Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Peggy's Letter
Seeking Family Separated During Slavery

Family of Slaves - 1861
Washington, DC or Hampton, Virginia

I thought of this letter while watching the PBS series, African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, Part 3 - Into the Fire - 1861-1896. Peggy does not connect to my family but found her letter to be very touching. My great grandfather Washington Marshall, who was a slave in Copiah County, MS, spoke of the siblings he left in Virginia. I can easily imagine him writing Peggy's letter

The letter was written by Reverend J. H. Nichols, Starkville, MS, on behalf of Peggie, to William Peacock, Shelbyville, TN. William Peacock was Kelly's former owner who had sold her away from her family many years before. Kelly was inquiring of Peacock if he knew the whereabouts of any surviving family members whom she had not seen since being sold.

The letter represents a woman's determination to locate before she died surviving members of her family from whom she had long been separated. It provides poignant evidence of the tragic and lingering consequences of slavery on the individual.

Starkville, MS
January 31, 1892

Mr. William Peacock
Shelbyville, Tenn

Dear Sirs or Friends

I am trying to find my mother and father. My father's name was named Prince and my mother's name was Rose. They both belong to above Peacock. They had four children when I was sold. Their names Peggie, Isaac, John, and George and I had two half sisters belonging to old Thomas Peacock.

I was sold to James Wortham in KY where I lived 3 years then he sold me to Jack Tucker and then was sold to Evan Davis in this state.

Any information given if any or the where abouts of them will be thankfully received. Let me know if they are dead or alive.

My name was Peggie one of the children of Prince and Rose.

Yours inquiring,
Peggie Kelly, now
Peggie Peacock

Kelly (Peggie Peacock) Letter
Manuscript Collection Number: Z1821.00S
Manuscript found at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress


  1. Was she ever able to find out what happened to her family?

    Renee, Albany, Georgia

  2. I don't know. I tried finding her in the census records, didn't have any success.

  3. This is heartbreaking. Poor woman was uprooted again and again. If the family wasn't reunited in this life I know they were in the next.

    1. If Peggy's family was looking for her, they would have a difficult time because she was sold three times since she left them. They wouldn't know where to begin to search for her.

  4. It is heartbreaking. I think I found her in Starkville MS in the 1900 census. She is 77 years old which would have made her 69 when she wrote the letter. It makes you wonder if she just decided to look for them or someone talked or her into it? Did her old age make her nostalgic to find them? Or had she been searching all those years? Her parents and William Peacock may have been gone by then. Tried to find her parents and siblings in Tennessee. There's a George Peacock but too young, I think. Who knows where they terrible.

    1. Thank you, I think that is her in 1900, Starkville. If it was my family, I would be looking, probably not very effectively, but looking. Writing the former owner might be a suggestion from someone else or her last resort.

  5. To never know, to always wonder, "Are they dead or are they living?"

    1. To never see any of them again, a story told over and over again.