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[Hill, James, Attributed to] (Ca. 1836-1881). Historically Significant Pre-Civil War Letter by a Pioneer Gilmer Businessman, Discussing the 1857 Congressional Elections in Texas, the Recent Debates between Democrat Candidate J. Reagan and Know-Nothing Candidate L. Evans, and Revealing Democratic Party Allegiance Despite Personal Sympathy for Evans. Gilmer, Texas: 16 July 1857.



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Quarto Bifolium (ca. x cm. or in). 3 pp. of text. Brown ink on creamy lined laid paper. With the original envelope, addressed to “Mrs. Mary Key, Marshall, Texas,” with a postage stamp. Fold marks, envelope with tears, but overall a very good content-rich letter written in a legible hand.

Historically significant original autograph manuscript letter exemplifying the fervor surrounding the 1857 Congressional Elections in Texas.

Dated 16 July 1857, the letter followed the famous debates between Democrat candidate John H. Reagan (1818-1905) and Know-Nothing candidate Lemuel D. Evans (1810-1877) in Jefferson, TX, just five days earlier. Reagan's exposure of Evans' fire-eating party affiliation led to a heated argument, as Evans “lost his temper, became insulting, and the parties came near having a difficulty.” The tumultuous debates proved detrimental to Evans, ultimately leading to his defeat in the electoral race.

The text was apparently authored by James Hill (ca. 1836-1881), a pioneer businessman and store owner in Gilmer (founded in 1846), Upshur County, TX. Originally from Maryland, James served in a Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.

In the letter to Mary Key (ca. 1833 - 1908), his twenty-four years old sister in Marshall, Harrison County, TX, the author conveys the latest news from Gilmer and enthusiastically discusses Texas politics. He talks about the 1857 Congressional Elections (which took place only two and a half weeks later, on 3 August), the devastating defeat of Judge Evans in the debates against Reagan, and his firm intention to vote for the Democratic Party. James also expresses genuine admiration for Evans (“I entertain for him none but kindest and most friendly feelings”), recognizing him as a man of honor while strongly disagreeing with his “political creed.” In the rest of the letter, the author discusses scorching weather, poor crop yields, a fish fry day, his busy schedule, family trips, etc.

Overall, historically important pre-Civil war letter with an early reference to the Democrat and the Know-Nothing parties in Texas.

The text of the letter:

Dear Sister

I read your favor of 8th on last Tuesday and am much obliged to you for answering my letter so soon as well as for the long and interesting reply to my poor apology for a letter. I am very glad to hear that you and the children have been so well and most sincerely hope you may continue so but fear the children will be sick as there is so much in Marshall they can hardly escape. You say this has been a delightful summer. I am glad it has been so to you but with me it has not for I have had a great deal to do and much to perplex and annoy me as every one must have in business in this Country. I never knew how much it was until  now when the whole weight and responsibility rests on me. I think the last few days have been as hot as they well could be if you have not suffered with heat by this time you could stand any place on Earth or under the Earth for it could be no hotter there. I am sorry – did not call to see you he had no time to spare as he got there one Night + left the next morning and had a good deal to attend to that night but I wish he had been you if only for a short time. I got a letter from him in New Orleans he was going up the Ohio and – through Western Va to see about some land Mama has there and will stay at Home part of his time and apart at the Springs I expect he will return about 1st September but perhaps not so soon. I have not received a letter from Home since I last wrote you. I suppose the Girls have gone to the Springs and as Mama never writes there is no one there to write to me. I sincerely hope the trip may be of service to them and Aunt R who was going with them. May appears to be very uneasy about her and thinks she is far from being in good health.

We have had no rain here for some time and many parts of our Country will not make half crop of corn unless it rains in a few days the weather as I before said is intensely hot and I hope we may have rain in a few days. I hear that in – you have had plenty of rain + good crops. There is no news here times most disturbingly dull but very few people in from the Country and consequently but very few Goods selling but July and August are always dull months so I look for dull times. I think I will try to come down to see you for a day or so next week, I should like to come very much and I also have some business to attend to and if nothing turns up to prevent will come down but can only stay one day when Ritt gets back I want to go down and stay about a week and see all of my old friends and acquaintances. I am sorry – was disappointed in her trip to Mississippi she has been wanting to go for a long time but suppose she has given it up now. I hope that she and Miss Kate may spend a pleasant time in Jefferson. Politics appear to be the all absorbing topic of conversation here now there was a fight on the subject yesterday and one or two before that I am not taking stock as I once did. I find there is no money or friends either made by it and somebody else may do my share of talking this year I am a Democrat and never deny it + intend to vote a full Democratic Ticket but I have nothing to say about how often men should vote. We have had all the speaking that you have had until I am tired out with it. I felt very sorry for Judge Evans the day that he and Reagan spoke. Reagan made a splendid effort and was constantly applauded he received Evans whole political Life and gave him an awful – down the Judges speech did not do him justice it was in fact a perfect failure he felt himself that it was such + his friends admit that it was. I think the Judge lost at least Fifty votes by his visit to this County many of his own party on that day declared they could not + would not vote for him.

I dislike very much to have to vote against Judge Evans for personally I entertain for him none but kindest and most friendly feelings but I cannot approve his course in the last – or subscribe to his political creed, consequently I cannot conscientiously vote for him but I could not help feeling sorry for him if he is beaten as I believe he must be as a private gentleman Judge Evans character is as pure as any man. I know one of the most spotless in fact of any man in the state his public acts are all that I condemn or have in any way against him. Most of the Girls and young Gents have gone off to day on a Fish Fry. I as usual stay at home as something might occur in which I should be wanted at the Store and I do not intend to leave unless on business. I believe I will now close as it is about Dinner Time and I have nothing more to write. I send this by Mr Rain (with Sanders + Scars).

Hoping to see you + the Children soon and find you all well + with respects to your Family and all who may enquire after me and much love to the children and yourself.

Item #M74
Price: $950.00