President Donald Trump’s comments earlier this week lauding the seventh president Andrew Jackson reminded me of a document I recently found at the Library of Congress website while trying to track down anything about my great, great grandmother Tempy Burton’s family. The document was a letter to Andrew Jackson from one of his contemporary admirer’s, Robert C. Hilliard, M.D.
“I desire very much to obtain your autograph, and an acknowledgement of the receipt of this letter,” Hilliard’s January 10th, 1845 letter begins. Jackson would be dead months later. I wonder if Hilliard sensed the former president’s impending demise the way Trump insists Andrew Jackson saw what was happening with the Civil War a good ten years before it even began.
“In 1828, you had the kindness to send me, then a school boy, a lock of your hair…which I thankfully preserved, that and your signature (if you will) I hold for my boy, now four years old…As a lover of liberty, I thank you… for again delivering my country from the hands of the Federalists. I add mine to the prayers of millions for your health and happiness. Robert C. Hilliard, MD.”
Hilliard owned Tempy’s sisters, Liberia and Polly, information I learned from a very different kind of letter.
“I desire to find my people” is how Tempy begins her letter published in The Southwestern Christian Advocate’s “Lost Friends” column on June 4, 1891. “Mother’s name was Eliza Burton, sisters, Nancy, Polly,* and Liberia Burton. I had a brother Albert Burton who died, and two aunts, Peggy Manrow and Bettie Matthews. My mother, sister, Nancy, Bro. Albert, aunt Bettie and aunt Peggy lived on the same plantation and belonged to Dr. Sterling’s people. Liberia and Polly belonged to Dr. Robert Hilliard.* Liberia was salivated when a child. I left them in Attakapas, LA. Any information concerning them will be thankfully received.”
One wants an autograph. The other wants her family. Desires so different.
What do you want? What are you doing to get it?
*In the “Lost Friends” column, Polly’s name is spelled “Pally” and Hilliard’s name “Hilyard.” I believe this are type-os and I’ve adjusted them here to the correct spellings.