Mrs Webb – letter of 1742

Mrs Webb is mentioned in a letter from Burrell Hyrne written on December 21st 1742 from his plantation Tugudoo. This is part of an account of the illnesses of six year old Nancy and two year old Neddy,  two of Burrell’s brother Henry’s (Harry) children, at their plantation of Ashepoo. Mrs Webb, a neighbour at Ashepoo, was at Nancy’s sickbed.

December 21st 1742

Of Nancy, Burrell writes:

‘I used to think she was a cross girl, I don’t know if she was or not, but on most accounts she answered far beyond expectation. She was well made and of good complexion, and had the most handsome hand and arm I think I ever see, & very cleanly & handy in everything she did, she was a lively and sensible child, & came on soe well with her book that I am certain in three years time she would have read better than Harry at that time… in short she was admired by all that knew her, and my brother was very fond of her’.
Burrell then goes on to describe the events:
‘The most affecting scene that I was ever at was when she was near expiring, & I hope I shall never see another , about half  an hour before, for she continued sensible, she desired to be moved to a bed she used to sleep in, which was warmed and she put in it , soon after my brother at the head of the bed close by her, my sister on the other side towards the foot, myself at the foot, Mrs Webb a neighbour at the head, the same side as my sister, and a young white woman who lived in the house at the same side with my brother. Fata says she my hands are dead, dead with heat, they burn, on which my brother seeing that she was near her end began to fondle and make much of her,& my sister fell into tears, don’t cry Mama says she, goe away Mamma’s don’t cry, on which my sister went downstairs, Fata says she my foots are dead, on which second warning, he began to shed tears and fondle her as before, goe away Fata says she, at which he left the room, soon after Mrs Webb told me she believed she would not die till about three in the morning, I went away, as soon as I was gone she [Nancy] says to that young woman (who had her hands upon her legs to keep them warm)take away your great heavy hands and to Mrs Webb my sides hurt more, lift my head upon the pillow, and turned herself about on both her hands, Mrs Webb put the pillows in her lap &took her in her hands and laid her head upon the pillow after which she gave only two small groans and expired.’

‘On the 26th of October between seven and eight she died, being six years and two days old, to the irreparable loss of her parents’.

This poignant scene brought tears to my eyes when I read it in the archive office. Sadly, Nancy’s little brither Neddy lived less than three weeks more and died on his second birthday.

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