This letter was written by Alfred Newsom Dillard (1795-1867), a native of North Carolina. In 1850, he was enumerated in New Madrid, Missouri, where he was employed as a “trader” with his 25 year-old son, W. C. Dillard. In 1860, he was enumerated in Jefferson, Jackson county, Arkansas, where he was employed as a farmer.
Alfred wrote the letter to Winstead Davie (b. 1797), a Jonesboro (Illinois) merchant and a native of Person county, North Carolina. His parents, John and Elizabeth (Winstead) Davie, were natives of North Carolina and removed to Tennessee, where the father died. The mother came to Jonesboro on horseback after she was over eighty years old, and subsequently died at the residence of her son, Winstead.
Winstead Davie was born badly deformed in the lower extremities. Consequently, he was not able to attend school like other children. However, at the age of sixteen years, he became qualified to teach school, and so applied himself in Tennessee until 1820, when he came on horseback to Jonesboro and entered upon the duty of a pedagogue. Later, he was employed as a clerk by the firm of Davidson & Outlaw, general merchants of that village. Here he progressed rapidly, and laid the foundation for his future prosperity. He afterward gathered together what means he could, and entered the general mercantile business, forming a partnership. His business included general dry goods, etc., tailor shop, shoe shop, tan-yard, saddler and harness shop, and a travelers’ hotel. Mr. Davie was the father of ten children, by his union with Anna Willard, born November 28, 1809, in Windsor, Vermont.
Addressed to Mr. W. Davie, Jonesborough, Illinois
Postmarked America, Illinois
New Orleans, [Louisiana]
July 6th 1824
I have neglected writing to you for this reason — I wanted to know the final result of sickness in my family before I wrote to you. I wrote when Mr. Collier came home but he did not think enough of the favors that I had rendered him to fetch it to you. I expect he told you what a spell of sickness my wife had and about the time he started I was taken sick and had a severe spell and the child is sick yet, tho’ my self and wife have both recovered our health and people say there is no more danger of us except the Yellow Fever gets a hold of us. House rent and doctor bills rid me of all my funds and this is a very unfriendly place to live in without cash tho’ if we can keep our health, I am not afraid of suffering. I hope and depend on you to keep my affairs to rights in that country as I am in a helpless situation at present and not able to forward you any money now but I hope it will not always be the case. I expect to have to stay here all the sickly season for want of means to get away.
It is a getting very sickly here now and people is a leaving the town and going many directions to get shut of the fever. There has been fifteen cases of the Yellow Fever reported by the Board here already and it is supposed by the old citizens that this will be a very distressful season. I am here and here I must stay. The times is hard now but if we all could have our health, I could make money.
There was a family came down the river with me. He lost three children and his wife and is very sick. If I had a taken your advice, no doubt but what it would have been much better for me but it is too late now to say stop. I have got to the end of my row. I want you to write to me as soon as you get this and in particular, I don’t want you to let anybody know anything about my situation as they would be so ready to laugh at my misfortune instead of feeling any sympathy for me. If my misfortunes had been brought on by dissipation or any misconduct, I should not think I deserved any sympathy, but it was brought by the hand of Providence. I was doing very well until we was all taken sick. The doctors in this town does charge the most enormous prices you ever heard of and that must be paid down or property sacrificed to fetch the money. That and hard rent is what ruined me when sick. You can’t get a small house for to keep a few boarders in for less than $20 per month.
I still remain your true friend &c. — A. N. Dillard