Smith County, Texas

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Howard Bramlette of Nashville, Tennessee owns all of the following letters in their original form. Howard's mother, Ione Perry Pegues, was the granddaughter of Colonel John Franklin Overton (1816 - 1879). While the first letter was written by John Overton, the balance of the letters were written by Eleazer Claiborne Overton (1812 - 1903) to John, who was in Smith County, Texas at the time. Mr. Bramlette granted permission to transcribe and translate the letters for this web site.

November 1857 - John F. Overton to James Potter
"…you shall not find any difficulty in exercising all the privileges and rights belonging to you as her father…"

James Potter's daughter, Mary Eliza Potter, was living in Smith County, Texas with her uncle, John F. Overton. It is likely Mary moved to Texas around 1856 with her grandmother, Susannah Alexander Overton after Susannah's husband and John F. Overton's father, Jesse, died in Maury County, Tennessee. Mary's mother, Eliza Cassandra, died in 1847, and Mary then went to live with her maternal grandparents. In this letter, John F. Overton tells Mary's father James Potter that he, as father, retains all legal rights to Mary Eliza at age 10 and that he should not worry about her well-being. John invites James to come to Texas and describes the current times in the area of Smith County.

March 1858 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"Tell Mother that old Jilcy has a very fine bull calf and she gives a fine chance of milk."

Eleazer C. Overton was the eldest child of Jesse and Susannah Overton, with his home in Maury County, Tennessee. After Jesse died in 1856, Susannah moved to Smith County, Texas with her son John F. Overton and other siblings. In this letter, E.C. is giving John F. some options regarding E.C.’s buying John’s interest in the family farm in Tennessee. E.C. discusses the success of his various farming interests and crops. He also cites current prices of commodities and livestock animals.

July 1858 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"…I wanted the land to bring every dollar it was worth so that each heir would get his due…"

E.C. Overton continues to try to negotiate with John F. Overton to buy John’s interest in the old family farm in Maury County, Tennessee. E.C. offers approximately $22 per acre, hoping to convince John to either sell his interest in the farm, or buy E.C.’s at that price. E.C. makes reference to lawsuit in which he is involved.

July 1859 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"I received a letter from McKay a few days ago containing insinuating characteristics of the man, which insinuations I shall treat with silent contempt."

E.C. Overton is attempting to wrap up the final terms of the purchase of the family farm in Tennessee. He discusses the problems they are experiencing in Tennessee regarding the weather and resultant poor crops. E.C. suggests that “McKay” (probably his brother-in-law, Colonel John McKay) has made certain insinuations regarding his character that are irritating.

August 1859 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"You can inform Robert that mother's note she gave for those Negroes is in the hands of the clerk of the Chancery Court…"

E.C. and John Overton’s mother Susannah died the past September, and E.C. was appointed the administrator of the estate. This letter covers the various legal aspects of the court proceedings, and E.C.’s desire to wrap up the legal matters by the following March. E.C. discusses the $3,700 that he has agreed to pay John for John’s interest in the family farm. He notes that he will have to pay about $5 per month to feed his ten mules. E.C. tells John that their sister, “Peggy” (Margaret Caroline McKay) has refused to share expenses for burying their mother (later resolved). E.C. discusses his thoughts on some of the current political issues.

January 1861 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"…Colonel Joseph McKay…acted fairly and gentlemanly, paid his proportion of part of the expenses of Father's Burying Clothes."

Colonel McKay has paid a visit to E.C. and paid Peggy’s part in the burial of the mother, Susannah Overton. E.C. mentions a lawsuit that he had to file to evict “an old fellow” off his land. He notes that he would note be able to send the money he had hoped to send to John for the note on the land. Their brother Jim was unable to pay E.C. some money that was due, so that delays E.C. sending money to John. He notes that time are difficult and he can get no money for their mules, but must keep feeding them.

January 1862 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"I am of the opinion we are going to have a long, protracted war."

