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Collection Title: Charles (Thomas C. and Ellen McRaven) Letters

Collection Number: M120

Dates: 1851-1867, 1875-1876

Volume: .25 cu. ft.

Provenance: William H. McRaven copied and organized the original letters owned by Fred Charles.

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:

The central figures of this collection are Thomas C. Charles and his wife, (Margaret) Ellen McRaven Charles. Ellen was born in Hinds County, Mississippi, in 1832 to Joseph A. McRaven and Lucinda Henderson McRaven. Her father served as the second sheriff of Hinds County for 12 years. At the inauguration of Governor Charles Lynch in 1836, Joseph McRaven served as sergeant-at-arms.

On October 24, 1848, Ellen McRaven married Thomas C. Charles (of Illinois) in Hinds County. Thomas did not find suitable employment in the eastern states, so he decided to move to California. Several months after Thomas' departure (April 7, 1853), Ellen sailed from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Panama by steamer, crossed the Isthmus by mule, and joined her husband in San Francisco. While living in California, Thomas worked as a bookkeeper and engaged in ranching and land speculation. Three children were born to Thomas and Ellen Charles while they resided in San Francisco: Tom, William, and Mary. Ellen died in San Francisco in 1863.

After Ellen's death, Thomas returned to Illinois where, for a short time, he set up a business across the river in St. Louis, Missouri. Thomas died at Litchfield, Illinois, in 1874.

Sources: The above information may be found in the letters of this collection. Of great aid in writing this biographical/historical sketch were the biographies and family histories contained in the collection and supplied by the collection's editor, William McRaven.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists primarily of transcribed letters written to and from Ellen and Thomas Charles for the period 1851-1867. Also included in the collection are biographical sketches on individuals in the letters, as well as a McRaven family history and several chapters of a history of Clinton, Mississippi, published in the Hinds County Gazette in 1875-1876. In the letter there are numerous editorial comments provided by the editor, William H. McRaven.

There are many items of interest in the letters. The most outstanding theme running throughout the correspondence from Vicksburg is that of the many epidemics of typhoid and yellow fever. Throughout the entire body of correspondence, countless names of the suffering or dead are mentioned. Due to the irregularities of the Southern mail system during the Civil War, this collection has only one letter mailed during the war. Letters following the war summarize war-time experiences and give accounts of runaway slaves and property stolen or damaged by Union forces. Reconstruction is briefly alluded to as mention was made of "Negro troops garrisoned at Jackson and Clinton."

The letters from California picture the state's pre-Civil War economy as centered around the mining industry. Items of related interest include records of salaries, jobs available, land prices, and supply prices. Of additional interest is the mention of common frontier industries, namely saloons, transportation, mail delivery and land speculation. Thomas Charles seemed to be impressed with the money to be made in farming in California. Also discussed are catalogs of building kits. (Pre-fab structures of church buildings, houses, or general stores were ordered from catalogs and transported by rail to frontier communities where the structures were then assembled.)

Both the family history written by the editor and the copies of "The Town of Clinton" give detailed accounts of family histories and the area's settlements.


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa & Yvonne Arnold
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Revised: November 10, 2004