Hawkins Wilson's Letter to Freedmen's Bureau
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Context: Slavery destroyed the Black family. Family members were separated from one another and sold at random to various slaveholders across counties and states. During Reconstruction, freedmen and freedwomen seized the opportunity to seek out loved ones and rebuild fractured familial relationships. They did so through Black newspapers, churches, and by walking hundreds of miles. When the federal government created the Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872), African Americans used the organization's services to look for family members. Hawkins Wilson was previously enslaved and lived in Galveston, Texas. Here he writes to the Freedmen's Bureau to assist in locating his sisters.
Galveston, Texas. May 11, 1867
I am anxious to learn about my sisters, from whom I have been separated many years. I have heard from them since I left Virginia twenty four years ago. I am in hopes that they are still living and I am anxious to hear how they are getting on. I have no other one to apply to but you and am persuaded that you will help who stands in need of your services as I do. I shall be very grateful to you if you oblige me in this matter.
One of my sisters belonged to Peter Coleman in Caroline County and her name was Jane. Her husband’s name was Charles and he belonged to Buck Haskin and lived near John Wright’s store in the same county. She had three children, Robert, Charles and Julia, when I left.
Sister Martha belonged to Dr. Jefferson, who lived two miles above Wright’s store. Sister Matilda belonged to Mrs. Botts, in the same county. My dear uncle Jim had a wife at Jack Langley’s and his wife was named Adie and his oldest son was named Buck and they all belonged to Jack Langley.
These are all my own dearest relatives and I wish to correspond with them with a v view to visit them as soon as I can hear from them – My name is Hawkins Wilson and I am their brother, who was sold at Sherriff’s sale and used to belong to Jackson Talley and was bought by M. Wright, Boydtown C.H.
You will please send the enclosed letter to my sister Jane, or some of her family, if she is dead.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Edited by: Dr. Prithi Kanakamedala
Source: Hawkins Wilson to Chief of the Freedmen’s Bureau at Richmond, 11 May 1867, enclosing Hawkins Wilson to Sister Jane [11 May 1867], National Archives, Virginia, Bowling Green, Caroline County, Letters Received M1913, roll 58