Robert Donaldson's 1844 Letter to His Son-in-law, Thomas Brannen
(The following preface and letter were reprinted on pages 42-44 of Dorothy Brannen’s book "Life in Old Bulloch" (Statesville, Ga.: Statesboro Regional Library, 1992).)
Robert was the son of John Donaldson, a Scotsman who came to America from Northern Ireland in 1774. Robert could remember crossing the ocean when he was five years old. He became a Primitive Baptist preacher and established eight churches of that faith in Bulloch County. Following is a letter that Robert wrote to Thomas Brannen, who had married his daughter Nancy. Thomas and Nancy emigrated to Florida with a party that included her sister Susannah, who had married Owen Williams.)
Feb. 12th, 1844.
This is my design in taking my pen to inform you of our troubles in these enterposing days of adversity while in our pilgrimage here below.
I do expect you have heard of Franklin's death that took place the 26th of December. He was married the 13th of the month to Susanna Johnson from Augusta. He was taken very poorly a fortnight before he was married and was not able to sit up that day, barely able to stand while they were married. They came home on the Sabbath after, and got worse and we sent for a doctor hastily from Carolina. Our Doctor Ross was gone to Florida. I would not give Ross for all the doctors, not for any under heaven, though none can baffle death very long.
Dear son, are you prepared to die? If so, very well, if not, very ill for you should you be called to go this night before the clock strikes one. Franklin stayed till fifteen minutes after four, and then took the journey to a dark gloomy shade that's called the region of the shadow of death that you and I must try before long; that is, "The wages of sin is death."
I suppose that you heard that Matthew was married to Elizabeth Hodges; this was on Thursday before the Fourth Sunday in September. They lived a little over the hill from my field toward John Allen's. Patsy and Elsie's living near Daniel Hendrix's old place, they are both baptised and getting along; they have bought on the railroad where Mills did live; they have negroes (five). Sallie and Elisha Banks live near Robert Cone's and are getting up slow but sure. Betsy and John Brannen live where James did live on the Burkhalter's Road. James' widow and eight children, six boys and two daughters, live near Garrett Williams' on Lott's Creek and is getting along well. Rebecca and Joseph Olliff are on the Court House Road three miles from the court house; they live plentifully. I heard from Solomon Ralston; he is in Louisiana state in September and doing well and hearty. Solomon left Mary with me; she is a great child to her age, 13, weighs 110. Rebecca has eight children; boys five, girls three Betsy has nine, five boys, girls four; Sally has four; three boys, girls one. Patsy has two daughters, born beauties; but all of these have to die.
What do you think of death and judgment? When Jesus shall come to set this world on fire? Will you run to the grog shop? Or now stop and think before you further go. Dear son, your glass is almost out, as well as mine.
I desire all my friends and brothers to see this letter; but in all the rest my precious brother Green Hill. We join in respects to all. Your mother desires to be remembered to all and never expects to see you any more. We are in tolerable health. Blessed be the Lord who giveth and taketh away. I remain desirous of writing to you and hearing from you often.
(Signed) Robert Donaldson
The names of my children and their ages, precious they are to me.
Mary was born Feb. 23, 1791-married Fred Williams; Susannah was born, Sept. 15, 1793-married Owen Williams; Nancy was born December 3 1 st, 1794-married Tom Brannen; Rebecca was born Oct. 12, 1796-married Joseph Olliff; Jane was born April 4, 1801-married Solomon Ralston; Elizabeth was born Feb. 27, 1803-married John Brannen; James was born Nov. 27th, 1804-married Dicy Nevils; William was born Jan. 4, 1807-unmarried; Sarah was born Dec. 23, 1808-married Elisha Banks; Martha was born Dec. 15, 1810-married Elsy Beasley first, then Barber Cone; Franklin was born Jan. 3, 1813-married Susan Johnson; Matthew was born Aug. 27, 1815 -married Elizabeth Hodges.