Mar 24, 2022 - Sale 2598

Sale 2598 - Lot 19

Price Realized: $ 1,125
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
(SLAVERY & ABOLITION.) J.D. Ray. Letter by a wealthy planter's son boasting of his short stint as an abusive overseer. Autograph Letter Signed from John David Ray to his brother Lavender Robinson Ray in Chapel Hill, NC. 4 pages, 8 1/4 x 5 inches, on one folding sheet; mailing folds, minimal wear. With original stamped envelope bearing Newnan postmark. Newnan, GA, 14 September 1860

Additional Details

"I have whiped nearly all of them."

John David Ray (1841-1911) was the son of a wealthy attorney and planter in Newnan, GA. This letter suggests that he was rarely entrusted with the overseeing of the family slaves, perhaps because he enjoyed it too much. He writes to his brother Lavender Robinson Ray (1842-1916), then off to college, who became a Confederate officer and politician; some of his papers are at the Atlanta History Center.

John apparently made the decision to run off an overseer named Culbreath for raping an enslaved woman (the 1860 census does show an overseer named Francis Culbreath, aged 40, in Newnan): "I am at the plantation now overseeing. I commence picking cotton this week. I have out about 15 bales. . . . I have had several difficultys with the Culbrut men since you left here. One was I cort one of the men serving Ane one night. I ord him to stan or I would shoot him. He would not stan, so I fired at him, but did not hit him, and I snap the other barrel at him. It did not go off. If it had, I would have killed him dead. The Culbrut is hom now and I am glad of it."

Ray then boasts of his own exploits as an overseer: "All the negroes talk about you. They say you are a great deal better to them than I am. I have whiped nearly all of them sinse I have ben here. I whiped William & Candus about stealing wheat. Randle run away when I cald him up to whip him, but he came back & told me he did rong, an would not do so eney more."

John closes with a friendly postscript to his brother: "All the Negroes send howdy to you, and said you must keep you prick in your briches. I think it is good advise."