[Bailey Family Lot of Georgia, Reconstruction Era.]. George W. Bailey, Samuel Terry Bailey.
[Bailey Family Lot of Georgia, Reconstruction Era.]
[Bailey Family Lot of Georgia, Reconstruction Era.]

[Bailey Family Lot of Georgia, Reconstruction Era.]

Macon, Georgia, Battle Creek, Michigan, Nopal, Texas, etc., ca. 1859–1902. 18 letters, 69 pp. of manuscript, approx. 78 x 130 mm–250 x 198 mm. 10 letters written by Samuel Bailey to George Bailey, 16 pp. of manuscript; 3 letters written by George Bailey, 19 pp. of manuscript, 2 letters of which are written to George’s wife, Mary; miscellaneous papers and letters noted hereafter; many of the original envelopes included.

A lot of Reconstruction era letters relating to Macon, Georgia resident Samuel Terry Bailey and his son George during a period of economic hardship for Southerners.

The bulk of this lot consists of Reconstruction era letters written by Col. Samuel Terry Bailey (1796–1870) of Macon, Georgia to his son George W. Bailey in Chicago. Samuel was the owner of some 1,094 acres who worked in various legislative positions and as a house-builder and fine carpenter. To be sure, Samuel’s letters to George conjure the economic gloom many Southerners experienced during this period. In a letter dated 10 June 1865, in the immediate wake of the Civil War, Samuel makes passing mention of the Yankees: “Got a letter from Tandy about a week ago [?] there at Chattanooga on his way to the farm in Wills Valley to see what the Yankees have left not distroyed.”

In his letters to George, Samuel often counsels him on the matter of making a living. On 12 Jan. 1867, he writes:

These very hard & troublesome times—money is scarcer here than with you & there must be great suffering among the poor in the South the coming year I fear with you that the scarcity of money will cause a panic throughout the United States… However hard & gloomy the times are let my ever hope & put our trust in Him who never forsakes those who put their trust in Him.

Samuel was a farm-owner himself and believed farming was a reliable way to make a living. He urges George “to keep in view the life of a farmer as the surest road to an honest living but never forget that this short life is nothing but a shadow that passes away like the morning mist.” Yet as several of his letters reveal, farming was not always entirely reliable. On 22 Aug. 1866 Samuel pens, “the boys have had bad luck farming this year an unprecedented drought has nearly ruined their crops & has discouraged Coke [his other son] so that he is about to try a situation in Chattanooga he would prefer a place somewhere north he likes the north best.” Three years later in 1869, however, they experience a very good crop season. In his letters to George, Samuel often comments on the economic well-being of his other sons. On 10 Sept. 1869, Samuel relates two of his other sons, Coke and Emanuel, are “doing better than they used to do”—Coke in particular works in a store, for which is a partner. Samuel also exhorts George to make good use of friends in these trying times:

I hope your friends will aid you to get into business but you must rely on yourself. John could have got you some situation. Have you ever joined the Mason’s? John could have aided you to get into that society & they aid young men in getting along in the world when they are in trouble.

Several letters concern Samuel selling his property, some of which was apparently located in Charlestown (West Virginia or South Carolina), as well as Georgia. Regarding this matter, Samuel will often stress that if he is going to sell his land at all he must sell the entirety of the property—as opposed to only portions of it:

I do not approve of selling any part of the land in Charlestown for it seems to me the only reliable property your father has. At any rate I would not think it best to sell until we go back to Georgia & see what condition things are in there & I hope they will be in such a state that we can get a comfortable living there without disturbing the property here.

By 1880, George has evidently relocated from Chicago to Nopal, Texas (La Salle County). In one letter included here, 16 pp. of manuscript and dated 5 April 1880, George writes one Eli Adams, relating he is now currently running a ranch while the owner, a certain Mr. Robbins, is away in San Antonio. He relates he is all alone at the ranch except for the presence of two Mexican “greasers,” whom he calls “the lowest class of Mexicans”:

they speak the Spanish language and are all coppercoloured with strait black hair thus showing their indian origin most of them would kill a man for 75 cents if he thought there was a half a chance for him to get over the border into Mexico after doing it all ranch men go around with a heavy revolver and clerk knife.

George proceeds to offer a vivid and extensive snapshot of the Texas ranch and its arid vicinities, and recounts a trip he takes to San Antonio. He also comments on the inhospitable creatures encountered in these parts: “Rattlesnakes Centipedes Tarantulas and Scorpions are too thick here to be pleasant especially the first and last 2 killed a rattlesnake the other day that was as big as my rist and four or five feet long.”


2 letters, 19 pp. of manuscript dated 4 Nov. 1890, written from Tsukiji, Japan, by one Francis Phelps (apparently a son-in-law of the Bailey) who is currently running a school and teaching there with his wife (who is also a school teacher) and studying Japanese daily. Phelps was an Orthodox Christian—likely a missionary. In one passage he writes, “I long to see the knowledge of the gospel spread throughout the length and breadth of the land, until all shall at least have heard of the Savior’s love.” Despite his commitment to Christianity, Phelps nevertheless appears to have assimilated some the Eastern influences he encountered overseas. “If the man could only get rid of ‘self’ he would make a good worker I’m sure, but ‘ego’ is always and everywhere in the way.”


2 letters, 3 pp. of manuscript, written from Battle Creek, Michigan, by one H.M. Phelps to Fred P. Bailey and his grandchildren in Charlestown which appear to written ca. 1900.


1 letter, 8 pp. of manuscript and dated May 11, written by Mary E. Bailey in Charlestown to a female friend in New Hampshire.

A striking biographical portrait of Bailey is offered: appears in the Macon Telegraph & Messenger:

[Bailey] was not sociable, was reserved in manner, and withal presented a haughty exterior, yet the few who knew him well loved him much, from which I infer he had more heart than he chose to show. He seemed to say by his presence and demeanor, “I have not loved the world, not the world me.” To quote a homely figure, in his association and in his practice “he carried his own skillet.” He commanded a large practice in heavy and important cases. He kept his own counsel, but when he was heard from he commanded attention. He was thoroughly educated, deeply read in law and classics; had a solid intellect and spoke always with force, sometimes with eloquence. He was the son-in-law of the venerable Judge Strong.

An interesting group of letters capturing the economic struggles of the Reconstruction-era.

REFERENCES: Col. Samuel Terry Bailey at wikitree.com. Clark, Richard, H. “Macon, Georgia: Her Distinguished Dead in Rose Hill Cemetery.” The Macon Telegraph & Messenger, 5 March 1882.

CONDITION: Very good.

Item #4604