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Collection Title: Jackson (Alexander Melvorne) Papers

Collection Number: M16

Dates: 1846-1892

Volume: 1.10 cu.ft. (632 items)

Provenance: Conway Barker, October 1966.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Alexander Melvorne Jackson, the son of John Jackson, a Scotch-Irish linen merchant, was born at Drumfaldra near Bally Bay, County Monaghan, Ireland, on November 7, 1823. His family emigrated to the United States in 1829 and settled near Athens, Alabama. After his father's death in 1839, Alexander worked as a clerk in Memphis, Tennessee for a short period of time. At the invitation of his stepmother, Alicia Jackson, he went to Marietta, Ohio in 1840 where he received most of his education from private tutors. There he began the study of law under judge Arius Nye. In 1842 he moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi and completed his legal studies under his brother-in-law, Colonel Thomas J. Word. Three years later he was admitted to the Mississippi Bar Association and entered into the practice of law with Judge Nathaniel S. Price of Ripley, Mississippi. In addition, he assisted Judge Price with the editing of the Ripley Advertiser.

At the outset of the Mexican War, in 1846, Jackson joined the 2nd Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers, under the command of Colonel Reuben Davis, and served as Captain of Company E. After the War he returned to Ripley and resumed the practice of law. On April 4, 1849 he married Miss Cordelia C. Kavanaugh, daughter of Dr. W.W. Kavanaugh.

During the 1850's Jackson became involved in politics. In 1852 he was appointed special district attorney in Oxford, Mississippi and served as an elector for the district Democratic convention and later as a member of the State Democratic Central Committee. Then in 1857 he made a bid for the Democratic nomination to the United States House of Representatives. At the convention, Jackson Was deadlocked with J.W. Clapp and J. F. Cushman through 59 ballots. Finally, their names were withdrawn and L. Q. C. Lamar was nominated by acclamation on the sixtieth ballot.

In September of that year Jackson was appointed by President Buchanan as Secretary of the New Mexico Territory. At the outbreak of the Civil War he resigned and joined the Confederate Army. He Served as Adjutant-General of the Sibley Brigade and participated in the New Mexico and Arizona campaign. His health became poor, so in 1864 President Davis appointed him Chief Justice of Arizona. Jackson never assumed that post since the Confederacy lost control of the Territory.

At the close of the War, Jackson settled in Austin, Texas where he formed a law practice with Charles L. Robards and held various positions in the bar. When the Texas Court of Appeals was organized in 1876, he was appointed the Court Reporter. He held that position until his death on July 11, 1889. His wife, Cordelia, preceded him in death by four years. They had three daughters, Clara, Stella, Florence, and two sons, Nat and Alexander Jr. Alexander Jr. succeeded his father as Court Reporter for the Texas Court of Appeals.

Scope and Content:

The Alexander Melvorne Jackson papers contain correspondence and records pertaining to a wide variety of subjects. These include family concerns, Mississippi politics, the Mexican War, the New Mexico Territory, the Arizona Campaign of the Civil War and Texas Politics.

A substantial portion of the collection consists of correspondence between Jackson family members. Dated between the years of 1846 and 1878 are 134 letters written by Alexander to his wife, Cordelia. The correspondence begins with four letters dated from 1846 which describe Alexander's affection for Cordelia and mention his work as a lawyer in the Ripley/Jacinto area of North Mississippi. In 1847 and 1848, Alexander's letters to Cordelia chronicle his involvement in the Mexican War. They describe the hot, dusty conditions of the camps, troop movements, the boredom of the encampments, the prevalence of illness, an outbreak of smallpox, the actions of his "insidious enemies" in Ripley who sought to undermine his reputation, and his love and affection for Cordelia.

Throughout the 1850's Alexander's letters to Cordelia were primarily written to her while he was away from home on business in various northern Mississippi cities. However, there are seven letters from January and February 1853 when Alexander visited Washington, D.C. on political business. They detail his winter journey by steamboat on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and his crossing the Cumberland Mountains by railroad.

