This letter was written by Maria Duffy (Holt) Foust (1799-1882) of Haw River, Alamance county, North Carolina, to her children in Brownsville, Haywood county, Tennessee. M. D. was married to George Foust (1792-1861). Maria was married to George Foust in December 1816. Their children included: Barbara Ann Foust (1820-1878), George A. Foust (1823-1902), Henry Moreau Foust (1828-1867), Thomas C. Foust (1832-1918), Letitia Kivett Foust (1835-1926), and Maria Holt Foust (1837-1916).
Maria addressed the letter to her son-in-law, James Alexander Rogers (1817-1890), who married Barbara A. Foust (1820-1878) in November 1837. Rogers was born in Alamance county, North Carolina but relocated to Hayward county, Tennessee, with his parents when he was only eight years old. The Rogers plantation was located three miles west of Brownsville. He later got into State politics.
In the letter, Maria tells her children of the tragic death of a slave girl named “Betsy” who was accidentally shot in the head by another young slave boy named “Jordan.” Betsy was probably the daughter of another slave named “Lucy.”
[Note: This letter is from the collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]
[Haw River, near Burlington, North Carolina]
July 31st, 1844
Could you, my dear children, know the heart-rending scene I have witnessed, you would pity your poor, weak Mother. Yes, I pray my God to spare me or mine from such another sight, or anyone else. On Sunday evening just about sunset, we were all sitting calmly and pleasantly — Mr. and Mrs. Wilkes with us, Dr. Graves, and Cousin Sam — when a man drove up to stay all night. Jesse took his horse and told Jordan to take his cushions in the house. When he raised the cushion, he found a pistol under it. He picked it up and Ann was standing near the buggie. He told her he would shoot her. She ran around the Crib to the barnyard and he followed her and was getting over the bars just where Betsy was milking a cow when I suppose he made a slip and the pistol went off and killed poor Betsy. It was very heavily charged — three balls in it. Her brains were blown out as the balls entered her forehead just above her eyes. I suppose she turned her head when she hear him. Mary was standing in the end door and heard Hannah call and say Jordan had killed someone. She screamed and said Thomas was killed. All ran. How I got to the door, I know not. Mr. Wilkes caught me and begged me to try to be composed but Oh! the heart-rending screams I never shall forget. It was but a few moments before the whole neighborhood was here as the report was loud and then the screams. There was a good deal of company at your poor old Grandmother Rogers. It appeared that your Uncle William and them were here in ten minutes and I suppose in half hour there were fifty persons here. She breathed I suppose two hours — her brains running out all the time. Carolina and Mary seemed as if they would go crazy.
Poor old Lucy — I was fearful would not be able to survive. It was a scene, my beloved children, beyond description. I feel that a few more jars will finish me but if I only can be so happy as to make my calling and Election sure, it matters not — we have all to die and we know not the day or the hour or how. I do, my children, feel perfectly resigned to the will of my Blessed Savior. He has afflicted me. For some wide purpose, he afflicts his own children. I feel that when it is His good pleasure to take me from this world of trouble, I have a better home to go to and I hope to meet my children all there.
I wrote to your Mother last week and then I did not think it possible or anyone that saw your grandmother thought she would be alive now but she was better Friday and Saturday but very sick Sunday — fainted several times and has been better since until today — very sick again. She is as helpless as an infant. God only knows the result. She is not swelled quite as much as she was but she has a weakness of the bladder so she cannot retain her water which causes her to suffer much this hot weather as it is so hard to raise her to get dry things under her. She thinks if she could only get so she could stand, she perhaps would get better. It is now three weeks that they have had to sit up with her every night and it takes so many to lift her it seems that everyone is nearly broke down. I will let you know as often as I can her true situation. I sit up every night or every other night with the dear old lady until my own trials came. Since that, I have not been able but Miss Polly has. She sleeps very little now — seems to feel more pain from her fall.
Mr. Wilkes preached a fine sermon for us on Monday evening after Betsy was buried. There was a good many here. The house was full of white people and a great many black ones. He stood in the piazza. Oh how I did wish to see you. I wanted to send for [your brothers] George and Moreau on Sunday night but your Pa said it would not do. It would alarm Ellen too much. But George heard of it Monday morning and jumped on his horse and galloped down here. Poor fellow. He looked as pale as death when he got here. I thought how soon would you and Isaac come too if you were only in reach but we must be resigned.
Moreau is not in good health. He looks very pale. He has fell several times just like he had been shot. He stayed at home last week and took medicine and went back to George’s Sunday evening. He looks low-spirited. He is very hard indeed and takes no exercise which I think is the cause of he looking so bad. I hope when I write again to be more composed and give you more satisfaction than I now can. I can write no more.
My love to your dear parents. May the angels of peace guide and direct you all is the never ending prayer of your devoted mother, — M. D. Foust
Caroline will write next week.