« PreviousContinue »
APPENDIX F_TO CHAPTER IX
In the Clay MSS. the letters of Jesse Benton to Col. Hart, of December 4, 1782, and March 22, 1783, paint vividly the general distress in the Carolinas. They are taken up mostly with accounts of bad debts and of endeavors to proceed against various debtors; they also touch on other subjects.
In the first, of December 4, 1782, Benton writes: "It seems the powers above are combined against us this year. Such a Drouth was never known here [in the upper Carolinas] before; Corn sells from the stack at 4 & 5 p. Bushel, Wheat 6 & 8, Rye the same, Oats, 36 &c &c ... I have not had Water to keep the Grist Mill Fuling Mill and Oyl Mill at Work before this Week. · Johny Rice has gone to Kentuck with his goods to buy Furs, but before he went we talked of your debts and he did not like to be concerned, saying he should gain ill will for no profit; However I will immediately enforce the Law to recover your Debts ... the Lands which You had of me would sell as soon as any but this hard year makes many
settlers and few buyers. I have heard nothing more of Major Haywoods desire of purchasing & all I ever heard upon the subject was from his son-in-law who now appears very sick of his late purchase of Elegant Buildings. . Your Brother Capt. Nat Hart, our worthy and respectable Friend, I doubt is cut off by the Savages at the time and in the manner as first represented, to wit, that he went out to hunt his horses in the
month of July or August it is supposed the Indians in Ambuscade between Boonsboro and Knockbuckle, intended to take him prisonner but killd his horse and at the same time broke his Thigh, that the savages finding their Prisonner with his Thigh broken was under the necessity of puting him to Death by shooting him through the Heart at so small a Distance as to Powder burn his Flesh. He was Tomahawkd, scalped & lay two days before he was found and buried. This Account has come by difrent hands & confirmd to Col. Henderson by a Letter from an intimate Friend of his at Kentuck."
This last bit of information is sandwiched in between lamentations over bad debts, concerning which the writer manifested considerable more emotion than over the rather startling fate of Captain - Hart.
The second letter contains an account of the “trafficking off” of a wagon and fine pair of Pennsylvania horses, the news that a debt had been partially liquidated by the payment of sixty pounds' worth of rum and sugar, which in turn went to pay workmen, and continues: “The common people are and will be much distressed for want of Bread. I have often heard talk of Famine, but never thought of seeing any thing so much like it as the present times in this part of the Country. Three fourths of the Inhabitants of this country are obliged to purchase their Bread at 50 & 60 miles distance at the common price of 16 and upwards per barrel. The winter has been very hard upon the live stock
& I am convinced that abundance of Hogs and Cattle will die this Spring for want of Food. . . . Cash is now scarcer here than it ever was before. ... I have been industrious to get the Mills in good repair and have succeeded well, but have rcd. very little benefit from them yet owing intirely to the general failure of a Crop. We have done no Merchant work in the Grist Mill, & she only supplies my Family and workmen with Bread. Rye, the people are glad to eat. Flaxseed the cattle have chiefly eaten though I have got as much of that article as made 180 Gallons of Oyl at 41 per bushel. The Oyl is in great demand; I expect two dollars p. Gallon for it at Halifax or Edenton, & perhaps a better price. We were very late in beginning with the Fulling Business; for want of water. .... [there are many] Mobbs and commotions among the People.”