During the war years of the 1860's Alexander's letters contain information regarding his service as Adjutant-General of the Sibley Brigade, C.S.A., and his participation in the Arizona/New Mexico campaign. They discuss military matters such as troop movements, conditions in the camps, use of Indians as scouts, and the strength and movements of the Union forces. The letters also discuss a variety of family matters such as finances, divestiture of assets, and the trading of a negro girl. Moreover, they reveal Alexander's concern for his wife and children as a result of the war and recount the tragedy of the death of their infant daughter.

After the war ended the letters reveal the difficulty of adjusting to the new circumstances that the family was confronted with. Finding employment and the resettlement of the family in the Austin area of Texas are the major themes of the letters during this period.

In the 1870's and 1880's the character of the family correspondence changed as the number of letters between Alexander and Cordelia decreased and their children became mature enough to correspond. During this period the correspondence is primarily family-news oriented and between the children.

In addition to family correspondence, this collection contains a variety of personal correspondence between family members and others. Between 1854 and 1858 Albert Gallatin Brown, then a U.S. Senator, wrote five letters to Alexander Jackson. They discuss Brown's dissatisfaction with politics, his attempts to have Jackson appointed to the consulate in Havana, Mississippi politics, slavery, the Kansas Question and the Dred Scott case. Reuben Davis, then a U.S. Congressman wrote to Jackson in 158 and 1860. His letters mention state and national politics, slavery, and David's opinion that war was inevitable. Miguel A. Otero, New Mexico's Territorial delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives (1856-1861), wrote several letters to Jackson in 1860 regarding slave property, the Territorial Slave Code, attempts to further divide the territory, territorial and national politics and the opinion that the territory should apply for admission to the Union as a state. Jacob Thompson, a U.S. Congressman (1839-1851) and Secretary of the Interior (1857-1861), wrote to Jackson eight times between 1851 and 1858 about various state and national political concerns. However, the 1857 correspondence reveals Thompson's successful efforts to have Jackson appointed as Secretary of State of New Mexico Territory. Other correspondents to Alexander Jackson include John Ireland, later governor of Texas; C.A. Brougher, Secretary of State of Mississippi (1860-1865); Thomas J. Word; his brother, John Jackson, and numerous others.

In addition to personal correspondence sent to Alexander Jackson, there are a variety of personal letters from Sarah Jones, John Jackson and others to Cordelia Jackson; letters from "Marie" and other individuals to Clara Jackson; letters between Stella Jackson and J.D. Crutcher; various correspondents and Charles Robards; and an interesting 1852 letter from Arkansas Congressman Robert W. Johnson to Jacob Thompson concerning the possible appointment of Thompson to a presidential cabinet post.

Besides family and personal correspondence, the collection contains a variety of financial, legal, military, and New Mexico Territorial records. The financial records include those relating to the George B. Hollamon bankruptcy (1868-1872), the Regensberger and Company bankruptcy (1876-1877), a cash book of McCreery and Robertson, Merchants (1881-1882), Confederate war tax receipts and exchange certificates, and various other financial documents and records. Most of the legal records are land deeds, grants, indentures, and transfers (1859-1887) for land in Pontotoc, Mississippi; Austin, Texas; Waco, Texas; and various other areas in Texas. The military records include four letters (1861-1863) to Alexander Jackson and two letters (1862) to Charles Robards dealing primarily with the Arizona campaign of the Civil War. There are also six letters dated in March 1868, between General U.S. Grant, General J.J. Reynolds and Acting Assistant Adjunct General Nathaniel Burbank regarding a military escort for a group of miners traveling in Texas. The New Mexico Territorial records are all financial and consist of statements of accounts, ledgers, and fee records of the territory for the period 1858-1861.

Finally, the collection contains more than sixty photographs of Jackson family members, friends and scenes from the Austin, Texas area. The photographs date between the early 1860's and the early 1890's. They include a few tintypes, but are primarily albumen prints in Carte-de-visite, Cabinet, Boudoir and various other sizes.


  • Family Correspondence, Box 1
  • Personal Correspondence, Box 1 and 2
  • Financial Records, Box 2
  • Legal Records, Box 2
  • Military Correspondence, Box 2
  • New Mexico Territorial Records, Box 2
  • Photographs, Box 3

Photograph Log: Available


Copies of The Ripley Advertiser are available in the Cook Library:

The Ripley Advertiser [microform], call number AN2.R57 A38.

Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
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Revised: November 21, 2003