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Hepbron Letters 1837-1853, MS. 2410 | Maryland Historical Society

Hepbron Letters 1837-1853, MS. 2410

Maryland Historical Society
Library of Maryland History


Hepbron Letters, 1837-1853
Maryland Historical Society


(Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, March 1999.)

Hepbron Letters, 1837-1853
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Fax: 410.385.2105

Descriptive Summary


MS 2410

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674


Cynthia H. Requardt

May 1979


Scope and Content Note


The collection consists of 31 letters written by Sewell Hepbron and his wife Martha P. Hepbron. Sewell and Martha emigrated to Madisonville, Ralls County, Missouri in 1837 from Kent County, Maryland. Their letters were written to Sewell's brother Col. Thomas Hepbron (d. ca. 1848) and his daughter Mary A.E. Hepbron who were still living in Kent County.

Sewell was a farmer and his letters detail his slow but steady success farming in Missouri. His first letter (1837) described the land along the Mississippi River. He first settled in New London but by 1840 had moved to Madisonville in Ralls County where he stayed until 1853. He wrote to his brother and niece about the crops (oats, wheat, corn, and hemp) and their yearly prices. Hepbron was wealthy enough to own 14 or 15 slaves to help him farm. His letters occassionally mentioned the prices for slaves. In 1848 he was engaged in a lawsuit in Charlestown, Virginia concerning the ownership of some slaves. He lost the case, and there are three letters discussing the case.

The Hepbrons began to make plans to return to Maryland as early as 1850. Sewell wrote often to his niece about the most advantageous time to sell his Missouri property. These letters contain information about land prices. One major concern was the disposition of his slaves. Two letters (1850 July 23 and 1851 February 26) discussed Hepbron's views on hiring his slaves out vs. selling them. He believed it was better for slaves to be owned by and live with a family because they were better treated than those who were hired out. The prices he could get for his

slaves are mentioned.

California “gold rush fever” hit Missouri. Hepbron considered going to California for a short time in 1850 before selling out and returning to Maryland. He was tempted by neighbors who had returned from California with $1500 to $5000. His letters of 1850 discussed the success of California emigrants, but he eventually decided against going himself.

Martha P. Hepbron added brief messages to her husband's letters. Her most frequent complaint was a lack of letters from the family. The Hepbron's lived in a sparsely settled area and Martha was lonely. But she, of course, did not have too much time to think of loneliness. Her time was occupied with spinning wool, weaving carpets, and making clothes for her family and slaves. She occasionally mentioned the prices she received. She also had [eight?] children, three of whan died at an early age. Sickness, especially cholera was not uncommon, and Martha often mentioned nursing her neighbors.

The two non-farm topics about which the Hepbrons wrote were their children's education and religion. There were no schools nearby, and they wrote of the sacrifices they made in their children's company and their help in order to send them to school. Churches were also scarce in Madisonville. The Hepbron's were Methodists, and their house was on the circuit so every third Sunday they had a preacher. In 1851 Sewell and Martha traveled to Hannibal to hear a debate on baptism which Sewell recorded in detail.

The letters end in 1853, and it is assumed that the Hepbron s did move back to Maryland.


The Hepbron Letters are photocopies of originals owned by Mrs. E.B. Middleton of Towson, Maryland. Mrs. Middleton photocopied the original letters and donated the photocopies in April 1979. The accession number is 74530.

The collection consists of 31 letters dating from 1837 to 1853.