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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

A Pioneer's Letter

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

Much of what we know about our ancestors comes from handwritten letters.

For ordinary families, they are useful documents in providing descendants with insights to what life was like in early Texas.

And in the case of a rare letter written in 1843, they can be poignant reminders of family tragedies, which occurred frequently on the Texas frontier.

On October 16, while living in San Augustine County, Rev. Samuel D. Sansom wrote to three of his children living in Tennessee describing the untimely death of their mother, Bettsy, on June 8, 1843.

Rev. Samson, his wife and other family members had arrived in Texas earlier during the year, settling near Newton McAda's homestead on the Attoyac River. He taught school and preached in the community' school on Sundays and Wednesday evenings.

He found the region fertile for his professions: "They (the residents) cared for nothing but hunting deer by day and night," he wrote.

But Rev. Samson soon converted many of the community's unchurched people. He was rejoined "to see old gray-haired men and women with their children, all happy and praising God."

Deep in his letter, Rev. Samson wrote: "But now sets in the weightiest part of my letter, which was uppermost in my mind, but promising to be particular in writing to you, I have used order." He continued: "About three or four weeks ago, your mother took a swelling in her bowels and limbs and (it) was thought to be dropsy, but...the neighbor women told her it was another nature. However, in eight days it vanished and on Saturday the seventh, she was taken with a kind of shivers and followed with small symptoms of fever. But (it) soon discovered itself to be a disease of the bowels, which increased for three or four days."

His letter went on: "On Thursday, she told me she wanted to take Calomel. I told her I was opposed to Calomel, but if she insisted, I would not hinder her. She took it and her pain increased in spite of everything until Friday night, about 9 o'clock, she took her leave of this world and went to Jesus whom she has loved and faithfully served above 40 years."

Rev. Samson told his children: "Oh, my children, I know you cannot but grieve her for a parent, but my grief is for the best part of myself. I say nothing more of her now that I have always said in her lifetime...(I) am willing to say the sun never shined on that women who filled her place with more dignity and propriety than she has done as a woman, a mother, member of the church, and a a neighbor."

Rev. Samson's letter was copied in 1972 by Dorothy Click Cook, a great-great-great granddaughter of the pioneer preacher, who was born in 1774 in Abbeville, South Carolina, the son of John and Jane Samson. His father John was killed by Tories in the Revolutionary War in South Carolina.

Our thanks to Nell Bazziel of Corrigan for sharing with us a copy of Rev. Samson's letter.

All Things Historical
JANUARY 28-FEB. 3, 2001
Published by permission.
(Bob Bowman is a former president of the East Texas Historical Association and the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore.)

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A timely gift for any East Texan. Sample a little of East Texas here, a little there--and come away with a good helping of stories you might not know if you didnít read this book.
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