This letter was written by Lucy Eleanor (Fendall) Wilds (1796-1872). Lucy married her first husband, Dr. Barnard J. Miller, in January 1837 but he died in Washington D. C. some ten months later. She married her second husband, Capt. Darlon A. Wilds in Washington D.C. on 18 March 1844. Wilds was an attorney who earned his military title by leading a Company of Tennessee Mounted Volunteers under the command of Major William Lauderdale in suppressing the Indian hostilities in the Territory of Florida in 1837-38. For his service in the Indian Wars, Capt. Wilds was awarded a military land grant in Cross County, Arkansas. He is enumerated in Hamilton County, Tennessee in 1837.
Lucy wrote the letter to her brother, Phillip Richard Fendall (1794-1868), an 1815 graduate of Princeton University, who had an interesting career. I will refer the reader to his biography for details. Suffice it to say that in 1841, he was appointed the District Attorney by President John Tyler and was dismissed in 1844 when the Whig Party lost to the Democrats and James K. Polk entered the presidential office. He was later reinstated to the same post by Millard Fillmore in 1849 and served in that capacity until he resigned in 1853. He was good friends with John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and many other Washington residents, including Dolly Madison.
From this letter we learn that Lucy has been befriended by Richard Henry Lee (1801-1853) of Mason County, Kentucky. She does not state particulars but it appears that she is attempting to set up a school for young girls in Maysville. We also learn that Lucy’s husband is a friend of James K. Polk who assumed the Presidency on March 4, 1845.
Addressed to Phillip Richard Fendall, Attorney for the District, Washington D. C.
Maysville [Mason County, Kentucky]
December 3rd 1844
My dear brother,
I received your check for ten dollars this morning for which receive my most grateful acknowledgements. My prospects here are even better than I anticipated. Richard Henry Lee, son of Gen’l [Henry] Lee ¹, has called on me and invited me to go [to] his father’s ² and spend a week or two, and has done better than give me his daughter for a scholar and will introduce me to the most respectable families in the place, and thinks I will do much better in that way than going into the Seminary. He takes great interest in Captain Wilds and will forward his ____ all he can. I paid your money down to Mrs. Fisher on a __ cooking stove she has agreed to let me have for twenty dollars. She will leave here about Christmas. My husband will then take Mrs. Fisher’s establishment. If you will send me ten more dollars to finish paying for the above named articles, I will not trouble you any more but as soon as we take in money will return you every cent.
Mr. [Richard] Lee’s first wife was [Eliza,] the daughter of Mrs. [Hannah Brook] Luke, formerly of Alexandria. Mr. Lee says he has often heard his wife speak of us. General [Henry] Lee is still living. I intend to see if anything can be done about that land of my mothers. If anything can be done with it, Capt. Wild will write you soon, and will act for you the same as himself if you will empower him to do so. Richard Lee says he will aid him all he can and that at least the timber may be made valuable. I shall ____ gratified on account of your children if anything can be done there on my own account.
To Mary present my best love and when I get comfortably fixed, would be much delighted if you let her visit me. Her bearing the name of our dear mother makes her very dear to me. Something whispers in my ear that we shall do better than I have done for many years. My trials have been many but thank God I have the kindest of husbands. His health has become wonderfully reinstated. He has just come in and bids me to say to you he shall be in Washington when his friend Mr. Polk is made President and will see and ____ you if anything can be done with the land. He is much attached to Mr. Polk as from him he has received great kindness.
By attending to my request, you will confer a great favor on me and I will not trespass on your kindness again. If ever I can befriend you or your children, call on me. My best regards to Mrs. Fendall. Tell Henry his nephew is an excellent boy and will be a first rate boy. He richly repays me for the hard work I did to pay for him. If I could work and pay Richard Lee for his mother and self in two years, I can soon repay you your kindness with my present prospects. I inclose this to Mr. Woodbury to save you postage. God bless you, my dear brother.
Your affectionate sister, — Lucy E. Wilds
¹ General Henry Lee (1756-1854), a native of Virginia, began his career as a surveyor and farmer. After moving to Kentucky, he represented the area in the Virginia legislature, and served as a delegate to the Virginia convention, which ratified the federal constitution. Lee also served as a delegate in the 1787 Kentucky statehood convention. As a general in the Kentucky militia, Lee commanded units in Kentucky north of the Licking River. Lee later served as a judge of the Court of Quarter Sessions and the Mason County Circuit Court. He also became president of the Washington Branch of the Bank of Kentucky.
² Gen. Henry Lee’s plantation home in Mason County, Kentucky was named “Leewood.”