. Hamer from Timmonsville, South Carolina. "There is a good deal said about the war," Lewis wrote. "And I believe all concur in the wish that it may soon terminate. Many have lost relations. In fact I see but few families over here who have not lost some one." Lewis continued on to relate that Darlington District, S.C., had suffered numerous casualties "during this summerís campaign." The sight of crippled men who lost legs or arms and "others bearing on their bodies the marks of battle," he suggested, was common. He also noted widespread rumors of deserters in the district, and the fears "that they may become troublesome" because they travel in groups of five or six so as to intimidate those whose job it was to round up deserters.
Lewis inquired about the nature of Lt. Col. E.L. Stackhouseís wound and wrote that his family was in good health except for the children having whooping cough. He believed the general health in the area was good even though there were some cases of smallpox. A doctor told him that there have been about twenty in all, of which two had died. Both whites and blacks were being vaccinated, and it was hoped that action would put a stop to the breakout, although it "was thought to have been stopped some time ago but through some bad management it broke out again."
He was kept busy with appointments, the approach of the annual conference, and the fact that his colleague "has broken down" and was relieved from work duties for two months, causing Lewis to assume his workload. "It is a large circuit and the work laborious," he wrote, and it "will take my constant efforts to close up matters in time to make my annual report." He regretted that he was not immediately available "to comfort those who have been bereaved during this cruel war."
Of considerable interest is a letter written by Robert C. Hamer on 2 August 1866 to "Aaron Hamer - Freed man" in Little Rock, Marion District, S.C., "at the request of Garret Watson - your father." Watson wished his son to come home to him as soon as he could. Aaronís mother and others were at the plantation of the writerís sister, "tending it on shares this year."
Other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century items include insurance policies covering R.P. Hamerís dwelling and contents, presumably his home known as Riverside on the Pee Dee River, one mile from Little Rock. There is an undated petition to "the select men and Road surveyors" of a township requesting authorization for R.P. Hamer "to change the present location of the Rockingham and Lumberton Road on his plantation by opening a new Road Commencing at the massive Hall." A full description of the proposed road follows, including a reference to a road "at P.L. Alfords." Forty signatures are affixed to the petition. Hamerís tax return for "the Fiscal Year Commencing 1st November, 1885" is included as well as a bill of sale documenting his purchase of a twenty horse power Talbott Stearn Engine Boiler Saw Mill and fixtures. The latter, along with a 15 March 1888 letter of inquiry from G.W.H. Malkusa, operator of the Malkusa Mill in Loris, Horry County, South Carolina, indicates that Hamer was operating a saw mill.
Rounding out the collection are twenty labor contracts, 1873-1892, "Memorandums of Agreement/Planterís Contracts" executed between Robert P. Hamer and the following persons: James H. Barefoot, Joseph Berry, James W. Bridges, H.L. Britt, Neill Carter, Henry Colley, Frank Emanuel, Thomas Fainkley, Jasper Hamilton, Briscow McCall, Robert McGaha, Edmon[d] McLendon and Thomas Trulove, Flora McNeill and her son, Jackson McNeill, John Miller, B.A. Shooter, J.F. Sineth, Hail Thompson, Isham Thompson, and Calvin Wiggins. Most of these agreements were for eleven-month periods from 1 January to 1 December.