E.C. reports to John of court proceedings relating to the disposition of the estate of John’s first wife’s family, Mary Jane Jameson, who died in 1849. Evidently, Mary Jane’s mother or father died around the time of this letter, and left some of the estate to the son of Mary Jane and John F. Overton, John F. Overton, Jr. John, Jr. received from the estate certain property, including livestock and slaves. E.C. attaches a monetary value to the slaves, by name. E.C. mentions Samuel and Robert, both brothers living in Smith County, along with John F. E.C. notes that the Yankees have killed a Confederate General and disbursed all his holdings. He hopes for the winning of the war and separation of the Confederate States. E.C. discusses the current prices of various commodities.

December 1868 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"The cold sweat ran off me for two hours, I turned over on my belly and get easy in ten minutes."

E.C.’s wife Susannah Hays Carter Overton has been very ill. She recently suffered a miscarriage and had to remain in bed six to eight weeks. Jim, John and E.C.’s brother in Tennessee, is in very bad health. E.C. notes that Jim is very depressed and is lamenting the fact that the Yankees stole all his livestock and the government took “his Negroes.” E.C. discusses John F. Overton’s claim for any part of his ex-wife’s parents’ estate. E.C. describes the winter conditions at home. He also describes, in great detail, pains he has recently experienced.

February 1869 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"Yet I fear that he will go with his Radical Party and maybe worse, he may proclaim himself Dictator."

E.C. discusses the ordering out of the (state) militia, presumably to maintain order. He is concerned that Grant will declare himself dictator. The weather has been quite good, and E.C. thinks that the prospects for upcoming crops are looking very good. He notes that he is “in the school house,” and that if his eyesight were better, he would be a better schoolteacher now than he ever was.

August 1870 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"I do despise the Radical Party and I can't say I am opposed to any party that has for its object the destruction of the Radical Party."

E.C. talks of his family and how all his children are doing. He discusses his own health at the age of 58, noting that he has few teeth and white hair, but the color, strength and appetite of a young man. E.C. discusses the local political situation and his disdain for the system. He notes that he has taken up school teaching once again, and has fifty students in his school. E.C. laments the case of their brother, Jim. E.C. brings John up to date on the current situation of the settlement of the Jameson case, relating to John’s first wife Mary Jane Jameson.

March 1879 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"I had the misfortune to get my shop and smith tools burnt up on last Sunday night. Our winter was very cold and I lost nearly all my potatoes and some of my bees froze."

E.C. acknowledges receipt of a letter from John a few months earlier. There evidently have been some problems in the settlement of the Jameson estate and E.C. is explaining to John his version of the situation. E.C. notes the very poor condition of his crops from the last several years. He notes that everyone is on a cash system and times are very difficult. Once again, E.C. mentions the difficulties that their brother, Jim, is encountering. He evidently has lost all his land to the creditors and his children are ill. E.C. gives John the names of judges and attorneys that he might want to enlist for his purposes.

June 1879 - Eleazer C. Overton to John F. Overton
"I sometimes think that our Government will undergo a change before long. The capitalists, money holders, are our masters."

This is likely the last letter written by E.C. Overton to his brother John, as John died in Smith County on July 29, 1879. E.C. acknowledges receipt of an earlier letter from John and sympathizes with John’s ill health and financial misfortunes. He suggests to John that perhaps he should take up beekeeping, as E.C. has had considerable success with it on his farm in Tennessee. E.C. summarizes his crop and livestock status, noting that one of his old Negroes had recently died without paying him a debt of $70. E.C. criticizes the government, noting that he believes it to be very corrupt. E.C. tells John that he has sent John all the money resulting from settlement of the Jameson estate.

March 1880 - Eleazer C. Overton to relative Mattie Belle Overton
"Well, Cousin, you spoke of going to the schoolroom. I will inform you that I have enjoyed myself teaching as well as any business I have ever followed."

This is a “must read” letter for anyone with family ties to this Overton family. Eleazer Claiborne Overton is writing to a relative with the purpose of discussing all of his family, as well as the families of his siblings. He tells of their current health and locations, and describes his own economic situation.

Note: ©This work is the property of the East Texas Genealogical Society and J.P. Childress, collectively. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

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